ArchiveFebruary 2004

New York, New York

Aer Lingus – the new low fares airline are now offering such tempting deals to New York that growing numbers are whizzing over to the Big Apple just for the weekend. The low dollar makes it very tempting to indulge in a little retail therapy. New York – the thrilling city that never sleeps has endless temptation for everyone, art lovers, theatre buffs, museum aficionados and of course gourmands.
The restaurant scene is overwhelming and one could doubtless eat at a different restaurant, every day for not just months, but years.
Many of the hottest restaurants at present are owned by Mario Batali and Jo Bastianich. I couldn’t believe my luck this year when I made a chance phone call from the taxi on my way in from Kennedy and managed to get a table at Babbo. The Zagat Guide gives it a cool 27 out 0f 30 for “pushing the culinary envelope” with their robust adventurous Italian food. They go on to remark that getting a table is akin to winning the ‘powerball lottery’, Mario does lots of his own cured meats – food was terrific – as good as a trip to Rome.
Its almost as difficult to swing a table at its sister restaurant Lupa. Here Jason Denton joins the other two and the robust Italian food again draws throngs of people.
Jason has also opened Inoteca 98 Rivington Street, a wine bar with 300 wines and great panini, salads and dolce on the East side – a larger version of Ino my fave breakfast spot in New York – I dream about their legendary truffled egg dish.
Tom Colicchio, another hot shot chef is still doing brilliantly at Craft, a restaurant which serves the food family style, down the centre of the table, I ate there on my last trip but couldn’t get a table for love or money this time. So I ate in the new venture next door, !Witchcraft, a soup and sandwich bar where I ate a memorable corned beef, sauerkraut and Gruyere toasted panini. Balthazar – Keith McNally’s buzzy Soho brasserie, remains an energising spot to have breakfast, lunch, dinner or a post midnight bite.
For Latino, book a table at Calle Ocho and Nobu for exquisite Japanese food and almost guaranteed celebrity sighting.
Food shops to check out are Dean & Deluca, Zabars, Balduccis, Citarella, Wholefoods Supermarket, E.A.T. and Eli’s Vinegar Factory. Don’t miss the Carnegie Deli for skyscraper sized sandwiches and crusty service. For cheese lovers, Artisanal Cheese Centre, 500W 37th Street where 200-250 cheeses are aged and matured to the peak of perfection is also a must. Murray’s cheese shop in the village is another gem.
My newest discovery was The Spotted Pig in 314 West 11th Street, open for just four weeks. Here, April Bloomfield late of River Café, cooked the best meal of this visit. This new arrival doesn’t take bookings so try to make by 6pm if you are averse to queuing. The River Café Chocolate Nemesis was, dare I say it, almost more sublime than the original.
These are just a few places to whet your appetite – best thing is to buy a Zagats’ restaurant guide and a copy of New York Magazine when you arrive.
Cookbook lovers shouldn’t miss Kitchen Arts and Letters, 1435 Lexington, where Nat Waxman has over 13,000 food and wine books. Kitchen shops are many and varied, most legendary is Bridge on
Seek out Broadway Panhandlers, where I recently did a cookery demonstration, has a mouth watering selection of kitchen gadgets etc. and finally, keen cooks should contact De Gustibus at Macy’s to check out the schedule of the cookery school which includes a glass of bubbly and wine to pair with each course.
Finally, I just have a few lines to mention the Farmers Market down in Union Square – not to be missed, particularly on Saturday – that’s just a little bite of the Big Apple.

Shrimp in Spiced Phyllo with Tomato Chutney

(From ‘Flavor’ by Rocky Dispirito, published by Hyperion, New York, 2003)
4 tablespoons (½ stick/2oz) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
¾ cup finely chopped tomatoes
1½ teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
3 cup chopped fresh coriander
3 teaspoon salt
10 hazelnuts, shelled
4 sheets phyllo (filo) dough
2 teaspoons garam masala
12 medium raw shrimps, shelled and deveined


Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add ginger and shallots and sauté for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, lime juice, coriander, and salt, and cook until sauce is thickened, stirring frequently. Taste the chutney and add more lime juice or salt if desired. (The chutney can be made a few days in advance and refrigerated.)
Preheat oven to 375F/190C/ mark 5.
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add hazelnuts and cook, shaking pan continuously until they look and smell toasted. Use a kitchen towel to gently rub skins off. Finely grind cooked nuts.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Roll out a sheet of phyllo onto a clean counter, and brush with half the melted butter. Keep phyllo pile covered with a damp tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Sprinkle with half the garam masala and half the ground nuts. Place second phyllo sheet squarely over the first. Brush with butter, saving a bit to be used later, and sprinkle with remaining garam masala and hazelnuts. Cut phyllo stack crosswise into 8 equal strips. (The strips should measure 1-2 inches in width.) Place a shrimp at the end of a strip and roll it up, changing the direction as necessary to totally envelop the shrimp. Repeat with remaining shrimp, and place rolls seam side down on a lightly greased baking sheet. Dab tops of rolls with butter. Bake until golden brown, 8-10 minutes.
Dollop some chutney over each roll and serve right away.

