ArchiveJanuary 2003

Eat Well on a Budget

Just now the credit card receipts are beginning to come in thick and fast toremind us of the retail therapy we indulged in with such gay abandon aroundChristmas.  We can feel virtuous in the fact that we’ve done our bit for the
Irish economy, but its time to tighten our belts in every sense of the word.There are of course all sorts of savings that can be made in household itemsand little luxuries that one can live without for the moment.   No matterwhat savings one makes its vital to keep the food on the table, as our wiseold GP Dr Derry McCarthy was fond of saying, “if you don’t put the petrol in
the tank the car won’t go” – unquestionably true – if we scrimp onnutritious food we’ll end up paying more to the chemist and the doctor – andif the latest surveys are to be believed, they can scarcely cope with theirworkload at present.
So what we need to do is put lots of time and energy into sourcing as muchtop quality fresh locally produced food in season as possible.   This willcut your food bills in half and provide you with live food bursting withvitamins, minerals and trace elements.
Nowadays, when so much shopping is done in supermarkets, its difficultparticularly for younger people, to work out what’s in season when so muchis available from January to December, and there are so few clues toindicate when something is in season.  I long for at least one chain ofsupermarkets to celebrate the seasons and highlight local produce in theirshops – this would be a tremendous help to concerned consumers and wouldgive a much-needed boost to local farmers and food producers.So what’s in season at present?  All the root vegetables are fantastic justnow, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, swede turnips.  Thelatter are now sweet and nutty, having had several nights of frost whichconcentrates the natural fructose.   Brussels sprouts are still in seasonfor another few weeks and there’s lots of yummy crunchy Savoy cabbage to
cook on its own, or to add to a big bowl of mashed Golden Wonder potatoes,to make a bowl of comforting, delicious and inexpensive colcannon.Look out for kale also and my favourite sprouting broccoli, green, purple orwhite – I adore all those greens, in Winter my body seems to crave thoseclean fresh flavours.  Somehow I’m convinced that its what we need to
supplement our iron, vitamins and minerals at this time of the year.  Kale,by the way is the most nutritious of all the brassicas, a family renownedfor its vitamin A, B & C content, it is a good source of iron and of allvegetables it is one of the richest sources of calcium, in a form which caneasily be absorbed by the body.Leeks, a good source of potassium and folate, are also excellent at presentand we’ve been enjoying and feasting on the first of the herrings and spratsfilled with minerals, calcium and valuable Omega 3 fatty acids, for the pastfew weeks.  If you’re someone who reckons they haven’t eaten at all unlessyou’ve had meat, then in lean times take the opportunity to experiment withthe many inexpensive cuts of meat that are succulent.   Next time you go toyour local butcher or market, seek out pork spare ribs, bacon ribs, chickenwings, lamb shanks, shin of beef.  All inexpensive, succulent and delicious,cooked in a myriad of ways – here are a few suggestions to get you started!

Pangrilled Herrings with Grainy Mustard Butter

Serves 6 as a starter
6 fresh herrings, gutted, scaled and washed
Seasoned flour
Grainy Mustard Butter
1 teaspoon grainy mustard eg. Moutarde de Meaux
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
3 ozs (85g) melted butter
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Leek and Cheddar Cheese Tart
Serves 10-12
½ lb (225g) shortcrust pastry
1 lb (450g) white part of leeks
2 ozs (55g) butter
4 ozs (110g) white Cheddar cheese
or
2 ozs (55g) grated cheese and
2 ozs (55g) cooked ham, chopped1 tablesp. finely chopped parsley
8 fl ozs (225ml) cream or rich milk
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
2 x 7 inch (18cm) flan rings

Clean the leeks and cut into 3 inch (2cm) slices. Melt the butter in a heavybottomed saucepan. Add the leeks, season and stir well to coat. Add 1-2tablespoons of water. Cover with a butter wrapper and a tight fitting lid.Reduce the heat and continue cooking for about 10 minutes or until soft andthe water has been absorbed. Do not let the leeks colour.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.

Roll out the pastry to about 3 inch (2cm) thick and line two 7 inch (18cm)flan rings. Line the pastry shell with a kitchen paper and fill up to thetop with dried beans. Bake for 10-15 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove the peas and kitchen paper and keep the flan aside.Stir the cheese or cheese and ham with the parsley into the leek mixture.Whisk the eggs with the cream and stir this in also. Check seasoning. Pour this mixture into the flan ring and put it back into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until just set. Serve with a green salad.
Curly Kale
Serves 4 approx.
450g (1lb) Curly kale, destalked (290g /10oz approx.) without stalks)
6 pints  (3.4 L) water
3 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper and a little grated nutmeg
55g (2oz) butter
125ml (4fl oz) cream
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, (6 pints (3.4L) to 3 teaspoons salt). Add the curly kale and boil uncovered on a high heat until

Deh-Ta-Hsiung Pork Spareribs

Deh-ta Hsiung who was our guest chef here at the school some years ago gaveme this delicious recipe for cooking spare ribs.  Ideally, chop each individual rib into 2 or 3 bite-size pieces before cooking, which is less messy than chopping them after they are cooked.
1kg (2lbs) pork spareribs

