Cheap food is an illusion

Almost every week I get queries from people at their wits end trying to cope with food intolerances and special diets. Sometimes just one food has to be eliminated, but more often than not it’s a whole food group. I can sometimes be of assistance but I don’t feel sufficiently qualified to be of real help. My first advice is to seek out as much organic or bio-dynamic food as possible and to eliminate processed food totally from your diet. If its an option, grow as much as you can yourself, even if its only in tubs or window boxes. As more and more people are being advised by their doctors to omit certain foods from their diet, dairy, wheat, yeast, sugar, pork, chicken, mushrooms, oranges …. One has to ask – what’s going on – why are so many people unable to tolerate these foods any longer? The answer is no doubt complex but the reality is much of our food is being produced in an increasingly intensive way, the main criteria being price not quality. In very intensive production systems animal and plant are being pushed beyond their natural limit, consequently everything is cracking at the seams and its one crisis after another.
Farmers are caught in a Catch 22 situation, as the multiples force farmers and food producers to produce food below an economic level. Backed into a corner, they have two stark choices – throw in the towel in despair, sell up, feeling despondent and defeated, or intensify further. The latter usually means less healthful food produced with more chemical inputs and artificial fertilisers in the endless quest to produce cheaper food. In both cases we are all losers.
Cheap food is an illusion. As Professor Jules Pretty of the Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex, clearly states in his study ‘Crops without Profit’, there is no such thing as cheap food, the reality is as tax payers we pay three times over for the seemingly ‘cheap food’ on the supermarket shelf. Once at the checkout, again through our taxes to provide the subsidies to support this unsustainable system of production, and a third time to clean up the environment and contribute to the health service.
As long as this mindset continues we will have more and more problems, not only with allergies and food intolerances and food related illness, but also with obesity which I predict will be the most expensive drain on the Health Service and consequently the tax payer in the coming years.
Minister Martin needs to urgently focus his attention on the national diet, after all Benjamin Disraeli observed that: –

“The health of a people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their power as a State depends.. The Irish diet has changed utterly in the past 20 years with an extraordinary decline in the past 4 or 5 years as a startling percentage of the population live on convenience food and out of hot counters with scant regard for freshness or nutrition. The majority of the population has forgotten about the seasons and care little for fresh or local. Increasingly GP’s are coming across cases of malnutrition in teenagers, not from impoverished families, but simply as a consequence of eating a diet of nutrient deficient junk food. Few connect the food they eat with how they feel – a disastrous and alarming situation considering that since time began, in every culture there is a saying akin to ‘your health goes in through your mouth’. What kind of twits are we to think that we can shovel any kind of old rubbish into ourselves and then expect to feel full of energy and vitality.
For those with, or cooking for someone with maybe one or several food intolerances, every meal is a challenge. In acute cases, of which there are a growing number, peoples’ resistance and immune system break down and life becomes a nightmare of ill health. Chupi and Luke Sweetman authors of a recent book ‘What to eat when you can’t eat anything’ faced exactly this situation. They tried every medical solution to no avail, eventually with the help and guidance of nutritionist Patricia Quinn, they embraced a diet of whole naturally produced food, organic whenever possible and eliminated all processed food: yeast free, dairy free, wheat free and sugar free, additive, colour and preservative free.
Panic set in, what was left to eat? Gradually they developed new ideas – everyone got involved, racked their brains, lots of fun experimenting and tasting. Others in a similar position shared their successes. They soon realised there was a real need for a cookbook where they could share their experience with others in a similar situation.
This new way of eating has transformed their lives and health and it was a joy to see them glowing with good health posing for photographs for the book which was a collaboration between themselves and Patricia Quinn as they shared the recipes, ideas and experiments. This book will be a lifesaver for the many people who feel at a loss to know how to cook when many staples have been eliminated. Whether or not this has been the case, seek out as much free range, local, organic food as possible – for a growing number of people its no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.

‘What to eat when you can’t eat anything’ by Chupi and Luke Sweetman, published by Newleaf, an imprint of Gill & Macmillan.

Bridget Jones Chicken

Feeds 4:
This is the most wonderful- and incredibly simple - dish imaginable. All the ingredients are just roughly chopped, packed into a casserole, drizzled with olive oil and popped into the oven. We called it Bridget Jones Chicken because the night we first made it was the night the film came out on video. It was 'Chop! Hurl! Grind! Drizzle!' and into the oven you go! And then we all dashed for the sofa and the video.

What you need:
4 chicken breasts, or thighs, chopped into good-sized chunks
5 potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
a few slices parma ham or smoky bacon torn into shreds
4 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 onions, peeled and quartered
1 bulb fennel, chopped into chunks
1 handful fresh rosemary sprigs juice of half a lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

What you do:
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Pack all the ingredients tightly in a good-sized casserole or ovenproof dish, giving everything a good mix to ensure all the ingredients are well coated in oil and herbs. Season generously with lashings of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt and drizzle with oil. Put on the lid or cover with foil and pop into the oven. Pot roast for 1 to l½ hours, or until the potato chunks are soft through and through.

Crunchy Nut Granola

Makes 1 lot:
An excellent standby for when the munchies hit! Granola is a good way to start the day. Our blood sugar levels are very low in the mornings and the dried fruit in this recipe raises blood sugar and the grains help to sustain it. Some people prefer Granola without the dried fruit- do try it to see which you prefer. Granola is also excellent as a sweet, or pud, with some bio-live yoghurt and fruit. Cooking Granola is simple, you just need to keep an eye on it in the oven and take it out when it's golden.

What you need:
3 tbsp sunflower oil
3 tbsp local honey
2 cups oat flakes
2 cups jumbo oat flakes
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp almonds, chopped
1 tbsp brazil nuts, chopped
1 tbsp currants, washed
1 tbsp dates, washed and roughly quartered
½ tbsp dried papaya, chopped and washed

What you do:
Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/gas mark 1. Melt the honey and oil in a large saucepan on a gentle heat, being careful not to let the mixture come to the boil. When the honey has melted, remove the mixture from the heat. Add the remaining ingredients, minus the dried fruit. Stir and mix until well coated. Spread out on a large baking tray and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Half way through the cooking, remove from the oven and mix thoroughly. Return to the oven. The granola is cooked when it is crisp and golden. Take out of the oven, stir to break up the lumps and allow to cool. Add the dried fruit and mix again. Store in an airtight container. Serve with your favourite milk as a breakfast or snack, or with some stewed fruit as a dessert.

Jammy Doughnuts

Makes approx. 10 doughnuts:
These Doughnuts are inspired by Darina Allen's Balloon Recipe (from Simply Delicious Meals in Minutes); we've just made them more accessible. Thanks Darina.
(About the jam: homemade -in your home -is best,
but sugar- and rubbish-free jam will do.)

What you need:
1 cup/150g white spelt or organic wheat flour
2 tbsp local honey
1 tsp bread soda
½ cup/125 ml rice, oat or goat's milk

sunflower oil for deep-frying

5 tbsp raspberry jam

What you do:
Put the oil onto a medium-high heat. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the honey and milk. Beat to a gloopy consistency. The oil should have been heating up for about 7 minutes now, so get a tablespoon of mixture and, using your finger, push the mixture off the end of the spoon into the hot oil, being very careful. Repeat. Cook the doughnuts for 4-5 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Half cut each doughnut along its middle and put in 2 tsp jam per doughnut. Serve at once while still warm. 

Note from Darina – I learned how to make Balloons from my mother-in-law Myrtle Allen when she used to make them for children’s tea at Ballymaloe.

Quickie Pizzas

Feeds 4:

There’s something about pizza that nothing else quite replicates. But pizza does take a certain amount of work, so here are some Quickie Pizzas perfect as a
snack, a quick lunch or a mid-evening filler. They don’t take as much time or energy as normal pizza, but you still get that lovely pizza hit.

What you need:
2 Farls (see recipe), sliced open
4 very ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 red onion, sliced paper-thin
enough organic mature cheddar, or feta, to cover the pizzas
1 tbsp mixed fresh rosemary, basil and parsley, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

What you do:
Pre-heat the oven 150°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Slice the
Farls open to get 4 separate pizzas, pop into the toaster for a minute or two to crisp up. On the cut side, layer the tomatoes, then the onions and then the cheese. Season generously with olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Pop into the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot. You can serve these as a main meal with a Green Salad to fill up the corners.
Different toppings
Our favourite pizza is definitely a Margarita, so it is no surprise that the above is topped with a quick imitation of that pizza. You can, however, use other toppings, say 6-8 slices parrna ham underneath the tomato layer for a meat version of the above. You could try Spinach Frittata spread across the base, topped with feta cheese or 6 tbsp creme fraiche, cooked as above. The only limit is your imagination.
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The Ultimate Veggie Burger and Chips

Feeds 4:
For years we tried to make a veggie burger that a) tastes nice; and b) didn’t disintegrate on contact with heat. Success at last! We absolutely adore these
burgers. A note of advice: you must use all the toppings to get the Ultimate hit. On the subject of bread, we find Farls to be so perfect and so easy we always use them. However, if you want to replace them with suitable ‘Green’ bread, do.

The Burgers

What you need:
1 tsp each ground cumin and coriander
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup/110 g gram flour
1 tin cooked chickpeas, drained and whizzed
4 scallions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Buns
What you need:
3 cups/450 g white spelt or organic wheat flour
1 tsp bread soda
3/4 cup/188 ml water or rice, oat, soya or cow's milk
1 tbsp bio-live natural yoghurt

The Extras
What you need:
8 slices organic feta cheese
2 tomatoes, very thinly sliced
salad leaves
¼ red onion, very thinly sliced
2 tbsp Mayonnaise (page 159)
Harissa (page 160)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
homemade chips 

What you do:
Get your burgers together first. Whizz the chickpeas to a lumpy consistency. Add the rest of the burger ingredients and combine with a spoon -if it's too
sticky, add more gram flour. Season generously. There should be enough mix for about 8 burgers -just store whatever you don't need in the fridge. Dust your hands with plenty of flour, take 4 handfuls of mix, roll each into a ball then flatten into burgers about 1 cm thick. Now you can get the chips on. Warm half a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the 4 burgers and cook on a medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side or until done to your liking. While the burgers are
cooking, make the buns. Mix all the bun ingredients together, to form a soft, not too sticky dough. Divide into 4 balls and flatten to 1 cm thick. Put another
frying pan on a medium heat and sprinkle with flour. When the flour starts to brown, put the Buns on for about 4 minutes per side. To serve, slice the Buns in half, plonk on the burger, add a couple of slices of cheese, a twist of pepper and salt, a few salad leaves, the red onion, the tomato, some Garlic Mayonnaise and some Harissa. Serve with Pomme Frites or plain ol' Chips and a Green Salad.
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Foolproof Food


450g white spelt or wholegrain spelt or organic wheat flour
1 teasp. bread soda
188ml water or rice, oat, soya or cow’s milk
1 tablesp. bio-live natural yoghurt

Put the flour and bread soda into a mixing bowl and combine. Pour in your chosen liquid and the yoghurt, mixing with a knife (strange, I know, but it works), until you have a soft, dry dough. You can shape the farls as you please but the traditional way is to form the dough into a ball and roll out into a circle less than 1cm thick and slice into 4 quarters. Put a heavy-bottomed pan on a medium heat and sprinkle with flour. When the flour starts to brown, place a farl onto the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes per side until lightly browned. Take the farl off, sprinkle some more flour onto the pan and continue with the rest. Keep in a warm place until you’re ready to eat.

Hot Tips

New Year Resolutions –

Learn to cook - book some afternoon cookery demonstrations at Ballymaloe Cookery School – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday – 1.45-4.45 Tel. 021-4646785

Visit your local garden centre and buy some vegetable seeds to start your own little vegetable plot. A few cabbage plants would get you off to a quick start.

Order half a dozen hens so you can have your own wonderful free-range eggs- the scraps from the kitchen come back as eggs – so you’re a winner all the way.

Resolve to plant a little herb garden, order parsley, thyme, chives, annual marjoram and rosemary to get you started.

Resolve to put real energy into sourcing fresh, locally produced food in season for the good of your health – its often been said that if you don’t put it on the table you will give it to the doctor and the chemist.

Christmas is coming

For many people Christmas has totally lost its appeal– it has developed into a kind of tyranny, an ordeal that one braces oneself to survive. The traditional shopping expedition has become unbearable as many of our capital cities are in chaos both from traffic jams and road works. A despairing Cork city restaurateur told me last week that having already endured 6 months of disruption to her business, because of the city centre development plan, she was told last week by the City Council that the work would definitely be completed by November 2004 – her reply was unprintable.

Understandably, fewer people are prepared to endure the extra hassle to do their Christmas shopping in the city centre, yet no Christmas is complete without a visit to the English Market in Cork to source some extra goodies. 

