ArchiveSeptember 2003


You’ll need to get out there fast to catch the best blackberries. There’s something wonderfully comforting and soothing about wandering along a country lane eating blackberries from the hedges – this year there is a truly prodigious crop, we’ve had a few wonderful blackberry picking expeditions and taught the children and indeed some uninitiated friends how to choose the best berries. In fact I was amazed to discover how many ‘grown-ups’ didn’t realise that its prudent to check the berries before you pop them into your mouth – if the core is discoloured rather than pale and unblemished, it usually means that little crawly beasties have got there first, best discard those. This becomes more of a problem towards the end of the season.

The berries seem particularly sweet and gorgeous this year. They are loaded with Vitamin C, fibre and folate and children love them. They particularly love picking them and should be encouraged, think of how a few good blackberry feasts will naturally help to build up their resistance to winter colds and flu.

So it’s a good time to fill a flask and pack a little picnic so you can head off on an expedition after school. Bring lots of plastic or stainless steel containers, best if they are little and light so they don’t seem too intimidating to fill. Practically speaking if they are too large the ripe berries will get squashed and damaged.

So what to do with all those berries, I adore a fresh blackberry sponge – make a light whisked-up sponge, spoon softly whipped cream over the top, scatter generously with fresh berries and sprinkle with a little castor sugar – divine. I sometimes scatter a few rose petals over the top – they look so alluring and taste delicious too, (make sure they haven’t had a dose of chemicals).

If you collect a decent quantity, you’ll probably want to make some jam – Blackberries are low in pectin, the agent that helps jam to set, so it’s a good idea to partner the berries with cooking apples to increase the pectin and cut the sweetness.

The first Irish cooking apples are in the shops – look out for Grenadier or Bramley Seedling and please please make an effort to buy Irish apples. Its so difficult for Irish growers to compete with cheaper imports – if we don’t actively support them there will be no Irish apples to buy – it’s as simple as that. Its not just a question of loyalty, they do have a unique flavour.

Back to the blackberries or brambles as our adorable little part-Scottish grand-daughter Willow calls them. If you have a glut – you may also want to preserve some for later. They freeze really well. If you have time and space, its really worth ‘tray freezing’ so all those little berries stay separate. A few small cartons close to the top of the freezer will come in handy to add to a sauce or gravy to partner a pheasant or a grouse if you are fortunate enough to have one later in the Autumn.

A fistful of berries folded into a soft colcannon make a delicious accompaniment to a pan-grilled duck breast or a surprising addition to a traditional potato stuffing for a Michaelmas goose.

The lemon-scented leaves of Pelargonium Graveolens have an extraordinary affinity with blackberries, most garden centres have this variety which will grow in a pot but also over-winters outside in our garden in Shanagarry – we have numerous plants on window sills all over the school because we use it for a myriad of things.

Blackberry, Apple and Sweet Geranium Jam

Makes 9-10 x 450 g/1 lb jars approx.
All over the countryside every year, blackberries rot on the hedgerows. Think of all the wonderful jam that could be made - so full of Vitamin C! This year organise a blackberry picking expedition and take a picnic. You=ll find it=s the greatest fun, and when you come home one person could make a few scones while someone else is making the jam. The children could be kept out of mischief and gainfully employed drawing and painting home-made jam labels, with personal messages like >Lydia=s Jam - keep off!= , or >Grandma=s Blackberry Jam=. Then you can enjoy the results of your labours with a well-earned cup of tea. 

Blackberries are a bit low in pectin, so the apples help it to set as well as adding extra flavour.

2.3 kg (5 lbs) blackberries
900 g (2 lbs) cooking apples (Bramley, or Grenadier in season)
1.625 kg (42 lbs) sugar (use 2 lb less if blackberries are sweet)
8-10 sweet geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)

Wash, peel and core and slice the apples. Stew them until soft with 290 ml/2 pint of water in a stainless steel saucepan; beat to a pulp.
Pick over the blackberries, cook until soft, adding about 145 ml/3 pint of water if the berries are dry. If you like, push them through a coarse sieve to remove seeds, (I don’t bother). Put the blackberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan or preserving pan with the apple pulp and the heated sugar. Add the sweet geranium leaves to the fruit. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. 
Boil steadily for about 15 minutes. Skim the jam, test it for a set, remove the geranium leaves and pot into warm spotlessly clean jars. Cover immediately, label and store in a cool dry place.       Back to Top

Blackberry and Pear Tart
Butter makes the most amazing difference to the flavour of pastry.
Serves 6-8

1lb (450g) puff pastry or rich shortcrust
3-4 pears, Conference or Doyenne de Comice
4 ozs (110g) blackberries
5-6 ozs (140-170g) white sugar approx. (amount of sugar depends on the sweetness of the pears)
10 inch (25cm) Pyrex plate
Roll out the pastry and line a 10 inch (25cm) plate. Trim, but leave about an inch (2cm) of pastry over the edge. Peel and quarter the pears, cut out the core and cut the quarters in half, (pieces of pear should be quite chunky). Put the pears onto the tart and pile them up in the centre, put the blackberries on top, leave a border of 1 inch (2.5cm) around the edge. Sprinkle with sugar.

