Seaweed – Our own free, healthy, versatile and plentiful food

The Japanese who visit Ireland are frequently baffled that we eat so little seaweed. When they walk along the seashore they recognise many of the sea weed and sea vegetables that they seek out and relish in Japan, yet they rarely if ever come across seaweed in any form on mainstream Irish menus.

Granted – an occasional restaurant like the Ivory Tower or the Quay Coop in Cork offers sushi and seaweed salads. Traditional Carrigeen Moss pudding is regularly featured on the Ballymaloe House sweet trolley, but considering the abundance of sea we have access to, its extraordinary that we don’t make better use of this brilliantly healthy food.

I’m as guilty as the rest of overlooking this very important food group, but after an enlightening evening on ‘Seaweed – Our own free, healthy, versatile and plentiful food’ at the Cork Free Choice Consumer Group Meeting in May, I was fired by enthusiasm. The speakers were Olivier Beaujouan, Clair McSweeney and Jill Bell. Olivier comes from France and now lives in Castlegregory, Co Kerry. He became passionate about sea vegetables in Ireland. He spoke eloquently and passionately in his soft French accent about the benefits of sea weed, both from the culinary and medicinal point of view.

He has made a business from seaweed and now sells a range of Irish seaweed based products including his addictive Tapenade of Sea Vegetables, Pickled Kombu, Sea Spaghetti, fish and organic pork products like Lemon and Trout, Seaweed Salmon, Smoked Mckerel, Laver Pork …. at Farmers’ Markets and specialist shops around the country.

Clair McSweeney originally came from Limerick. She has travelled widely and was thrilled to find sushi in San Francisco. Memories of eating dilisk in Kilkee during her childhood flooded back. She linked up with the indomitable Seamus O’Connell at the Yumi Yuki Club on her return to Cork. She made a delicious array of haddock dengaku sushi, agar and sake jelly with a lychee heart and a seaweed salad laced with cucumber, daikon and ginger, which I couldn’t get enough of.

Just this week I spent a few days at a Soil Association meeting at Penrhos in Wales where 

Daphne Lambert cooked truly delicious vegetarian food from her organic garden and from local farms. She explained that the benefits of eating sea vegetables are enormous. 

Jill Bell, owner of Well & Good in Midleton and Chairperson of the Irish Association of the Health Stores, also stressed that the benefits of seaweed for both animals and humans were well recognised. Evidence shows that it was valued by our ancestors - recognised in China since 3000BC. St Columbus’s Monks, the Romans, all valued sea vegetables. In bygone years it was valued as a fertiliser, many a pitched battle was fought over seaweed on the strands around the coast – the Aran Islanders built soil with sand and seaweed and I remember as a child, my Uncle Frank making carrageen for his precious greyhounds because he strongly believed in its value to give them strength and speed.

Types of Seaweed

In Japan there are 20 types of seaweed, but the main types available to us are 

Carrageen – meaning little rock in Gaelic – this frond like seaweed is collected off the rocks after the lowest tides of the year, spread out to dry on the bouncy grass on the cliffs, washed by the rain, bleached by the sun. After 2-3 weeks its ready to use or store. We love carrageen and eat it regularly – in fact all my babies were weaned onto carrageen moss. It is high in Vitamin A and iodine and also contains Vitamin B and many minerals. 

Nori – the seaweed used to wrap sushi - 9 million of these thin crisp sheets are eaten every year. The Welsh call it laver and apparently the name Liverpool is derived from Laverpool. Now widely available in supermarkets and speciality shops.

Kelp – There are over 800 species of kelp, in fact it is the world’s largest plant family, best known as kombu, one of the two ingredients of dashi, the traditional Japanese stock, (Bonita flakes is the other). Clair McSweeney suggested adding a piece into the pot when you are boiling potatoes, instead of salt. A piece of kombu can also be added to beans to tenderise them and speed up the cooking.

Wakame – is sold in dry strips, its softer and more delicate than kombu. The taste and texture of the different varieties varies considerably, some are mild, others quite strong, so experiment. Soak the dried wakame for 15 minutes. Drain, squeeze out the excess moisture in salads, soups, champ, pasta ….

Dulse or Dilisk – is widely available around the Irish coast. Use it in salads, mashed potato, rice or polenta, or simply nibble, it’s a brilliant source of natural iron.