Trim off excess fat and any gristle from the ribs and cut each rib into 2 or 3 small pieces.  Marinate with the rest of the ingredients for at least 2-3 hours if possible, turning occasionally.Barbecue under a hot grill for 15-20 minutes, turning and basting frequently
with the marinade.  Alternatively, roast the ribs in a baking dish in a preheated hot oven (230C/450F/Gas 8 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200C/400F/Gas 6 for 25-30 minutes more, turning once or twice.  Serve hot or cold on a bed of lettuce leaves with the sauce poured over them. Careful not to overcook or the meat will be dry and tough, instead of tender and succulent.
Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup 

Serves 6-8

12 ozs (340g) swede turnips, diced
1 tablesp. sunflower or arachide oil
5 ozs (140g) rindless streaky bacon cut in ½ inch (1cm) dice
4 ozs (110g) onions, chopped
5 ozs (140g) potatoes, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1½ pints (900ml) homemade chicken stock
Cream or creamy milk to taste

Garnish

Fried diced bacon
Tiny croutons
Chopped parsley
Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the bacon fat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock,
bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked. Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary.  Serve with a mixture of crispy bacon, tiny croutons and chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

The sheer joy coffee

The sheer joy of that first sip of coffee in the morning – for me, like many others, the day is punctuated by coffee, from the morning’s first café au lait in a comforting Shanagarry Pottery mug, to a frothy cappuccino dusted with chocolate mid-morning, to the rich dark expresso enjoyed with a truffle after dinner.
Good coffee is one of life’s exquisite pleasures and often when I enjoy a really good cup and smell the roasted beans, my mind drifts off uneasily to the coffee farmers of Mexico, Costa Rica and Vietnam.
Coffee grows in two narrow areas around the world in tropical and sub-tropical lands.
Even though I pay 18 Euros a kilo for my freshly roasted beans, the reality is that the global coffee market has collapsed. As ever it’s a case of over-production with new growers flooding the market. The official price per pound of coffee has crashed from a high of $6 in 1977 to a 100 year low of 42 cents last year.
For many of the world’s 25 million coffee growers, the future is bleak. In the recent past half a million have abandoned their farms in Latin America alone, unable to make enough money to stay alive. Both in Mexico and in Costa Rica, there have been mass protests, where millions of tons of beans have been burned or crushed for fertiliser in an effort to highlight the plight of coffee growers.

For years, the International Coffee Organization, founded in 1962, and made up of 60 nations had the power to set production quotas, but after the fall of Communism the US left the ICO, which then effectively lost its clout to enforce quotas and eventually stopped trying. The global coffee supply is now over-running demand by about 1.2 billion pounds, despite a sharp increase in global consumption. 
From its initial discovery in Abyssinia in the 6th Century AD, coffee has become a million dollar business. Of the more than 50 known varieties just two make up the majority of the world’s production, Arabica indigenous to Ethiopia, and Robusta discovered in the Congo.


Arabica is the most sought after and highly prized by coffee connoisseurs. This bean accounts for 70% of the world’s production. It is grown at approx. 1,000 – 2,000 metres above sea level, but the higher the altitude the better the quality. Beans grown at 1,500 metres can be labelled as Supreme, AA or Estate. Interestingly, top quality Arabica beans contain about half the caffeine level of the lower quality Robusta beans.
The latter makes up about 25% of the world’s output and is found in the highest quality expresso blends as it helps in the development of the ‘crema’ on top of the expresso.
The four top companies that dominate international coffee purchases, Proctor and Gamble, Sara Lee, Kraft and Nestlé, have all devised ways to improve the taste of blends ground from robusta beans even when the beans are poor quality.

 
Flavoured coffees have also become increasingly popular and flavours like vanilla and hazelnut help to mask the sometimes gritty taste of robusta, consequently the big players have been buying more cheap robusta beans from big growers, particularly Vietnam and less of the superior arabica from the traditional growers in Latin America.
The situation is becoming increasingly desperate, but recently Nestor Osorio, a hugely committed Colombian diplomat, has become executive director of the ICO and launched a clever new campaign to control production, targeting falling quality, rather than price – alas it is difficult to get the despairing coffee growers to agree on anything.
However, as the US and other nations are becoming increasingly aware, this whole issue will have far wider implications, it is not just about a cup of coffee. It has produced furious protests all over the globe by desperate and increasingly militant coffee farmers. At recent ICO meetings Mexican officials have noted that the map of rebel activity in Mexico roughly traces coffee growing regions. Colombia is warning that coffee farmers are increasingly turning to coca to in a frantic bid to make a livelihood to feed themselves and their families. The crisis has at last got the attention of the US Congress which recently passed a resolution to study the coffee crisis and to consider membership of the ICO, so we can but hope.
Meanwhile, what can we do at home in our own kitchens. Well, the best solution is to seek out Fair Trade Coffee.
Bewleys sell fair trade coffee under the name of Bewleys Direct and it’s available through most supermarket chains and through Bewleys Cafes.


