ArchiveApril 2004


We’ve just planted a few drills of potatoes in our garden, three different types Orla, Pink Fir Apple, Golden Wonders – not too many of any variety but a selection of old-fashioned varieties to tantalise the taste buds right through from early June into the following year. (You only mention three varieties – but here is the sequence Willie Scannell gave me for the Slow Article – Home Guard/late May early June, British Queens/about 3rd week in June, Kerrs Pinks/late Summer early Autumn, and Golden Wonders to see you through the Winter)

I urge home gardeners or anyone with even a small scrap of land to plant a few spuds, the simple pleasure of planting in rich friable soil and then approximately one month later, sheer joy when you carefully push the fork into the ground under the stalk to reveal a whole cluster of potatoes underneath, pure magic.

Straight into the kitchen, a quick scrub and into the pot. Try cooking them in sea water occasionally if you live close to the coast. Otherwise eat them with rich Irish butter and flakes of Maldon Sea Salt.

This is the food that nourished our ancestors and played such a pivotal role in our history. This simple tuber which originated in the Andes was in domestic use in Peru by 3000 BC.

It was introduced to Ireland by Sir Walter Raleigh. He apparently planted some tubers at Myrtle Grove, his property in Youghal, Co Cork, when he stopped off on his return to Britain after an expedition to do battle with the Spaniards in the Caribbean.

The potato revolutionised Western civilisation as dramatically as the motor car. Originally it was regarded as food suitable only for pigs and peasants. Later, in great measure due to Antoine Auguste Parmentier, a French pharmacist, it became fashionable and chic. Convinced of its nutritional benefits be gave a court dinner at which he served potatoes at every course. Its popularity was assured when he managed to persuade Marie Antoinette to wear potato flowers in her hair. To this day when you see Parmentier on a French menu, it indicates that the dish includes potato.

Once introduced, the potato quickly became a staple, nutritious, delicious, easy to cook, suitable for both animals and humans. It can be a delicacy or fast food. From the cook’s perspective it is uniquely versatile. It can be boiled, baked, steamed, roasted, sautéed, deep fried, and with a little ingenuity can be very successfully used in sweet as well as savoury dishes.

After its introduction to Ireland the potato became the staple and was credited for the population explosion – by 1940 an estimated nine million people lived in Ireland. The potato was virtually the sole nourishment of millions of people so when the crop failed in 1945 and again in 1946, it resulted in devastation all over the country. Over a million people perished and there was mass emigration to America. A salutary lesson for mankind not to rely on a single crop or variety as food stuff.

Well, back to the kitchen – think about planting a few potatoes yourself, otherwise seek out Irish potatoes that have been grown with little or no artificial nitrogen. You will need to pay a little more but the end result will be delicious floury potatoes. Note the variety and notice the difference in flavour and texture – I love Golden Wonders and Kerrs Pinks at this time of the year but the the season is coming to an end and we’ll soon have the new potatoes to look forward to.

Potato Crisps or Game Chips

A mandolin slicer is useful though not essential for slicing.

These are paper thin rounds of potato which are fried at 180ºC/350ºF until absolutely crisp, drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt. Serve hot or cold.

Provided they are properly cooked they will keep perfectly in a tin box for several days. These crisps or game chips are the traditional accompaniment to roast pheasant or guinea fowl.

Garlic Crisps

Cook the crisps as above, put into a hot serving dish, melt some garlic butter and drizzle it over the crisps, serve immediately as a snack or as an accompaniment to hamburgers or steaks or on a salade tiede.

Volcanic Crisps

Add 1 -2 tablespoons of chilli flakes to the butter with the garlic and parsley. Serve as above.

Pommes Gaufrette

A mandolin is essential for slicing these potatoes. Rotate the potatoes 90º between each cut so the slices are latticed. Deep fry for 2-3 minutes at 190ºC or until crisp and golden.

Souffle Potatoes

Slice potatoes very thinly on a mandolin one-sixteenth inch thick. Deep fry at 180º for 4-5 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Drain and cool. Just before serving fry again at 195º - they will puff up immediately. Cook for a minute or two more until crisp and golden.

Potato and Rosemary Foccacia

Serves 10-12

1 x white yeast bread dough (see recipe below)

6 medium potatoes, almost cooked, peeled and thinly sliced
175 -225 g (6-8 ozs) Fontina or Cheddar cheese
Rosemary sprigs
Olive oil 
Salt and freshly ground pepper

11 x 16 inch (28 x 40.5cm) baking tray

Make the dough, knead well and allow to rise until well doubled in size. >Knock back= and allow to rest for 4 or 5 minutes. 
Roll the dough into a rectangle to cover the baking tray.
Dimple the dough with your fingertips. Brush with olive oil. 
Cover with thin slices of Fontina or Cheddar cheese.
Season the slices of potato well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange in overlapping slices over the dough and cheese. Sprinkle with rosemary and drizzle with olive oil. 
Bake in a preheated oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 20-25 minutes or until the base is crusty and the potatoes are beginning to crisp. 

Drizzle with olive oil and eat warm.

Ballymaloe White Yeast Bread

Makes 2 x 450g (1lb) loaves
This basic white yeast bread dough is multi purpose. Shape it in loaves or use it for plaits, rolls, twists or for pizza bases.

20g (¾oz) fresh yeast, non GMO
425ml (15floz) water, more as needed
25g (1oz) butter
2 teaspoons dairy salt
15g (½oz) sugar
680g (1½ lb) strong white flour

poppy seeds or sesame seeds for topping - optional
2 x loaf tins 13 x 20cm (5 x 8inch) - optional

Mix the yeast with 140ml (¼ pint) lukewarm water until dissolved. Put the butter, salt and sugar into a bowl with 140ml (¼pint) of very hot water, stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved and butter melted. Add 140ml (¼pint) of cold water. By now, the liquid should be lukewarm or blood heat, so combine with the yeast. 

Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in most of the lukewarm liquid. Mix to a loose dough adding the remainder of the liquid, or more flour or liquid if necessary. Turn the dough onto a floured board, cover and leave to relax for 5 minutes approx. Then knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth, springy and elastic (if kneading in a food mixer with a dough hook, 5 minutes is usually long enough). 

Put the dough in a bowl, preferably pottery or delph, but stainless steel or plastic are also fine. Cover the top tightly with cling film - yeast dough rises best in a warm moist atmosphere. If you want to speed up the rising process put the bowl near your cooker, or a radiator, or close to an Aga. Rising time depends on the temperature, however the bread will taste better if it rises more slowly. When the dough has more than doubled in size, knead again for about 2 - 3 minutes or until all the air has been forced out - this is called ‘knocking back’. Allow to rest for 4-5 minutes. 

Crozier Blue Champ

Serves 4-6

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions and a blob of butter melting in the centre is ‘comfort’ food at its best.

1.5kg (3lb) 6-8 unpeeled 'old' potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g
chopped chives
350ml (10-12fl oz) milk
55-110g (2-4oz) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
75-110g (3-4 ozs) Crozier Blue cheese, crumbled

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chopped chives. Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse. Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions, beat in the butter. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the crumbled Crozier Blue Cheese just before serving. Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre. Scallion mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4. Cover with tin foil while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin. 

Potato and Sweetcorn Chowder

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

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

sprigs of flat parsley

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

Note: If the soup is too thick, thin it out with a little chicken or vegetable stock.


Raclette cheese – allow about 6ozs (175g) per person
freshly boiled potatoes -3 – 4 per person
Lettuce - 3 – 4 leaves per person
Pickles, optional - 3 – 4 per person
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Raclette Stove

Put the Raclette stove in the centre of the table and turn on the heat. Cut the cheese into scant 3 inch (5mm) thick slices and put a slice onto each little pan.
Meanwhile serve freshly boiled potatoes and crisp lettuce on hot plates to each person. Just as soon as the cheese melts, each person spoons it over their potatoes and put another piece on to melt. Raclette is great fun for a dinner party.

Foolproof Food

The Perfect Chip

Sales of frozen and pre prepared chips have rocketed in a relatively short time so much so that I feel many people have forgotten how easy it is to make chips at home.

The secret of really sensational chips is surprise, surprise. 

1. Good quality 'old' potatoes eg. Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pinks 

2. Best quality oil, lard or beef fat for frying. We frequently use olive oil because its flavour is so good and because when properly looked after it can be used over and over again. Avoid poor quality oils which have an unpleasant taste and a pervasive smell.

3. Scrub the potatoes well and peel or leave unpeeled according to taste. Cut into similar size chips so they will cook evenly. 

4. Rinse quickly in cold water but do not soak. Dry meticulously with a damp tea towel or kitchen towel before cooking otherwise the water will boil on contact with the oil in the deep fry and may cause it to overflow.

Do not overload the basket, otherwise the temperature of the oil will be lowered, 

consequently the chips will be greasy rather than crisp. Shake the pan once or twice, to separate the chips while cooking.

They could be -

Straw potatoes, finest possible strips about 2 ½ inch (6.5cm) long, cook quickly at 195ºC/385ºF until completely crisp.

Matchstick, similar length but slightly thicker, cook as above.

Mignonette, ¼ inch (5mm) thick x 2 ½ inch (6.5cm) long, cook as above.

Pont Neuf, about ½ inch (1 cm) thick and 2 ½inch (6.5cm) long.

Jumbo chips, about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick and 2 ½inch (6.5cm) long.

Buffalo chips, similar size to Jumbo but unpeeled.

To cook the first three types: Fry quickly in oil at 195ºC/385ºC until completely crisp.

To cook the last three sizes: Fry twice, once at 160ºC/32º0F until they are soft and just beginning to brown, the time will vary from 4-10 minutes depending on size, drain, increase the heat to 190ºC/375ºF and cook for a further 1-2 minutes or until crisp and golden. Shake the basket, drain well, toss onto kitchen paper, sprinkle with a little salt, turn onto a hot serving dish and serve immediately.
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Top Tips

If you feel moved to grow your own, Caroline Robinson sells a selection of organic seed potatoes from her stall at the Coal Quay Market in Cork on Saturday mornings – she is almost run out but keep in mind for next year.

Michael Collins and several others also sell small quantities of seed potatoes at Skibbereen Farmers Market, also on Saturday mornings.

Seaweed dug into the soil enhances the flavour. 

Add some crushed cumin or coriander to mashed potatoes or potato cakes – delicious. 

Food Additives and Food Labels at Cork Free Choice Consumer Group Meeting –Thursday April 29th at Crawford Gallery Café, Emmet Place- How to read labels and know exactly what those additives are . Wayne Anderson, Scientific Adviser to the Food Safety Board of Ireland and Chris Barrett – a housewife’s experience. Admission €5 including tea & coffee.

Visiting London in May – don’t miss Fantasy Gardens at Harrods - the famous department store will become a living garden with the launch of Fantasy Gardens from 4th of May for the whole month –just to mention a few of the associated food events - New to the Food Hall will be Enivrance – an exciting virtual food concept from France. Morelli’s Gelateria, an ice cream parlour in the Food Hall will launch some new flavours including, Rhubarb and Green Tea. There will be workshops with leading chefs about outdoor entertaining and cooking with flowers. Milliner Phillip Treacy will host a tea party with fashionista Isabella Blow, in the Georgian Restaurant while the new Spring/Summer collection will be shown … there is much, much more.