Roll out the pastry for the top a little thicker than the base, wet the 1 inch (2.5cm) strip around the tart and press the pastry lid down onto it. Trim pastry leaving a ¼ inch (5mm) edge again. Crimp up the edges with a sharp knife and then scallop them, make a hole in the centre to allow steam to escape. Egg wash. Roll out the trimmings and cut into leaves and decorate the top of the tart, egg wash again.

Bake in a hot oven 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8) for 15-20 minutes, then turn heat to moderate for a further 40-45 minutes, depending on how hard the pears are. Test the pears with a skewer.

Sprinkle with fine castor sugar, serve with soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream.

Damson Tart

Substitute 1½ lbs (675g) damsons (no need to remove stones) for the pear and blackberries. You may need more sugar, depending on how ripe they are.
Blackberry Ice Cubes            Back to Top
Pop a fat juicy blackberry into each section of an ice cube tray, add a tiny sweet geranium or mint leaf if you have them to hand. Fill with cold water – freeze. Pop into a glass of dry white wine, homemade lemonade or champagne. 

Pan Grilled Duck Breast with Blackberry Colcannon
Serves 4
4 free-range duck breasts
sea salt

Blackberry Colcannon

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
25g (1oz) scallion or spring onion, optional
salt and freshly ground pepper
50g (2oz) approx . butter
110g (4oz) blackberries

First make the colcannon.

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.

Meanwhile score the duck skin into a diamond pattern. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Put a pan grill on a low heat. Cook the duck breasts very slowly and gently for 15-20 minutes on the fat side, by then the fat should be rendered out, (pour off the excess and save for duck confit), and the skin will be crisp and golden. Season the flesh side with sea salt and turn over, continue to cook until to your taste. I personally like duck breast medium to well done, not fashionably rare, which frequently results in the meat being tough and stringy.

Just before serving, fold the blackberry gently into the soft colcannon. Put a dollop on each plate and top with a whole or sliced duck breast.

Foolproof Food                    

Wild Blackberry and Rose Petal Sponge

When the first blackberries ripen in the autumn we use them with softly whipped cream to fill this light fluffy sponge. The recipe may sound strange but the cake will be the lightest and most tender you’ve ever tasted. You can ring the changes by filling with other fruit in season – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, homemade raspberry jam or lemon curd….
Serves 6-8

3 eggs, preferably free range
3 fl ozs (75ml) water
8 ozs (225g) sugar
5 ozs (140g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

8-12 ozs (225-350g) wild blackberries
4 fl ozs (110ml) whipped cream
½ teasp. rosewater, optional (see Top Tips)
2 teaspoons icing sugar
1 pale pink rose, unsprayed
2 x 8 inch (20.5cm) sandwich tins

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/regulo 5.
Brush the cake tins evenly with melted butter and dust with flour. I usually take the precaution of lining the base with a circle of greaseproof paper for guaranteed ease of removal later.

Separate the eggs. In a food mixer whisk the yolks with the sugar for 2 minutes, then add in the water. Whisk until light and fluffy, 10 minutes approx. Fold the sieved flour and baking powder into the mousse in batches. Whisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Gently fold them into the fluffy base. Pour into prepared sandwich tins and bake in a moderately hot oven 190C/375F/regulo 5 for 20 minutes approx. Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.
Whip the cream, add the icing sugar and a few drops of rosewater.

Sandwich the sponge together with whipped cream and blackberries. Sieve a little icing sugar over the top. Sprinkle with rose petals – it will look and taste enchanting.

Top Tips           
Sweet Geranium (Pelargonium Graveolens) Plants should be easily available in garden centres, no home should be without one. As well as blackberry jam we use it to flavour fruit salads, apple jelly, fruit compotes…..

Rosewater – very popular in Middle Eastern Cooking in sweets and desserts – available in chemists, ethnic food shops and from health food shops like Natural Foods and Here’s Health in Cork and others around the country. 

