No farmers, no food

Bord Bia do trojan work to promote Irish food, both at home and abroad – they come up with so many exciting ideas that I often wonder whether they all stay awake at night dreaming up new ways to entice us to buy and try fresh Irish produce. Regular readers of this column will know that I too regularly exhort people to think fresh, local and seasonal and above all to think Irish as you fill your shopping basket – farmers and food producers are really having a tough time. We all seem to assume that cheap food is our right and so the primary producers are often forced to produce food below an economic level because of our unreasonable expectation. Nobody in business can continue for any length of time if they can’t cover their costs and make a reasonable profit to reinvest. If this continues, more and more farmers will be forced to sell the farms they love, otherwise they will be forced to intensify further, in which cases we will all be losers. The result will inevitably be less good quality, less flavour, poorer texture and often less nutritious. Also – sounds a bit melodramatic – no farms, no food – maybe a while off, but in the US 1000 acres of land a day are being lost to farming. In Ireland between 1991 and 2000 there was a drop of around 29,000 in the number of farmers.

On a happier note, back to Bord Bia who have encouraged our butchers shops to stock minced pork on a regular basis – its great value for money, it has all the high nutritional value of other meats and while it can be used in all your favourite mince dishes, it has the added advantage of combining really well with all the current popular flavours - ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, chilli etc., so you have available to you a host of delicious dishes. Especially good are the Chinese style dishes with minced pork like Spring Rolls, Chinese Dumplings, Sweet and Sour Meatballs.

So how about experimenting – for more information and recipes contact Bord Bia 

01-6685155, www.bordbia.ie

Minced Pork Sticks with Sesame Dressing

450g (1lb) minced pork
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teasp. ginger
1 tablesp. soy /fish sauce
1 tablesp. basil, chopped
1 chilli, chopped
salt and black pepper
Dressing
1 tablesp. oil
1 tablesp. sesame oil
1 tablesp. Dijon mustard
½ tablesp. rice vinegar
1 tablesp. sesame seeds, toasted
1 tablesp. soy/fish sauce
½ teasp. sugar
1 chilli, chopped
2 tablesp. basil, chopped

Mix all the pork stick ingredients together and shape onto 12 skewers. Brush with oil and grill until fully cooked, 10-15 min. Mix the dressing together. Serve the sticks with the dressing, noodles and lime wedges.

Pork Burgers with Red Pepper and Mango Salsa

450g (1lb) minced pork
1 onion, finely chopped and sautéed in oil
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 chilli, chopped
a handful of coriander and scallions, chopped
salt and black pepper
Red Pepper and Mango Salsa
1 mango, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 red pepper,diced
a handful of coriander and scallions, chopped
2-3 tablesp. oil
1 chilli, chopped
½ teasp. sugar
juice of 1 lime or ½ lemon
salt and black pepper

Mix the burger ingredients together. Shape into 4 burgers. Grill until fully cooked, 8-10 minutes. Mix the salsa ingredients together. Serve with the burger, bap and salad leaves.

Homemade Sausages with Bramley Apple Sauce

Makes 16 approx. - Serve 8
1 lb (450g) good fat streaky pork
2-4 teaspoons mixed fresh herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram and rosemary or sage
1 large clove garlic
1 egg, preferably free range
2½ ozs (70g) soft white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A little oil

Mince the pork. Chop the herbs finely and mix through the crumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt. Whisk the egg then mix all the ingredients together thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the seasoning correct if necessary. Divide into 16 pieces and roll into lengths. Fry gently on a barely oiled pan until golden on all sides. They are particularly delicious served with Bramley Apple Sauce and Potato Cakes.

Note: For Breakfast you may want to omit the herbs and garlic.

Bramley Apple Sauce

The trick with Apple sauce is to cook it on a very low heat with only a tiny drop of water so it is nice and thick and not too watery, always worth having in the freezer in little tubs in case you feel like a juicy pork chop for supper.
1 lb (450g) cooking apples 
1-2 dessertspoons water
2 ozs (55g) approx. sugar (depending on how tart the apples are)

Peel, quarter and core the apples; cut the pieces in two and put them in a stainless or cast-iron saucepan, with sugar and water. Cover and cook on a very low heat until the apples break down in a fluff. Stir and taste for sweetness.
Serve warm and cold.

Penne with Pork Sausage, Cream and Basil

Serves 8

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion (6ozs approx.), finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
250g Italian sausages or minced belly of pork, skinned and crumbled
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
300ml double cream
500g dried pasta
1 handful fresh basil, torn or watercress
salt and black pepper
freshly grated Parmesan to serve

Heat oil in large frying pan. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally over medium high heay, until just golden, - 5 minutes. Add minced pork and fennel seeds. Cook, stirring frequently to break up meat, until it browns, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the cream and simmer until just thickened – 1-2 minutes. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain reserving ½ cup pasta water. Add the pasta to the hot sauce. Add the torn basil leaves. Toss well to coat, adding reserved water as needed. Serve immediately with Parmesan.

OR

Penne with Pork Sausage, Cream and Basil al Forno

Turn into dishes and bake 200ºC/400ºF/Gas mark 6 al forno for 15-20 minutes until slightly crisp on top. Serve with a good green salad.

Darina’s back to basics

Oatmeal Biscuits
A bikkie anyone can make, even complete beginners

This nutritious recipe makes 24 or even 32 biscuits, which keep very well in a tin, the children love to munch them with a banana, don’t compromise, make these with butter, the flavour is immeasurably better.

1 lb (450g) oatmeal (porridge oats)
12 ozs (340g) butter
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar
1 tablesp. golden syrup
1 teasp. pure vanilla essence

Swiss roll tin 10 inch x 15 inch (25.5cm x 38 cm)

Melt the butter, remove from the heat add the golden syrup and pure vanilla essence, stir in the castor sugar and oatmeal and mix well.

Spread into a large swiss roll tin and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 until golden and slightly caramelized about 30 minutes approx. Cut into 24-32 squares while still warm.

Note: Make half the recipe if a 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33cm) swiss roll tin is used.

Oatmeal and Banana Crunch
For an instant pudding, cover an oatmeal biscuit with slices of banana, put a tiny dollop of cream on top and eat. Simply Delicious!
Loose crumbs can be scattered over some stewed apple for an instant crumble.

Hot tips

For free-range organic chickens contact Dan and Anne Ahern 021-4631058, also available at Midleton Farmers Market.
Organic Pork – Available at Midleton Farmers Market, or from Caherbeg Free Range Pork Ltd. Tel 023-48474, Gubbeen Smokehouse, Tel 028-27824.