Hijiki – is not native to our waters, it is a black, richly flavoured seaweed imported from Japan. It is sold in packets, dried and already shredded. Soak for about 10 minutes, during which time it will swell dramatically. Delicious in salads or used in a similar way to other seaweeds.

Cabbage, Carrot and Hijiki Salad

Serves 4-6
6 ozs (175g) thinly sliced white cabbage
6 ozs (175g) carrot, grated
2ozs (50g) Hijiki
2 tablesp. mint and parsley sprigs
1 tablesp. toasted sesame seeds

2 tablesp. sesame oil
4 tablesp. Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablesp. Tamari (soy sauce)
1 tblesp. freshly squeezed orange juice
1-2 heaped teasp. honey
½ - 1 teasp. freshly grated ginger
salt and freshly ground pepper

Soak the seaweed in a large bowl of warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and cover with fresh warm water and continue to soak for 30 minutes more. Drain very well. It will have increased in volume by 3-5 times. 
Next whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing.
Combine the cabbage, carrot and seaweed in a salad bowl, add the dressing, toss well, taste, correct seasoning.
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Clair McSweeney’s Wakame Seaweed Salad

I tasted this delicious salad at a recent meeting of the Cork Free Choice Consumer’s Group and asked Clair McSweeney to share her recipe with us.
Serves 8

½ pickled daikon (Japanese radish) (available from Mr. Bells in Cork)
1 bag of Wakame Seaweed (Mr Bells, Quay Coop, Natural Foods & other health food shops)
1 large cucumber
1 handful pickled ginger

6 tablesp. rice wine vinegar
3 tablesp. Shoyu soy Sauce
2 tablesp. sugar

Pour lots of cold water over the seaweed and leave re-hydrate for about 15 minutes.
Peel the cucumber in strips along the length, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and slice thinly.
Put about 8 fl.ozs (250ml) of water into a bowl, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the sliced cucumber. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes.
Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a saucepan, warm gently until the sugar has dissolved. 
Drain the cucumber and press out any excess water.
Drain the seaweed well and rinse with cold water. Drain very well again.
Mix all the ingredients together with the pickled ginger and diced daikon.
Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving, so it becomes cool and crisp.

Great with fried fish or tempura.

Sushi Rice

2lb (900g) sushi rice " No 1 Extra Fancy"
2 pints (1.2l) of water
Vinegared Rice
4fl oz (125ml) rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons salt

Drain for 10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.
‘Wake the rice’ up sitting in cold water for 30 to 45 minutes. Then cook in same water for 10 to 15 minutes until water has been absorbed, do not stir, do not even take off the lid. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds before turning the heat off. 

Remove lid, place a tea towel over the rice, replace lid and sit for 20 minutes.
Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together, fold into the rice preferably in a shallow wooden bowl to absorb excess moisture, fanning it, to cool rapidly. 

Kunie’s Sushi Plate

For starter
Serves 4

Occasionally we have one or two Japanese students on the 12 Week course, Kunie Akita taught us how to make this delicious sushi.
Sushi Rice – prepared as in previous recipe 
3 sheets nori seaweed

7-8 slices smoked salmon (half) cut into 5mm strip (half) divide into two 2cm x 4 cm
2 avocado slice 3mm (⅛inch) rectangular ¾-1½inch (2cm x 4cm)
½ cucumber seeded and cut into ¼inch (5mm) strip
25g (1oz) cheddar cheese cut into ¼inch (5mm) strip
3-4 basil leaves

fennel leaves
Sauce and accompaniment
wasabi paste
Kikkoman soy-sauce
pickled ginger

Bamboo sudari mat for rolling
(These mats are available from Japanese or Asian shops, many health food shops and now even some supermarkets. If you can’t find one just use a clean tea towel as though you were making a swiss roll).

Prepare the rice as in the previous recipe for Sushi rice.

Lay a sheet of nori on the bamboo mat and spread a layer or rice over it. Make a shallow indentation and put in the filling. Roll the mat tightly. Press to seal, unroll. 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 fresh or smoked salmon on top. Garnish with fennel leaves or tie with a strip of nori. 

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: Using chop sticks, put a tiny dot of wasabi on a piece of sushi, dip in soy sauce and eat.