A visit to your local deli, Farmers Market and specialist shop can provide a range of delicious foods to make Christmas less stressful.

If you stock up with pate and terrines, boudin blanc, artisan cured meats, salami and chorizo, a selection of smoked fish, black and green olives, some farmhouse cheese, Medjool dates and plump figs, you are ready for any occasion or emergency. Seek out a Paneforte di Siena or Pannetone wrapped in gold paper with a huge bow, these delicious confections could save you making either a Christmas cake or plum pudding.

If your family will allow you to break with tradition why not throw caution to the wind, forget about the standard fare and cook a simple meal. Make a huge pot of soup ahead, a silky leek and potato or a root vegetable soup, would be light and delicious. Just reheat on the day.

Smoked salmon carpaccio with a little dice of avocado and red onion would make a delicious second course.
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Main course could be a loin of free range, preferably organic pork with lots of crunchy crackling. I love to serve it with Spiced Aubergines and rustic roast potatoes. Alternatively, a haunch of venison served with Francatelli Sauce and a bubbly gratin dauphinois is a delicious combination and so easy.

The sauce and potato dish can be made ahead and the barded haunch just needs to be roasted, a mere 10 minutes to the pound, and allow a half hour’s resting time in a warming oven, so the juices redistribute evenly through the meat. 

Try this roulade filled with jewel like pomegranate seeds to round off the meal. We also love it filled with a kumquat compote.

Don’t forget to order in some bubbly or a delicious prosecco to get the Christmas spirit and a few stickies - delicious dessert wines to sip with the pud before you curl up in front of the fire.

Happy Christmas to all our readers.

Winter Leek and Potato Soup

Serves 6 - 8
The classic winter soup loved by all age groups.
55g (2 oz) butter
450g (1 lb) potatoes, peeled and cut into 3 inch (5mm) dice
110g (4oz) onion, peeled and cut into 3 inch (5mm) dice
340g (12oz) white parts of the leeks, sliced (save the green tops for another soup or vegetable stock)
salt and freshly ground pepper
900ml (12 pints) light home-made chicken stock
120ml (4 fl oz) cream 
120ml (4 fl oz) milk
finely chopped chives

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes, onions and leeks, turn them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid. Sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Discard the paper lid. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are just cooked. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose their flavour.
Liquidise until smooth and silky, taste and adjust the seasoning. Add cream or creamy milk to taste.
Garnish with a swirl of cream and some freshly chopped chives.


A tablespoon of finely sliced buttered leeks served in the centre of this soup makes a more substantial version.
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Carpaccio of Smoked Salmon with Avocado, Red Onion , Dill and Horseradish Cream
Serves 8

6-8 ozs (170g-225g) Irish smoked salmon very thinly sliced
1 avocado depending on size
1 small red onion finely diced
1 tablesp. chives
1 tablesp. dill
1 tablesp. chervil or flat parsley

Horseradish Cream

12-3 tablesp. grated horseradish

2 teaspoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 teaspoon mustard
3 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
8 fl ozs (250 ml) barely whipped cream

First make the Horseradish Cream
Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate on a ‘slivery grater’. Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the barely whipped cream but do not overmix or the sauce will curdle. There will be more than enough for this recipe, but save the rest for another dish. It keeps for 2-3 days: cover so that it doesn=t pick up flavours in the fridge.

To serve:
Arrange the thinly sliced smoked salmon in a single layer over the base of four large plates. Peel and cut the avocado into a ¼ inch (5mm)dice. Drizzle some Horseradish Cream over the salmon then a sprinkle of avocado and red onion dice.

Garnish with snipped chives, chopped dill and chervil or flat parsley sprigs.
Finally a little freshly cracked pepper.
Serve with crusty brown yeast bread.
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Roast Pork with Crackling and Spiced Aubergines
Serves 6-8

1 x 2.25kg (5 lbs) loin of organic free-range pork with the skin rind intact. (You will most certainly need to order the joint ahead to ensure that the rind is still on – no rind – no crackling!)
2 tablespoons chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, perhaps very little sage or rosemary)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Spiced Aubergines (see recipe)
Rocket leaves

Score the skin at ¼ inch (5mm) intervals running with the grain – let your butcher do

this if possible because the skin, particularly of free range pork can be quite tough. This is to give you really good crackling and make it easier to carve later. 
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/regulo 5. Put the pork, skin side down on a chopping
board season with salt and black pepper, sprinkle with freshly chopped herbs. Roll up tightly and tie with cotton string. Sprinkle some salt over the rind and roast the joint on a wire rack in a roasting tin. Allow 25-28 minutes per 1lb (450g). Baste with the rendered pork fat every now and then. 

Meanwhile cook the Spiced Aubergines , see recipe

Just before the end of cooking time remove the pork to another roasting tin. Return to the oven and increase the temperature to 230C/450F/regulo 8, to further crisp the crackling. When the joint is cooked the juices should run clear. Put the pork onto a hot carving dish and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes in a low oven before carving. Serve two slices of pork per person with some Spiced Aubergine and garnish with Rocket. 

Rustic roast potatoes and a good green salad would also be great. 

Spiced Aubergine

Serves 6
1 inch (2.5cm) cube of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely crushed
50ml (2 fl ozs) water
800g (1¾ lbs) aubergines
250ml (8 fl ozs) approximate vegetable oil (we use Arachide) 
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
350g (¾ lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped or 1 x 400g (14ozs) tin tomatoes + 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander seeds
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric 
a teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like) 
Sea Salt
55g (2ozs) raisins

Cut the aubergine into ¾ inch (2cm) thick slices. Heat 175ml (6 fl ozs) of oil in a deep 10-12 inch (25-30cm) frying pan. When hot, almost smoking, add a few aubergine slices and cook until golden and tender on both sides. Remove and drain on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Repeat with the remainder of the aubergines, adding more oil if necessary. 

Put the ginger, garlic and water into a blender. Blend until fairly smooth. 

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in the frying pan. When hot, add the fennel and cumin seeds, (careful not to let them burn). Stir for just a few seconds then put in the chopped tomato, the ginger-garlic mixture, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the spice mixture thickens slightly, 5-6 minutes. 

Add the fried aubergine slices and raisins, and coat gently with the spicy sauce. Cover the pan, turn the heat to very low and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Serve warm.
The spiced aubergine mixture is also good served cold or at room temperature as an accompaniment to hot or cold lamb or pork. 

Rustic Roast Potatoes

Serves 4-6
6 large 'old' potatoes eg. Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pinks
Olive oil or beef dripping (unless for Vegetarians)-duck or goose fat are also delicious
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8. Scrub the potatoes well, cut into quarters lengthways or cut into thick rounds ¾ inch (2cm) approx. Put into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and toss so they are barely coated with olive oil. Roast in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes depending on size. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve in a hot terracotta dish.

Roast Haunch of Venison with Francatelli Sauce

Serves 20 people approx.
A haunch of venison makes a splendid party dish.
1 haunch of venison - approx. 6-7 lbs (2.7-3.2kg) in weight
To lard venison
8 ozs (225g) back fat or very fat streaky pork or pork caul fat
1 dessertspoon mixed fresh herbs, thyme, savory, marjoram and sage
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 fl ozs (120 ml) dry white wine
1 pint (600ml) beef stock
Roux (optional)
Francatelli sauce (see below)

First lard the venison. Cut the pork back fat into 3 inch (5mm) wide strips. Insert a strip into a larding needle, draw a lardon through the meat to make a stitch; trim the end. Repeat the stitches at 1 inch (2.5cm) intervals to make horizontal rows, positioning each row about 2 inch (1cm) away from the previous row, repeat with the remainder of the fat. Put the haunch into a shallow dish, stainless steel or cast iron, not tin or aluminium. Sprinkle it with the freshly chopped herbs. Pour the olive oil and wine over the meat. Cover the dish or tray and marinate the meat for about 4 hours at room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight, turning the meat occasionally. The liquid from this marinade will be used to baste the meat during cooking.

To Cook: Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Weigh the venison and calculate 10 minutes to the pound. We like our venison slightly pink and still very juicy, so I usually turn off the oven then and leave the meat relax for 20-30 minutes. During the cooking time baste every 10 minutes with the oil and wine marinade and turn the joint over half way through. When the venison is cooked, remove to a serving dish while you make the gravy.

Degrease the roasting pan, add about 1 pint (600ml) home-made beef or venison stock and perhaps a dash of wine. Bring to the boil, scraping and dissolving the sediment and crusty bits from the pan. Thicken slightly with a little roux, taste and correct the seasoning, pour into a warm gravy boat.

To serve the haunch of venison: Serve the haunch of venison on a large serving dish surrounded by roast potatoes, red cabbage, celeriac puree or brussels sprouts would be a delicious accompaniment. Carve on to very hot plates.

Note: It is very easy to overcook venison mainly because it goes on cooking after the oven has been turned off.

Francatelli Sauce

This sauce was invented by Queen Victoria's chef, Francatelli. It tastes delicious and is very easy to make.
2 tablespoons port wine
2 lb (225g) redcurrant jelly
small stick of cinnamon, bruised
thinly pared rind of a lemon
Simmer together for 5 minutes, stirring. Strain into a hot sauceboat.

Foolproof Food

Gratin Dauphinoise and variations

There are many wonderful French potato gratins that I love, but if I were forced to choose one I think it would have to be this sinfully rich Gratin Dauphinoise. This is a particularly good version of the classic recipe because it can be made ahead and reheated with great success.

Serves 4-6

2 lbs (900g) even sized potatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
9 fl ozs (275ml) milk
9 fl ozs (275ml) double cream
Small clove garlic, peeled and crushed
Freshly grated nutmeg

Peel the potatoes with a potato peeler and slice them into very thin rounds (c inch /3mm thick). Do not wash them but dab them dry with a cloth. Spread them out on the worktop and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, mixing it in with your hands. Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the potatoes and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Add the cream, garlic and a generous grating of nutmeg and continue to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the potatoes do not stick to the saucepan. Just as soon as the potatoes are cooked take them out with a slotted spoon and put them into one large or six small ovenproof dishes. Pour the creamy liquid over them*

Reheat in a bain-marie in a preheated oven 200C/400F/regulo 6, for 10 - 20 minutes or until they are bubbly and golden on top.

*Can be prepared ahead to this point.

Smoked mackerel and Potato Gratin
Remove skin and bone from 8ozs (225g) smoked mackerel and divide into chunky bits. Put a layer of smoked mackerel and a sprinkling of chopped parsley in the centre as you put it into the dishes.

Smoked Salmon and Dill Gratin
Substitute 6 ozs (170g) smoked salmon cut in small cubes and 1 tablespoon of dill in the above recipe.

Potato and Chorizo Gratin

Substitute 6-8ozs(170-225g) of Chorizo or Kabannossi sausage in above recipe.
Crispy bacon, mussels, shrimps etc , may also be used .

Meringue Roulade with Pomegranate Seeds and Rose Blossom Water

Serves 6 - 8
4 egg whites
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar
½ pint (300ml) whipped cream
2 pomegranates
1-2 teaspoons rose blossom water 

Pomegranate seeds
Rose petals if available (make sure the rose hasn’t been sprayed)
Berried holly
Swiss roll tin 12 x 8 inch (30.5 x 20.5cm)
Preheat the oven to 180ºC\350ºF\regulo 4. 
Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean bowl of a food mixer. Break up with the whisk and then add all the castor sugar together. Whisk at full speed until it holds a stiff peak 4 - 5 minutes approx.

Meanwhile, line a Swiss roll tin with tin foil, brush lightly with a non-scented oil (eg. sunflower or arachide). 

Spread the meringue gently over the tin with a palette knife, it ought to be quite thick and bouncy. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Put a sheet of tin foil on the work top and turn the roulade onto it, remove the base tin foil and allow the meringue to cool.

Meanwhile, cut the pomegranates in half around the equator, open out and flick out the seeds. Sprinkle with a few drops of rose blossom water. 

Keep the seeds from half a pomegranate aside to decorate the roulade. 

To Assemble

Spread the whipped cream and remaining pomegranate seeds over the meringue, roll up from the wide end and carefully ease onto a serving plate. Pipe 6 –8 rosettes of cream along the top of the roulade, decorate with the reserved pomegranate seeds and rose petals if available. Surround with berried holly.

Serve, cut into slices about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick.

Note: This roulade is also very good filled with raspberries, strawberries, loganberries, sliced peaches, nectarines, kiwi fruit, bananas, or mango and passionfruit.

Top Tips

Game – Paul Fletcher of Premier Game in Cahir, Co Tipperary has a fantastic selection of game for sale, including venison, pheasant, partridge, grouse, mallard – tel. 052-67501

Rose blossom water is available from Mr. Bell in the English Market in Cork, Asia Market in Dublin and other ethnic shops.