Cafedirect another fairtrade coffee is available through Superquinn, Health Food Shops, Oxfam Shops and Trocaire Shops – if your local supermarket doesn’t stock Fairtrade Mark products, just ask the manager, the Fair Trade organisation even have a letter on their website (see address below) which you can send to your local store manager.
All the main coffee roasters in Ireland also have a Fairtrade Mark coffee for the catering market so its easy to change to fairtrade – encourage your restaurant or canteen in your workplace to use it – it makes a difference – Bewleys direct, Cafédirect, Johnsons Costa Rica Fairtrade Blend, Percol Fairtrade, Robert Roberts Fairtrade, Tiki Caffee and the Viking Direct catalogue – contact details are available on the website www.fair-mark.org/products 0r tel 01-475 3515. Email:info@fair-mark.org 
 
For 350 producer groups representing some four and a half million producers and their families in 36 countries selling to the Fairtrade market across 17 countries in Europe and North America, Fairtrade means – guaranteed better prices, decent working conditions, fair wages and the security of long term trading relationships.

Chocolate and Coffee Mousse

Merrilees Parker gave me this yummy recipe.
Serves 4

5½oz (150g) good quality dark chocolate
3 tbsp expresso strength coffee
3½ oz (100g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes
3 free-range eggs, separated
2 tbsp caster sugar

Melt the chocolate with the coffee in a bowl, over a pan of gently simmering water.
Add the butter, a piece at a time stirring continuously until completely melted.
The bowl should be warm so the butter softens but does not split and turn to oil.
It should become the consistency of thick cream. Add the egg yolks, one by one, beating them until the mixture is very smooth.
Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then add the sugar and beat to glossy soft peaks. Carefully fold into the chocolate mixture to retain as much air as possible, making sure no white spots from the egg whites remain.
Spoon into individual glasses and chill for at least 2 hours.
Serve with cream poured into the top of each glass. 

Sue’s Coffee and Pecan Biscuits

This delicious recipe was given me by Sue Cullinane, one of our teachers here at the school, we are always delighted when students or staff share one of their favourite recipes with us and we include it in our repertoire of recipes.
Makes 20

4 oz (110g) butter, softened 
4 oz (110g) muscovado sugar
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon coffee essence
1 ½ oz (35g) pecans, chopped

For the icing
2 oz (50g/ ½ stick) butter
5 oz (150g/1 ¼ cup) icing sugar
1 teaspoon milk
1 teaspoon coffee essence

pecans, toasted

10 x 7 inch (25.5 x 18 cm) swiss roll tin, well greased

Preheated oven 180ºC/ 350ºF/Gas mark 4

Put all the cake ingredients into a magimix or food processor. Whizz for 1-2 minuntes to amalgamate. Spread the cake mixture evenly in the well buttered tin and level the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes approx. The cake should be well risen. Allow to cool in the tin.
Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the icing together. As soon as the cake has cooled, spread the icing evenly over the top using a palette knife. Sprinkle toasted pecans over the top. Cut into squares and serve.

Tira Misu

This dessert originated in Venice and is now very popular not just in Italy. The name means ‘pick me up’, not surprising considering the amount of booze in it. This is our version which always gets rave reviews.
Serves 8

38-40 Boudoir biscuits
8 fl oz (250 ml) strong espresso coffee (if your freshly) made coffee is not strong enough, add 1 teaspoon of instant coffee)
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons Jamaica rum
3 ozs (85g) dark chocolate
3 eggs, separated, preferably free range
4 tablespoons castor sugar
9 ozs (255g) Mascarpone cheese *

Unsweetened Cocoa (Dutch process)

Dish 10 x 8 inches (25.5 x 20.5cm) with low sides or 1lb loaf tin (8 x 4 inches (20.5 x 10cm) lined with cling film

Mix the coffee with the brandy and rum. Roughly grate the chocolate (we do it in the food processor with the pulse button). Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until it reaches the 'ribbon' stage and is light and fluffy, then fold in the Mascarpone a tablespoon at a time.
Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold gently into the cheese mixture. Now you are ready to assemble the Tira Misu.
Dip each side of the boudoir biscuits one at a time into the coffee mixture and arrange side by side in the dish or tin. Spread half the Mascarpone mixture gently over the biscuits, sprinkle half the grated chocolate over the top, then another layer of soaked biscuits and finally the rest of the Mascarpone. Cover the whole bowl or loaf tin carefully with cling film or better still slide it into a plastic bag and twist the end. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours - I usually make it the day before I use it. 
Just before serving scatter the remainder of the chocolate over the top and dredge with unsweetened cocoa.
Note: Tiramisu will keep for several days in a fridge, but make sure it is covered so that it doesn't pick up 'fridgie' tastes.
*Mascarpone, a delicious rich creamy cheese which originated in Lodi in Lombardy is made by curdling cream with citric acid. It is often used instead of cream with fruit and pastries