The Urchin in Westport, Co Mayo – A sweet little restaurant serving simple, delicious food and good house wine. Tel 098-27532

Youghal Heritage Week – running until Sunday 28th September features an open air market today at Market Square – cakes, fruit and vegetables, flowers, fish . Pop into the Fox’s Lane Folk Museum for a nostalgic trip back in time with fascinating memorabilia including all sorts of kitchen equipment. Lots of other events and street entertainment. For more details contact 024-20170,     Back to Top

Beyond Baked Beans

Over the past few years I’ve become more and more concerned about the quality of the food we eat. I’m acutely aware that we are all living on inherited good health from our ancestors – good health they built up by eating simple fresh organic food – long before the term organic was invented. There are other factors of course. Farmers truly understand the importance of good breeding and are acutely aware that if they don’t feed and care for their animals properly, disease will soon follow. Will a diet of fast food and fizzy drinks nourish our young people so they can pass on health and vitality to their children – all the evidence points to the contrary.
Food is the fuel for our bodies, if you don’t put good petrol in the tank the ‘car’ won’t perform properly. Its ironic that so many of us look after our cars and motorbikes much better than ourselves. We wouldn’t dream of putting inferior oil or petrol in the tank, yet we shovel any kind of old rubbish into ourselves and then wonder why we are low in energy, feeling sluggish or lacking concentration. For most people the only criteria when choosing food is cheapness, never before have we spent so little a percentage of our income on food. In ? we spent ?, now it is ?.(Joe I am waiting to get these statistics)
Truth is very few people connect the food they eat with how they feel. If we did, we would make it a greater priority – after all – ‘much depends on dinner’.
Probably the time of one’s life when one is most at risk from a poor diet is during one’s student years – a crucially important period when one needs maximum nutrition to enhance concentration and provide energy and stamina for both the academic and social whirl.
A combination of low budget, lack of cooking facilities and minimum cooking skills often result in a dismal and deficient diet. Basic cooking skills are certainly a huge bonus. A friend who has been working with during school holidays for many years told me that she could live so much more cheaply and deliciously than her friends because she could cook. So, quick Mums and Dads give a crash course in basic cooking skills before your darlings head off into the sunset.
Buy a folder and a pack of plastic covers and provide them with a basic kit of simple recipes – filling and nutritious dishes made with inexpensive ingredients – pass on little tips you’ve learned about how to source good value. See Top tips.
If that all seems too much – there’s a brilliant new book called ‘Beyond baked beans – real food for students’ by Fiona Beckett, published by Absolute Press in Bath. Email
This is the sort of book that I would have just loved to have had access to as a student, fresh and inspiring , no patronizing tone, no ‘witty cartoons’, no same old predictable meal ideas. There are lots of funky recipes, great tips and brilliantly practical advice. This is a book which would work for the ‘hopeless away from home students’, or singletons either struggling to survive or wanting to impress. Recipes go from Best ever Cheese on toast’ to Vegetable Samosa Pie. There are chapters on Late Night fuel, What to eat when you are feeling rough, Seduction menus, advice on nutrition and food safety – How not to poison your friends, there’s even some advice on the right kind of food to eat in the build up to exams and a unique section called Beyond bad Booze. Beyond Baked Beans is a great find, I’ve bought several copies to send to nieces and nephews on their way to college – I’ll be cooking some of the recipes myself. Back to Top

Stir Fried Vegetables

You can stir fry a number of different vegetables but think about texture, colour and flavour before you make your choice. A good heavy frying pan will be fine for this recipe.
Serves 2-4

2 tablesp. spring onion, cut into thin slices at an angle
1 tablesp. grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 ozs (55g) mushrooms, cut into quarters and sliced thinly
22 ozs (70g) French beans, cut into 1¼ inch (3cm) long slices at an angle
3 ozs (85g) yellow or green courgettes, cut in half lengthways and sliced thinly
3 ozs (85g) mangetout peas, cut into small pieces approx. ½ inch (1 cm) approx. at an angle
2 ozs (55g) broccoli, cut into tiny florets
1 oz (30g) peanuts or cashew nuts, (optional)
Salt, freshly ground pepper 
A pinch of sugar
1 tablesp. freshly chopped parsley 
1 tablesp. freshly chopped mixed herbs - mint, chives, thyme or basil
1-2 tablesp. oyster sauce or soy sauce
Few drops sesame oil, (optional)

First prepare the vegetables. Heat the pan until it smokes, add the oil and heat again. Add the spring onions, ginger and garlic, toss around, then add the vegetables one after the other in the following order, tossing between each addition - 
mushrooms, French beans, courgettes, mange tout, broccoli and nuts. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Sprinkle with freshly chopped herbs, taste, correct the seasoning. Serve immediately in a hot serving dish.
If you would like your stir fry to have an oriental flavour add 1-2 tablespoons of oyster sauce or soy sauce instead of the herbs and sprinkle on a few drops of sesame oil just before serving.

Note: Cubes of Tofu may be added to this stir fry, sprinkle with soy sauce first and leave to marinade while you prepare the vegetables.  Back to Top 

Stir Fried Chicken and Vegetables

Add 1 chicken breast to the above ingredients. Wash the chicken breast and season well with salt. Cut into thin shreds. Sprinkle with soy sauce or fish sauce (Nam pla) if you like. Toss the chicken breast in the hot oil and then add the vegetables.