Bittersweet Chocolate Souffle 
Payard Bistro on New York’s Upper East Side – from The New York Restaurant Cookbook – published by Rizzoli, New York, 2003
Serves 8

6 tablesp. soft unsalted butter
⅓ cup plus 2 tablesp. sugar
7 ozs high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablesp. crème fraiche
4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
3 egg whites, at room temperature
½ teasp. cream of tartar
unsweetened whipped cream, optional

Using about 1½ tablespoons of butter, generously brush the insides of 8 (6 ounce) ramekins with butter. Place them in the freezer and chill for 15 minutes. Brush with another 1½ tablespoons of butter. (Preparing the ramekins should use 3 tablespoons of the butter). Use the 2 tablespoons of sugar to coat the insides of the ramekins. Tap out any excess. Place the ramekins in the refrigerator.
Place remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and the chocolate in a 1 quart metal bowl over simmering water in a saucepan, or in the top of a double boiler. Melt, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Whisk in the crème fraiche. Transfer the mixture to a 4-quart bowl and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk the 4 egg yolks into the cooled chocolate mixture. Using an electric mixer, beat the 7 egg whites at low speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until softly peaked. Gradually add the remaining ⅓ cup sugar and beat at medium-high speed until stiffly peaked but still glossy. Using a large rubber spatula, fold a scoop of the beaten whites thoroughly into the chocolate mixture. Gently fold in remaining whites.

Raspberry Crostada

By Eli Zabar from ‘The New York Restaurant Cookbook’
Serves 12

3 cups all purpose flour, plus additional for kneading and rolling
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
1½ cups (3 sticks (1 stick =3½ oz) cold unsalted butter, diced
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1½ cups good raspberry jam
1½ pints fresh raspberries
sifted confectioners’ (icing) sugar

whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream, optional

Place the flour, salt and granulated sugar in a food processor. Pulse briefly to mix. Add the butter and pulse just until the mixture is crumbly. Lightly beat 2 of the egg yolks and the whole egg together. Add them to the food processor, then pulse until a dough starts to form. If the mixture is too dry to gather into a ball, sprinkle with a little cold water and pulse again. Briefly knead the dough, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it at least an hour. 
Roll out the dough to a thickness of ⅛ inch on a floured surface. Cut as many 5-inch diameter circles as you can. The first roll should yield about 9 circles. Reroll your scraps and you’ll be able to cut out 3 more.
Cover a large baking sheet with parchment.
Spread 2 tablespoons of the jam in the centre of each pastry circle, leaving a ½ inch border. Fold the border over, pleating it as you go, so each crostada has a pastry border and a jam centre. Beat the remaining egg yolk with a tablespoon of water and brush this wash on the pastry edges. With a wide, flat spatula, arrange the crostadas on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200C/mark6). Place the crostadas in the oven and bake until they’re golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer the pastries from the pan to a rack to cool. Arrange fresh raspberries over the jam, standing them closely at attention. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve. Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream alongside? Why not!


Hot Tips

New York Restaurants -
Babbo – 110 Waverly Place (between MacDougal St & 6th Ave.) 212 777 0303
Lupa – 170 Thompson St. (bet. Bleecker & Houston Sts.) 212 982 5089
Inoteca – 98 Rivington St. Ino – 21 Bedford St. (bet. Downing St & 6th Ave.) 212 989 5769
Craft – 43 E. 19th St. (btw. B’way & Park Ave.S.) 212 780 0880 & !Witchcraft next door
Balthazar – 80 Spring St. (bet. B’way & Crosby St.) 212 965 1414
Calle Ocho 446 Columbus Ave (bet 81st & 82nd Sts) 212 873 5025
Nobu – 105 Hudson St. (bet. Franklin & N. Moore Sts) 212 334 4445
The Spotted Pig – 314 West 11th St.


Nationwide Search for Ireland’s Top Young Restaurant Manager – leading wine merchant Grants of Ireland, recently called on restaurant visitors across Ireland to nominate their favourite young restaurant manager for the Rosemount Young Restaurant Manager of the Year Award 2004. Nomination forms can be found in the March edition of Food & Wine magazine and from Grants of Ireland Limited directly. Tel 01-6304100. Deadline for nominations is Friday 30th April. So nominate your favourite young professional young restaurant manager who goes that extra mile to ensure you enjoy the best dining experience and makes you want to go back again, and again. First prize will include an all-expenses paid trip for 2 to Australia.

Cooking for special occasions – 
We are regularly asked for recipes for special occasions, Confirmation, First Communion, Christenings, Weddings, Birthdays – so we are offering a 2½ day course called ‘Cooking for Special Occasions’ – 28-30th April 2004. Tel. 021-4646785

Foolproof Food

Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella and Basil Stacks

Serves 4

I spotted these in a deli in New York. If you can find heirloom tomatoes they would look and taste even more delicious.

4 large very ripe but firm tomatoes
2 balls of Buffalo mozzarella
24 fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly cracked pepper

Slice each tomato into three thick slices, keep together.