Riedel wine glasses – treat yourself or for a special wine lover’s present – available from Mitchell’s in Kildare Street, Dublin tel. 01-6760766

Terroirs in Donnybrook in Dublin - wine and food – more gifts for wine buffs – decanters, corkscrews, knick knacks, hampers, cigars – check out Tel 01-6671311 Fax 01-6671312

Temple Bar Markets – Cow’s Lane Market - Saturdays 10-5.30, Temple Bar Food Market Saturday 10-5 and Wednesday 11-3, Temple Bar Book Market – Saturday 11-6

Paul Flynn

Paul Flynn, chef-patron of the Tannery Restaurant in Dungarvan bounced into the cookery school last week, looking every inch a mischievous little boy in a chef’s rigout. He was all set to do a master-class as a finale to their 12 week Certificate Course. I didn’t know it then but he’d confessed to Emer (who assisted him), that he was scared to death because this was only the second demonstration he had ever done in his life. Well, I have to tell you he’s a complete natural, the students were spellbound from the outset, can’t think why RTE haven’t snapped him up ages ago. His self-deprecating humour and passion for food had the students – all 10 nationalities, drooling over all kinds of unmentionable bits of pig that they wouldn’t have dreamed of cooking before.
Paul, spent nine years with the irrepressible Nico Ladenis in London, and many more with Marco Pierre White before opening his own restaurant in his home town with his wife Maire. Running his own place with a free hand to cook whatever he fancied proved to be quite a learning curve, as he and his curious customers got the measure of each other. It wasn’t long before the word got out to lovers of good food that it was well worth making a detour to lovely Dungarvan, to Paul and Maire’s minimalist restaurant.
The food has won many accolades and has recently been voted ‘Best Restaurant in Munster’ by Food and Wine Magazine. Paul wrote a highly entertaining column in the Irish Times Magazine for several years which formed the basis of his recently published cookbook: An Irish Adventure with Food named as Cookbook of the Year, also by Food and Wine Magazine.
This is a highly personal account of Paul’s love affair with food and his fascination with fresh seasonal ingredients. He writes brilliantly and wittily – the book is peppered with wonderful quotes that can’t fail to get even the most blasé disinterested cook excited about even the most mundane ingredients, eg “Parsnips are fantastic. I like the way they lie in greengrocers, ugly and muddy, crying out to be scrubbed and peeled to reveal their creamy flesh”. He loves cooking offal and the cheaper cuts of meat.
He bemoaned the passing of ox cheek, “meltingly delicious, as rich as Bill Gates”, no longer available from Irish butchers because of the ox heads being sent to the SRM licensed disposal plants to be incinerated. His demonstration was entitled ‘Piggy Pleasure’, so he cooked us lots of delicious dishes with the succulent cheaper cuts of pork and bacon. Spring rolls filled with crubeens and served with choucroute and apple and cinnamon butter. A ham hock terrine made with shoulder of bacon with sage and onion, Glazed belly of pork with Savoy cabbage, celeriac and potato puree.
While he waited for the pork to caramelise in the oven he whipped up a bacon and cabbage risotto which he raised to fluffy new heights with a few spoonfuls of horseradish cream borrowed from the terrine – modern Irish fusion food at its very best.
We had no dessert but I rather fancy his banana gingerbread served with a few extra caramelised bananas. Paul’s book has recently been awarded the ‘Cookbook of the Year’, so you’ll need to rush out to secure a copy before Christmas.
An ideal present for a foodie friend or maybe a gift token for lunch at the Tannery would whet the appetite to start experimenting yourself.

‘An Irish Adventure with Food’ by Paul Flynn, published in Cork by the Collins Press.

The Tannery, Dungarvan, Tel. 058-45420

Honey & Ginger Roasted Parsnips

(from An Irish Adventure with Food by Paul Flynn)
These are essential Sunday lunch grub, golden, crispy and glistening.

Serves 4

8 small parsnips (peeled and with the tops cut off)
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
50g (2oz) butter
1 good tablespoon of honey
1 pinch of ground ginger
1 tablespoon toasted almonds

Cook your parsnips in boiling salted water until they are three-quarters cooked. Remove from the water and allow to cool. You can take your parsnips to this stage beforehand. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/gas 4. Heat the oil in a roasting tray on the hob and add the parsnips. Turn round in the oil for a couple of minutes then place in the oven for 10 minutes, turning once or twice. They should be starting to get brown and crispy. Drain off any excess oil then add the butter, honey and ground ginger, salt and pepper. Put back in the oven for 5 minutes taking care the honey doesn’t burn by shaking the tray and rolling the parsnips round every so often until they get a nice amber colour. Remove from the oven, put into a serving dish and sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies with Special Hot Chocolate

(from An Irish Adventure with Food by Paul Flynn)

Makes 25 cookies (approx.)
150g /5oz butter
75g /3oz caster sugar
75g /3oz ground hazelnuts
300g/11oz flour
pinch baking soda
225g/8oz small chocolate pieces of good quality plain chocolate

Beat together the butter and sugar. Add the hazelnuts, flour, baking soda. Beat until the mixture comes together. Add the chocolate chips. Divide in two halves and roll in clingfilm into a sausage shape to refrigerate for one hour. When ready to use, peel away the clingfilm. Cut in half centimetre slices and place on a greased baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven, 170C/gas 3 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. If you wish you can freeze this mixture to be taken out when you fancy.


Special Hot Chocolate

Serves 4
600ml/1 pint milk
225g/8oz good quality plain chocolate, chopped
sugar to taste
Boil the milk, pour on top of the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add sugar to taste. This can be laced with your favourite liqueur. Try Tia Maria, Cointreau, Amaretto or Brandy.


Terrine of ham hock with sage and onion

Serves about 10

1 shoulder of bacon – boiled and kept in bacon water. This can be done a day or two before.

1 2lb loaf tin lined with cling film that overlaps the edges
1 large onion finely diced
1 handful fresh sage, finely chopped
1 handful of prunes in Armagnac, moderately chopped (or some prunes soaked in tea may be used)
75 g/ 3 oz butter
1 splash of sherry or cider vinegar, optional
black pepper

Boil the ham until falling off the bone. Then allow to come to room temperature. Then chop into 2 cm pieces along with most of the fat. This is essential to make it stick together.

Sweat the onions very gently until they are a golden colour. Then add the sage. There must be no bite to the onions at all. Add a little salt and black pepper to the onions, then add the ham. Now add the chopped prunes and splash of vinegar. Mix everything together and pile into the terrine or loaf tin as tightly as you can. Bring the clingfilm back from the sides and overlap on the top, piercing four or five holes in it. Place the terrine in the fridge for two hours to set a little, then take out again and at this point you need to get a piece of wood or strong plastic to use as a press. This should just fit into the top of the tin. (A handyman or woman might knock that up for you). Place a heavy weight (3 or 4 kg) on top. (a few bags of sugar will do the trick). Refrigerate overnight and turn out. Slice, present and accept acclamation. Serve with toast and chutneys. This keeps for 2/3 days. (Ideal for around Christmas time)

Banana Gingerbread

(from An Irish Adventure with Food by Paul Flynn)

This makes one 900g/2lb loaf tin

Serves 8

225g/8oz self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
110g/4 oz treacle
110g/4 oz butter
110g/4 oz Demerara sugar
175g/6 oz golden syrup
1 egg
3 ripe bananas

This is combination of bananabread and gingerbread. It freezes superbly. Its great for an afternoon tea and its light enough to be used as a dessert, which we do in the restaurant.
Preheat the oven to 160C/gas 2½. Mix the flour and ginger in a bowl. Melt together the treacle, butter, sugar and golden syrup. Beat the egg and mash the bananas well. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Leave to rest for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out on a wire tray.
This is delicious with some whipped cream and a dash of maple syrup. If you want to go a little further, caramelise some bananas, (see recipe), and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
To reheat, slice and place in the microwave for a very short time: a few seconds should do it.


Glazed Bananas

4 ripe bananas

2 tablespoons Demerara sugar

Peel the bananas, cut them in half lengthways and half them again.
Cover the cut side of the bananas with the sugar and slowly caramelise with the gun or glaze under the grill until all the sugar has turned to caramel.

Foolproof Food

Ballymaloe Mincemeat

Makes 3.2 kilos approx.
2 cooking apples, eg. Bramley Seedling
2 lemons
450 g/1lb beef suet or butter – chilled and grated
pinch of salt
110 g/4oz mixed peel (preferably home-made)
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
225 g/8oz currants
450 g/1lb sultanas
900 g/2lb Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown)
62 ml Irish whiskey

Core and bake the whole apples in a moderate oven, 180C350F/regulo 4, for 45 minutes approx. Allow to cool. When they are soft, remove the skin and mash the flesh into pulp. Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of a stainless steel grater and squeeze out the juice. Add the other ingredients one by one, and as they are added, mix everything thoroughly. Put into jars, cover with jam covers and leave to mature for 2 weeks before using. This mincemeat will keep for a year in a cool, airy place.
Top Tips

Some ideas for Christmas presents –

Gift token or an apple tree from Irish Seedsavers Association, Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare. Tel 061-921866

Hamper from Sheridans Cheesemongers – Tel 01-6793143 or 046-30373 –

Hamper or voucher for Country Choice in Nenagh – Tel. 067-32596

Gift subscription for Food and Wine Magazine – Tel 01-240 5324 – Food and Wine Subscriptions, Smurfit Communications, 2 Clanwilliam Court, Lr Mount St. Dublin 2

Clodagh McKenna will be doing little hampers of her pates with chutney – available from Urru in Bandon, Cook and Vine in Skibbereen, The Courtyard in Schull, Clonakilty Old Store, The Ballymaloe Shop – also from her stall in Midleton, Clonakilty and Bantry Markets. Tel. 087-8631602.

For glamorous foodies – Jo Malone cosmetics are offering wonderful scents and creams with flavours of mandarin, basil and lime. .. from Brown Thomas in Dublin.

Fruition Fruit Baskets – for all occasions including Christmas – finest seasonal fruit – nationwide delivery – contact Grainne O’Kane at 01-672 9676 or 086-8290835,

Party pay back time

Party Food - Its coming to the time of year when even the most intrepid cooks decide to gather up courage and ask a few people around. Its pay-back time for all those parties you’ve enjoyed. 
One could pop around to the local supermarket or deli and pick up some tempting treats. One could even splash out and take them all to a restaurant but that would put a serious hole in your bank balance.
Much more fun to gather a few pals together and to whip up a simple meal. Believe it or not, its not rocket science, a visit to Cork, or Temple Bar or Galway Market, or many of the Farmers Markets around the country will provide a selection of locally smoked fish. A plate of smoked mussels, eel, salmon, tuna and maybe a few roll mops with some horseradish sauce, sweet dill mayo and a cucumber pickle make a delicious starter with lots of brown crusty brown bead. Here’s a nice recipe, but if baking is not your forte McCambridge’s brown soda bread is available country wide. Many local shops sell freshly made soda bread. Alternatively, why not make a big pot of soup – so easy to serve – filling and comforting.
Thai Green Chicken Curry is simple to make even for novice cooks, get the pals to help with the chopping. Buy really good quality Irish free-range chicken as a base. This recipe can be made ahead and reheated, in fact it also freezes well so it could be cooked well ahead. Basmati rice and a few poppodums and a good green salad would complete the main course.
Have fun laying the table and decorating the house. Lots of candles to create a festive atmosphere, paper lanterns, sparklers and a real Christmas tree. Thread popcorn or dolly mixtures to make edible garlands. Dip chillies in chocolate for fun nibbles. Serve candied nuts with the drinks and a homemade choccie with the coffee. This Almond Meringue is a gem of a recipe, it can be filled with all kinds of fruit – kumquats, the baby of the citrus fruit family are in season and their lively taste cuts through the sweetness of the meringue. Decorate the serving plate with holly, add a few snowmen, dredge with icing sugar, add a few sparklers and bring to the table alight. Good coffee and a homemade chocolate and a glass of sloe gin will round off a terrific party. Don’t forget the crackers, silly hats and jokes.
Happy Christmas. 

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

Serves 4
Occasionally we serve just three different types of smoked fish for example salmon, mussels and trout on tiny rounds of Brown Bread, topped with a little frill of fresh Lollo Rosso. A little blob of cucumber pickle goes with the smoked salmon, a blob of home made mayonnaise is delicious with Frank Hederman’s marinated smoked mussels and a blob of Horseradish Sauce and a sprig of watercress complements the pink smoked trout - These three delicious morsels make a perfect light starter. 

A selection of smoked fish - smoked salmon, smoked mussels, smoked mackerel, smoked trout, smoked eel, smoked tuna, smoked hake and smoked sprats.
segments of lemon
sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves

Cucumber, salt, freshly ground pepper, sugar, verjuice or rice vinegar

First make the horseradish sauce and sweet dill mayonnaise. 
Slice the salmon into thin slices down onto the skin, allow 1 slice per person. Cut the mackerel into diamond shaped pieces, divide the trout into large flakes. Skin and slice the eel. Thinly slice the tuna and hake. 
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 and cucumber pickle on each plate. Garnish with a lemon wedge and sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves and maybe a few very thin slices of cucumber, seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper, sugar and a few drops of verjuice or rice vinegar.