The Best ever Cheese on Toast

– From ‘Beyond Baked Beans’ by Fiona Beckett
Serves 1

“This is the best way I’ve found of making cheese on toast as the toast doesn’t burn or go soggy like it does in a microwave.” You can leave out the chilli and onions if you prefer.

A good chunk (75-100g/3-3½ ozs) Cheddar or Lancashire cheese
1 teasp. flour
1-2 mild green chillies
1 tablesp. finely chopped onion or a spring onion, trimmed and finely sliced (optional)
1-2 tablesp. milk (2 if you use more cheese)
A couple of thick slices of bread, preferably wholemeal
A little hot chilli sauce or a pinch of chilli powder or cayenne pepper

Grate the cheese, put it into a small saucepan, add the flour and blend together.
Cut the chillies in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Add the chopped onion if using and 2 tablespoons of milk. Heat gently, stirring while you make the toast. As soon as the cheese mixture is smooth pour over the toast and shake over a little chilli sauce.

Instead of chilli and onion you could add 1 teasp. mustard or ½ teasp. Worcestershire sauce to the melted cheese. Back to Top 

Spaghetti Carbonara with Peas

– from ‘Beyond Baked Beans’ by Fiona Beckett.
Serves 1-2

“Home-made is always better than a shop-bought carbonara sauce and dead easy. You can even leave out the peas and the onion – and it’ll still taste good.”

1 tablesp. cooking oil
6 streaky bacon rashers, rinded and chopped or 125g (4½) ozs bacon bits
1 small or ½ a medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
75g (3oz) frozen peas, soaked for 2 minutes in boiling water or microwaved
2 large eggs or 3 medium eggs
2 tablesp. freshly grated Parmesan or Grana Padano plus extra for serving
a handful (about 125g/4½ ozs) dried spaghetti
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the bacon until the fat begins to run. Add the onion, turn the heat down low and fry for another 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in the peas and leave the pan over a very low heat. Beat the eggs with 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan and season with freshly ground black pepper and a little salt. Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water – following the instructions on the pack. Once its cooked, drain it thoroughly, saving a bit of the cooking water and return it to the pan, off the heat. Quickly tip in the bacon, onion, peas and beaten eggs and mix thoroughly so the eggs ‘cooks’ in the hot pasta. Add a spoonful or two of the cooking water, season again with black pepper then serve immediately with extra Parmesan.

Top Tips  Back to Top 

1.	Whenever possible buy with the seasons when food is fresher, better and cheaper. 
For younger people particularly its not always easy to tell when food is in season, particularly nowadays in supermarkets where one can buy beans, strawberries, broccoli …. all year round.
Local Markets are always seasonal and often cheaper and it’s a fun experience where one buys directly from the farmer or food producers. 

2. Supermarkets often reduce some of their food prices just before closing time, particularly on Saturday evenings, so if you’re really keen, that’s the time to look for bargains.

3. If you are on a tight budget avoid convenience foods – if someone else does the washing, chopping and grating for you its bound to cost you more. However, washed salad or a bag of ready prepared vegetables can be a terrific standby if you are living alone. Best though to invest in a decent sharp knife, a chopping board and a grater and do it yourself.

4. Go shopping with an open mind and keep an eye and ear out for bargain offers. Dried beans and lentils are an incredibly cheap and yummy source of protein and can be made into salads, soups or bean stews. Always worth having a few tins of tomatoes and a piece of Chorizo or Kabanossi Sausage in the fridge.

5. Make your own sandwiches or a salad or whatever you fancy for lunch, it may not seem so cool but it will save you at least €10 a week.

6. Plan ahead – sounds like a contradiction of No.4 but a half dozen eggs can make you three meals, an omelette, spaghetti carbonara and perhaps an egg and chive roll.
A tin of tuna can make you a salad, a pasta sauce and tuna pate. 

7. Its always worth cooking a few extra spuds, pasta or rice to provide the basis for an extra meal.

East Cork Slow Food

East Cork Slow Food Convivium was established in August 2002.
The latest event was a Slow Food dinner at Café Paradiso in Cork on 21st August. So what’s a slow food dinner? The mere mention of Slow Food causes considerable confusion and conjures up images of hearty stews bubbling away on the stove or lamb shanks braising gently for hours and hours in the simmering oven of an Aga. Not so, although it could incorporate all or any of that. Neither does it mean slow service. 
Slow Food is in fact a philosophy and its now worldwide membership is made up of people who have concern around all kinds of food issues. 

“Slow Food works to counter the degrading effects of industrial and fast food culture that are standardizing taste, and promotes the beneficial effects of the deliberate consumption of nutritious locally grown and indigenous foods. By promoting taste education programs for adults and children, it works towards safeguarding and promoting public awareness of culinary traditions and customs.