Slice the mozzarella balls into 4 slices each. Cut a slice off the base of each tomato.
Place on a plate, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and a little sugar if not juicy enough.
Add a slice of mozzarella, top with a basil leaf, the next slice of tomato. Season as before and continue to sandwich until the tomato is re-assembled. Secure with a long cocktail stick or satay stick.
Serve with some crusty bread and a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Olives

Great excitement this weekend at the Midleton Farmers Market, we’ll have the first of the new seasons olive oil for our customers to taste. This is the second year that we’ve brought Mani extra virgin olive oil directly from Greece. The fruity green oil is cold pressed from the Koroneïki olives in a traditional stone mill in the Mani peninsula in the southern Peloponnese.
Just before Christmas we visited Fritz and Burgi Bläuel in Mani to see the harvest and the production. The drive from Athens via Epidavrous and the neo-classical city of Nafplio is spectacular, rugged hilly countryside, stupendous views. It’s the citrus fruit season so the trees are laden with oranges, mandarins, grapefruit and satsumas. Occasionally we see a shepherd watching over his herd of sheep or goats. The milk will be used to make cheese or thick unctuous yoghurt, to sell, or sometimes kept for their own use. Every now and then we see an old lady all dressed in black collecting wild greens by the roadside. These greens called Khόrta, a mixture of dandelions, mustard and wild chicory, and even some special grasses, are boiled and drizzled with olive oil and eaten with a few drops of fresh lemon juice squeezed over the top. Many older people particularly, also drink the cooking water, full of vitamins and minerals.
The Mani peninsula has some of the most dramatic scenery in the Mediterranean, stunning coastline, sleepy fishing villages and olive groves as far as the eye can see. As we climbed up the hill towards the village of Pyrgos Lefktrou we could see terracotta tiled roofs of houses emerging out of a sea of olives trees with the Ionian Sea in the background.
We passed many of the farms who grow olives for the Mani Olive Oil company. The visionary behind this company, Fritz Blaűel grew up in his family’s restaurant in Vienna. Almost 30 years ago, he came to Kalamata to meditate and commune with nature in one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on earth. He was drawn towards an alternative life style, a counter culture as he described it and so became part of a commune. Gradually his companions left but Fritz stayed on as a Buddhist. He grew vegetables and worked with the local farmers and picked olives to survive. He soon realised that the quality of the olive oil made from the local Korόneike olives was superb. The local farmers just produced in a haphazard way. He was convinced that this oil was exceptional and food lovers would appreciate it and that there could be a market for this specific olive oil, as well as the more famous Kalamata olives which were already familiar to epicures. The challenge was to get the farmers to co-operate and to trust him, most already farmed organically by tradition. They were naturally wary at first, but gradually they realised that this was an opportunity to enable them to stay on the land, to earn a better living and maintain the lifestyle they loved.
Over 300 farmers now grow olives for Mani. Fritz employs a full time agronomist to help and advise the farmers. Together they have drawn up a protocol – many had come to enjoy the flavour of rancid olive oil over the years, so Fritz convinced the farmers of the importance of picking at optimum ripeness for the international market. They also became certified organic and are recognised by ‘Bio hellas’ of Athens, ‘Naturland’ of Germany, and the Soil Association in the UK. The business has grown and grown and Mani oil has won top prizes and is now exported to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, USA, UK and Ireland.
Englishman Charles Byrne who now lives in Kinsale met Fritz in 1978 while on holiday in Kalamata. He was gobsmacked by the quality of the local oil and so an enduring partnership was born. Charles now looks after Mani interests in the UK and Ireland.
Extra virgin olive oil is the unadulterated oil of the olive. Georg Gigas had just picked his olives, we went along with him to the local olive press. The olives were hand-picked into plastic crates rather than sacks, (damaged olives can sometimes start to ferment if left in sacks for several days.)
The traditional process is fascinating to see, the olives are tipped into a hopper and washed, the stray leaves fall off as the olives make their way along a slatted vibrating belt to the mill stones. The olives are then stone-ground into a kind of porridge, which is spread on to esparto mats. Between every six mats there’s a steel plate to facilitate the pressing. When the stack is complete it is inserted into a hydraulic press. As the pressure gradually increases the oil starts to drip down the sides of the mats into a container containing a little water. The impurities fall to the bottom as the oil rises to the top. The oil then makes its way to a centrifuge to separate the water from the freshly pressed oil.
There’s a growing excitement as we wait for the first of the new season’s olive oil to emerge from the tap. There are several other farmers waiting to have their olives pressed, everyone brings something, freshly baked bread, lemons, smoked herrings, a slab of crumbly feta and local wine in recycled plastic water bottles. When the first of the oil flows from the pipe, the men dip freshly toasted country bread into the new season’s oil and murmur appreciation as they compare the quality with last year’s harvest.
This year has been difficult, the harvest is well down on last year, partly because the olive is bi-annual but also because of the almost incessant rain from December to April, followed by storms during the flowering season. Consequently the yield is down by approximately 35%. This will naturally result in an increase in price. Fritz and his wife Burgi have saved an entire community livelihood by working with the farmers, they were pioneers in their field and now other communities in Crete have followed their example with considerable success.
Fritz and Burgi still run Buddhist retreats in Mani, yet they are linked into worldwide markets as well as their local community.

Greek Moussaka

Serves 8
This is a Greek peasant recipe served in almost every taverna in Greece, there are many variations on the theme some of which include a layer of cooked potato slices and raisins. I’m not sure if it is my imagination but I sometimes feel that moussaka is even better on the second day. 