Brown Soda Bread and Scones

Makes 1 large or 2 smaller loaves
560g/1lb 4oz brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)
560g/ 1lb 4oz plain white flour
2 teaspoons (10g) dairy salt
2 teaspoons (10g) bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda) sieved
1 ¼ - 1 ½ pints/700- 850 ml sour milk or buttermilk

First preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl, make a well in the centre and pour all of the sour milk or buttermilk. Using one hand, stir in a full circle starting in the centre of the bowl working towards the outside of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it out onto a well floured board. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Roll around gently with floury hands for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Flip over and flatten slightly to about 2 inches (5cm) approx. Sprinkle a little flour onto a baking sheet and place the loaf on top of the flour. Make with a deep cross and bake in a hot oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 after 20-30 minutes reduce the heat to 200C/400F/regulo 6 for approx. 30-50 minutes or until the bread is cooked (In some ovens it is necessary to turn the bread upside down on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before the end of baking) It will sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Winter Celery Soup with Cashel Blue and Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 8-10
13 lbs (560g) celery, finely chopped
12 ozs (45g) butter
5 ozs (140g) onion, chopped
5 ozs (140g) potatoes, cut into 3 inch (5mm) dice
salt and freshly ground pepper
12 pints (900ml) homemade chicken stock
3-2 pint (150-300ml) creamy milk
2 tablesp. hazelnuts, skinned, toasted and chopped
2 tablesp. Cashel Blue or Crozier Cheese, crumbled
a few tablesp. whipped cream
sprigs of chervil or flat parsley

Use a potato peeler to remove the strings from the outside stalks of celery.
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes, onion and celery; toss in the butter until evenly coated. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid and sweat over a gentle heat for 10 minutes approx., until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the celery is fully cooked, 10-12 minutes approx. Liquidise the soup, add a little more stock or creamy milk to thin to the required consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning.
Serve the soup piping hot with a little blob of whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with the crumbled Cashel Blue, chopped hazelnuts and a sprig of chervil or flat parsley.

Shermin’s Thai Chicken Curry

Serves 4-6
550ml (20fl.oz) coconut milk
1 tablesp. green curry paste
1 Thai green chilli, pounded (optional – if you like a hotter curry)
200g (7oz) chicken, cut into little finger size pieces
2 aubergines, cut into ½ inch (1cm) cubes
2 kaffir lime leaves
½ tablesp. palm sugar or a little less of soft brown sugar
2 tablesp. fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablesp. soya sauce
1 large red chilli
10-20 basil leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the wok on a low heat. Pour 4 fl.ozs (125ml) coconut milk into the wok. Add the green curry paste and a pounded green chilli, and mix well. Add the chicken strips, increase the heat to medium. Cook until the chicken changes colour, then add the remainder of the coconut milk, aubergine dice, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar and fish sauce. 
Stir constantly on a medium heat until the curry boils and foams up, then reduce the heat and simmer, continue to stir all the time uncovered otherwise the sauce may separate – It should be cooked for a total of 10-12 minutes. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Foolproof Food
Plain Boiled Rice
I find this way of cooking rice in what we call ‘unlimited water’ to be very satisfactory for plain boiled rice, even, dare I say, foolproof. The grains stay separate and it will keep happily covered in the oven for up to half an hour.
Serves 8

14 ozs (400 g) best quality long-grain rice, eg. Basmati rice 
8 pints of water
2 teaspoons salt
A few little knobs of butter (optional) 

Bring 8 pints of water to a fast boil in a large saucepan. Add salt. Sprinkle in the rice and stir at once to ensure that the grains don’t stick. Boil rapidly, uncovered. After 4 or 5 minutes (depending on the type of rice), test by biting a few grains between your teeth - it should still have a slightly resistant core. If it overcooks at this stage the grains will stick together later.
Strain well through a sieve or fine strainer. Put into a warm serving dish, dot with a few knobs of butter, cover with tin foil or a lid and leave in a low oven, 140ºC/275ºF/regulo 1, for a minimum of 15 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff up with a fork and serve.
* see Top Tips

Almond Meringue with Kumquats

Serves 6
12 ozs (45g) almonds
2 egg whites 
42 ozs (125g.) icing sugar
2 pint (300ml) whipped cream
2 lb (225g) kumquats – see recipe
wafers of chocolate, optional

Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease. Blanch and skin the almonds. Grind or chop them up. They should not be ground to a fine powder but should be left slightly coarse and gritty. At a pinch one could use nibbed almonds but they won’t taste quite so good. Mark two 72 inch (19cm) circles on silicone paper or a prepared baking sheet. Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks. Fold in the almonds. Divide the mixture between the 2 circles and spread evenly with a palette knife. Bake immediately in a cool oven, 1501C/3001F/regulo 2 for 45 minutes or until set crisp and just brown on top. Allow to cool.

To Assemble
Sandwich the meringues together whipped cream and drained kumquats. Chill for some hours before serving. Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream and wafers of chocolate.

Kumquat Compote

½ lb (225g) kumquats
5 fl.ozs (150ml) water
5 ozs (150g) sugar

Cut the kumquats into four slices and remove the pips. Put the kumquats in a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, uncovered for half an hour.
Allow to cool and drain off excess juice before using as a filling for the meringue. 

Hot Tips

Sources of Smoked Fish – 
Smoked Tuna – Sally Barnes, Woodcock Smokery, Gortbrack, Castletownshend, Co Cork
Tel. 028-36232
Smoked Eel and Mackerel – Frank Hederman, Belvelly Smokehouse, Belvelly, Cobh, Co Cork. Tel. 021-4811089
Smoked Salmon – Sally Barnes, Frank Hederman, 
Anthony Creswell, Ummera Smoked Products Ltd., Timoleague, Co. Cork, Ireland (recently awarded Silver and Bronze medals in the UK Guild of Fine Food Retailers Great Taste Awards 2003)
Tel:023 446644 Fax 023-46419 www.ummera.com 

Bill Casey, Shanagarry Smoke House, Shanagarry, Co Cork. Tel. 021-4646955
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2004 – The International Year of Rice
The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2004 the International Year of Rice – it is the staple food for over half the world’s population, including many of the poorest of the poor. To address the problems of hunger, food scarcity, malnourishment, poverty and inequality, there is an urgent need to develop rice based production systems in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way.

Ely Winebar and Café – 22 Ely Place, Dublin 2 – Tel. 01-6768986
Well worth seeking out if Christmas shopping in Dublin – around the corner from The Shelbourne – an unusual wine list offering a huge selection of carefully selected wines, with over 70 available by the glass.
Menus feature organic produce from the Robson’s family farm in Co Clare – including Burren lamb. Great coffee and delicious chocolates.

Soup, heart-warming comfort food

Nothing beats a bowl of soup when you are craving real nourishment and some heart-warming comfort food. It can be as simple as a potato and onion soup, or a mixture of seasonal vegetables, or a more complex and aromatic broth enriched with chicken or seafood . …
Add some cumin or coriander to a carrot soup and one is transported to Moroccco, mint or tarragon is more reminiscent of the Mediterranean. Some coconut milk or a blob of curry paste will liven up a basic soup and introduce flavours of Thailand or Malaysia.
The addition of spices can introduce the flavours of the East or far East, the Mediterranean, or Morocco depending on your choice of herbs and spices.

Many of the soups we make at Ballymaloe are made on a basic formula that Myrtle Allen devised in the 1970’s when she was perfecting recipes for the first edition of the Ballymaloe Cookboook.

1 cup of chopped onion
1 cup of chopped potato
3 cups of any vegetable of your choice, chopped.
5 cups liquid, generally stock, but occasionally water and sometimes a little creamy milk.

With this formula one can make a myriad of delicious soups, the onion and potatoes are sweated in butter or a mixture of butter and olive oil, this forms the flavour base and the potato also serves to thicken the soup.
One vegetable may be used, eg parsnip or spinach or a mixture of vegetables, eg pea, bean and zucchini.
Apart from the basic seasoning of salt and freshly ground pepper, one can add fresh herbs eg rosemary, or spices or even curry powder.
These basic soups are usually pureed – a liquidiser seems to give the smoothest result but a hand held blender is also a terrifically useful gadget to have in your cupboard. Stand it upright in the pot of soup, press the button and the little blades puree as they whizz around at speed. The texture is not as smooth as a blender but many prefer the slightly more rustic texture.
If you are using a green vegetable for soup, eg cabbage, kale, spinach, lettuce or watercress, add it close to the end of cooking and don’t cover the saucepan, otherwise the fresh green colour will be spoiled.
Its also fun to add lots of bits to a soup, either as a garnish or just before you tuck in. Potato crisps and sizzling garlic butter are a delicious addition to a simple potato soup, crispy onions or spicy French fried onions add excitement to a creamy onion soup, whereas Gruyere toasts are the classic accompaniment to French onion soup.
Diced avocado, tortilla crisps, shredded chicken breast and lots of fresh coriander add a Mexican note to a spicy chicken broth.
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is just a perfect foil for a bean or lentil soup. 
Basil or parsley or coriander pesto also add extra oomph to some chunky vegetable soups or even a simple potato soup.
Chilli also hits the spot as does harissa oil, crisp croutons add texture and crunch as does crispy bacon, pancetta or chorizo sausage. The latter release lots of paprika flavoured oil to drizzle over a soup and don’t forget just simple freshly chopped herbs, even parsley, add a fresh note to many soups.
I have included five totally different soups here just to whet your appetite. 

Bacon and Cabbage Soup

Serves 6
55g (2 oz) butter
140g (5 oz) peeled and chopped potatoes, one third inch dice
100g (4 oz) peeled diced onions, one third inch dice
salt and freshly ground pepper
1.1L(2 pints) light chicken stock or vegetable stock
255g (9oz) chopped Savoy cabbage leaves (stalks removed)
50-100ml (2-4 fl oz) cream or creamy milk
225g (½ lb) boiled streaky bacon
2 tablesp. chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions, and turn them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and boil until the potatoes are soft, then add the cabbage and cook with the lid off until the cabbage is cooked. Keep the lid off to retain the green colour. Add the creamy milk. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose both their fresh flavour and colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or blender, taste and adjust seasoning. 
Just before serving cut the bacon into lardons. Toss quickly in a very little oil in a pan to heat through and get a little crispy. Add to the soup. Sprinkle with some parsley.
Useful tip: If this soup is to be reheated, just bring it to the boil and serve. Prolonged boiling spoils the colour and flavour of green soups.


Cabbage and Caraway Soup

Add 1 –2 teaspoons of freshly crushed caraway to the potato and onion base.

Carrot and Coriander Soup

Serves 6 approx.
A little freshly toasted and ground coriander adds a Moroccan flavour to carrot soup.

2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
45g (12oz) butter
110g (4oz) onion, chopped
140g (5oz) potatoes, chopped
560g (13lb) carrots, preferably organic, chopped
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
1.1l (2 pints) Home-made Chicken or Vegetable Stock
150ml (¼ pint) creamy milk, (optional)
A little whipped cream or yogurt
Freshly ground cumin
Coriander leaves

Heat the coriander seed on a frying pan, just for a minute or two until it smells rich and spicy. Grind in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan, when it foams add the chopped vegetables and coriander seed. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar and toss until coated. Cover with a butter paper and a tight fitting lid. Allow to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened slightly. Remove the lid. Add the stock, increase the heat and boil until the vegetables are soft. Pour into a liquidiser add and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little creamy milk if necessary.
Garnish with a blob of whipped cream, sprinkle with a little ground coriander and coriander leaf.
Note: If you would like a more pronounced coriander flavour, increase the amount of coriander seeds to three teaspoons.

Carrot and Cumin Soup

Substitute cumin for coriander in the recipe above.

Aztec Soup

Serves 6
1 tablespoon oil
1 chopped onion
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
900ml (2 pints) home-made chicken stock
3-4 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 free-range organic chicken breast (get at Dan Aherne’s stall in Midleton Market)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 avocado
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 chillis, roasted, peeled and torn into strips
3 cup chopped coriander leaves, 

Garnish: fresh coriander leaves
Strips of corn tortilla chips

Heat the oil in a stainless steel pan, sweat the onion until soft. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another one or two minutes. Add the chicken stock and Tabasco and simmer for five minutes. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chicken if necessary. Cut it into 3 inch strips. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. * Add the chicken to the simmering broth and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes until white all the way through. Add the avocado and tomato dice, half the coriander and the strips of diced roasted chillies. Do not overcook or the avocado will dissolve. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and strips of corn tortilla chips.
To roast the chillies.
Put them either over an open flame or under a grill broiler until quite black and bubbly. Put in a bowl and cover with cling film for five minutes. Peel off the black skins with your fingers. Pull into little strips for garnish.
*can be prepared ahead to this point

White Turnip and Marjoram Soup

Serves 6
I adore white turnips and am always trying to encourage people to eat more of this under-valued vegetable.
White Turnip and marjoram is a wonderful flavour combination. Kohl rabi could also be used here.