Battleship sushi

Gunkan maki
Make this sushi close to the time of eating
Makes 18 pieces

For vinegar water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
250ml (8floz) water

For sushi
3 sheets nori seaweed, each cut into 6 x 1 inch strips
½ quantity prepared sushi rice
wasabi paste
120g (4oz) of flying fish roe (dyed green, red or natural colour),
6 oysters or 60g (2oz) salmon roe

Mix the vinegar and water in a small bowl and set aside. 

Wet your hands in the vinegar water. Shape about a tablespoon of sushi rice into an oblong-shaped ball. Dry your hand and pick up a strip of nori. Wrap it around the rice ball with the smooth side of the nori facing outwards.

Crush a grain of cooked rice at the end of the strip of nori so that it sticks the nori down where it overlaps to form a ring around the rice. 
Dab a little wasabi paste onto the rice and flatten the rice slightly.

Spoon the topping onto the rice, keeping it inside the ring of nori.

Foolproof food

Carrageen Throat Syrup

From The Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen – she says -
“The Carrageen drink is for anyone suffering from an extremely sore throat, tonsillitis or measles. Sips of it provide a velvety healing potion to assuage the pain. Only offer it to severe cases or you will not be thanked for what is in other circumstances an unattractive drink.”

120ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) carrageen
600ml (1 pint/2½ cups) water approx.
2-4 teaspoons honey
½ lemon

Soak carrageen for 10 minutes in cup of water. Remove and put in 300ml/½ pint/1 ¼ cups fresh cold water and bring to boil slowly. Strain and add honey and lemon juice to taste. The drink should be thick and syrupy.

Top Tips 

Look out also for 

Marsh Samphire – it grows in estuaries and marshy areas. You’ll find this little bright green spiky succulent when the tide goes out. Its delicious served with fish, simply boil it briefly in water, toss in a little butter or olive oil – yummy and wildly nutritious.

Rock Samphire – Grows on rocks all round our coasts, like marsh samphire its best eaten young – at present its about to flower so the taste is strong and petroly.

Carrageen Moss – is available in health food shops, it keeps indefinitely, so no house should be without. It makes a brilliant drink to clear chesty colds – see Foolproof food.

Olivier Beaujouan - On the Wild Side, Kilcummin, Castlegregory, Co Kerry. Tel & Fax 066- 7139028.  

The Irish Farmhouse Cheese Recipes book, edited by Jane Russell and supported by Bord Bia, will be officially launched by Bord Bia at the Eurotoques Conference 2004 on Sunday 4th July at the Brooklodge Hotel, MacReddin Village, Co Wicklow. The book contains recipes from Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers and is on sale nationwide €1.

Green Cuisine Food & Health Course at Penrhos Court, Kington, Herefordshire, HR5 3LH Tel 0044 1544 230720 fax 0044 1544 230754  

What you eat can have an enormous effect on your health, Daphne Lambert, nutritionist and chef, shows you which foods to choose and how to prepare them to create diet that keeps you healthy – Courses in October and November.

The humble little silvery dappled Mackerel

Of all the wondrous fish in the sea, it may come as a surprise that if I had to choose one sea fish, it would have to be the humble little mackerel – fresh from the sea – eaten within hours of being caught, it’s a feast.
The humble little silvery dappled mackerel are full of Omega -3 – in fact they have the highest content of all fish. Omega-3 essential fatty acids have been shown to have a lowering effect on blood fats and may also help inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. However, because of the oils mackerel deteriorate faster than any other fish.
The fishermen always say that “the sun should never set on a mackerel” so best to enjoy them when you are actually by the sea.
We poach them whole and serve them with a herby Bretonne Sauce, pan-grilled, they are delicious served with everything from a simple parsley butter melting over the crisp skin to a green gooseberry sauce which acts as a counterbalance to the rich mackerel. They roast beautifully in a hot oven and are particularly irresistible when you pop them on your barbecue. We simply sandwich them between two wire cake racks to make it easy to turn them over.
Very fresh mackerel make delicious sashimi and can of course be used in sushi. We pickle them in various ways, sometimes with mustard seeds, sliced tomatoes and wine vinegar, and maybe a sprinkle of turmeric. I also love old-fashioned soused mackerel with thinly sliced onion, a scattering of black peppercorns and a few bay leaves, tucked in between the ‘rollmops’ for extra pzazz.
They keep for at least a week in the fridge so if you have a glut, fillet them off and cook them gently. 
Serve soused or pickled mackerel with a piped potato salad and a sweet mustard and dill mayo and a beetroot or tomato salad.
When the mackerel are ‘in’ anyone even fair-weather ‘fishermen’ like me can manage to catch a fish. Just buy a line with a few feathers , drop it over the side of the pier or a boat and wait for the fish to bite. Its so exciting to catch your own supper, makes the fish taste even more divine.