340g (¾lb) aubergines
1 x 400g (14oz) can tomatoes or very ripe fresh tomatoes in summer
1 onion, finely chopped (include some green part of spring onion if you have it)
1 garlic clove, crushed
olive oil for frying
450g (1lb) cooked minced lamb
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
pinch of grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
340g (¾lb) courgettes

For the topping
45g (1½oz) butter
45g (1½oz) flour
600ml (1 pint) milk
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cream
110g (4oz) grated gruyère or mature cheddar cheese
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground pepper

earthenware dish 25.5 x 21.5cm (10 x 8½inch)

Slice the aubergines and courgettes into 1cm (½inch) slices, score the flesh with a sharp knife and sprinkle with salt. Leave for half an hour. Roughly chop or cut up the tinned tomatoes. Peel and chop the fresh tomatoes finely if using. Keep the juices.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat, add the onions and garlic and cover and sweat for 4 minutes. Add the meat, herbs, bay leaf and 
nutmeg to the onions. Stir in the flour and pour in the tomatoes and their juice. Bring to the boil, stirring, and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Season well.
Rinse and wipe the aubergines dry. Heat a little olive oil in a pan-grill until hot. Cook the aubergines on both sides until golden. Brush the courgettes with olive oil, pan-grill until light golden on each side. As the courgettes are done, put them into the bottom of a shallow casserole. Tip the meat mixture onto the courgettes, then lay the fried aubergines on top of that. See that the top is as flat as possible. 
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour. Cook stirring for 1 minute, then draw off the heat, add the milk slowly, whisking out the lumps as you go. Add the bay leaf. Return the pan to the heat and stir until boiling. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 2 minutes. Mix the egg yolk with the cream in a large bowl. Pour the sauce on to this mixture stirring all the time. Add half the cheese and pour over the casserole. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and bake for 30-35 minutes in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 until completely reheated and well browned on top.

Moussaka can be made up in large quantities ahead of time, cooled quickly and frozen after it has been closely covered with cling film or plastic wrap. 

Greek Green Salad

I first ate this crisp chilled salad in a little taverna overlooking a harbour on the island of Aegina on a warm spring day - so simple and quite wonderful.
Cos or similar crisp lettuce
sprigs of fresh dill, about 2-3 tablesp.
3-4 spring onions
1-2 tablesp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablesp. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Wash, drain and chill the lettuce. Slice across the grain about  inch (5mm thick). Put into a bowl, sprinkle with sliced scallion or spring onion and tiny sprigs of dill. Just before serving mix the olive oil with the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Sprinkle over the salad, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss and serve immediately.
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Aubergine Puree with Olive Oil and Lemon

Serves 6 approx.
This is one of my absolute favourite ways to eat aubergine. It is served all through the southern Mediterranean, there are many delicious variations.

4 large aubergines
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, optional

Roast or grill the aubergines depending on the flavour you like.
Allow to cool. Peel the aubergines thinly, careful to get every little morsel of flesh. Discard the skin and drain the flesh in a sieve or colander. Transfer to a bowl, mash the puree with a fork or chop with a knife depending on the texture you like. Add extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Variations:
1. freshly crushed garlic may also be added.
2. In Turkey some thick Greek yoghurt is often added, about 5-6 tablespoons for this quantity of aubergine puree, reduce the olive oil by half. 
Mixed with ricotta and freshly chopped herbs eg. marjoram this makes a delicious 'sauce' for pasta.
3. A spicier version from Morocco includes 1 teaspoon harissa , 1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin and 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped coriander leaves,
4. Add some pomegranate molasses - our new flavour of the month as they do in Syria - about 3-4 tablespoons instead of the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
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Lamb Kebabs with Tsatsiki

Serves 8 approx.
Choose kebab skewers carefully. They need to be flat and at least 3mm (cinch) wide, better still 5mm (¼inch). If they are round, the meat will swivel as you try to turn it. Best barbecued but kebabs may also be pan-grilled or cooked under a salamander.

900g (2lb) lean shoulder or leg of lamb

Marinade 1
300ml (½ pint) natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
juice of ½ lemon
OR
Marinade 2
6 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon annual marjoram, rosemary or thyme leaves
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
salt and freshly ground pepper

metal skewers or kebab sticks
Accompaniments
Tsatsiki – see recipe below 

Mix either or both marinades, cut the meat into 2.5cm (1inch) cubes approx., season with salt and freshly ground pepper and put into chosen marinade for 1 hour at least. Drain the meat and thread into metal skewers or kebab sticks. Grill for 7 -10 minutes over a barbecue. Turn and baste with the marinade, serve with a green salad and chosen sauce eg. Tsatsiki 

Tzatziki
This Greek speciality is a delicious cucumber and yoghurt mixture and can be served as an accompanying salad or as a sauce to serve with grilled fish or meat. Greek yoghurt is often made with sheep's milk and is wonderfully thick and creamy.
1 crisp Irish cucumber, peeled and diced into - inch dice approx.
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaped tablesp. of freshly chopped mint
 pint (450ml) Greek yoghurt or best quality natural yoghurt
4 tablespoons cream

Put the cucumber dice into a sieve and sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for about 30 minutes. Dry the cucumber on kitchen paper, put into a bowl and mix with garlic, a dash of wine vinegar or lemon juice and the yoghurt and cream. Stir in the mint and taste, it may need a little salt and freshly ground pepper, or even a pinch of sugar.

Taramasalata

Serves 4-8 

Smoked cod roe is available in winter for a few months, we love it and often just spread it thinly on hot toast for supper. The Greek speciality Taramasalata is very easy to make, the home made version is paler in colour than the rather disconcerting pink often found nowadays. Some recipes call for an egg yolk to be added to the base mixture.

250g (9oz) smoked cod roe
3-4 slices good quality white bread 
juice of 1 organic lemon or to taste
50ml (2fl oz) sunflower oil
50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

Cut the crusts off the bread and soak the bread in water. Skin the smoked and salted cod roe and put it into the food processor with the bread, which has been squeezed dry, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Flick on the motor. Trickle in the oil gradually as though you are making mayonnaise. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate, it will firm up.