55g (2oz) butter
140g (5oz) potatoes, chopped
110g (4oz) onions, diced
340g (12 oz) white turnips, peeled and diced
1L (1: pints) homemade chicken stock 
2 tablespoons chopped annual marjoram
stock and 150ml (3 pint) creamy milk

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes, onions and white turnips. Turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and 1 tablespoon of marjoram. Bring to the boil and cook until soft. Add the remainder of the marjoram. Liquidise, until smooth and silky. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh flavour. Taste and adjust seasoning.
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Thai Chicken Pumpkin and Coconut Milk Soup
Serves 6-8

8 fl.ozs (800ml/3½ cups) coconut milk
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
1 x 4 cm/1½ inch) piece of ginger, peeled and sliced finely
20 fl.ozs (550ml/2½ cups) coconut milk (or more if necessary) We use Chaokah brand.
28 fl.ozs (800ml/3½ cups) home-made chicken stock
6 kaffir lime leaves
300g (11oz) pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed and cut in small cubes
2 x chicken breasts- (approx. 400g /14oz) (free-range and organic), sliced finely
2 tablesp. lime juice (or more to taste)
2 tablesp. fish sauce, (Nam pla) or to taste 
2 teasp. palm sugar or brown sugar

To serve:

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle
fresh coriander leaves
1 large red chilli, seeds removed and sliced finely (optional)

Pour 8 fl.ozs (250ml) of the coconut milk off the top of the can, into a medium-sized saucepan, and simmer over medium to high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook for 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the ginger, remaining coconut milk, stock, lime leaves and pumpkin and simmer over medium heat until the pumpkin is tender, about 10 minutes. Add the thinly sliced chicken breast to the soup and poach for approximately 2-3 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Taste and correct seasoning.

To serve: Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with the spring onion, coriander leaves and sliced red chillies.

Foolproof food

Potato and Sweetcorn Chowder

A satisfying and filling soup made in a short time. This could be a supper dish if eaten with a few scones and followed by a salad.
Serves: 4-6

2-3 medium potatoes, parboiled for 10 minutes, drained, peeled and finely chopped
450g (1 lb) sweetcorn kernels
30g (1 oz) butter
170g (6 oz) approx. onion, finely chopped
300ml (10 fl oz) home-made chicken stock
300ml (10 fl oz) milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
250ml (8 fl oz) light cream or creamy milk
roasted red pepper dice or crispy bacon dice
sprigs of flat parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onion and potato and sweat until soft but not coloured. Gradually add in the stock and milk, stirring all the time, and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, add the corn, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and cook gently for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Add the cream and heat through gently without boiling.
Serve in hot bowls with a little dice of roasted red pepper or crispy bacon and parsley on top.
Note: If the soup is too thick, thin it out with a little chicken or vegetable stock.
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Hot Tips

Shaken not Stirred – the Ultimate Cocktail Course with Desmond Payne at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday 6th December 9.30-2pm -
Learn how to make an exciting repertoire of cocktails including some really cracking ones for Christmas and New Year celebrations. Tel. 021-4646785.  

More honey news – Our local honey producer Michael Woulfe has just come back from the International Honey Show in London having come second in the Honey World Cup Class. The first place went to another Irish beekeeper, James Power from Carrick on Suir – there were entrants from all over the world. Michael also got a couple of thirds and a highly commended The Irish contingent scooped about 40 prizes in all in this prestigious show – so well done to all concerned.

The National Farmhouse Cheese Competition recently took place at Listowel Food Fair - Tom and Lena Biggane’s Clonmore Goats’ Cheese from Charleville was a Gold Medal Winner in the Hard Goats and Sheeps Cheese category. Tel 063-70490.

Denny Breakfast Awards - here are the recently announced winners
Dublin - Pat Halpin Aberdeen Lodge, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 Leinster - Kevin and Catherine Dundon, Dunbrody House, Arthurstown, Co Wexford Munster - John Sheedy, Sheedy's Hotel, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare Connaught - Stella Maris Hotel, Ballycastle, Co Mayo Ulster - Olive Nicholson, Ravenhill Guesthouse, Belfast National Winner: Dunbrody House, Co Wexford

Gastro Pubs

Doesn’t seem so long ago since both Irish and English food was considered to be a joke in gastronomic circles, food writers vied with each other to find the opposite of superlatives to describe the over-cooked soggy vegetables and boring menu choices. In French culinary jargon anything described as a l’Anglaise was usually dull or boiled, a l’Irlandaise referred merely to stew.
Nowadays, however, London is on the cutting edge, one of the top food towns in the world. Eating out in the UK has undergone a quiet revolution in recent years pioneered by the Roux Brothers in the early 80’s, followed by Raymond Blanc, Marco Pierre White, Terence Conran and more recently Jamie Oliver.
That’s the pressurised end of the market where 16 hour days are normal and the only thing that really matters is to be anointed by the Michelin Guide. First one star is bestowed on those with a certain style of food and service, no time to rest on ones laurels, push the boys harder for a second star and then eventually the champagne corks pop when the news of the third star comes through. Three stars are awarded to a very few exemplars approved by the exacting and pernickety Michelin inspectors. Many chefs work their guts out for years without hitting their perceived jackpot. Others just decide that’s not a priority, they would rather concentrate on having a more casual atmosphere and throbbing restaurant packed to its gills every night – most, though not all Michelin starred restaurants are ‘temples of gastronomy, not the sort of places you can romp around in your jeans and ‘cardie’.
Nor surprisingly, many young chefs are opting out of the rat race and have decided to go back to basics. Some chefs who were trained in London have decided to head back to their rural roots to cook good food in pubs, hence the explosion of gastro pubs around Britain. I love this type of food, real honest food, using spanking fresh ingredients. 
Many of these young chefs are passionate about serving local food – the food of that place. Diana Henry in her new book ‘Gastro Pub’, quotes Andrew Perry at the Star in Yorkshire, he looks around his bar ‘ Over there I can see the farmer who raises my beef, the man who shoots a lot of my game and a local cheese-maker. They provide for me; I feed them; their produce is eaten by everyone who lives round here; its the way it should be.’
Gastro pubs are now an established part of the UK food scene, its hard to remember a time when they didn’t exist, yet its only 12 years since the revolution started. The Eagle in Farringdon Road opened its doors serving gutsy Mediterranean food cooked behind the bar. A blackboard listed the day’s menu which leaned towards Spain and Portugal. Its décor was a mixture of junk shop ‘shabby chic’, modern art and mismatched rickety chairs and china. Chefs Mike Belben and David Eyre created a mix of theatre and raw energy. Bottles of green olive oil, bunches of herbs, bowls of lemons - robust pork and bean stews, caldo verde, chunks of manchego and delicious parchment bread and custard tarts – delicious no-nonsense food. 
The influence of the Eagle was astounding. The high spending expense account dining of the 80’s had lost its appeal, so lavishing huge sums of money on food began to seem pretentious and obscene. Regional and peasant food that depended on top quality really fresh ingredients fitted a craving for forgotten flavours.
The trend has continued unabated ever since, even though not all of the gastro pubs have ad hoc interiors and decoration. Many now, like the House in Islington, have bespoke furniture and subtle lighting – the food is not always simple but the influence of the dining pub has spread throughout the country. In London there are many to check out. Diana Henry picked out The Oak in Westbourne Road and The House, but also the best of the rest, not only in London but all over the UK. I was thrilled to see Charles Inkin’s ‘The Felin Fach Griffin’ in Wales singled out because its definitely worth a detour (there are also a few rooms over the pub so try to stay the night).
Northern Ireland and Eire also merit a section – albeit it a little thin. The Ballymore Inn in Ballymore Eustace in Co Kildare and Buggy’s Glencairn Inn in Co Waterford were absolute favourites, but The Cross of Cloyne near us here in Cloyne, Blairs Inn in Blarney, Co Cork, The Purple Heather in Kenmare, Morans on the Weir in Kilcolgan, Co Galway, O’Sullivans in Crookhaven, Mary-Ann’s in Castletownshend, An Sugan in Clonakilty, Kealys in Greencastle, Co Donegal were also singled out among the best. There are lots of others , but my editor says I’m out of space.

The Gastro Pub Cookbook by Diana Henry, published by Mitchell Beazley, €28.40

Conwy mussels with coconut milk and coriander

(From the Felin Fach Griffin)

You can use any mussels for this, and add a little chopped fresh chilli to the shallots if you prefer a spicier version.
Serves 1

knob of butter
1 shallot, finely sliced
450g (1Ib) conwy mussels, in the shell, cleaned
125ml (4floz) coconut milk
salt and pepper
big bunch coriander, roughly chopped
wedges of lime or lemon

Melt the butter in a wide heavy-based pan over a high heat, but ensure the butter does not burn. Add the finely sliced shallot, sweat for about I minute, then add the mussels in I layer -cook in batches if your pan is too small- with about 60ml (4tbsp) water. Cover immediately with a tight-fitting lid.
Cook for 30 seconds, then check to see if any mussels are open. Remove these to a bowl. Replace the lid and cook for another 15 seconds, then check again for opened mussels. Repeat once more, then discard any mussels that remain closed.
Pour the coconut milk into the mussel pan, stir and gently warm through just to simmering point. Check the seasoning.
Return the mussels to the pan, stir and serve immediately in a large bowl, sprinkled with chopped coriander and wedges of lime or lemon on the side.

Chargrilled aubergine salad with mature Ardrahan cheese

(from the Ballymore Inn)
If you can't find mature Ardrahan but want to stick to an Irish cheese, try Milleens or Gubbeen. If you can't get any of these, try Italian taleggio. Serve this salad as soon as you've cooked the vegetables, as their warmth slightly melts 
the cheese. 
Serves 4 

75ml (5tbsp) balsamic vinegar 
2 medium aubergines 
olive oil 
salt and pepper 
10 cherry tomatoes 
2 handfuls of salad leaves - rocket, watercress and lamb's lettuce 
55g (2oz) Ardrahan cheese, cut into small chunks 

For the dressing 

2.5g ( ½ tsp) cumin seeds 
60ml (4tbsp) extra virgin olive 
juice of ½ small lemon 
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped 

To make the dressing, heat the cumin seeds in a dry pan and toast them for about 30 seconds. Grind. Mix with the other dressing ingredients. 
For the salad, in a small saucepan bring the balsamic vinegar to the boil and reduce by half. Set aside. 
Cut the aubergines into 1cm (½ inch) slices. Brush with olive oil and season well. Heat a cast-iron griddle pan and cook the aubergines on both sides until they are coloured and quite soft. Put them in a bowl. 
Halve the tomatoes and place them, cut side down, on the hot pan for 1-2 minutes to slightly soften and heat them. Add these to the aubergine. 
Pour half of the dressing onto the vegetables. Dress the salad leaves with the other half. 
To serve, place the salad leaves on a large plate ( or divide between 4 smaller ones), and top with the aubergines and tomatoes. Scatter the Ardrahan cheese over this and drizzle on the reduced balsamic vinegar. 

Braised rabbit with cider, rosemary and cream

(From the Fox Inn in Dorset)
You can use chicken joints instead of rabbit if you prefer, but if you do you should reduce the cooking time to about 40 minutes. You may have to remove the chicken and reduce the sauce to thicken it, adding it back to warm through. 
Serves 4 

2 rabbits, cut into joints, ie legs removed, ribcage discarded and body chopped into 2 pieces 
sunflower oil, for frying 
unsalted butter, for frying 
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
2 medium onions, thinly sliced 
425ml (¾ pint) Blackthorn cider 
710ml (1¼ pints) double cream 
4 sprigs rosemary 
15ml (1tbsp) wholegrain mustard 
2 bay leaves 
30ml (2tbsp) finely chopped parsley 
salt and pepper to serve 
4 deep-fried bay leaves or 
parsley sprigs (optional) 

In a frying pan, heat a little oil and a knob of butter. Fry the joints of rabbit until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. 
In the same pan, add the garlic and onions and fry until softened but not coloured. Transfer the onion mix to a heavy-bottomed pan, add the rabbit, cover with the cider and cream, then add the rosemary, wholegrain mustard and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, cover and, stirring occasionally, cook on a very low heat for about I½ hours, or until the rabbit is tender. Just before serving add the parsley, and season to taste. 
Serve a front and back leg and half of the body to each person. Garnish 
with a sprig of parsley or a bay leaf quickly deep-fried in vegetable oil, until dark green but not brown. 