Warm Poached Mackerel with Bretonne Sauce

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a starter 

Fresh mackerel gently poached and served warm with this simple sauce is an absolute feast - without question one of my favourite foods. . 

4 fresh mackerel 
1.2 litres (40 fl ozs) water 
1 teaspoon salt 
Bretonne Sauce 
55g (2ozs) butter, melted
2 eggs yolks, preferably free range 
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (We use Maille Verte Aux Herbes)
2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped or a mixture of chervil, chives, tarragon and fennel, chopped 

Cut the heads off very fresh mackerel. Gut and clean them but keep whole. Bring the water to the boil, add the salt and the mackerel. Bring back to boiling point, and remove from the heat. After about 5-8 minutes, check to see whether the fish are cooked. The flesh should lift off the bone. It will be tender and melting. 
Meanwhile make the sauce. Melt the butter and allow to boil. Put the egg yolks into a pyrex bowl, add the mustard, wine vinegar and the herbs, mix well. Whisk the hot melted butter into the egg yolk mixture little by little so that the sauce emulsifies. Keep warm, by placing the pyrex bowl in a saucepan of hot but not boiling water. 
When the mackerel is cool enough to handle, remove to a plate. Skin, lift the flesh carefully from the bones and arrange on a serving dish. Coat with the sauce and serve while still warm with a good green salad and new potatoes.

Soused Mackerel and Sweet Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

Serves 8 as a main course, 16 as a starter 
Keeps for a week to 10 days in the fridge.

8 mackerel
1 thinly sliced onion 
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf 
300ml (10 fl ozs) white wine vinegar

Sweet Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

(see recipe)
Gut, wash and fillet the herrings, making sure there are no bones, a tall order with herring - but do your best. Roll up the fillets skin side out and pack tightly into a cast iron casserole. Sprinkle over thinly sliced onion, peppercorns, cloves, salt, sugar, vinegar and a bay leaf. Bring to the boil on top of the cooker and then pop into a very low oven, 140ºC/275ºF/regulo 1, for 30-45 minutes. 
Allow to get quite cold. Soused mackerel will keep for 7-10 days in the fridge. 
To Serve
Put one or two fillets of soused mackerel on a plate, zig zag with sweet mustard and dill mayonnaise. 
Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range
2 tablesp. French mustard
1 tablesp. white sugar
3 pint (150ml) ground nut or sunflower oil
1 tablesp. white wine vinegar
1 tablesp. dill, finely chopped
Salt and white pepper

Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.

Mackerel with Chermoula

Serves 4
Surprisingly mackerel can be found in Tangiers fish market alongside the more exotic Mediterranean fish. Being a strongly flavoured fish, mackerel takes easily to the spicing of this chermoula, and becomes an altogether more exciting fish.

3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
150ml (¼pint) Extra Virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
4 medium mackerel, cleaned

lemon wedges

Put the crushed garlic into a small bowl with the cumin, paprika, chilli flakes, parsley and coriander. Slowly add the oil, mixing it thoroughly. Stir in the lemon juice. Cut 3 or 4 slanting slashes on both sides of each fish. Spread the chermoula mixture over the fish, rubbing it well into the slashes. Leave to marinade in a cool place for 1 hour.
Cook the fish under a preheated grill, or on a hot barbecue, turning once or twice, until the flesh just flakes when tested with a fork.
Serve with lemon wedges.

Mackerel with Tomatoes and Tapenade

Serves 4
4 fresh mackerel fillets
4 large ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
l teasp.thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Tapenade Dressing
30g (1 oz) Kalamata olives, stones removed
2 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
1 ½ teaspoon capers in brine, drained and rinsed
1 small garlic clove, crushed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Flat parsley sprigs.