Carlo Petrini and Slow Food

The highlight of this past week was the visit of the founder of Slow Food International, Carlo Petrini to Ireland.
This organisation which was officially launched in 1986 could be described as the Greenpeace of gastronomy – the antidote to the fast food culture which threatens to engulf us. Slow Food defends biodiversity, encourages and supports artisan food production and safeguards foods and food cultures in danger of extinction. Membership is growing worldwide, now over 100,000 in 104 countries around the globe. 
What type of person joins what may sound like a very esoteric organisation – a very diverse group – people who have a real concern about what’s happening to food production and who feel very strongly that we should have choice. After all, those of us who want our food processed, convenient and wrapped in plastic, are very well provided for – every shop and supermarket in the country offers a wide and sometimes mesmerising choice. However, the growing number of people who are seeking out local food in season find it much more of a challenge to locate, unless there is a Country Market or Farmers’ Market in the area. A terrifying number of varieties have already been lost or are in danger of extinction. Old varieties of fruit and vegetables, traditional and rare breeds of animal, not considered to be of commercial value, are also under threat. Slow Food has done much to highlight the problem and the importance of action on a national and international scale through its various projects, Presidia, Arc of Taste, Slow Food Awards, Salone del Gusto….
The latter, the largest artisan food fair in the world is held in Turin every second year. From 21-24 October 2004, Slow Food will bring 5,000 farmers and food producers from all over the world to Terra Madre in Turin, so they can meet and share concerns and solutions for a sustainable future, and thereby build a global network of food ‘communities’. Can you imagine the logistics of arranging an event like that?
During Carlo Petrini’s week long visit he met with Minister for Agriculture and Food, Joe Walsh, Bord Bia, UCC, food historians, farmers and fishermen, artisan food producers, chefs, fish smokers, butchers, teachers and Slow Food members. 
Carlo Petrini’s primary purpose in coming to Ireland on this occasion was to announce details of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo and Colorno in Italy. 
This new project, the first in the world, will help to create a new type of professional: an expert who is able to lead and elevate the quality of production, to teach others how to taste, to guide the market, and to communicate about and promote foods and beverages. “The University will provide those with an interest in understanding food with a humanistic, sensory approach, knowledge of traditional and industrial processes, and an appreciation of cooking and gastronomic tourism. In a world where ‘specialities’ and ‘typical local products’ are increasingly important and are raising the standards of the market, gastronomes will be able to communicate a wealth of knowledge, in advising new businesses, designing distribution outlets and advising the restaurant trade. Though undervalued in the past, this profession is destined to become a true interpreter of food culture.”
At a dinner at Ballymaloe House, Rory O’Connell’s menu reflected an abundance of wonderful Irish produce and the local foods of the area. Among the many delicious dishes served were, Carpaccio of Beef with Horseradish Mayonnaise, Ballymaloe Potted Crab, Nora Aherne’s Traditional Duck with Sage and Onion Stuffing, Carrigeen Moss Pudding with new season’s Rhubarb Compote. 

Crab Pate with Cucumber and Dill Salad

This pate which is made in a flash once you have the crab meat to hand can be served in lots of different ways. We make it into a cylinder and roll it in chopped parsley for extra posh!

Serves 8-10 as a starter

5 ozs (140 g) mixed brown and white cooked crab meat

4 ozs (110 g) softened butter
1-2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
1 medium clove garlic, crushed 
Few grinds of black pepper
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Tomato chutney or Ballymaloe Tomato Relish (optional)

3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

To Serve
Cucumber Salad

Flat parsley, fennel or chervil
Fennel or chive flowers, if available

Mix all ingredients (except the parsley for coating) together in a bowl or , better still, whizz them in a food processor. Taste carefully and continue to season until you are happy with the flavour: it may need a little more lemon juice or crushed garlic. 

Form the pate into a cylinder, roll up in greaseproof paper, twist the ends like a Christmas cracker and chill until almost firm.
Spread one-quarter sheet of greaseproof paper out on the work top, sprinkle the chopped parsley over the paper, unwrap the pate and roll it in the parsley so that the surface is evenly coated. Wrap it up again and refrigerate until needed. 
Make the cucumber salad
To serve, arrange a circle of cucumber slices on individual white plates and put one or more slices of pate (depending on the size of the roll) in the centre o of each. Garnish with flat parsley, fennel or chervil and fennel or chive flowers if available. Serve with crusty white bread or hot toast.

Cucumber and Dill Salad

1 medium cucumber

Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
1-2 dessertspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped fennel (herb) or 2 teaspoon fresh dill

Finely slice the cucumber (leave peel on if you like it). Sprinkle with wine vinegar and season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a good pinch of sugar. Stir in the snipped fennel and taste.

Carpaccio with Rocket and Parmesan

Carpaccio is the ultimate recipe to make a little beef go a very long way. This sophisticated dish was invented in Harry’s Bar in Venice and named for Carpaccio, the great 15th century Venetian painter. There are many variations and this one is inspired by a version served at the Cipriani Hotel.
Serves 12

1 lb (450g) fillet of beef, preferably Aberdeen Angus (fresh not frozen)
Fresh rocket or arugula leaves - about 5 per person depending on the size
6-7 very thin slivers Parmesan cheese per person (Parmigiano Reggiano is best) 
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil or Mustard Sauce (see below)

Mustard sauce

2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
3 pint (150ml) light olive oil or sunflower oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh horseradish
1 generous teaspoon chopped parsley
1 generous teaspoon chopped tarragon

If you are using Mustard Sauce, make it first. Put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the mustard, sugar and wine vinegar and mix well. Whisk in the oil gradually as though you were making Mayonnaise. Finally, add the grated horseradish, chopped parsley and tarragon. Taste and season if necessary.
Chill the meat. Slice the beef fillet with a very sharp knife as thinly as possible. Place each slice on a piece of oiled cling film, cover with another piece of oiled cling film. Roll gently with a rolling pin until almost transparent and double in size. Peel the cling film off the top, invert the meat on to a chilled plate, and gently peel away the other layer of clingfilm. 
Arrange the rocket leaves on top of the beef and scatter with very thin slivers of Parmesan over the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with the Mustard Sauce or with very best extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

Note: Rocket and Parmesan Salad served without the carpaccio but drizzled with extra virgin olive oil is a very fashionable starter and very addictive it is too.

Nora Aherne’s Roast Stuffed Duck with Bramley Apple Sauce 

Serves 4

1 free range Duck 4 lbs (1.8kg) approx.