Pear tarte tatin 
(From The House in London)
People get nervous about making tarte tatin and think it's best left to restaurants. In fact, it's pretty simple -you don't even have to make any pastry. Just make sure that the butter and sugar are properly caramelized, but not burnt, and leave the tart for about 5 minutes to cool slightly before turning it out, though don't leave it for longer or it will start to stick. 
Serves 2 

3-4 large, firm William pears, peeled 
8Og (2¾oz) unsalted butter 1OOg (3¾oz) caster sugar 
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry 
To serve 
whipped cream or creme fraiche 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Halve the pears lengthways and remove the cores. Place the butter and sugar in a 18cm (7 inch) pan that can go on the stove-top and in the oven. Lay the pears on top, outer surface down. 
Put the pan on a medium heat to melt the butter and sugar, then cook until the sugar caramelizes -but do not burn! Remove from the heat and allow to cool. 
Rollout the pastry to 6mm (¼ inch) thick. Cut out a 20cm (8 inch) circle and cover the pears, tucking the pastry under at the sides. Bake for about 25 minutes. 
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Turn out onto a plate and serve with whipped cream or creme fraiche. 

Fool proof food

Oven Toasted Cheese

When my children were small this superior toasted cheese often saved the day if they were ravenously hungry. It is made from ingredients one would nearly always have to hand.
Serves 2

2 slices of white bread
1 egg, preferably free range
4 ozs (110g) grated Irish cheddar cheese
2-1 teaspoon English mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper

Butter the bread and place the buttered side down on a baking sheet. Whisk the egg in a bowl with a fork, add the grated cheese and the mustard and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread this mixture onto the slices of bread and bake in a hot oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 15 minutes approx. or until puffy and golden on top.
Note: a teaspoon of chopped chives or a tiny dice of crispy bacon is also delicious added to the above.

Top Tips
Bridgestone Guides for 2004 have just been published – 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland and 100 Best Places to Stay in Ireland 2004 - 

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group - Champagne Reception and Christmas Dinner on Thursday 27th November at The Crawford Gallery Café – Tickets from Crawford Gallery or Caroline Robinson at 021-7330178

British Cheese Awards - This September the British Cheese Awards celebrated its 10th anniversary – 774 cheeses were entered into the awards, 55 of these were from Ireland - Jeffa Gill’s Durrus won the Eugene Burns trophy for Best Irish Cheese, St Tola, St Killian, Ardrahan and Gubbeen all won medals in their categories.

More Awards – The Georgina Campbell Jameson Guide recognises quality throughout Ireland - here are just a few of the winners -
Jameson International Hospitality Award – Mark Nolan of Dromoland Castle Hotel in Co Clare 
Jameson Restaurant of the Year – The Tannery in Dungarvan
BIM Seafood Restaurant of the Year – The Custom House in Baltimore, Co Cork
IHF Happy Heart Eat Out Award – The Farmgate Café, English Market, Cork


We had a tasting of the new season’s honey at the East Cork Slow Food Convivium recently – it was a fascinating evening where we all learned a prodigious amount about the production of honey. 
Two passionate beekeepers – Claire Chavasse from Cappagh and Michael Woulfe from Midleton shared their experience with us. They are both avid fans of what Claire describes as the weightlifter supreme – the honey bee.
Did you know that the bee weighs about 90 mgs but can carry nectar up to 88.88 % of its body weight. Bees forage up to 2½ miles from the hive and carry the pollen and nectar all the way home. 
The female’s job is to make honey. The drone’s raison d’etre is to mate with the queen and the queen’s job is to lay millions of eggs. The drones are the chaps with the big eyes, the rest are the worker bees. The whole colony works as a team for the benefit of the colony as a whole. 
A bee’s life starts as an egg at the bottom of a cell in the honeycomb. Three days later the egg hatches and a tiny larva appears. After five days the cell is sealed by young house bees with a mixture of pollen and wax. The larva then becomes a pupa. During this time amazing changes take place, it grows legs and wings. After 13 days it gnaws its way through the wax capping. Once her wings are dry its off to work. In a 24 hour cycle, she works for 8 hours, rests for 8 hours and patrols the hive for 8 hours
She’s curious and checks whether the workers are making queen cells. Initially she just cleans cells and lines the inside with a layer of propolis, the busy bee chucks out debris from the hive.
During this period she gobbles up copious quantities of pollen which help her glands to make brood food. She feeds a little honey and pollen to the older larva and as she gets older she progresses to feeding the queen bee and removes her excreta, because unlike the bees the queen does not leave the hive once she has mated. In fact one of the primary tasks of the beekeeper is to ensure that the queen doesn’t leave and take a swarm of bees with her which can happen if the beekeeper doesn’t notice that the bees are making Queen cells.
When the bee is 9 days old wax glands develop. She can then cap over cells as more and more young bees are emerging, she gets pushed out of the centre of the brood nest area and she starts receiving nectar and adds enzyme to it to start the ripening process
When the pollen forager returns with the pollen she adds honey and saliva to the pollen and stores it away in a cell. Pollen is very important, it provides the protein, a small amount of fat, minerals and vitamins, nectar provides carbohydrates She also fans with her wings to keep the hive cool and at 19 days her sting develops, so now she can become a guard bee. At first she guards the entrance to keep wasps, and other robbing bees out, but soon becomes tempted by the great outdoors and sneaks out to make her orientation flight. Beekeepers love watching young bees in Summer imprinting that hive on their mind. 
She collect propolis from Horse chestnuts, cherries, alders and some conifers (the bee glue, also used as a draught proofer). She needs water to dilute the honey. .
In winter the bees cluster together to create heat in the centre of the hive. The bees do a dance which indicates to the other bees where the flowers are – dandelions, apple blossom, heather … The higher the sugar content the livelier the dance. At the ripe old age of six weeks after emergence from the cell in summer time after a singularly productive life, she dies.
Michael Woulfe from Midleton who has been a beekeeper since he came to Midleton in 1960, explained how the season commences in April, continues through May, June and July. By the end of the month the beekeeper hopes to have a reward for all of the labour. Honey production is greatly affected by weather. Honey varies enormously in flavour and texture. Bell heather is very dark, almost ‘port wine’ in colour, sycamore honey, whitethorn flower, apple blossom, white clover, blackberry – they are all unique. Ling heather honey is so thick and unctuous and so dense that it has to be pressed out of the comb.
Michael records the yield of his hives on a daily basis – the record so far was 24lbs of honey in one day in July. Michael is passionate about beekeeping and like so many beekeepers is anxious to pass on his wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to younger beekeepers.
In Ireland we have 1,500 beekeepers, Slovenia, according to Michael, has 10 million. Beekeepers don’t need to be based in the country – London beekeepers record some of the highest yields. 
The new season’s honey is extracted in August.Honey with the best flavour and aroma comes from the combs. 
Beekeepers often keep some unfiltered honey for their own use but honey for sale is filtered through organza so that it is totally clear. 
Beekeepers, and indeed many doctors believe that honey has many medicinal qualities, they believe it helps to cure burns, ulcers, varicose veins…. Many athletes are also very partial to honey – instant energy, already digested . Sinus sufferers benefit from chewing beeswax. 
We are fortunate in this country to be able to produce fantastic honey, there are very few big fields of oil seed rape which taints the honey. We do however have the dreaded bee disease caused by the Varroa Destructor mite. This was originally introduced to Ireland by a UK beekeeper who moved to the West of Ireland complete with his colony of bees.
This doesn’t affect the honey but wipes out the colony which would consist of 60 – 70,000 bees. 
Michael Woulfe highlighted the fact that in Ireland we have no standards for importation of honey and stressed that the best honey goes to the countries with the highest standards.
So when you are buying honey look out for Irish honey with the Irish beekeepers Association seal.
We rounded off the evening with a tasting of local honey- ling heather, bell heather, sycamore, Michael’s blackberry and white clover, our own apple and flower blossom honey. We have just 4 hives at the end of the orchard. Granulated honey is more popular in the UK while in Ireland we prefer the more liquid variety. 
Febvre who sponsor Slow Food Ireland sent us some Muscat Sec and Sauternes to taste with the honey, a sublime experience.
From the cook’s point of view honey can be used in many delicious and creative ways. Add it to dressings, drizzle it over salads, use it mixed with mustard to coat chicken breasts, spare ribs, chicken wings or even the humble sausage. It can be added to cake, biscuits or icings, and pairs deliciously with blue cheese.

Honey Parfait

Serves 6 -10
¼ pint (5 fl.ozs) syrup – see recipe
½ teasp. vanilla essence
2 egg yolks
1½ pints (900ml) whipped cream
3 fl.ozs (75ml) Irish honey or maple syrup
1 x loaf tin 9” (23cm) x 4” (10cm), lined with a double thickness of cling film.

Boil the syrup to the thread stage (240F) on a saccharometer. Pour the boiling syrup over the whisked up egg yolks with vanilla essence added.
Fold in the honey and whipped cream. Pour into the lined tin, cover and freeze.
Serve in slices with some summer or autumn berries and a drizzle of honey.

Makes 28 fl ozs (825 ml)

1 lb (450 g) sugar
1 pint (600 ml) water
To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.

Caramelised Honey and Almond Tart

Serves 8-10
6 ozs (175 g) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 oz (25 g) castor sugar
4 ozs (125 g) butter
1 egg yolk, preferably free-range
Drop of pure vanilla essence

1 tablespoon pure Irish honey
6 ozs (170 g) flaked almonds
3 ozs (75 g) butter
1½ ozs (45 g) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cream

Round tin with a pop up bottom, 10 inch (25.5 cm) diameter or
12½ x 8 inch swiss roll tin.

Put the flour and castor sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter and bind with the egg yolk and the vanilla essence. This is a tricky pastry to handle so if you like just press it into the greased tin. Prick the pastry, line it with kitchen paper and dried beans and bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F/ regulo 4, 15-18 minutes or until pale golden.
To make the filling, put the butter, sugar, honey, and almonds into a saucepan and cook over a low heat until they are pale straw colour; add the cream and cook for a few more seconds. Spread the mixture over the base and bake until the topping is a deep golden brown colour. Cool on a wire rack. Serve with softly whipped cream.
This can take anything from 8-20 minutes depending on the length of time the original ingredients were cooked.

Foolproof Food

Yoghurt with Apple Blossom, Honey and Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 1
About a tablespoon of toasted sweet tasting hazelnuts 
Best quality natural yoghurt 
Apple blossom honey or strongly flavoured local Irish honey - 2 tablespoons approx.

To toast hazelnuts: Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/regulo 6. Put the hazelnuts onto a baking tray and pop into the oven for 8-10 minutes until the skins loosen. Remove from the oven and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, rub off the thin papery skins (I usually put them into a tea towel, gather up the edges like a pouch, rub the towel against the nuts for a minute or so and ‘hey presto’ virtually all the skins come off in one go. If the nuts are still very pale, put them back into the oven for a few more minutes until pale golden and crisp. Slice thickly.
Just before serving spoon a generous portion of chilled natural yoghurt onto a cold plate, drizzle generously with really good honey and sprinkle with freshly sliced toasted hazelnuts. Eat immediately.

Sadie’s Wholemeal Griddle Scones

Rosemary Kennan at Roundwood House serves these scones for breakfast straight from the hot plate on the Aga, she uses an old cast-iron griddle, although a heavy frying pan will do instead.
5oz (150g) wholemeal flour
1 oz (25g) oatflakes
1 level teasp. bread soda
pinch of salt
about 7fl.oz (200ml) buttermilk

Have a heavy frying pan or griddle heating on the hob. Mix the dry ingredients well in a bowl, then stir in enough buttermilk to make a very wet consistency. Lightly grease the griddle or pan, or sprinkle it with flour. Put dessertspoonfuls of the mixture on to the hot griddle and cook for 5-6 minutes on each side, until well risen and golden brown. Wrap in a clean tea towel and serve hot or cold, with butter and homemade jam.

Hot Tips
Urru Culinary Store, The Mill, McSwiney Quay, Bandon, Co Cork. Tel. 023-54731, Recently opened store offering an extensive range of fine foods, wines and culinary accessories – browse, sample and experience Ireland’s wonderful artisan foodstuffs and other speciality food products.

Honey, particularly comb honey, should be stored in airtight containers otherwise it will absorb water from the air.
If you would like to learn about beekeeping or find out about beekeepers in your local area contact The Federation of Irish Beekeepers, c/o of their Secretary, Michael Gleeson, Ballinakill, Enfield, Co Meath. Tel. 046-9541433. He has a list of all local secretaries of the Federation. 

For further details of Slow Food have a look at the Slow Food Ireland website.  

If you are ever lucky enough to stay at Roundwood House, Mountrath, Co Laois – charming country house hotel in the heart of Ireland, nestling at foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, don’t miss Sadie’s Griddle Bread Scones served for breakfast with homemade jam and thick unctuous homemade yoghurt.