The Slow Food Movement supports artisan food producers who make quality products and promotes a philosophy of pleasure. In addition, it encourages tourism that respects and cares for the environment, and – last but not least – Slow Food promotes charity initiatives around the world.

Slow Food seeks to combine pleasure with an understanding of responsibility towards the environment and the world of agricultural production. One fundamental slow food idea is that gastronomes and food enthusiasts must be sensitive to the protection of endangered local cuisines, animal breeds and vegetable species. Slow Food’s aim is to develop a new, less intensive, cleaner model of agriculture, one that is capable of preserving and improving biodiversity and offers prospects to the world’s poorest regions.”

The Slow Food organisation actively supports artisan producers, local butchers, bakers and endangered food cultures. The Slow Food ethos offers a way forward for rejuvenation of Irish agriculture and rural economies through encouraging value-added artisan food production, to a premium world market place.

Every now and then, slow food members and other interested observers get together for a convivial event, could be a tasting, a celebration of artisan producers, a lecture or a fabulous picnic such as the one organised by Clodagh McKenna for the West Cork Convivium at Lough Ine on a sunny Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago.

Denis Cotter and his team of chefs cooked a truly delicious vegetarian dinner. In the very best Slow Food tradition all the seasonal raw materials came from local producers. The event was over-subscribed and those of us who managed to get a ticket felt deeply fortunate, not only because of Denis’s sublime food but to hear Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association, speak on the importance of realising the connection between the quality of the food we eat and our health, an age old message which seems to be overlooked in our frantic search for a fast convenient processed food. In the words of Lady Eve Balfour, founder member of the Soil Association, he reminded us “the health of plant, animal and human are all one and indivisible”. The Soil Association and Slow Food are natural partners, the former passionate about the organic production of healthy plants and animals, the latter equally concerned about the former, but also passionate about taste and quality.

Patrick sees hope for the future in grass roots movements like, Slow Food, Farmers Markets and local food initiatives. 

He also referred to the organic baby food phenomenon, where 80% of sales in the UK are organic and several of the biggest baby food manufacturers are reported to be considering discontinuation of conventional baby food. The hope is that this bulge of concern about how food is produced will continue to gather momentum through the generations.

According to Patrick Holden the Departments of Health and Agriculture and the farming organisations are ignoring at their peril how unstable intensively produced food is becoming and the detrimental consequences this is already beginning to have on public health - a time bomb which needs to be addressed.

With that food for thought, we tucked into dinner. Each course - a celebration of local food was accompanied by a wine chosen specially by Monica Murphy of Febvre & Co. who generously sponsor Slow Food Ireland.

For details of how to join see Hot Tips.

Rigatoni with rocket, broad beans, cherry tomatoes, olives and fresh cheese

From ‘Paradiso Seasons’ by Denis Cotter – published by Atrium
Rocket adds a little spicy kick and the tang of fresh greenery to a pasta dish, but only if you don't cook it too much. In fact, don't cook it at all, but stir it into the cooked pasta just before you serve.. 

Denis uses Knockalara sheep's cheese or Oisin goats' cheese crottins, but ricotta, mascarpone or any mild soft cheese would be fine too. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until just tender. Drain it and return it to the pot. Meanwhile, chop the spring onions into long diagonal pieces. Slice the garlic. Halve the tomatoes; stone the olives and chop them lengthways into halves or quarters. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a wide pan and cook the onion and garlic gently for a minute. Add the tomatoes, olives and broad beans and cook for one minute more until the tomatoes break down a little. Add just a splash of water to the pan to pick up all of the juices, then tip the contents into the pasta pot with another generous glug of olive oil, a generous seasoning of black pepper and a little salt. Heat the pasta through briefly, then stir in the rocket. Serve the pasta and crumble some cheese over each portion. 
450g rigatoni 
4 spring onions 
4 cloves garlic 
1OOg cherry tomatoes 
12 kalamata olives 
120mls olive oil 
4 tablespoons cooked broad beans 
black pepper and salt, to season 
1OOg rocket 
1OOg fresh cheese, from goats; sheep's or cows' milk

Blackberry tart with Calvados ice cream

From Paradiso Seasons by Denis Cotter
Denis says “If you have a regular supply of blackberries, you'll have your own favourite recipes, probably including one for a tart you're very fond of. I hope you also eat huge bowls of berries tossed in sugar with a blob of cream on top, and that in good years you make jam.. Hey, get out there and pick blackberries!! It's going to be winter soon. “
1 cinnamon stick 
300mls milk
5 egg yolks 
125g caster sugar 
300 mls cream 
2 tablespoons Calvados liqueur 