Loukoumades
Sweet Fried Fritters

These sweet fried fritters are popular at the seaside cafes and sweet shops in Greece, on a summer evening, often with small cups of Greek coffee. Traditionally loukoumades are made with yeast, flour and water. Here is a simple but tasty version that mixes up in no time, it was given to me by Janette Xinotroulias.
5-6½ ozs (140-185g) self-raising flour
8 fl.ozs (250ml) buttermilk approx.
a little sugar and vanilla if desired
Honey, cinnamon and chopped walnuts

16 fl.ozs (500ml) corn oil for frying

Mix the above ingredients well with a wooden spoon. Heat approximately 16 fl.ozs (500ml) corn oil in a saucepan. The oil must be deep enough to accommodate the loukoumades as they puff up quite a bit. Be sure the batter is thick enough to form balls when dropped into the hot oil. When oil is just smoking, about (190C/375F), drop by teaspoonfuls into the oil. Be careful not to burn as they brown rapidly. Remove from oil with slotted spoon to a platter. Drizzle honey on top and sprinkle with cinnamon. Powdered sugar and or chopped nuts may also be sprinkled on them. 

Tiny Fried Fish (Marithes Tighanités)

Serves 6-8

We greatly enjoyed little fresh fish as part of mezze. Choose very fresh fish, eat whole hot, including the bones and head – crunchy and yummy.

1 lb (450g) whitebait
2½ ozs (60g) plain white flour
1 teasp. sea salt, or more to taste
1 teasp. freshly cracked black pepper, or more to taste

Extra virgin olive oil for frying

To serve:
2 large lemons, cut into wedges

Rinse the fish, drain, blot dry between layers of paper towels. Mix the flour and seasoning in a bowl. Add the fish. Toss to coat. Heat a ½ inch (1cm) layer of olive oil in a large pan. When hot fry a single layer of fish until golden brown, turning once. Drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining fish. 
Serve, piled on a warm platter with the lemon wedges.
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Foolproof food

Ballymaloe French Dressing

2 fl ozs (55ml) Wine vinegar
6 fl ozs (150ml) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils. eg. sunflower and arachide
1 level teaspoon mustard (Dijon or English)
1 large clove of garlic
1 scallion or small spring onion
Sprig of parsley
Sprig of watercress
1 level teaspoon salt
Few grinds of pepper

Put all the ingredients into a blender and run at medium speed for 1 minutes approx. or mix oil and vinegar in a bowl, add mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and mashed garlic. Chop the parsley, spring onion and watercress finely and add in. Whisk before serving. N.B Vital to put in correct amount of salt.
 

Top Tips
The International Olive Oil Council www.internationaloliveoil.org   have details of the various designations and definitions of olive oils.
1. Research has demonstrated that olive oil has an effect in preventing the formation of blood clots and it has been observed that olive oil rich diets can attenuate the effect of fatty foods in encouraging blood clot formation, thus contributing to the low incidence of heart failure in countries where olive oil is the principal fat consumed.
2. Olive oil lowers the levels of total blood cholesterol, LDL-cholestrol and triglycerides. At the same time it does not alter the levels of HDL-cholestrol (and may even raise them) which plays a protective role.
The beneficial effect of olive oil consumption with regard to cardiovascular disease has been demonstrated in primary prevention, where it reduces the risk of developing the disease and in secondary prevention, where it prevents recurrence after a first coronary event.
3. At present, research is revealing the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet in the prevention of secondary coronary events and the positive influence of olive oil on the depression associated with such events. These findings are very important in view of the high incidence of depression in the modern-day world and the great risk it poses in recurrent heart disease.
The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim has a wide range of courses available for 2004 – their mantra for this year is Reduce – Recycle – Refine – get yourself a copy of their brochure –
 email@organiccentgre@eircom.net  www.theorganiccentre.ie  Tel 071-98 54338 - new this year is a Garden Complete Course – a practical month by month guide including a session on bio-dynamic gardening. They will also run an outreach education programme for farmers and growers as well as community schools and groups and much, much more.

Delicious pancakes

Shrove Tuesday’s here again – I adore Pancake Day, it always brings back memories of happy boisterous childhood parties – Mummy cooking stacks of thin lacy pancakes, struggling to keep up with the demand, while we squabbled about whose turn it was to have the next one off the pan.
We brushed the hot pancakes with melted butter, scattered them with castor sugar and sprinkled lemon juice over the top before rolling them up. 
There were 9 of us, we each had a different system, some cut them into cartwheels and ate them sparingly, others gobbled them down and tried to jump the queue for the next one. We were single-minded in our devotion to lemon pancakes, we never contemplated jam or chocolate spread. Tapenade or pesto or sun-dried tomatoes hadn’t been heard of at that stage, in fact it didn’t occur to us that pancakes could also be savoury.
Now we do all kinds of variations on the theme, different textures, size and shape, both sweet and savoury. We eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and as canapés for drinks parties. They’re always delicious and always elicit an appreciative response. 
They definitely earn their place among my list of great convertibles. 
The basic batter is made with ingredients most households would have in the kitchen cupboard at any time – flour, eggs and milk, so grab a whisk, heat a pan and invite round the pals and off you go – have fun!

Pesto, Cream Cheese & Sundried Tomato Pancakes

This simple recipe makes a delicious canapé.
Tapenade may be substituted for pesto

Makes 48 approximately

6 large savoury pancakes – see recipe
6 ozs (175g) cream cheese
2 tablesp pesto
2-3 ozs (50-75g) semi-sundried tomatoes
lots of freshly ground pepper & a little sea salt

Spread a layer of cream cheese over the surface of a pancake with a palette knife. Sprinkle with pesto and some finely chopped sundried tomato or tapenade.