The sheer joy coffee         18th jan

The sheer joy of that first sip of coffee in the morning – for me, like many others, the day is punctuated by coffee, from the morning’s first café au lait in a comforting Shanagarry Potterymug, to a frothy cappuccino dusted with chocolate mid-morning, to the rich dark expresso enjoyed with a truffle after dinner.
Good coffee is one of life’s exquisite pleasures and often when I enjoy a really good cup and smell the roasted beans, my mind drifts off uneasily to the coffee farmers of Mexico, Costa Rica and Vietnam.
Coffee grows in two narrow areas around the world in tropical and sub-tropical lands.
Even though I pay 18 Euros a kilo for my freshly roasted beans, the reality is that the global coffee market has collapsed. As ever it’s a case of over-production with new growers flooding the market. The official price per pound of coffee has crashed from a high of $6 in 1977 to a 100 year low of 42 cents last year.
For many of the world’s 25 million coffee growers, the future is bleak. In the recent past half a million have abandoned their farms in Latin America alone, unable to make enough money to stay alive. Both in Mexico and in Costa Rica, there have been mass protests, where millions of tons of beans have been burned or crushed for fertiliser in an effort to highlight the plight of coffee growers.
For years, the International Coffee Organization, founded in 1962, and made up of 60 nations had the power to set production quotas, but after the fall of Communism the US left the ICO, which then effectively lost its clout to enforce quotas and eventually stopped trying. The global coffee supply is now over-running demand by about 1.2 billion pounds, despite a sharp increase in global consumption.
From its initial discovery in Abyssinia in the 6th Century AD, coffee has become a million dollar business. Of the more than 50 known varieties just two make up the majority of the world’s production, Arabica indigenous to Ethiopia, and Robusta discovered in the Congo.
Arabica is the most sought after and highly prized by coffee connoisseurs. This bean accounts for 70% of the world’s production. It is grown at approx. 1,000 – 2,000 metres above sea level, but the higher the altitude the better the quality. Beans grown at 1,500 metres can be labelled as Supreme, AA or Estate. Interestingly, top quality Arabica beans contain about half the caffeine level of the lower quality Robusta beans.
The latter makes up about 25% of the world’s output and is found in the highest quality expresso blends as it helps in the development of the ‘crema’ on top of the expresso.
The four top companies that dominate international coffee purchases, Proctor and Gamble, Sara Lee, Kraft and Nestlé, have all devised ways to improve the taste of blends ground from robusta beans even when the beans are poor quality.


Flavoured coffees have also become increasingly popular and flavours like vanilla and hazelnut help to mask the sometimes gritty taste of robusta, consequently the big players have been buying more cheap robusta beans from big growers, particularly Vietnam and less of the superior arabica from the traditional growers in Latin America.
The situation is becoming increasingly desperate, but recently Nestor Osorio, a hugely committed Colombian diplomat, has become executive director of the ICO and launched a clever new campaign to control production, targeting falling quality, rather than price – alas it is difficult to get the despairing coffee growers to agree on anything.
However, as the US and other nations are becoming increasingly aware, this whole issue will have far wider implications, it is not just about a cup of coffee. It has produced furious protests all over the globe by desperate and increasingly militant coffee farmers. At recent ICO meetings Mexican officials have noted that the map of rebel activity in Mexico roughly traces coffee growing regions. Colombia is warning that coffee farmers are increasingly turning to coca to in a frantic bid to make a livelihood to feed themselves and their families. The crisis has at last got the attention of the US Congress which recently passed a resolution to study the coffee crisis and to consider membership of the ICO, so we can but hope.
Meanwhile, what can we do at home in our own kitchens. Well, the best solution is to seek out Fair Trade Coffee.
Bewleys sell fair trade coffee under the name of Bewleys Direct and it’s available through most supermarket chains and through Bewleys Cafes.
Cafedirect another fairtrade coffee is available through Superquinn, Health Food Shops, Oxfam Shops and Trocaire Shops – if your local supermarket doesn’t stock Fairtrade Mark products, just ask the manager, the Fair Trade organisation even have a letter on their website (see address below) which you can send to your local store manager.
All the main coffee roasters in Ireland also have a Fairtrade Mark coffee for the catering market so its easy to change to fairtrade – encourage your restaurant or canteen in your workplace to use it – it makes a difference – Bewleys direct, Cafédirect, Johnsons Costa Rica Fairtrade Blend, Percol Fairtrade, Robert Roberts Fairtrade, Tiki Caffee and the Viking Direct catalogue – contact details are available on the website www.fair-mark.org/products 0r tel 01-475 3515. Email:info@fair-mark.org

For 350 producer groups representing some four and a half million producers and their families in 36 countries selling to the Fairtrade market across 17 countries in Europe and North America, Fairtrade means – guaranteed better prices, decent working conditions, fair wages and the security of long term trading relationships.

Chocolate and Coffee Mousse
Merrilees Parker gave me this yummy recipe.

Serves 4

5½oz (150g) good quality dark chocolate
3 tbsp expresso strength coffee
3½ oz (100g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes
3 free-range eggs, separated
2 tbsp caster sugar

Melt the chocolate with the coffee in a bowl, over a pan of gently simmering water.
Add the butter, a piece at a time stirring continuously until completely melted.
The bowl should be warm so the butter softens but does not split and turn to oil.
It should become the consistency of thick cream. Add the egg yolks, one by one, beating them until the mixture is very smooth.
Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then add the sugar and beat to glossy soft peaks. Carefully fold into the chocolate mixture to retain as much air as possible, making sure no white spots from the egg whites remain.
Spoon into individual glasses and chill for at least 2 hours.
Serve with cream poured into the top of each glass.