Sage and Onion Stuffing 
1½ ozs (45g) butter
3 ozs (85g) onion, finely chopped
1 tablesp. sage, freshly chopped
3½ ozs (100g) soft white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Neck and giblets from duck
Bouquet garni
1 onion
1 carrot, sliced
2-3 peppercorns

Bramley Apple Sauce 
1 lb (450g) cooking apples, (Bramley Seedling)
1-2 dessertsp. water
2 ozs (55g) sugar approx. depending on tartness of the apples

To make the stock, put the neck, gizzard, heart and any other trimmings into a saucepan with 1 medium carrot cut in slices and the onion cut in quarters. Add a bouquet garni of parsley stalks, small stalk of celery and a sprig of thyme. Cover with cold water and add 2 or 3 peppercorns but no salt.
Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 2-3 hours. This will make a delicious stock which will be the basis of the gravy. Meanwhile, singe the duck and make the stuffing.
To make the stuffing, sweat the onion on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes until soft but not coloured, add the breadcrumbs and sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Unless you plan to cook the duck immediately allow the stuffing to get cold.
When the stuffing is quite cold, season the cavity of the duck and spoon in the stuffing. Truss the duck loosely.
Roast in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 1½ hours approx. When the duck is cooked remove to a serving dish, allow to rest while you make the gravy. Degrease the cooking juices (keep the duck fat for roast or sauté potatoes). Add stock to the juices in the roasting pan, bring to the boil, taste and season if necessary. Strain gravy into a sauceboat and serve with the duck.

Bramley Apple Sauce

Peel, quarter and core the apples, cut pieces in two and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan, with the sugar and water, cover and put over a low heat, as soon as the apple has broken down, stir and taste for sweetness. Serve warm with the duck and gravy.

Carageen Moss Pudding

Carageen Moss is a seaweed which can be gathered off the south and west coasts of Ireland. It is rich in iodine and trace elements and is full of natural gelatine. Carageen means 'little rock' in Irish.
Serves 4-6

¼ oz (8g) cleaned, well dried Carrageen Moss (1 semi-closed fistful)
1½ pints (900ml)
1 tablesp. castor sugar
1 egg, preferably free range
½ teasp. pure vanilla essence or a vanilla pod

Soak the carageen in tepid water for 10 minutes. Strain off the water and put the carageen into a saucepan with milk and vanilla pod if used. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently with the lid on for 20 minutes. At that point and not before separate the egg, put the yolk into a bowl, add the sugar and vanilla essence and whisk together for a few seconds, then pour the milk and carageen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture whisking all the time. The carageen will now be swollen and exuding jelly. Rub all this jelly through the strainer and whisk this also into the milk with the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla essence if used. Test for a set in a saucer as one would with gelatine. Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold or fluff it in gently. It will rise to make a fluffy top. Serve chilled with soft brown sugar and cream and or with a fruit compote eg. poached rhubarb.

Rhubarb Compote
Serves 4

1 lb (450g) red rhubarb, eg. Timperley early
16 fl. ozs (scant 450ml) stock syrup

Cut the rhubarb into 1 inch (2.5cm) pieces. Put the cold syrup into a stainless steel saucepan, add the rhubarb, cover, bring to the boil and simmer for just 2 minutes (no longer or it will dissolve into a mush). Turn off the heat and leave the rhubarb in the saucepan until cool.

Stock Syrup
Stock syrup is the basis of homemade lemonade, fruit salad and all our compotes. We sometimes flavour it with sweet geranium elderflower, mint or verbena leaves.

1 lb (450g) sugar
1 pint (600ml) water

Dissolve the sugar in the water* and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then allow to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.
*Add flavourings at this point if using.

Rhubarb and Banana Compôte

Slice 1 or 2 bananas into the cold compôte.
Foolproof Food

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

Makes 8 x 450g (1 lb) jars
This delicious jam should be made when rhubarb is in full season and not yet thick and tough.

1.8kg (4 lb) trimmed rhubarb 
1.8kg (4 lb) granulated sugar
grated rind and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
30-50g (1-2oz) bruised fresh ginger
50g (2oz) chopped preserved stem ginger in syrup (optional)

Wipe the rhubarb and cut into 2.5cm (1inch) pieces. Put it in a large bowl layered with the sugar, add the lemon rind and juice. Leave to stand overnight. Next day put into a wide stainless steel saucepan, add the bruised ginger tied in a muslin bag, stirring all the time over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved, then boil rapidly until the jam sets about 10 minutes. Remove the bag of ginger and then pour the jam into hot clean jars, cover and store in a dry airy cupboard. 
If you wish 50g (2oz) chopped preserved stem ginger may be added or stirred in at the end of cooking time.

Hot Tips

Slow Food Ireland has been active throughout its 4 years, for details of how to become a member and join a convivium, check out – 

For details of the University of Gastronomic Science and courses in its two locations, Pollenzo and Colorno, visit  

A date for your diary The Salone del Gusto in Turin from 21-24 October 2004. 

This month The Ecologist Magazine is entirely dedicated to Slow Food – entitled ‘Slow Food – a movement to save the world’

Now is seed planting time – for a wide variety of traditional varieties of vegetable seeds and details of their gardening workshops, contact Irish Seed Saver Association, Capparoe, Scarriff, Co Clare, tel 061-921866