Preheat the grill to high. 
Arrange the tomato slices in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking tray. Season lightly with some salt and pepper and sprinkle with the thyme leaves.
Slash the skin of each mackerel fillet two or three times and place, skin side up, on top of the tomatoes.
Meanwhile make the tapenade dressing. Chop the olives, anchovy and capers, add the crushed garlic, it should have a coarsish texture. Add the oil and vinegar and season to taste.
Grill the mackerel until the skin is crisp and the fish is cooked through and the tomatoes are warm. 
Transfer to warm plates and spoon over a little of the tapenade. Serve immediately with little sprigs of flat parsley.

Mackerel Sandwich with Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs

Serves 4
This delicious ‘sandwich’ transforms the humble little mackerel into something quite trendy and utterly delicious.

4 very fresh mackerel
15g (½ oz) butter
4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh herbs - thyme, parsley, chives, fennel and lemon balm
110g (4oz) mushrooms, finely chopped
Seasoned flour
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Fresh herbs 
Chive flowers if available

Fillet the mackerel, wash, dry and dip in flour which has been well seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread a little soft butter evenly over the flesh side of each fillet. Heat a frying pan or cast-iron pangrill large enough to take the fish in a single layer. Sauté until golden on both sides. 
Remove the fish to a hot serving dish or four individual plates. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, add the fresh herbs and season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper if necessary. Divide the mixture in four. Spoon a quarter over four of the fillets and top each with another fillet, crispy side upwards. Garnish with a sprig of fresh herbs and perhaps a few chive flowers. Serve immediately.

Note: This mushroom, garlic and herb mixture is also delicious served with sautéed chicken livers on toast, as a first course.

Foolproof Food

Potato and Spring Onion Salad

The secret of delectable potato salad is simple, use good quality potatoes, peel and toss in French Dressing while still warm. Mayonnaise may be omitted if a less rich potato salad is your choice.
Serves 4-6

2 lbs (900g) freshly cooked potatoes - diced, allow about 23 lbs (1.1kg) raw potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions or 2 teaspoons chopped onion
4 fl ozs (120ml) French dressing
4 fl oz (120 ml) Mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Keeps well for about 2 days.
Note: This potato salad is also delicious without Mayonnaise. Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, eg. add cubes of garlic salami, cooked Kabanossi sausages or cooked mussels.

Piped Potato Salad

The first time we made this salad it was out of necessity because we overcooked the potatoes. It was a great success and now we make it regularly by choice!

4½ cups freshly mashed potato

Add Ballymaloe French dressing, finely chopped parsley, chives, mayonnaise and seasoning to the stiff potato to taste. Pipe onto individual leaves of lettuce or use to garnish an appetiser salad or hors d'oeuvres.

Hot Tips

Mackerel are cheap so grasp the opportunity to practice your filleting technique – if the knife slips it won’t break the bank!

Mackerel are unquestionably best eaten on the day they are caught, if you catch, buy or get a present of more than you can eat, be sure to gut them, wash and chill in the fridge overnight. They deteriorate much faster if the insides are not removed.

July events foodie events
Friday 2nd July – Slow Food Market on Bantry’s Main Street from 9-4 in aid of Co-Action – the West Cork organisation which provides services for adults with physical and mental handicaps. Denis Cotter of Cork’s Café Paradiso will be cooking and selling Café Paradiso produce on the day plus many, many more attractions. This coincides with the weekend of the Bantry Chamber Music Festival. If you would like a stall contact Clodagh on 023-52977 or  

Sunday 4th July – Euro-Toques Ireland 3rd National Food Forum and Food Fair at Brooklodge, Macreddin Village, Co Wicklow –  Tel 01-6779995 

Wed 7th – Friday 9th July - Antony Worrall -Thompson – well known TV chef will be guest chef at Ballymaloe Cookery School – Tel 021-4646785