Coffee and Pecan Biscuits

This delicious recipe was given me by Sue Cullinane, one of our teachers here at the school, we are always delighted when students or staff share one of their favourite recipes with us and we include it in our repertoire of recipes.

Makes 20

4 oz (110g) butter, softened
4 oz (110g) muscovado sugar
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon coffee essence
1 ½ oz (35g) pecans, chopped

For the icing
2 oz (50g/ ½ stick) butter
5 oz (150g/1 ¼ cup) icing sugar
1 teaspoon milk
1 teaspoon coffee essence

pecans, toasted

10 x 7 inch (25.5 x 18 cm) swiss roll tin, well greased

Preheated oven 180ºC/ 350ºF/Gas mark 4

Put all the cake ingredients into a magimix or food processor. Whizz for 1-2 minuntes to amalgamate. Spread the cake mixture evenly in the well buttered tin and level the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes approx. The cake should be well risen. Allow to cool in the tin.
Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the icing together. As soon as the cake has cooled, spread the icing evenly over the top using a palette knife. Sprinkle toasted pecans over the top. Cut into squares and serve.

This dessert originated in Venice and is now very popular not just in Italy. The name means ‘pick me up’, not surprising considering the amount of booze in it. This is our version which always gets rave reviews.

Serves 8

38-40 Boudoir biscuits
8 fl oz (250 ml) strong espresso coffee (if your freshly) made coffee is not strong enough, add 1 teaspoon of instant coffee)
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons Jamaica rum
3 ozs (85g) dark chocolate
3 eggs, separated, preferably free range
4 tablespoons castor sugar
9 ozs (255g) Mascarpone cheese *

Unsweetened Cocoa (Dutch process)

Dish 10 x 8 inches (25.5 x 20.5cm) with low sides or 1lb loaf tin (8 x 4 inches (20.5 x 10cm) lined with cling film

Mix the coffee with the brandy and rum. Roughly grate the chocolate (we do it in the food processor with the pulse button). Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until it reaches the ‘ribbon’ stage and is light and fluffy, then fold in the Mascarpone a tablespoon at a time.
Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold gently into the cheese mixture. Now you are ready to assemble the Tira Misu.
Dip each side of the boudoir biscuits one at a time into the coffee mixture and arrange side by side in the dish or tin. Spread half the Mascarpone mixture gently over the biscuits, sprinkle half the grated chocolate over the top, then another layer of soaked biscuits and finally the rest of the Mascarpone. Cover the whole bowl or loaf tin carefully with cling film or better still slide it into a plastic bag and twist the end. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours – I usually make it the day before I use it.
Just before serving scatter the remainder of the chocolate over the top and dredge with unsweetened cocoa.
Note: Tiramisu will keep for several days in a fridge, but make sure it is covered so that it doesn’t pick up ‘fridgie’ tastes.
*Mascarpone, a delicious rich creamy cheese which originated in Lodi in Lombardy is made by curdling cream with citric acid. It is often used instead of cream with fruit and pastries

‘Minimealism’ is causing a stir

A red hot new food trend called ‘minimealism’ is causing a stir in the food world. Chefs are discovering that the coolest food comes in small portions. In the late 90’s on the global food scene sushi became as popular as sandwiches, while mini burgers and sipping champagne through a straw is the Millennium’s ultra hip meal. Tiny lamb, beef, chicken or tuna burgers are now being served in some of the world’s most glamorous restaurants from New York to Sydney. I first came across the beginning of this trend when I went to Tasting Australia in Perth in 2001.
Several of the vibey parties we went to served mini portions of maxi favourites. This kind of food is also all the rage in South Africa, where past student Annabel Ovenstone, now a product developer for Marks and Spencer, explained that currently people like to eat and entertain casually, sharing many different textures, tastes and smells.
Mini food is now a response to lifestyle trends – it spans all eating occasions – simple food that’s low on fuss but high on flavour.
In New York, John De Lucies, executive chef of the Soho Grand Hotel, says his ‘Soho picnic platter’ is the most popular dish on the bar menu ‘its an ode to small food’. It features a trio of baby hot dogs in blankets, a supermodel sized burger on a brioche bun and a tangle of skinny fries. Other mini meals on the menu are tiny baked potatoes topped with crème fraiche and three caviars and mini ravioli stuffed with provolone, salami, and ricotta, served with a spicy dipping sauce.
Mini food encourages people to graze, ideal for people who want lots of different taste sensations, but not too much bulk – perfect for ladies but its surprising how all those mini bits add up.
At ‘First’, one of Sam de Marco’s hip restaurants in Manhattan, the most popular dish is 4 tiny burgers on fluffy little rolls topped with caramelised onions, served with cheese, pickles, tomatoes and crispy fries. Mini food is not just savoury – De Marco also serves a selection of tiny tarts and sandwich petit fours.
So this ‘little food’ trend is getting bigger and bigger. I was astonished to hear that mini food festivals now take place annually in Italy, France, US and Thailand. There’s even a mini food street in Karachi in Afghanistan. Closer to home in London, one of my favourite chefs, Peter Gordon serves a selection of fusion tapas and mezze meals on his menu at Provodore.
In South Africa, mini food is the new buzz word circulating in food circles, hot or cold soups in espresso cups, oysters in shot glasses, mini bruschetta, calamari in tiny bowls. Mini food is served on all the trendiest menus from cocktails to the swishest dinner parties.
Often they are miniature versions of our favourite comfort food and drinks, mini Bloody Marys, mini sausages with wasabi mash, tiny fish and chips served in cones of the Financial Times, (didn’t Lorna Wing do that 10 years ago?). Little crepes, mini Vietnamese spring rolls, tiny fish cakes, spicy meatballs, the list goes on…
Mini food is basically a bite- (or maybe two) sized meal, mostly eaten with the fingers. Mini foodies usually have smallish appetites and biggish budgets, because mini food restaurants don’t necessarily work on value for money! A few ideas to get you in on the ‘minimealism’.