We all love chocolate

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere – Easter wouldn’t be quite the same without chocolate eggs and bunnies, hyper children and guilt ridden parents. Only the sweet-toothed Danes munch their way through more chocolate than the Irish who spent a cool €20 million on chocolate eggs last Easter, and manufacturers are optimistic that the figure will rise by 10% this year.
What is it about chocolate that makes us feel so guilty about every nibble.
Chocolate is perceived to be fattening. Cheap poor quality chocolate unquestionably is – sweet, cloying, packed with hydrogenated vegetable fats, nut oils and a host of artificial flavourings – all the disadvantages and none of the advantages in one chunky bar. This kind of product often contains as little as 5% cocoa and not a scrap of cocoa butter in sight.
What’s so special about cocoa butter? Cocoa butter occurs naturally in cocoa beans and has many desirable qualities, you can feel the difference as it melts in your mouth, but more importantly, some hydrogenated fats have been linked with serious health problems, whereas cocoa butter can actually lower blood cholesterol levels.
However, there’s absolutely no need for doom and gloom. The fact is, real chocolate is one of the most easily digested and nutritious foods. It contains a multitude of vitamins – Vitamins A, B, C, D & E, minerals – Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Chromium and Phosphorus, as well as complex alkaloids, all of which contribute to our well-being.
Good quality real chocolate is low in sugar and has a low glycaemic index – in other words one feels satisfied for longer.
Research has also clearly shown that there is a naturally occurring anti-depressant in chocolate – called Phenylethylamine (PEA) which increases the serotonin levels in the brain. Low levels of PEA are found in people who are depressed, chocolate affects the hormones in the brain in a similar way to morphine and so can help to relieve pain, even the smell has a calming effect on the brain.
Some homeopathic doctors use chocolate to temper feelings of hostility – especially when mothers feel frustration and anger toward their children. Real chocolate apparently has the effect of restoring the nurturing instinct and promotes a general feeling of wellbeing.
Another surprising piece of research found that cocoa possesses anti-bacterial properties which help to prevent tooth decay! Dentists agree that pure chocolate is significantly less harmful to the teeth than lollipops and boiled sweets.
So where can we find really good quality pure chocolate – what should we look out for?
Start by reading the label – look out for a high cocoa content 50-70% cocoa solids is good. Pure vanilla rather than vanillin (an artificial flavouring derived from pine trees), is also an indication of higher quality, but the variety of the cocoa bean is also crucial, Forastero is the bulk cocoa bean which is not considered to be particularly fine, Criollo is the original, best, and almost endangered cocoa bean. However, we’re now becoming a bit technical for those of us who just want gorgeous chocolate without hassle. Green & Black’s produce superb organic Fair Trade chocolate and chocolate ice-cream to die for. Also seek out Valrhona, L’Esme Callebaut, Menier, Lindt, Suchard, Leonidas, Lily O’Briens. Really good chocolate is now widely available so one can have a little of what we fancy without any of the guilt pangs.

Chocolate Ganache Sponge

Serves 8-9

3 free range eggs
8ozs/225g/1 cup castor sugar
3flozs/75ml water
4ozs/110g/ ½ cup white flour
1oz/25g cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder

2 x 8 inch sandwich tins.
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas 5
Line the base of each of the tins with a round of greaseproof paper, then grease with melted butter and flour. Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks and castor sugar for 2 minutes. Blend in water. Whisk until the mousse will hold a figure of 8, 10 minutes approx. Fold in sifted flour, cocoa and baking powder. Wisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Fold them in very gently. Divide the mixture between the greased sandwich tins. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes approx.
Cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make the ganache.

Chocolate ganache

½ lb/225g dark chocolate
½ pint/300ml/ 1 ¼ cups cream

Put the cream in a heavy bottomed, preferably stainless steel saucepan and bring it almost to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. With a wooden spoon, stir the chocolate into the cream until it is completely melted. Transfer the chocolate cream to the bowl of a food mixer and allow it to cool to room temperature. Whisk until it is just stiff together with whipped cream or ganache. Spread ganache all over the top and sides of the cake. Pipe 8 or 9 rosettes on top of the cake and decorate with curls of chocolate.

Alan’s Chocolate Cake

This so-easy cake given to me by my nephew Alan has proven so popular we make it again and again here at the school.
Maybe the teenagers in the house would like to try it for Easter, decorated with fluffy yellow chicks and little speckled chocolate eggs.

6 oz (175g) flour
6 oz (175g) castor sugar
6 oz (175g) butter
3 eggs
1 ½ level teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ ozs (35g) cocoa
2 ½ tablespoons natural yoghurt

2 x 7 inch (18cm) sandwich tins, greased and floured.

Mix all ingredients together in Magimix till just blended together. Divide between the two tins.
Bake at 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4 for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Icing and Filling

2 bars Bourneville chocolate
1 bar Dairy milk chocolate
2 small or 1 large egg

Melt chocolate in a bowl over hot water and whisk in eggs. Fill and ice cake with this mixture. Decorate as desired.
Eat and tuck in.

Ballymaloe Chocolate Almond Gateau

Serves 8-10

One of several incredibly rich chocolate cakes, use the best chocolate you can buy, Valrhona, Menier, Suchard or Callebaut. This cake keeps incredibly well if you can resist. Enjoy a small slice with a cup of expresso.

4 ozs (110g) best quality dark chocolate
2 tablespoons Red Jamaica Rum
4 ozs (110g) butter, preferably unsalted
4 ozs (110g) castor sugar
3 free-range eggs
1 tablespoon castor sugar
2 ozs (55g) plain white flour
2 ozs (55g) whole almonds or best quality ground almonds

toasted flaked almonds and crystallized violets

Chocolate Icing
4 ozs (110g) best quality dark chocolate
2 tablespoons Red Jamaica Rum
4 ozs (110g) unsalted butter

2 x 18cm (7inch) sandwich tins

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4. Grease the tins and line the base of each with greaseproof paper. Melt the chocolate with the rum on a very gentle heat.
Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and add the almonds. Bring back to the boil for 2-3 minutes. Test one to see if the skin is loose. Drain and peel and discard the skins. Grind in a food processor, they should still be slightly gritty.
Cream the butter, and then add the castor sugar, beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites with a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt until stiff. Add 1 tablespoon of castor sugar and continue to whisk until they reach the stiff peak stage. Add the melted chocolate to the butter and sugar mixture and then add the almonds. Stir in ¼ of the egg white mixture followed by ¼ of the sieved flour. Fold in the remaining eggs and flour alternatively until they have all been added.
Divide between the two prepared tins and make a hollow in the centre of each cake.