Watercress is the new rocket. It was all over California on a recent visit. In New York it features on virtually every restaurant menu. Pick up an Australian food magazine and you’ll find the same – everyone going crazy for the peppery green leaves which are reported to be rich in beta-carotene, iron and vitamin C, while the compounds that give it the peppery bite have been shown in research to have a markedly antibiotic effect.

Not that this is a new discovery. In The Great Hunger, Cecil Woodham-Smith wrote of how the starving peasants fell on patches of watercress during the famine.

Watercress rings all sorts of bells for me, one of my earliest memories was of picking tender young watercress leaves with Mrs. Lalor in the Chapel Meadows near Cullohill, Co Laois. When we came home we made ‘salad’, using it instead of lettuce to accompany the predictable tomato, hard-boiled eggs and scallions liberally doused with salad cream – a flavour sensation I still love to this day.

When I arrived at Ballymaloe many years later, again we picked watercress and used it to make dainty little ‘butterfly sandwiches’ in thinly sliced white bread and robust watercress soups.

Watercress grows wild in rivers and streams all over the country, but it has to be emphasised that one needs to be extremely careful where one picks it. The water must be clean, unpolluted and constantly flowing. Check that there are no animals, particularly sheep, directly upstream, or its possible that it may harbour liver fluke. This is not to be taken lightly, it’s a very nasty and tenacious disease. However, there are some clean streams where one can pick beautiful fresh sprigs of watercress. 

For the uninitiated, watercress grows side by side with wild celery, a plant which looks remarkably similar. So how can one distinguish one from the other – the top leaf is always the biggest on watercress and the leaves get smaller as they go down along the stem. The leaf pattern is the opposite on wild celery. 

If a walk on the wild side is not your idea of fun, then you may want to buy a bunch in your local shop. It keeps well in a plastic bag in the fridge or in a bowl of cold water. 

Mustard and Sesame Seed Chicken Wings with Watercress

Serves 2-4
1 lb (450g) chicken wings-free-range and organic, if possible
2 dessertspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Sea salt 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Lemon mayonnaise, optional

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas6

Mix all the ingredients in a deep bowl. Toss in the chicken wings and mix well. Season with sea salt. Spread out on a baking tray and roast for 25-30 minutes turning occasionally. 

Serve as they are or on a bed of watercress or with tiny salad leaves and fresh herbs. Lemon mayonnaise makes a delicious sauce for dipping.

Watercress Soup

There are references to watercress in many early Irish manuscripts. It formed part of the diet of hermits and holy men who valued its special properties. Legend has it that it was watercress that enabled St. Brendan to live to the ripe old age of 180! In Birr Castle in Co. Offaly, Lord and Lady Rosse still serve soup of watercress gathered from around St. Brendan's well, just below the castle walls.
Serves 6-8

12 ozs (45g) butter
5 ozs (140g) peeled and chopped potatoes
4 ozs (110g) peeled and chopped onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pint (600ml) water or home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 pint (600ml) creamy milk
8 ozs (225g) chopped watercress (remove the coarse stalks)

Melt the butter in heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the watercress. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the stock and milk, bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the watercress and boil with the lid off for 4-5 minutes approx. until the watercress is cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or food processor. Taste and correct seasoning.

Traditional salad with watercress and Shanagarry Cream Dressing

This simple old-fashioned salad which is the sort of thing you would have had for tea on a visit to your Granny on a Sunday evening - perhaps with a slice of meat left over from the Sunday joint, is one of my absolute favourites. 

It can be quite delicious when it's made with a crisp lettuce, good home-grown tomatoes and cucumbers, free-range eggs and home preserved beetroot. If on the other hand you make it with pale battery eggs, watery tomatoes, tired lettuce and cucumber - and worst of all- vinegary beetroot from a jar, you'll wonder why you bothered.

We serve this traditional salad in Ballymaloe as a starter, with an oldfashioned salad dressing which would have been popular before the days of mayonnaise. Our recipe came from Lydia Strangman, the last occupant of our house.
Serves 4

Fresh watercress or butterhead lettuce

2 hard-boiled eggs, preferably free-range, quartered
2-4 tomatoes, quartered
16 slices of cucumber
4 slices of home-made pickled beetroot (see below)
4 tiny scallions or spring onions
2-4 sliced radishes
Chopped parsley
Shanagarry Cream Dressing
2 hard-boiled eggs
1 level teasp. dry mustard
Pinch of salt
1 tablesp.(15g) dark soft brown sugar
1 tablesp. (15ml) brown malt vinegar
2-4 fl.ozs. (56-130ml) cream

Spring Onion
Chopped parsley

Hard-boil the eggs for the salad and the dressing: bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, boil for 10 minutes (12 if they are very fresh), strain off the hot water and cover with cold water. Peel when cold.
Wash and dry the lettuce and scallions.

Next make the Dressing. Cut 2 eggs in half, sieve the yolks into a bowl, add the sugar, a pinch of salt and the mustard. Blend in the vinegar and cream. Chop the egg whites and add some to the sauce. Keep the rest to scatter over the salad. Cover the dressing until needed.

To assemble the salads: Arrange a few lettuce leaves on each of 4 plates. Scatter a few quartered tomatoes and 2 hard-boiled egg quarters, a few slices of cucumber and 1 radish or 2 slices of beetroot on each plate. Garnish with spring onion and watercress, scatter the remaining egg white (from the dressing) over the salad and some chopped parsley.

Put a tiny bowl of Shanagarry Cream Dressing in the centre of each plate and serve immediately while the salad is crisp and before the beetroot starts to run. Alternatively, the dressing may be served from one large bowl.

Pickled Beetroot

Leave 2 inch (5cm) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don't damage the skin; otherwise the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 1-2 hours depending on size. Beetroot are usually cooked easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger. If in doubt test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.
Pangrilled John Dory with Watercress Butter 

Pangrilling is one of my favourite ways to cook fish, meat and vegetables. Square or oblong cast-iron pangrills can be bought in virtually all good kitchen shops and are a ‘must have’ as far as I am concerned. In this recipe you can use almost any fish - mackerel, grey sea mullet, cod, sea bass, haddock - provided it is very fresh. We get delicious fresh fish from the boats and from Ballycotton Seafood beside us here in Shanagarry.

8 x 6 ozs (170 g) very fresh John Dory fillets
Seasoned flour
Small knob of butter
Watercress butter

Segment of lemon
Sprigs of Watercress

First make the watercress butter.

Heat the pan grill. Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been well seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes (time depends on the thickness of the fish). Turn over and cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with a segment of lemon and some slices of Watercress butter. 

Watercress Butter

4ozs (110 g) butter
2-4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh watercress leaves. 
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cream the butter and add in the watercress and a few drops of lemon juice. Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tinfoil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.

Foolproof Food

Aunt Alice’s Biscuits

Serves 30
5 ozs (140g) white flour
7 ozs (215g) brown sugar (Demerara)
2¼ ozs (75g) porridge oats (Flahavans Oatmeal)
2 teasp. bread soda (sieved)
4 ozs (110g) butter
1 tablesp. golden syrup

Melt the butter and syrup together, add to the other ingredients mix well. Make into small balls and space them well on baking trays. Bake at 200C/400F/regulo 6, for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Top Tips

Georgina Campbell’s Jameson Guide for 2004 has just been published –
The Best Places to Eat, Drink and Stay in Ireland has just been published – don’t leave home without it. 

2003 Jacob’s Creek World Food Media Awards – winners have just been announced – 47 Jacob’s Creek ‘Ladles’ – the food and drink equivalent of the Oscars – were presented at a gala function in Adelaide – winners included familiar names such as Rick Stein for his tv series Food Heroes and Oz Clarke. Best Food Book was won by Australian David Thompson for Thai Food, he now operates the highly successful Nahm restaurant in London.

The new Belle Isle School of Cookery has just opened in Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh –

The Day of the Dead

In Mexico one of the most important festivals of the year is The Day of the Dead. It coincides with our All Saints and All Souls Day in early November. Death has played a central role in Mexican life and religion for thousands of years, but somehow it is not viewed with such finality as it is in our culture.

Life and death are inseparable and reflect a dualistic view as represented by the gods Quetzalcoatl, the God of life and the earth, and Mitchtlantecuhtli, the God of the Dead and the Underworld.
Following the conquest of Mexico in 1579, the Spaniards sought to convert Mexico’s indigenous people to Christianity, but instead the Christian celebrations gradually became overtaken by Mexico’s ancient spirituality.
On the Day of the Dead, throngs of Mexicans pour into cemeteries at midnight, carrying picnics to share with their dearly beloved deceased relatives and friends. Increasingly, visitors from all over the world join them to witness this beautifully macabre and ancient ritual. 

In Oaxaca, a colonial city about an hour south of Mexico City by plane, the celebrations begin weeks before The Day of the Dead. The market and street stalls are piled high with sugar and chocolate skulls (calacas) decorated in brightly coloured icing. A special anise flavoured bread embellished with symbolic images called pan de meurtos is baked. Figurines of painted skeletons engaged in a whole range of human behaviour, from drinking mescal, to watching tv, playing soccer, driving sports cars, or playing in mariachi bands, are snapped up by locals and tourists alike – All very morbid and macabre one might think, but in fact it all adds to the air of celebration.
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In every home altars and shrines are decorated with statues, flowers, ornate candles, food, and personal items so that the appropriate spirit will find its way home during the special days.

Families and friends prepare their ‘ofrenda’ (the adornment of a grave prior to the all -night vigil). Some people do evocative sand paintings, others construct bamboo fences around graves which are then decorated with flowers, fruit and colourful sugar skulls and sometimes bottles of tequila and Coca cola. Cocks combs and the marigold like campasuchil flowers adorn the graves. The strewn petals make vibrant orange paths to the graveyard. Some Indians believe that the bright orange colour and the pungent perfume of the flowers attract the spirits, and that the ancient incense called copal which is burnt by the graveside and around household altars also entices and nourishes the spirits.

In kitchens all over Mexico, women painstakingly cook the favourite foods of their loved ones. Posole and turkey mole are traditional favourites. Come midnight families enter the cemeteries laden with food, drink, flowers, candles, blankets and treasured mementoes of their lost ones. They lovingly lay baskets and pottery dishes full of tasty food on the graves for their dear departed with glasses of water to allay the thirst. Come morning the living share the food.

The entire area is bathed in the light of a forest of candles which guide the spirits to their waiting family and friends who sit wrapped in blankets and ponchos around the graves. As the night moves on they tell stories, remember and drink toasts to their loved ones. A mariachi band plays lively music, the mood seems festive but somewhat subdued. 

There are of course similarities with Hallowe’en but our celebrations seem on one hand darker, but on the other more frivolous as the children play trick or treat and dress up as witches, monsters, vampires and ghosts to terrorise their friends and neighbours.


Serves 8 approx.
Colcannon was one of the festive dishes eaten at Hallowe’en. Songs have been sung and poems have been written about Colcannon. This comfort food at its very best has now been 'discovered' and is often a feature on smart restaurant menus in London and New York. 
In Dublin parsnips were often added to colcannon, the proportion of parsnips to potato varied.

Did you ever eat colcannon
When 'twas made with yellow cream
And the kale and praties blended 
Like a picture in a dream?
Did you ever scoop a hole on top
To hold the melting lake
Of the clover-flavoured butter
Which your mother used to make?

450g (1lb) Savoy or spring cabbage
900g - 1.35kg (2-3lb) 'old' potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
250ml (8fl oz) approx. boiling milk
30g (1oz) scallion or spring onion, optional
salt and freshly ground pepper
55g (2oz) approx . butter

Scrub the potatoes, put them in a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for 'old' potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put onto a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked.

Remove the dark outer leaves from the cabbage. Wash the rest and cut into quarters, remove the core and cut finely across the grain. Boil in a little boiling water or bacon cooking water until soft. Drain, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little butter. When the potatoes are just cooked, put the milk, and the finely chopped scallions into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pull the peel off the potatoes and discard, mash quickly while they are still warm and beat in enough boiling milk to make a fluffy puree. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes in the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade.) Then stir in the cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. For perfection, serve immediately in a hot dish with a lump of butter melting in the centre.

Colcannon may be prepared ahead up to this point and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4, for 20-25 minutes approx. Cover while reheating so it doesn't get too crusty on top.

Hot Diggedy Dogs

This recipe from the November BBC Good Food Magazine really appealed to me as a suggestion for a Bonfire night party (lots of other great ideas in the magazine too.) Here the sausages and onions roast together in the oven. Ready in 30-40 minutes.
Makes 6 but can easily be doubled.
2 tablesp. sunflower oil
6 large pork sausages
1 large onion, sliced 
1 teasp. yellow mustard seeds
6 big flour tortillas
2 tablesp. tomato relish
paper napkins, to serve

Preheat the oven to fan 180C, conventional 200C/ gas 6.