Oyster Shooters

These were all the rage at drinks parties in Oz when I went to Tasting Australia.
Makes 24- 28

600 ml (20 fl oz) mirin
400 ml (14 fl oz) sake
2 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
1½ tablespoons wasabi mustard powder
24-28 shot glasses
24-28 oysters

Put the mirin and sake into a sauté pan, bring to the boil and allow to catch the flambé. When the flames die down, turn off the heat, pour into a pyrex measure and allow to cool. Add the vinegar, soy sauce and whisk in the wasabi powder. Cover and chill in the fridge overnight
Just before serving, open the oysters and put one into each shot glass. Cover with chilled liquid (leave the sediment behind in the measure). Serve immediately. 

Teeny Chicken Burgers with Sweet Chilli Sauce

Makes 12
2-3 chicken breasts, minced (free range and organic) – 12 ozs (350g)
1 teasp. honey
1 tablesp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
⅓ teasp. peeled and grated ginger
1 tablesp. spring onion, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
12 mini hamburger buns

cherry tomatoes
coriander leaves

Accompaniment:
Sweet chilli sauce – available from Asian shops and most supermarkets

Mix the honey with the soy sauce, add the garlic, ginger and spring onion and minced chicken. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Fry off a little piece on a small frying pan. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.
Form the mixture into tiny burgers about 1oz (25g) in weight. Cover and chill until needed. 
To serve: Warm the hamburger buns in the oven. Heat a little oil in a heavy frying pan, cook the burgers until fully cooked through but still juicy.
Meanwhile split the hamburger buns, butter the bases. Put a few coriander leaves and a slice or two of cherry tomato on the bottom of half the buns. Spread a little sweet chilli sauce on the other halves. As soon as the chicken burgers are cooked, pop one on top of the chilli sauce and sandwich the two halves together. Serve extra sweet chilli sauce as an accompaniment.
Delicious warm or cold.

Teeny Yorkshire Puds with Rare Roast Beef and Horseradish Sauce and Rocket Leaves

Makes 28 approx.

4oz (110g) plain flour
2 eggs, preferably free-range
½ pint (300ml) milk
½ oz (15g) butter, melted

Sunflower oil for greasing tins
Horseradish Sauce 
6 -8 ozs (170-225g) Rare Roast Beef or chargrill a thick sirloin steak to medium rare, rest and thinly slice just as needed

Rocket or flat parsley leaves
1 tray of 1¾ inch (4.5cm) bun tins

Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre of the flour, drop in the eggs. Using a small whisk or wooden spoon, stir continuously, gradually drawing in flour from the sides, adding the milk in a steady stream at the same time. When all the flour has been incorporated whisk in the remainder of the milk and cool melted butter. Allow to stand for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo8. Heat the patty tins in the oven, grease with sunflower oil and fill a - 2 full with batter. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until crisp, golden and bubbly. 
Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

To Serve: 
Fill each with a tiny blob of Horseradish Sauce. Top with a thin sliver of rare roast beef. 
Garnish with a sprig of flat parsley or a rocket leaf. Serve soon - best freshly cooked.

Mini Lamb and Mint Yorkshire Puds

Lamb fillet

Apple and Mint Jelly or Mint Chutney

Substitute lamb fillet for beef in the above recipe. Put a little blob of Apple and Mint Jelly or Mint Chutney into each mini Yorkshire pud. Top with a tiny slice of warm lamb fillet and a tiny mint sprig.
Serve warm.


Focaccia

The classic Italian flat bread, great as a nibble before dinner. Often good served with a selection of olives or roasted vegetables as a starter
1 quantity olive dough (see recipe below)
Olive oil and sea salt, 

Roll out your dough, you can either roll it in to one large disc or four smaller discs. The discs need to be about 1cm (½ inch) thick. 
Put on to an oiled baking sheet and make indentations all over the surface with your fingers. Brush liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. 
Allow the Focaccia to rise again. Put in to oven and bake for 5 minutes and then reduce temperature to 200C/400F/regulo 6 and bake for a further 15 - 20 minutes.