Break the cinnamon stick and put it in a pan with the milk. Heat the milk to just short of boiling for one minute. 
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they are thick and pale. Still whisking, on low speed, pour in the milk through a sieve. Return this egg and milk custard to the pan and simmer, stirring all the time, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Leave the custard to cool before adding the cream and the Calvados. Freeze using an ice cream machine. 
12Og unsalted butter
24Og plain flour
40g caster sugar 
1 egg 
1 tablespoon cornflour 
500g blackberries
l5Og caster sugar 
1 egg, beaten

Rub the butter into the flour, using your fingers or short bursts in a food processor. Transfer this to a bowl and stir in the sugar. Beat the egg lightly and add enough cold water to give 60mls of liquid. Stir this into the flour with a few quick strokes of a wooden spoon, then knead very briefly to get a smooth dough. Divide the dough into two flattened balls and chill them for an hour or more. 

Heat an oven to 19OOC/375°F. Roll one pastry ball to line a tart tin of 26cm diameter and 3cm high, leaving the pastry hanging a little over the edge. Sprinkle the cornflour over, through a sieve. Pile in the blackberries and sprinkle over the sugar. Roll out the second pastry ball to a diameter a few centimetres wider than the tart case. Brush the rim of the lower pastry with water. Use a rolling pin to pick up the second pastry and place it over the tart carefully. Press the edges together and trim off the excess pastry. Press the rim of the pastry with a fork or the flat side of a knife to strengthen the seal. Brush the top of the pastry with beaten egg and make a couple of cuts in the top. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the pastry is browned and crisp, and the blackberry juices are bubbling up through the cuts. Leave the tart to cool for at least ten minutes, and serve it warm or at room temperature with the Calvados ice cream or simply a dollop of cream. 
Darina's Foolproof Food

Courgettes or Zucchini with Marjoram

Serves 4
Now is the time that people often have a glut of courgettes, this simple little recipe is delicious.
I’m completely hooked on annual marjoram. The seed is sometimes difficult to track down because it can be called Sweet marjoram or Knotty marjoram, but if you have any little patch at all it’s worth growing because it transforms so many dishes into a feast.

1 lb (450 g) green or golden courgettes or a mixture no more than 6 inches (15 cm) in length
1-2 tablespoons approx. olive oil
1-2 teaspoon chopped annual marjoram or basil

Top and tail the courgettes and cut them into scant ¼ inch (5 mm) slices. Heat the oil, toss in the courgettes and coat in the olive oil. Cook on a medium heat until just tender –4-5 minutes approx. Add the marjoram or basil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Turn into a hot dish and serve immediately.
Courgettes are one of the trickier vegetables to cook. Like mangetout peas they seem to continue cooking at an alarming rate after you’ve taken them out of the pot, so whip them out while they are slightly al dente.

Hot Tips

Have a look at the Slow Food Ireland website  for details of your nearest Convivium and how to join.
The Organic Centre in Rosinver, Co Leitrim, are organizing a Green Festival Northwest from 19-28th September with demonstrations, music and storytelling workshops, stained glass and woodcarving, foraging, guided hill walk, organic food fair and much more …. For details contact Hans at  Tel 072-54338  
Bord Bia have a new guide to Farmers Markets on their website – ‘Pioneering Routes to Market’ including advice on how to set up a market –

The Cork Market

It will be no secret to anyone that the Cork Market is one of my favourite places. Shopping there is a world apart from the robotic experience of pushing a trolley up and down the aisles of even the plushest supermarket. The warm welcome, the banter with the stallholders, the wonderful market aromas, the stalls piled high with a myriad of tempting foods, the smell of Mary Rose’s coffee, the gleaming fresh fish, piles of vegetables, fruit and organic produce, the variety of offal from pigs heads to tripe and drisheen. Round the corner you’ll find homemade pasta and a dozen varieties of olives, Paul Murphy has local honey, thick and unctuous in the jar or still intact in the honeycomb. About a half dozen skilled butchers each with their own loyal following will cut your meat to order – and throw in some cooking tips for free. 

Seems no length ago since Toby Simmonds tentatively set up his tiny stall selling a variety of olives in timber pails – a new age hippy side by side with third and fourth generation traders like Mrs. Aherne and her sister Siobhan who have now retired and are sadly missed from the Princes St end of the market. Now Toby’s Real Olive Co is thriving and has stalls in markets around the country as well as a flourishing wholesale business. Look out for Rachel McCormacks sandwich bar around the back of the Olive Stall in Cork Market for the yummiest juiciest salads, sambos and wraps you can imagine.

1993 was in fact a landmark year on the Cork food scene, that was the year that Denis Cotter and his New Zealand wife Bridget opened Café Paradiso on the Western Road, now arguably the best vegetarian restaurant in these islands. Denis has gone on to be the best selling author of two Café Paradiso cookbooks. A few streets away on Oliver Plunkett Street, Seamus O’Connell bounced onto Cork’s gastro scene when he opened his eclectic restaurant Ivory Tower, still a magnet for the adventurous gourmet, Seamus’s television series has been a terrific success and has done much to focus people’s attention on local food and artisan producers.