IMPORTANT: Cake should be slightly underdone in the centre. Sides should be cooked but the centre a little unset. Depending on oven it can take between 19 and 23 minutes. (We usually cook for 19 minutes).

Chocolate Butter Icing
Melt 4 ozs best quality chocolate with two tablespoons rum. Beat in 4 ozs unsalted butter by the tablespoon. Beat occasionally until cool. If the icing liquifies, put into the fridge to firm up, whisk until stiff.
When the cake is completely cold, fill and ice with the mixture. Pipe the remaining icing around the top and decorate with toasted flaked almonds and crystallized violets.

Easter Chocolate Mousse Cake

This cake is more of a challenge and time consuming to make, but the end result which is luscious and delicious is well worth the effort.
Serves 6 - 8

For the genoise
3½ ozs (100g) flour, 1 oz (30g) cocoa powder
½ level teasp. baking powder, pinch of salt
2 ozs (55g) unsalted butter
4 eggs, preferably free range
5 ozs (140g) sugar
½ teasp. pure vanilla essence

For the chocolate mousse:
10 ozs (285g) dark dessert chocolate, chopped
6 eggs, separated
6 ozs (170g) unsalted butter
1 teasp. pure vanilla extract or 2 tablesp. Grand Marnier liqueur

8 ozs (225g) dark dessert chocolate (for chocolate curls and decoration)
Chantilly cream made with ¾ pint (450ml) double cream, 2 tablesp. sugar and 1 teasp. vanilla essence
A little icing sugar and cocoa powder for dredging.
For decoration: Easter chicks and mini Easter eggs
9-10 inch (23-25cm) diameter round cake tin or genoise tin, 1¾ inch (4.5cm) deep.

Set the oven at moderate 180C/350F/regulo 4 and prepare the cake tin. Brush the inside of the tin with melted butter. Line the base with a circle of greaseproof paper that exactly fits and butter it also. Leave it for a few minutes and then sprinkle the tin with flour, discarding the excess.
Sieve the flour with the cocoa, baking powder and salt. Clarify the butter. Put the eggs in a large bowl, gradually whisk in the sugar. Put the bowl over a pan of hot but not boiling water, whisk for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture is light and thick enough to make a distinct figure of 8 when the whisk is lifted. Take the bowl from the heat, add the vanilla essence and continue beating until cool. If you use a big electric mixer to beat genoise, the mixture needn't be whisked over hot water, this step cannot be eliminated however when using a small or hand-held mixer.
Sieve the flour over the mixture in three batches, folding in each batch as lightly as possible with a wooden spatula or metal spoon. Just after the last batch, pour the cool butter around the side of the bowl and fold in gently and quickly because the whisked mixture quickly loses volume after the butter is added. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until the mixture springs back when lightly pressed with a fingertip. Cool on a wire rack. The cake can be baked ahead and kept in an airtight container for 2-3 days or it can be frozen.
For the chocolate mousse:
Melt the chocolate in a pan over hot water or in a very cool oven and stir until smooth. Beat the egg yolks one by one into the hot mixture so it thickens slightly. Beat in the butter and vanilla essence or liqueur. Allow to cool slightly. Whip the egg whites until stiff, add the tepid chocolate mixture to them and fold the two together as lightly as possible, the warm mixture will lightly cook and stiffen the whites. Leave to cool at room temperature, not in the fridge, otherwise the mousse will harden and become difficult to spread.
Chocolate decorations:
Melt the 8ozs (225g) of chocolate in a pan over hot water and stir until smooth. Pour the chocolate onto a very cold surface or marble slab. Spread into a very thin sheet with a palette knife. Allow to cool until almost set. Shave off curls with a knife (chocolate caraque). Store the curls in the fridge until needed.
To assemble the Easter cake
Split the genoise in 3 layers. Spread the chocolate mousse on the bottom layer. Place the second layer of genoise on top and spread it with the Chantilly cream. Top with the third layer and spread the remaining mousse on the top and sides of the cake. Decorate the sides with some of the chocolate curls, arrange the remainder of the curls around the edge of the cake as though it were a nest. Dredge with a little icing sugar and cocoa powder. Fill the centre with mini eggs and decorate with Easter chicks.

Foolproof Food


A great American favourite - the relatively large amount of sugar gives brownies their delicious and characteristic crust.

32 ozs (100g) butter
7 ozs (200g) castor sugar
2 eggs
2 teasp. vanilla essence
2 ozs (55g) best quality dark chocolate
3 ozs (85g ) white flour
2 teasp. baking powder
3 teasp. salt
4 ozs (110g) chopped walnuts

1 x 8 inch (20.5cm) tin lined with silicone paper

Melt the chocolate in a bowl in a low oven.
Cream the butter and sugar and beat in the lightly whisked eggs, the vanilla essence and melted chocolate. Lastly stir in the flour, baking powder and chopped nuts. Spread the mixture in the square tin and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, for approx. 30-35 minutes.

Cut into 2 inch (5cm) squares for serving. 

Hot Tips

Valrhona is considered by chefs and hedonists to be the aristocrat of chocolate. For your nearest supplier contact Freda Wolfe on 086-3871285 or Chris on 01-4691400 or check out the Valrhona website at 

Green & Black’s Chocolate – available in good food shops and Fair Trade outlets nationwide.

Eve – Cork’s prize winning chocolatier at Flair Confectionery – 8 College Commercial Park, Magazine Road, Cork. Tel 021 4347781

O’Conaill Chocolatiers, The Rock, Church Rd, Carrigaline, Co Cork
Tel 021-4373407
Handmade chocolates and specialities, including diabetic chocolate and couverture chocolate for retail and wholesale catering market.

Lily O’Briens and other Irish made favourites include Butlers, Celtic, , Lir, Skellig …..