Mini Focaccias

Make the dough in the usual way. Allow to rise, knock back. Roll out to thickness of (1cm) ½ inch, allow to rest for 3-4 minutes. Stamp into 2.5cm (1 inch) rounds with a cutter. Alternatively just roll and flatten into tiny rounds. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and stud with a sprig of rosemary.

Bake in a pre-heated oven 180C/360F/regulo 4, for 10 minutes approx. or until golden brown in colour.
Serve warm or cold.

Variations
Focaccia with Rosemary
Another favourite is to sprinkle 2 teaspoons of finely chopped rosemary over the oil and then sprinkle with sea salt and proceed and bake as above.
Focaccia with Sage
Knead 2 teaspoons of finely chopped sage into the piece of dough, then roll out to1cm ½ inch thickness and brush with olive oil. Make indentations all over the surface with your fingertips, sprinkle with sea salt, then proceed as above.
Focaccia with Black Olives
Substitute 1-2 tablespoons of black olives for the sage and proceed as above. Remember to take the stones out of the olives! 1 teaspoon of chopped marjoram or thyme leaves is a delicious addition here also.

Olive Oil Dough

This basic dough is ideal for pizza and focaccia. If you can try to use Italian extra virgin olive oil for a really authentic flavour.
(Makes 8 x 25cm 10inch pizzas)

20g (¾oz) fresh yeast
250ml (8floz) water
50ml (2floz) olive oil
30g (1oz) butter
1 teaspoon salt
15g (½ oz) sugar
450g (1lb) strong white flour

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8
Sponge the yeast in 150ml (5fl oz) of tepid water, leave in a warm place for about five minutes.
In a large wide mixing bowl sieve the flour, salt and sugar. Rub in the butter, make a well in the centre.
Pour in the sponged yeast, olive oil and most of the remaining lukewarm water. Mix to a loose dough adding the remaining liquid or a little extra flour if needed.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, cover and leave to relax for 5 minutes approximately.
Then knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth, springy and elastic, if kneading in a food mixer with a dough hook, 5 minutes is usually long enough.
Put the dough in a large delph bowl. Cover the top tightly with cling film.
When the dough has more than doubled in size, 1½ – 2 hours, knock back and knead again for about 2 to 3 minutes. Leave to relax again for 10 minutes.
On a well-floured work surface roll each ball in to about 25cm (10inch) disc and use as required

MacNean House and Bistro

I will always remember the first time I went to eat at Neven Maguire’s restaurant in Blacklion, Co Cavan. The restaurant, on the main street of this border town felt like a family home, warm and comfortable. Jo and Vera, Neven’s Mum and Dad were there to welcome the guests – so proud of their boy – and rightly so – young Neven, barely out of his teens, had a string of awards. In 1996 he was made Eurotoque Chef of the Year, in 1999 he was chosen as Bushmills Chef of the Year – Best Outside Dublin, and in 2001 Neven represented Ireland in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Competition in France.
Although Neven and his restaurant ‘MacNean House and Bistro’ in Blacklion, Co. Cavan, were well-known among chefs and foodies, it wasn’t until he became studio chef on RTE’s Open House that he became a household name.
His infectious enthusiasm and passion for food, have inspired many timid novices and budding cooks and chefs to have a go. Viewers who would scarcely have cooked rice a few years ago are now rustling up risottos and searing swordfish. Recently, still in his 20’s Neven realised a life-time ambition to write a cookbook. Its called ‘Neven Cooks’ and is published by Poolbeg Press at E14.99 .
Its got lots of delicious simple recipes and top tips from one of Ireland’s most endearing young chefs.

Best Ever Home-Made Beefburger

Serves 4

All children love burgers, but what about the adults? I t seems that we never grow out of our fascination for this meaty sandwich. Well, this is my Cavan contender for the best ever burger and it caters specifically for the ‘older children’ out there. It’s rather exotic and uses fresh pineapple and Gruyere cheese. Make sure you make one for yourself while you’re at it.

4 flozs (110ml) mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb (5ozs) (600g) lean minced beef
1 rounded tablespoon chopped sage
2 eggs, beaten
8 thin slices Gruyere cheese
2 hamburger buns, halved
1 spanish onion, sliced into thin rings
2 ozs (50g) plain flour, seasoned
2 ozs (50g) rocket leaves
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
seasoning

frying oil heated to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas mark 4

First make the chilli mayonnaise by mixing mayonnaise and chilli sauce together . Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
Now sweat the onion and garlic in half the olive oil for 2 minutes on a medium heat. Cool the mixture a little before putting it in a bowl with the mince, sage and eggs. Mix well and season. Shape into 4 large burgers. In a frying pan , cook the burgers on a high heat in the remaining olive oil for about 6-7 minutes on each side or more if you prefer. You can also grill these or use the barbeque in the summer.
While the meat is cooking, grill the pineapple until hot and the juices are caramelising, then place 2 slices of Gruyere cheese on each pineapple ring and leave under the grill to melt. Dip the onion rings in the seasoned flour and deep-fry in the oil. Remove when golden and crispy and leave to drain on some kitchen paper. Toast the burger buns.