Roll into a tight swiss roll, cut into rounds or wrap in cling film. Repeat with the others. 
Refrigerate, remove the cling film and cut into ½" (1cm) rounds later. Repeat with the others. Garnish each piece with a leaf of basil or chervil

Heavenly Hots

Makes 50-60

These little pancakes are mouth-watering and very moreish

4 free-range eggs
good pinch of salt
½ teasp. bread soda
1¼ oz (30g) plain flour
16fl.ozs (450ml) sour cream
2 tablesp. sugar

Put the eggs into a mixing bowl. Whisk until well mixed. Add the salt, breadsoda, flour, sour cream and sugar and mix well. You could make the batter in a blender if you prefer.
Heat a frying pan until good and hot, grease lightly and drop small spoonfuls on to the hot pan – they should spread to about 2½ inches diameter. When a few bubbles appear on top turn the pancake over and cook briefly on the other side.

Serve immediately. For extra decadence spread with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Spinach and Mushroom Pancakes

There are lots of variations on this theme, but this is a particularly delicious version.

Serves 6-8

1 lb (450g) spinach
1 x Mushroom à la Crème recipe 

Ballymaloe Batter

Makes 15 pancakes approx.
12 ozs (350g) plain flour 
5 eggs
1 pint (600ml) milk
125ml (4fl.oz) sparkling mineral water or soda water
pinch of salt

Sieve the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid (milk and sparkling water) and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so - longer will do no harm.
Alternatively put all the ingredients into a liquidiser or food processor and whizz for a minute or so. 
Cook small ladles full of the batter on a non stick pan and keep aside.

Meanwhile make the buttered spinach and mushroom a la crème.

Buttered Spinach

Serves 4-6
450g (1 lb) fresh spinach, with stalks removed
salt, freshly ground pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg
25-50g (1-2 oz) butter

Wash the prepared spinach and drain. Put into a heavy saucepan on a very low heat, season and cover tightly. After a few minutes, stir and replace the lid. As soon as the spinach is cooked, about 5-8 minutes approx., strain off the copious amount of liquid that spinach releases and press between two plates until almost dry. Chop or puree in a food processor if you like a smooth texture. Increase the heat, add butter, correct the seasoning and add a little freshly grated nutmeg to taste.
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Make the Mushroom a la Crème 

Mushroom a la Creme

Serves 4
½-1 oz (15-30 g) butter
3 ozs (85 g) onion, finely chopped
½ lb (225g) mushrooms, sliced
4 fl ozs (100ml) cream
Freshly chopped parsley
½ tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)
A squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured; remove the onions to a bowl. Meanwhile cook the sliced mushrooms in a hot frying pan in batches if necessary. Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice . Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning, and add parsley and chives if used.

Note: Mushroom a la creme may be served as a vegetable, or as a filling for vol au vents, bouchees or pancakes, or as a sauce for pasta. It may be used as an enrichment for casseroles and stews or, by adding a little more cream or stock, may be served as a sauce with beef, lamb, chicken or veal. A crushed clove of garlic may be added while the onions are sweating.
Mushroom a la Creme keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days.


Mix the Mushroom a la Creme with the spinach. Taste and correct seasoning.

Lay a pancake on a clean worktop. Put about 2 tablespoons of filling in the middle, fold in two sides and fold over the ends into a parcel. Repeat with the others. If the components are cold, reheat in a covered dish in a moderate oven. Serve with a little light Hollandaise Sauce.

Foolproof food

Pancakes with Butterscotch Sauce and Bananas

This basic pancake may be served with any other favourite accompaniments – lemon juice and castor sugar, jam, chocolate sauce, chocolate spread with chopped hazelnuts.

Serves 6 - makes 12 approx.

Pancake Batter
6 ozs (170g) plain white flour
a good pinch of salt
1 dessertsp. castor sugar
2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range
scant : pint (450ml) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed
3-4 dessertsp. melted butter

Butterscotch Sauce

4 ozs (110g) butter
6 ozs (170g) dark soft brown, Barbados sugar
4 ozs (110g) granulated sugar
10 ozs (285g) golden syrup
8 fl ozs (225ml) cream
2 teasp. pure vanilla essence

4 bananas

8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crepe pan

First make the batter. Sieve the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs with a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of castor sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).
Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so - longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the pancakes stir in 3-4 dessertspoons melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the pancakes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.
Next make the butterscotch sauce*
Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla essence. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.
To serve
Heat the sauce, slice in the bananas, spoon over a pancake, roll up loosely or fold into a fan shape. Serve two pancakes per person.

* To save time you could of course serve the pancakes with one of the many excellent Irish made butterscotch or chocolate sauces on the market 


Top Tips

For Pancakes - Use a non stick pan, then you can flip to your heart’s content.
Add a tablespoon of melted butter to the batter and whisk well, no need to grease the pan between pancakes.
I know blueberries are totally out of season but if you do happen to pick up a punnet which has come all the way from Holland, mix 225g of cream cheese with a generous tablespoon of icing sugar, fold in about 100g of berries and use to fill some freshly made pancakes. 