Back to the Cork Market - in 1993 a renaissance was taking place there also. Isabelle Sheridan (nee Boquet ), originally from the Loire Valley in France, started to make gorgeous coarse textured pate de campagne and rillettes, out of desperation when there were none to be found in the local shops or ‘charcuterie’. Friends loved them and begged for more, soon there were requests to purchase and so inevitably she began what has now developed into a French deli of sorts, selling glorious French cheeses, charcuterie, quiches, preserves, pickles and tarts, as well as Declan Ryan’s deliciously crusty Arbutus yeast and sourdough breads.

Just around the corner, close to the fish market, Sean Calder-Potts and Josephine Kennedy moved into what seemed initially a huge stall. They set out to be a sandwich bar along the lines of "Pret a Manger" in London. The stall was very big so in an effort to fill the stall, they displayed the sandwich ingredients to sell as well. Demand grew and grew for farmhouse and artisan cheeses so eventually they began to sell cheese, they closed the coffee and sandwich bar (despite having been awarded a star by the Bridgestone Guide for the best sandwiches in the country.) Cheese is still the biggest part of the business. They have two sheet-pasta machines which supply their customers and restaurants with Genovese style rolled pasta made with durum semolina and fresh free-range eggs. Their new premises at the Pier Head in Blackrock, Cork has a laboratoire designed by consultants from CEPROC in Paris. Head Chef Annette Fitzgerald (ex Ballymaloe) oversees the production of all the cooked & prepared food which is sold in the tiny Blackrock shop as well as in the stall in the English Market. It is something akin to a French Traiteur but with a definite Irish accent. Sean says “Our customers come from all over Ireland and the diaspora. Our most valued customers are the local people we see daily and weekly. Ordinary people wanting ordinary food. We believe that these people make up less than one tenth of one percent of the population. Maybe they are extraordinary people for wanting ordinary food?”

So this year is the 10th anniversary celebration of all these businesses whose entrepreneurial owners have made such a valuable contribution to the Cork food scene and to the lives of those of us who really care about the quality of our food – I for one am truly grateful.

On Saturday 6th September every customer who shops at Iago both in the Market and at their Blackrock shop will be given a ticket for an exciting draw. First prize will be a huge hamper worth over E250 and there will be lots of other prizes and I am delighted to donate a prize of two afternoon cookery demonstrations and lunch for two at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

The Cork Market, is situated just off Patrick Street, open every day except Sunday from 9-5.30. Visitors to Cork shouldn’t miss this unique market, the only one of its type in the entire country. Well worth the effort, even when one has to negotiate the current road works on Patrick Street.

Iago, Cork Market (021- 4277047)and The Pier Head, Blackrock, Cork (021-4358870)
Café Paradiso, 16 Lancaster Quay, Western Road, Cork. (021-4277939)
Ivory Tower, Exchange Buildings, corner Princes St./Oliver Plunkett St. (021-4274665)
On the Pigs Back, Cork Market, (021-4270232)
Real Olive Co. Cork Market (021-4270842) 

Meat & Vegetable Lasagne

Annette Fitzgerald from IAGO shared her delicious lasagne recipe with us.
Serves 6
50g Smoked Pancetta finely chopped, 
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 kilo minced beefsteak
3 tablespoons tomato puree
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 cup full bodied red wine
2 cups tinned tomato
Vegetable layer:
2 red peppers, roasted, peeled & cut in quarters
2 courgettes roasted in 1/4 inch slices
2 aubergines roasted in 1/4 inch slices
Bechamel sauce:
300ml milk
A slice of carrot, a slice of onion, a sprig of rosemary, sage, salt & pepper to taste. Roux to thicken.
Brown pancetta in saucepan with butter & olive oil. Add chopped onion, carrot & celery and sauté over medium heat.
When vegetables have browned, add the minced steak and brown. Add red wine and cook until it evapourates. Add tomato purée, seasoning, mustard & garlic and finally add the tomatoes.
Simmer until the beef is cooked, then adjust the seasoning.