Leonidas Chocolates – available nationally –

I adore rice

I adore rice for a myriad of reasons, apart from being a basic store cupboard staple this little grain comes in a wide number of varieties, shapes, flavours and textures which lend themselves to an endless selection of both sweet and savoury uses.
The creamy rice pudding of my childhood with its bubbly golden skin was my first introduction to rice, it is still a favourite but was only the beginning.
I can’t quite remember when I first tasted rice served as an accompaniment to a savoury dish, certainly I was in my teens, it may well have been when I ventured to Dublin. Our meals at home would always have included the much-loved potato.
Rice is grown not just in Asia but also in the US, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador, Guyana, Surinam, Spain, Italy, Iran, Madagascar, Egypt, several of the African countries and Australia.
There are thousands of varieties but as with many other plants the number in commercial cultivation is quite small, however, farmers in many countries still continue to grow sometimes illegally, local low yielding varieties for their flavour and texture. Seed banks around the world are also doing their utmost to save endangered varieties for posterity. They may well be needed in the future, if the main crops become diseased. Monoculture is always a risky business as was clearly demonstrated by the Irish potato famine.
Rice grows in flooded fields called paddies, I particularly remember an image of rice workers with their conical hats working in the rice paddies on the way in from the airport in Vietnam some years ago. Water buffalo wallowed in a pond, ducks swam and fed, children chased frogs and collected tadpoles.
Why all the water, well our interpreter explained that it acted as a kind of thermal blanket which insulated the crop against excessive heat or cold, others said it was mainly to drown the weeds. The fields are never flooded for more than a few weeks at a time, otherwise the water would become stagnant. Fish and shellfish and other creatures also live and pass through the paddies and provide a farmer’s family with some extra protein.
When the rice is ready to harvest, the crop is cut and threshed, dried and milled.
The old-fashioned, non-mechanical way to thresh rice and indeed most other grains is to raise a handful aloft and bring it down forcefully on a hard surface. In Vietnam and many other countries in Asia the women then shake the rice through in a slatted bamboo sieve. The straw is trapped in the sieve or simply blows away, it is used for animal feed. Rice is an integral part of the culture in all these countries, part of the folklore, literature and architecture. The are beautiful rice barns, often intricately carved and decorated, where the rice spirit lives, and many customs and superstitions are attached to rice.
On a more practical level it is important to know the different types of rice by physical appearance and to understand which is best for different dishes.
Rice can be, long, medium or short grain, patna, rose pearl, red or black.
Broadly speaking long and medium grain rices are used in or eaten with savoury and main course dishes.
Short grain rice eg. Carolina, in Western countries, in rice puddings. However, Japanese short grain rice which is sticky in texture, is essential for sushi.
Some European rices are short grain and are used in savoury dishes, eg Calasparra which is used for paella.
Arboria, Carnaroli or Vilano nano are the varieties to seek out for risotto.
Red rice is in fact a brownish colour, considered by many to be inferior in quality, but in the Camargue in France a red variety is a regional speciality and is now becoming much sought after by chefs and gourmets. Red rice needs extra cooking time. Black rice which is actually a deep blackberry purple is also highly regarded.
Brown rice still includes the bran layer and is therefore more nutritious than white rice. It has a wonderfully nutty flavour but takes considerably longer to cook.
Don’t waste your money on par-cooked or boil in the bag rice, its so easy to cook rice, just use lots of water and a little salt.
Risotto with Smoked Salmon & Peas
Serves 6
The rice dishes of the Veneto region are famous. Rice was introduced there by the Arabs and many varieties of short-grain rice still grow in the marsh lands around the river Po.
In Venice, risotto is made almost liquid, its great quality is its immense versatility. The Veneto is richer in vegetables than any other area in Italy so all sorts of vegetables and combinations of vegetables are included in the dish as well as herbs, poultry, game, chicken livers or shellfish. There is even a risotto made with squid ink and another with pine kernels and raisins which is actually a legacy of the Arabs.

1-1.3L (1¾ - 2¼ pint) broth or or light chicken stock
30g (1oz) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
400g (14oz) arboria rice, Carnaroli or Vilano nano
30g (1oz) butter
sea salt
175g (6oz) frozen peas, blanched and refreshed
150g (5oz) smoked Irish salmon cut into 3 inch (5mm) dice
fresh mint leaves

First bring the broth or stock to the boil, turn down the heat and keep it simmering. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the rice and stir until well coated (so far the technique is the same as for a pilaff and this is where people become confused). Cook for a minute or so and then add 150ml (¼pint) of the simmering broth, stir continuously and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 150ml (¼pint) broth. Continue to cook, stirring continuously. The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if its too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside. If its too slow, the rice will be gluey. Its difficult to know which is worse so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously. The risotto should take about 25-30 minutes to cook.
When it is cooking for about 20 minutes, add the broth about 4 tablespoons at a time. I use a small ladle. Watch it very carefully from there on. The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly 'al dente'. It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick. The moment you are happy with the texture, add the peas and smoked salmon, taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve immediately.
Risotto does not benefit from hanging around.

Rice and Lentils with Crispy Onions

Serves 6
Le Mignon in Camden town make a dish which they call Mudarara -a version of this recipe - delicious comfort food, serve it alone or as part of a mezze.

680g (12lb) onions (about 4 onions)
100ml (4fl oz) olive oil
1L (1.75pints) water
250g (9oz) brown lentils
250g (9oz) basmati rice
salt and freshly ground pepper

Peel and slice the onions. Heat the oil in a saute pan, add the onions, toss and cook until golden.
Bring the water to the boil, add the lentils and cook for 20 minutes, add half the fried onions and the rice. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir well. Cover and cook on a very low heat for about 20 minutes or until both rice and lentils are cooked. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary.
Meanwhile continue to cook the remaining onions in the saute pan until crisp and caramelized. Serve the rice and lentils at room temperature sprinkled with the crispy onions.