Apple Juice – get delicious Karmine Apple Juice by post from Con Traas at Moorstown, Cahir, Co Tipperary – this terrific service is available anywhere in Ireland – 12 bottles of juice made from the Karmijn de Sonnaville apples grown on their own farm, come in a sturdy well-constructed box via An Post – I got a delivery myself and they arrived undamaged. You can order on the website www.karmine.com email:con@the applefarm.com Tel. 052-41459 Fax 052-42774

New Chief Executive for Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Dr. John O’Brien has been appointed Chief Executive of the FSAI and will take up office in June 2004. Dr. O’Brien is originally from Cork and has a BSc and PHd in Food Chemistry from UCC, as well as an MSc in Toxicology from the University of Surrey. He has a broad knowledge of risk assessment and food safety management at an international level together with communication expertise.

Tapas from Spain

Tapas is one of Spain’s more endearing rituals, a way to relax and unwind at the end of a hot day. It is not meant to be a meal as such, although a selection of tapas or a few racion (larger plate) can be quite filling.
A Tapa should be an individual portion on a small saucer, correctly, a new tapa comes with each new drink and dishes are not repeated.
A few little Tapas make a perfect hassle free starter for a dinner party or they can indeed be the main event – Lots of delicious bits to nibble – some salty and thirst provoking, others ‘absorbent’ – all easy to eat so they don’t interrupt conversation. In fact it would be difficult to think of a better way to entertain a few of ‘your mates’ to use ‘Jamie speak’,- just prepare a selection, uncork the Manzanilla or Rioja, turn on the flamenco music and chill.
Naturally enough much tipsy speculation has taken place as to the origin of Tapas but they are said to have originated in the taverns of Andalucia in Spain in the 18th Century when a piece of bread or a small dish of olives or salted almonds were placed on top of a glass of sherry to keep the flies out. The word simply means ‘to cover’.
The days of free tapas with drinks are almost gone, but the custom continues and is at last gathering momentum in other countries. In Spain people eat when they drink and drink when they eat. Drunkenness is rare, while spirits and decibles soar, excess alcohol is effectively absorbed by sporadic eating. In Spain it is customary to have a glass of wine or sherry and tapas after work, moving from one bar to another, sampling each establishment’s fare before moving on to the next, - a ‘Tapas crawl’. Everyone stands and guests spill out onto the streets in the most popular bars. The Tapeo is something spontaneous, convivial and informal. Ir de Pinchos means to make a tour of the bars to check out what temptations are on offer.
Even in the poshest bars non-natives may be surprised to find the floor by the counter littered with used paper napkins, cigarette butts, olive stones, even the odd mussel shell, all of which indicate the lip smacking enjoyment of the tapas. 
Tapas are now served all over Spain and a typical tapas bar might have 40-50 tapas ranging from simple bowls of salted almonds, little plates of Serrano ham on crusty bread, Manchega cheese with a sliver of membrillo, to kidneys in sherry, octopus, baby eels or grilled razor clams…. Nowadays some of the young chefs are developing ‘evolved tapas’. These new ’tapas maestros’ are using universal ingredients to come up with a selection of fusion tapas.
The idea of nibbling a variety of tasty morsels while you drink is an eminently good idea, one I wish the Irish Vintners Association would encourage their members to offer to their punters. Its lots of fun and so much more civilized than going out with the express intention of getting slammed as soon as possible.

Scrambled eggs with anchovy and red pepper on toast

Serves 4
100g (3½ oz) anchovies, (good quality in extra virgin olive oil) (In Spain they would use fresh anchovies)
1 clove garlic, minced
olive oil for frying
1 small tin (100g/3½oz) red piquillo peppers, drained and cut into thin strips
2 eggs
4 thin slices of French bread, toasted 
1 small green pepper, cut into thin strips and quickly fried

Saute the garlic in a little olive oil, add the anchovies and gently heat through, add the red peppers. Beat the eggs and add to the mixture , stir until mixed together and the eggs are just set. 
Have the toast ready and immediately spread the mixture on the slices of toast. Make a criss-cross of green pepper strips on top. Serve.

Duck or Chicken Liver in Sherry
Serves 4

Duck’s liver has a smooth, light texture and a stronger flavour than chicken liver, but you may use chicken liver if you prefer – this makes a very rich tapa or starter.

225ml (8fl.oz) sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry
300g (10½ oz) fresh duck or chicken livers, cut into thin slices
salt to taste

To make the sherry sauce, cook the sherry in a non-reactive saucepan over a very high heat until it begins to foam. Reduce the liquid until it becomes thick and sticky, then remove from the heat.
Fry the slices of liver quickly in an ungreased pan for about 1 minute on each side, until sealed and lightly browned. Place on serving plate, pour on the sherry sauce, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Honey-baked Chicken Thighs

Serves 4
This tapa would make a tasty party starter at any time, but would be wonderful served with a dry white wine or dry sherry on a leisurely summer’s day

250g (9oz) liquid honey, buy a good locally produced honey
100g (3½ oz) butter
1 teasp. curry powder
1½ teasp. dry mustard powder
75ml (2½ fl.oz) tomato ketchup
8 chicken thighs

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

Make the honey sauce by combining all the ingredients except the chicken thighs in a saucepan. Mix well and bring to the boil, remove from the heat.
Put the chicken thighs in a single layer in a roasting tin, pour the sauce over and bake in the pre-heated oven for 35 minutes approx, or until the chicken is dark and glossy and cooked through. Serve immediately. 