Pour the oil into the roasting tin and put it in the oven for a couple of minutes to heat up. Add the sausages to the hot tin and roast for another 10 minutes. 

Push the sausages to the outer edges of the tin and scatter the sliced onion in the centre. Sprinkle the onion slices with the mustard seeds and some salt and pepper and turn them to coat in the hot oil at the bottom of the tin. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until the sliced onions are golden and the sausages are completely cooked through.

Briefly heat the flour tortillas in the oven, microwave or in a dry frying pan to make them softer and easier to roll. Place a sausage and some onion on each one, top with a spoonful of relish and roll, folding the bottom over. Serve straight away, wrapped in paper napkins.
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Roasted Potato Wedges with Fire and Brimstone Sauce 
Another idea for the bonfire party!

2 lbs (900g) old potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders, or Kerrs Pink.
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For dipping:
Fire and brimstone sauce and sour cream.
Preheat the oven to 200F/100C

Scrub the potatoes well. Cut into quarters or eights lengthwise depending on size. The pieces should be chunky rather than skinny. Put into a roasting tin, drizzle with a little olive oil, toss to coat, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Roast for 20-30 minutes.
Serve with a bowl of fire and brimstone sauce and a bowl of sour cream to dip.

Fire and Brimstone Sauce

This great little sauce is terrific to serve with pangrilled chicken, pork or lamb. We also use it as a dipping sauce for potato wedges and all kinds of fried food especially chicken or fish goujons.
2-4 red chillies (medium-hot)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
225g (8oz) apricot jam
5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
good pinch of salt

Deseed and roughly chop the chillies, then just whizz all the ingredients in a food processor. 
This sauce keeps for up to 2 weeks in a covered jam jar in the fridge.
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Foolproof Food

Hallow’Eves Apple and Cinnamon Pudding

Serves 4-6
12 lbs (675g) cooking apples
1 tablesp. water
3-4 ozs (85-110g) approx. sugar
1 teasp. cinnamon
For the Topping
2 ozs (55g) butter
2 ozs (55g) sugar
1 beaten egg, preferably free range
3 ozs (85g) self raising flour, sieved
1-2 tablesp. milk
1 pie dish 12 pint (900ml) capacity

Set the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.
Peel, core and slice the apples and put them in a heavy saucepan with the water and sugar, cover. Stew them gently until just soft, add the cinnaomon and then tip into a buttered pie dish.

Cream the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg by degrees and beat well until completely incorporated. Sieve the flour and fold into the butter and egg mixture. Add about 1 tablespoon milk or enough to bring the mixture to dropping consistency. Spread this mixture gently over the apple.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponge mixture is firm to the touch in the centre. Sprinkle with castor sugar. Serve warm with home made custard or lightly whipped cream.
Hallow’Eves pudding is delicious made with rhubarb, gooseberries or a mixture of blackberry and apples or rhubarb and strawberries.
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Hot Tips
Slow Food West Cork ‘Celebrates the Pig’ on Sunday 2nd November – a chance to see how free-range pigs are reared, see smoking and processing, a talk on Irish pork by John McKenna of Bridgestone Guides and a feast of delicious dishes and wines. Full booking details from Clodagh McKenna 087-6831602  

Tesco kicks off search for the Nations Young Cook of the Year 2004.
Young chefs across the country should have their spatulas ready as Tesco Ireland, in association with Knorr, announce their hunt for the 2004 champion – open to 10-16 year olds. Ask your teacher, look out for the posters in Tesco stores, check out  cooking  or


When I was a child every house had not one but several ‘cake tins’, usually Jacobs or Huntley & Palmer Christmas biscuit tins, carefully saved long after the original biscuits had been eaten.

There was always ‘something’ in the tin to share with either expected or unexpected guests who dropped in for tea – I still love that tradition and feel uneasy if ‘there’s nothing in the tin’. I adore baking – cakes, biscuits, pastries, buns – I love them all and feel so saddened that so many people have stopped baking simply because they can’t resist the temptation if there’s ‘something in the tin’.

Well look how gorgeous the domestic goddess Nigella Lawson is – voluptuous, curvy and a wizard in the kitchen, she’s made it so cool to make cup cakes again!

Speaking of which, its ages since there has been a book on cakes, but a really serious tome of regional and traditional cakes has just been published by Grub Street Publishing. The author Julie Duff has been baking since she was a child. She became hooked in her grandmother’s kitchen where she spent many happy hours mixing, stirring and no doubt licking the wooden spoon as we did when we were children.

Julie now runs an award winning cake business from her farmhouse in the Vale of Belvoir. She supplies cakes to some of the poshest addresses in the UK – Fortnum and Mason, St Paul’s Cathedral, Selfridges, as well as Henrietta Green’s Food Lovers Fairs. Even though the business has greatly expanded, all her cakes are still made in small batches and ‘stirred with a wooden spoon’. Julie truly knows the importance of using the best ingredients so she uses butter, free range eggs, plump vine fruits and organic stoneground flour from the local mill.

Many of the cakes are made with the recipes her grandmother gave her. So if your Gran or Mum have a super recipe make sure to record it, so many people live with regrets that they left it too late to ask. For those who are guarding secret recipes remember ‘sharing is fun’. Here are a few of the more than 200 tempting and intriguing recipes from Julie Duff’s ‘Cakes’ published by Grub Street Publishing at £25.00.

So if you hanker for the cakes of your childhood and many more, this could be just the book to get you baking again.


Serves 6-8
Julie says this cake has its origin in Ireland and was associated with weekend shooting, fishing or hunting parties.

175 g/6 oz butter
175 g/6 oz caster sugar
3 large eggs 
175 g/6 oz self raising flour 
Grated zest of one large lemon
2 extra tablespoons caster sugar
Juice of one large lemon
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 

Cream the butter and sugar together and add the eggs and flour alternately, a tablespoon at a time, beating in gently. Finally add the lemon zest (reserving the remainder of the lemon) and pour the cake mixture into a greased and lined 900 g/ 2 Ib loaf tin. 
Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown and firm to touch. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. 

Meanwhile strain the juice of the lemon and add it to the 2 tablespoons of caster sugar in a small saucepan. Boil the mixture together for 2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. 
Remove the cake from the oven and leaving it in the tin, prick the surface lightly with a fine skewer. 
Pour the lemon syrup over the cake, leaving it to become cold before turning onto a plate to serve. 

HARVEST CAKE (Teisen y Cynhaeaf)

Serves 8
The Welsh variation of a Harvest Cake is made with apples, sultanas and cinnamon and closely resembles the Irish Apple Cake which is baked with a layer of fruit through the centre. 

175 g/6 oz butter 
175 g/6 oz soft brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
225g/8 oz self raising flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice 
½ teaspoon cinnamon
450 g/1 Ib cooking apples 
50 g/2 oz sultanas
50 g/2 oz currants
50 g/2 oz flaked almonds 
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 

In a small saucepan melt the butter and soft brown sugar. Allow to cool slightly before beating in the eggs. 
Sift the flour and spices into a bowl. Finally adding the melted ingredients. beat gently together. 
Peel. core and chop the apples into small pieces and mix together with the fruit and almonds. 
Spoon half the cake mixture into a greased and lined 18 cm/7 inch cake tin and top with the fruits and nut mix, finally spooning the remaining cake mix over the top. 
Smooth the cake gently and place in the centre of the oven for about an hour or until firm to touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly. 
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to become completely cold. 


Serves 6-8
This cake is absolutely delicious and a great way to use up windfalls.
Baked with apple slices sandwiched in the centre, it also makes an excellent pudding served with cream. This would originally have been baked in a bastable.

225 g/8 oz self raising flour 
115 g/4 oz butter
1 egg, lightly beaten 
115 g/4 oz caster sugar 
75 ml/3 fl oz milk 
2 cooking apples, peeled and sliced
½ teaspoon cinnamon 
50 g/2 oz soft brown sugar
A little beaten egg
1 level tablespoon caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 
Place the flour and butter in a large bowl and rub in to form a breadcrumb texture. Add the beaten egg, sugar and milk and mix with a pallet knife to form a soft dough. 
Turn onto a floured board and cut the dough in half. Place one half into a deep flan dish, pressing down with floured fingers to cover the surface of the dish. 

Spread the apple slices evenly over the base and sprinkle with cinnamon and the soft brown sugar. 
Carefully roll the second half of the dough into a circle roughly the same size as the dish, place on top of the apples, pressing the edges together and cutting several slits in the top of the cake. 
Brush with a little of the beaten egg and sprinkle with the tablespoon of caster sugar. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes until well risen and golden brown. 


Serves 8
Now that I am ‘a little older’ I absolutely adore Caraway Seed Cake. I hated it with a passion as a child, so maybe its an adult flavour as Julie suggests in her book, for many people it’s a forgotten flavour which they might like to try again.

175 g/6 oz butter
175 g/6 oz soft pale brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten 
225 g /8 oz self raising flour 
50 g/2 oz ground almonds
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
50 g/2 oz sultanas
Preheat the oven to 160°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, folding in the eggs and flour a little at a time until well mixed together. 

Stir in the ground almonds, caraway seeds and the sultanas and spoon the mixture into an 18 cm/7 inch round cake tin. 
Place the cake in the centre of the oven and bake for about I hour or until the cake is golden brown and feels firm when pressed lightly. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out cleanly when the cake is cooked. 
Turn onto a wire rack to cool before serving. 
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Irish Whiskey Cake
Serves 10 
You might like to try this as an alternative Christmas Cake.

225 g/8 oz sultanas 
3 tablespoons Irish whiskey (see Top Tips) 
Grated rind of I large lemon 175 g/6 oz butter 
175 g/6 oz pale brown sugar
225 g/8 oz self raising flour
3 eggs. lightly beaten 
Juice of large lemon
225 g/8 oz icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 

Put the sultanas into a small bowl, add finely grated rind of the lemon stirring well and reserving the lemon for juicing. Spoon over the whiskey and stir again. Cover and leave to stand overnight. 
Next day cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs and flour alternately, beating thoroughly between each addition. Fold the whiskey fruit into the mixture gently, using a metal spoon. 
Spoon the cake mixture into a 18 cm/7 inch greased and lined round cake tin and bake in the oven for approximately I hour or until the cake is well-risen, golden brown and firm to the touch. 
Cool in the tin for 20 minutes before turning onto a wire rack. 
When cold, juice the lemon and mix the lemon juice with enough icing sugar to form a thick pouring consistency and drizzle it gently over the top of the cake. Leave to set before serving. 
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Foolproof Food

Lana Pringle’s Barm Brack

Lana Pringle’s delicious tea brack keeps wonderfully well in a tin and is traditionally served sliced and buttered. Try it for Hallowe’en.
14 ozs (400g) dried fruit, raisins and sultanas
2 ozs (55g) cherries
2 ozs (55g) chopped candied peel 
4 ozs (110g) soft brown sugar
4 ozs (110g) granulated sugar
15 fl. ozs (450ml) tea
14 ozs (400g) plain white flour
one-eighth teaspoon of baking powder 
1 egg
3 tins 4 x 63 x 3 inches deep (10 x 15 x 7.5cm deep)
or 2 tins 5 x 8 x 2½ inches deep ((25.5 x 38 x 6.5cm deep)

Put raisins and sultanas into a bowl, cover with tea (Lana occasionally uses a mixture of Indian and Lapsang Souchong, but any good strong tea will do) and leave overnight to allow the fruit to plump up. Next day add the halved cherries, chopped candied peel, sugar and egg and mix well. Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in thoroughly. The mixture should be softish, add a little more tea if necessary (2 fl.ozs/50ml). 
Grease the tins with melted butter (Lana uses old tins, heavier gauge than are available nowadays, light modern tins may need to be lined with silicone paper for extra protection.)
Divide the mixture between the three tins and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 40 minutes approx.
Lana bakes her barmbracks in the Aga, after 40 minutes she turns the tins around and gives them a further 10 minutes approx.* Leave in the tins for about 10 minutes and then remove and cool on a wire rack. 
*If you are using two tins the barmbracks will take 1 hour approx.

Hot Tips

Free Choice Consumer Group – next meeting will be held on Thursday 30th October at the Crawford Gallery Café in Cork at 7.30pm and the topic will be ‘Wild Food’ - €5 including tea, coffee and tastings.
Whiskey lovers all over the world are being given the opportunity to learn more about the fascinating history, heritage and tradition of whiskey distilling in Ireland through a new website  and are invited to join the Premium Whiskeys of Ireland Club.

The Apple Club at the Traas Apple Farm, Moorstown, Clonmel, Co Tipperary has its own Newsletter and website  -they will have new seasons Irish Cox’s Orange Pippins for sale shortly.


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