To serve
On each toasted bun, place a small amount of rocket followed by 2-3slices of tomato and a beefburger. Put a cheesy pineapple ring on the meat and top it all with some crispy onion rings. Drizzle the chilli mayonnaise over the open burger.

Hearty Winter Vegetable Soup

Serves 4

I created this recipe one day to use up some leftover vegetables. I gave some to my mother and I was delighted when she told me it tasted just like the soups she used to eat as a little girl – needless to say she loved it. It is true that this soup tastes kind of old- fashioned and really comforts on a cold wintry day. Take it from my mum!

2 ozs (50g) barley, washed
8ozs (225g) carrots, diced
4ozs (110g) onion, diced
4ozs (110g) leeks, diced
4ozs (110g) turnips, diced
4ozs (110g) parsnips, diced
4ozs (110g) celery, diced
2ozs (50g) plain flour
4 pints (2.2 litres) hot chicken stock
½ pint (275ml) milk or cream
1 scallion, chopped
1oz (25g) croutons (toasted cubes of white bread)
seasoning

Place the barley in a saucepan with ½ pint (275ml) of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer until cooked. Drain and set aside. Now heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot, add all the diced vegetables and sweat for 5 minutes or until they are soft. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the flour thoroughly. Put the pot back on a low heat and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then gradually add the hot stock, stirring constantly, and bring to the boil. Add the cream or milk, whichever you prefer, and add season. Lastly, stir in the cooked barley.
To serve
Serve in a warm bowl with croutons, chopped scallions and crusty bread

 

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

Serves 4

So few people like anchovies in their Caesar salads that I’ve stopped putting them in mine. However, everybody seems to want chicken in it. I think people basically like the thick crunchy salad leaves and the creamy dressing of a Caesar salad- so for them, here it is, my way.

4ozs (110g) day-old bread
1 head of cos lettuce, washed
2 chicken breasts,8ozs (225g) each
1oz (25g) parmesan, grated
3ozs (75g) cherry tomatoes, quartered

Dressing
1 free range egg
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
a few drops Tabasco sauce (optional)
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4ozs (110g) low fat natural yoghurt
seasoning

Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 4-5 minutes until they are crispy, golden croutons. Set aside and leave to cool.
Now make the dressing. Put the whole egg in a food processor along with the garlic, mustard, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and yoghurt. Add the Tabasco if you are using it. Blend for 1-2 minutes in a food processor, season to taste and store in the fridge.
Next grill the chicken . Put the breasts on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Place the tray under a hot grill and cook for 8-10 minutes on each side. The chicken is cooked when the flesh is firm to the touch. Don’t overcook or the chicken will dry out.

To serve
Place some lettuce leaves in a bowl and put some slices of grilled chicken on top. Toss in some Parmesan and cherry tomatoes and drizzle with lots of dressing. Repeat with a second layer and sprinkle some croutons on top.

 

Apple Crumble with Cinnamon and Walnuts

Serves 6-8
Everyone’s favourite, the apple tart. This is my version of that famous Irish classic. I’ve added nuts for extra texture and a bit of cinnamon in the crumble for flavour. I like to make this in small individual tins because it looks so amazing on the plate.
But you can use a large tin to save time and serve more people.

Pastry
4ozs (110g) butter, diced
3ozs (75g) icing sugar
9ozs (250g) plain flour (Plus a little extra for rolling
1 egg

Filling
4 large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cubed
4ozs caster sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ pint (275ml) water

Crumble
4ozs (110g) butter
6ozs (175g) plain flour
4ozs (110g) brown sugar
2ozs (50g) walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Caramel Sauce
10ozs (275g) caster sugar
¼ pint (150ml) water
8flozs (225ml) cream
3ozs (75g) butter

First make the pastry by creaming the butter and icing sugar together. Slowly add the egg and flour and mix well. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to relax for at least 3 hours. This pastry is very sticky and has a ‘cake-like’ texture, so chilling is vital before rolling. When ready, roll the pastry on a floured counter and line six 1-inch / 10cm tartlet tins (or a 9-inch /23cm tart tin). Rest in the fridge for about 1 hour.
Now the filling. Boil the sugar, water and lemon juice in a pot. Add the apples and bring to the boil. Remove the apples immediately using a slotted spoon. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 190˚C/375˚F/Gas mark 5.
To make the crumble, rub the butter and flour together lightly. Add the sugar, cinnamon and walnuts and mix together well. Spoon the cooled apples into the tartlet tins. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over them and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
To make the caramel sauce, place the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to the boil and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until it has a golden-brown colour (if it’s too dark it will become bitter). Stir in the cream and butter and mix well. Keep on the heat until it reaches a thick sauce consistency. Leave to cool and store in the fridge. This sauce will keep for up to two weeks.

To serve
Place individual tarts onto plate and serve with ice cream and caramel sauce

Recipes from ‘Neven Cooks’ by Nevin Maguire published by Poolbeg Press.

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