Monkfish, saffron and artichoke paella

Sam Clark from Moro Restaurant in London showed us how to make this paella when he was our guest chef a few years ago.
Serves 6 as a starter, 4 as a main course

30-40cm paella pan or frying pan
7 tablespoons olive oil
400g (14oz) monkfish fillets cut into 2-3cm bite-sized pieces
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 green peppers, cut in half, seeded and finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
800ml (1 ¼ pints) fish stock
1 teaspoon saffron threads, about 100 threads
250g (9oz) Calasparra rice
70ml (3floz) white wine or fino sherry
2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
225g (8oz) piquillo peppers torn in strips
1 lemon, in wedges
sea salt and black pepper

Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in the paella or frying pan over a medium to high heat. Carefully add the monkfish to the pan and stir-fry until still fractionally undercooked in the centre. Pour the monkfish and any of its juices into a bowl to one side. Wipe the pan clean with kitchen paper, and put back on the heat. Add the remaining olive oil and when it is hot, the onions and peppers and cook for 15-20 minutes stirring every so often. Turn down the heat to a medium temperature and add the chopped garlic and fennel seeds and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the garlic and the onions have some colour and are sweet. Meanwhile bring the stock to the boil and add the saffron to the stock to infuse for 10 minutes. Now add the rice to the pan and stir to coat with the vegetables and oil. (Up to this point all this can be done in advance, and you need only continue 20-25 minutes before you wish to eat.) Put the heat to a medium to high temperature and add the white wine or fino to the pan followed by the stock. At this point, add half the parsley, the paprika and season perfectly with salt and pepper. Do not stir the rice after this point as it affects the channels of stock, which allow the rice to cook evenly. Simmer for 10 minutes or until there is just a little liquid above the rice. Spread the monkfish out evenly over the rice along with its juices. Push each piece of monkfish under the stock. Gently shake the pan to prevent sticking and turn the heat down to a medium to low temperature. Cook for five more minutes or until there is just a little liquid left at the bottom of the rice. Turn off the heat and cover the pan tightly with foil. Let the rice sit for 5 minutes before serving. Decorate with strips of piquillo peppers, the rest of the chopped parsley and wedges of lemon. We would serve this paella with a salad.

Kunie’s Sushi Plate

For starter - Serves 4

Sushi Rice
1 pint Japanese rice (short size – called No 1 Extra Fancy)
600ml (1 pint) water

Vinegar water
100 ml (3½ fl.oz) rice vinegar
2 –3 tablespoons sugar (if you don’t like sweet taste, reduce sugar)
½ teaspoon salt

sheets of nori seaweed

7-8 slices tuna or smoked salmon (half) cut into 5mm strip (half) divide into two 2cm x 4 cm
2-3 avocado slice 3mm rectangular 2cm x 4cm
½ cucumber seeded and cut into 5mm strip
25g (1oz) Cheddar cheese cut into 5mm strip
3-4 basil leaves

Fennel leaves

Sauce and accompaniment
Wasabi paste
Soy-sauce or 4 parts soy sauce to 1 part mirin
Pickled ginger
Bamboo mat for rolling
Wash the rice well until the water runs clear. Soak in water for at least 1 hour before you cook. Bring to the boil on a high heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan, then reduce to minimum heat. Cook in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes. Before turning off the heat, turn to a high heat again for just 10 seconds. Remove from the heat and leave it for 10 minutes. Do not open the lid at any stage.
Meanwhile mix the vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl until it is dissolved. Turn the rice out onto a big flat plate (preferably wooden). While it is still hot and pour the mixed liquid through the wooden spoon.
Mix them together as if you slice the rice with the wooden spoon. Don’t stir. You must do it quickly preferably fanning the rice with the fan. Allow to cool on the plate and cover with kitchen paper or a tea towel. (It will soak up the liquid)
Place nori on the bamboo mat and put the rice on it. Make a shallow indentation and put in the filling. Roll the mat. You can put whatever you like as the filling for example, smoked salmon and basil, cucumber, cheese….
.Nigiri sushi
Make a little long ball with rice. Put a slice of salmon or avocado on top. Garnish with fennel leaves or tie with a strip of nori.
Temari Sushi
Take a piece of cling film, place a leaf of coriander or chervil in the centre, then a square piece of smoked salmon and a little rice. Gather up the edges and twist into a ball. Remove from cling film onto a plate.
To Serve
Cut the Norimaki into 6-8 pieces. Arrange 6 pieces of sushi in total on a plate. Put a little blob of Wasabi mustard about the size of a small pea on the plate, a little dish of Kikkoman Soy sauce and a few slivers of picked ginger.
To enjoy: put a tiny dot of wasabi on a piece of sushi, dip in soy sauce and eat with chop sticks.
Foolproof Food
Plain Boiled Rice
I find this way of cooking rice in what we call ‘unlimited water’ to be very satisfactory for plain boiled rice, even, dare I say, foolproof. The grains stay separate and it will keep happily covered in the oven for up to half an hour.

Serves 8

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

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

Hot Tips

Rice in all its forms – rice flour, rice puffs, rice noodles etc. is suitable for coeliacs. Nature’s Way in Paul St in Cork make a range of breads from the ancient variety of Spelt wheat which can be enjoyed by those with wheat allergies. The coeliac bread is light and delicious. 

How much rice do I need to cook – 1 cup of rice is adequate for 2 people.
Leftover rice should be kept refrigerated and eaten within 2 days. This is to prevent infection from Bacillus Cereus, an organism that dies below 4º/39ºF and above 60ºC/140ºF. In between these temperatures it multiplies rapidly and can result in a nasty tummy upset.

Growing Awareness is pleased to announce the first in a series of tree and food workshops on Sunday 4th April - The workshop on Apple Grafting will take place at Gortnamucklagh, Skibbereen from 11.00 to 4.30 and will cost €25 including lunch. For information and booking contact Paul McCormick, Tel 028-23742 –
This project is supported by the Heritage Council.

Take a bite of the North West on Monday 5th April – At the launch of 315º Foods, the North West network of quality food producers, at the Slieve Russell Hotel, Ballyconnell, Co Cavan. Open to the public at 3pm. Top chef Neven Maguire will be demonstrating simple and delicious recipes throughout the day and food expert John McKenna will answer questions.


Past Letters