Chorizo with fino sherry

This recipe comes from Sam Clark at London’s Moro restaurant.
Serves 4 

200g (7oz) semi-cured chorizo suitable for cooking 
75ml (3floz) fino sherry
a little olive oil

Cut chorizo in half lengthways and then into little bite-sized pieces.
Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add a few drops of olive oil. You don’t need very much as the chorizo will release its own. When the pan begins to smoke, add the chorizo and fry, turning quickly when one side is coloured. This will take a matter of seconds. When both sides are crispy, add the fino sherry, watch out for the hissing, and leave for a few seconds to burn off the alcohol. Transfer to a dish and enjoy immediately. You can grill these chorizo just as easily, but omit the sherry.

Country –style potatoes with chorizo and peppers

Serves 4
400g (14oz) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
50g (1¾) oz unsalted butter
3 tablesp. olive oil for frying
125g (4½ oz) onion, thinly sliced
20g (¾ oz) red pepper, thinly sliced
20g (¾ oz) green pepper, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
30g (1oz) Serrano ham, cut into thin strips
50g (1¾ oz) chorizo, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) slices and lightly fried
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the potatoes in the butter and 2 tablesp of olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat for 25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Remove the potatoes and set aside in a bowl. In the same pan use the remaining fat to sauté the onion and peppers over a low heat, adding more oil if necessary. When the vegetables are tender, add the garlic and cook until it is golden. Add the vegetable mixture to the potatoes in the bowl, stir in the ham and chorizo and set aside.
Fry the eggs in a little oil until the white is firm. Add to the vegetable and meat mixture in the bowl and stir to break up the eggs. Combine all the ingredients, season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper and tip on to a serving plate. 

Potato and Cod Stew

Serves 4
250g (9oz) salt cod 
4 leeks, cleaned and coarsely chopped
4 tablesp. olive oil
1kg (23 lb) potatoes, peeled and diced
1¼ litres (1¾ pint) fish stock
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper


Soak the cod in water for 2 days, changing the water a couple of times a day. Rinse. Flake the fish, leave behind any bones and skin.
Saute the leeks in olive oil in a large heavy pan until tender. Ad the diced potatoes and continue to sauté over a very low heat for 15 more minutes. Add the fish stock and tomatoes, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the flakes of fish and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste and serve hot in individual soup bowls

Mushroom and Cumin Salad

Ensalada de Setas
Serves 4

2floz (50ml) extra virgin olive oil
½ lb (225g) flat mushrooms or
¼ lb (110g) wild mushrooms, such as puffballs or oyster mushrooms
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon freshly ground cumin
salt
freshly ground pepper
a squeeze fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Leave the mushrooms whole if they are small; otherwise, cut in halves or quarters. 
Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and mushrooms, salt, freshly ground pepper and cumin. Toss on a high heat until cooked. Add a squeeze of lemon and the chopped parsley. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve warm or cold.

Garlic Shrimps

Gambas al Ajillo
Serves 4

4 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced
2 dried red chilli peppers each broken into 3 pieces (discard the seeds)
1 bay leaf
Spanish Extra virgin olive oil
10 ozs (285g) shrimps or Dublin bay prawns, shelled
1 large or 4 individual fireproof ramekins

Divide the sliced garlic and chilli pepper more or less evenly between the 4 ramekins, add 5 tablespoons of olive oil and add 3 bay leaf to each . Heat over a medium heat until the oil begins to sizzle. Just as the garlic turns pale gold add the shrimps or prawns and cook stirring gently until just done, they will take 2-4 minutes depending on the size. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve immediately in the cooking pot or pots with lots of crusty bread to mop up the delicious oil and juices.

Foolproof Food

Baked Potatoes

– real comfort food
Baked potatoes are brilliant – filling and inexpensive. Buy the biggest you can find. There are lots and lots of toppings that are yummy and nutritious, even grated cheese with chopped parsley or chive is delicious. Look in your fridge and use your imagination!
8 x 8 ozs (225g) old potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
Sea salt and butter

Scrub the skins of the potatoes very well. Prick each potato 3 or 4 times and bake in a preheated hot oven 2001C/4001F/regulo 6 for 1 hour approx. depending on the size. When cooked, serve immediately while skins are still crisp and make sure to eat the skins with lots of butter and sea salt, Simply Delicious!
Suggested Stuffing for Baked Potatoes

Garlic mayonnaise with tuna fish
Fromage Blanc with smoked salmon and chives
Garlic butter with crispy rasher.
Mushroom a la crème

Hot Tips

For lots more Tapas ideas – enrol for the half-day Discovering Tapas Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School on 12th May – Tel. 021-4646785 www.cookingisfun.ie  
Night classes currently in progress, Wednesday nights 7.30pm – telephone to book place

Valentine’s Day is on the horizon and Bord Bia have lots of suggestions for romantic meals and special gifts availing of high quality food ingredients from Irish producers – chocolates, honey, ice-creams and shellfish are amongst the speciality Irish food products recommended by Bord Bia for this special occasion, check out www.bordbia.ie 

For lovers of Spanish food 
The Spanish Commercial Office in Dublin Tel 01-6616313, Fax 01-6610111, is a good source of information on Spanish food imported into Ireland – all the main supermarket chains and independents carry a good range of Spanish products – charcuterie – cheese- oils and even ready made tapas for those in a hurry. Specialist food shops carry charcuterie and cheese – Sheridans Cheesemongers import Spanish Cheese and Mitchells Wine Merchants carry fine wines from Spain including sherry. www.spaingourmetour.com  for lovers of Spain and its food.

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