Mix ragu with one cup of bechamel sauce. Put a layer of the mixture on the base of the lasagne dish and cover with a layer of pasta. (If you use fresh pasta there is no need to pre-cook it.) Spread another layer of ragu then another layer of pasta sheets and so-on until you have three layers of ragu and three layers of pasta sheets.
Add a layer of roasted vegetables, Another layer of pasta, another layer of ragu covered with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170 c for about 30 minutes or until a nice golden brown on top.
Café Paradiso’s Roasted Aubergine Wraps of Pinenuts, Spinach and Coolea Cheese
From ‘Paradiso Seasons’ by Denis Cotter, published by Cork University Press.
Denis Cotter usually serves these with a tomato-based sauce, such as hot cherry tomato salsa, sundried tomato pesto, a tomato-balsamic sauce, and some grounding, earthy foods, such as grilled polenta and lentils or potatoes, or even a simple risotto. 
2 aubergines 
1kg spinach
200g pinenuts 
fresh basil 
200g mature Coolea cheese, Gruyere or Gouda 
olive oil 

Trim the aubergines lengthways along two sides, then cut them into slices of about lcm thick - you should get five or six from a medium-sized aubergine, and you will need at least three for each portion and a few spares to allow for burnings, accidents and sheer greed. Brush the slices on both sides with olive oil and roast them in a hot oven until soft and browned, about ten minutes. A fan oven should cook both sides at the same time, but you will need to turn the slices over if you are using an oven without a fan. 

Cook the spinach by dropping it into boiling water for a minute or so, cool it in cold water and squeeze all the water from it. Chop it well. Toast the pinenuts very lightly in the oven, then either add them whole to the spinach or crush them a little first. Don't grind them, just break them up a bit with a few taps of a heavy object! Add in some chopped or torn leaves of basil, season well and flavour with a strong olive oil, either a fruity or a peppery one. 

Use a vegetable peeler to shave slices of the cheese and break these into lengths half as long as the aubergine slices.

Place a neat mound of the spinach & pinenuts on the wider half of each aubergine slice and top it with three or four layers of cheese, then fold over the other half and press it gently. Finish all the slices and line them up on baking parchment on an oven tray. When you are ready to serve, bake the wraps in a hot oven until the cheese is at a softly melting stage, and serve them straight away. 

Tripe and Onions

This recipe was given to me by Michael Ryan of Isaacs Restaurant in Cork, this was how his father cooked tripe and onions.
1 lb (450g) tripe
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
cold milk - sufficient to cover
Put the tripe into a saucepan, with the lid on, place on gas ring for 8-10 minutes approx. 
Discard the liquor in the pot, add the sliced onion and cover with cold milk. Simmer gently for 1 hour approx. until the tripe is tender. Strain off the milk, thicken with roux, season with salt and pepper. Strain the back into the saucepan with the tripe, heat through. Check seasoning, it will take quite a bit of pepper.

Serve on a slice of buttered white bread.
Tripe and Drisheen
After adding the thickened liquor back to the saucepan, you could if you wish add some drisheen to the tripe - peel and slice some cooked drisheen, add it to the saucepan and heat through before serving.

Foolproof Food

Glazed Carrots

You might like to try this method of cooking carrots. Admittedly it takes a little vigilance but the resulting flavour is a revelation to many people. 
Buy unwashed carrots, they keep longer and have a much better flavour.
Serves 4-6
1 lb (450g) carrots, Early Nantes and Autumn King have particularly good flavour
½ oz (15g) butter
4 fl ozs (100ml) cold water
Pinch of salt
A good pinch of sugar
Freshly chopped parsley or fresh mint

Cut off the tops and tips, scrub and peel thinly if necessary. Cut into slices 1/3 inch (7mm) thick, either straight across or at an angle. Leave very young carrots whole. Put them in a saucepan with butter, water, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil, cover and cook over a gentle heat until tender, by which time the liquid should have all been absorbed into the carrots, but if not remove the lid and increase the heat until all the water has evaporated. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shake the saucepan so the carrots become coated with the buttery glaze. 
Serve in a hot vegetable dish sprinkled with chopped parsley or mint.

Hot Tips
The first Mitchelstown Food Fair appeared to be a resounding success, six thousand people turned up on a blistering hot Sunday when when one would have expected folk to head for the beach in their droves. Yet another indication of the growing demand and deep craving for local food and artisan food products. For a list of the 40 food producers who displayed their wares visit the Ballymaloe Cookery School website 

Irish Lingonberries I was very excited to discover that Derryvilla Farms are now growing a small area of lingonberries in Co Offaly. These berries native to Northern Scandinavian countries make a truly delicious sauce and a fantastic ice-cream. Derryvilla Farm blueberries are in the shops now too, don’t miss them. For details of your nearest outlet contact Nuala O’Donoghue –  Tel 0502-43945 /42882, Tel. 087-2466643, Derryvilla Blueberry Farm, Derryvilla, Portarlington, Co Offaly.

Coming up soon at Ballymaloe Cookery School - Saturday 20th September – 1 day Foraging Course with Darina Allen –

Darina is an enthusiastic collector of foods that grow wild in the Irish countryside – natural treasures that taste superb – join her for the thrill of the hunt and learn how to use the spoils to best advantage – jams, jellies, soups and salads and much more including sloe gin!


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