The Well-dressed Salad by Jennifer Joyce

Summer at last, we’ve just had the first new potatoes, radishes, baby beetroot, spinach and beans. Its either a feast or a famine, we’ve just been through the hungry gap in the garden and now suddenly there’s an abundance of produce, everything is leaping out of the ground. Tomatoes and cucumbers are not ripe yet but there’s lots to be going on with. This week with the sun beaming down we’ve been eating lots of yummy salad – I’ve just got a particularly exciting new book called ‘The Well-dressed Salad , recently published by Pavilion Books.
The author Jennifer Joyce looks glowing, as though she has been eating gorgeous healthy salad all her life. Jennifer was born in the US but her passion for food came from her Italian heritage. She travelled extensively and has developed a very eclectic lifestyle. Look out for her articles on food in Elle Deco and Weekend Telegraph. If you’d like to catch one of her cooking classes contact Books for Cooks or Divertimenti in London. She has also presented two TV series on the Food Network.
If you love salads and have a little room on your kitchen shelf this might just be the book to add to your collection. Its written with wit and enthusiasm and Joyce’s passion for salad shines through and will inspire everyone to experiment. She’s put a fresh spin on the basics including the classic Caesar Salad. She brought together an unusual and delectable collection of salad dishes from around the world, from the Mediterranean, North Africa, Asia and South America. The photos by Sian Irvine are mouth-watering. We’ve been having a really exciting week trying out recipes. Here are some of the many I want to try out that we’ve enjoyed so far.

The Well-dressed Salad by Jennifer Joyce, published by Pavillion Press.

Green Bean, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Anchovy, Caper and Garlic Dressing
Serves 6 (Appetizer) or 4 (Main Course)

11oz/300g fine green beans, trimmed
11oz/300g mixed yellow and red cherry tomatoes, halved
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
8oz/250g bocconcini (mini mozzarella) or 2 buffalo mozzarella balls, cut into 2cm/1inch pieces and drained on kitchen paper
3 tbsp shredded fresh basil
1 quantity Anchovy, Caper and Garlic Dressing (see recipe)
fresh basil leaves, to garnish

Cook the beans in a large pan of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain and immediately immerse in iced water for 5 minutes or until chilled. Drain on kitchen paper.

This salad looks most beautiful composed rather than tossed, so place the ingredients on a large platter, arranging the beans, tomatoes, onion and mozzarella in separate piles. Sprinkle shredded basil over the top and drizzle with the dressing just before serving. Garnish with whole basil leaves.

Anchovy, Caper and Garlic Dressing

1 anchovy packed in oil, rinsed and chopped
10 small capers, rinsed and chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
4fl oz/125ml good quality red wine vinegar (Cabernet Sauvignon)
7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Avocado, Orange and Red Onion Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette

Serves 6 (Appetizer) and 4 (Main Course)

large handful of rocket leaves (optional)
2 avocados, peeled and stoned (pitted)
2 oranges (preferably navel or blood varieties)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½oz (15g) fresh basil leaves or flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Black Olive Vinaigrette

2 tbsp chopped pitted black olives
2 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ shallot, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper

Place a little rocket on each serving plate or on a large platter. Thinly slice the avocados and arrange the slices on top. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel and pith off the oranges, remove any pips (seeds) and then cut the flesh into 1cm/½ inch slices. Cut each slice into quarters and arrange on top of the avocado. Sprinkle the red onion slices and basil or parsley over the salad.

Put all the vinaigrette ingredients into a screw-top jar and shake well. Pour the dressing over the salad and serve immediately.

* The salad should be eaten fairly soon after it has been prepared. If you want to make it 1 hour before, squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice over the avocados and do not add the onion until just before serving. The vinaigrette can be made the day before and refrigerated.

Vietnamese Prawn Salad with Lime, Lemon Grass & Ginger Dressing

Serves 6 (Appetizer) or 4 (Main Course)

24 large, raw prawns
2 large carrots, cut into julienne
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into julienne
2 medium cucumbers, de-seeded and thinly sliced
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large red chilli, de-seeded and cut into julienne
15 fresh mint leaves
¾oz/20g fresh coriander leaves


3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large red chillies, de-seeded and chopped
3 lemon grass stalks, lower third only thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped fresh root ginger
3 tbsp Thai fish sauce
4 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp fresh lime juice
½ tsp ground black pepper


3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
3 spring onions, white part only cut into julienne and soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
1 large red chilli, de-seeded, cut into julienne and soaked in cold water for 30 minutes

For the dressing: put the garlic, chillies, lemon grass, shallot and ginger into a food processor and process a paste. Scrape the paste into a bowl and stir in the Thai fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, coriander and pepper and set aside.

Peel the prawns, remove their heads and de-vein with a small paring knife. Bring a medium pan of water to the boil, add the prawns and remove with a slotted spoon when they turn pink. Rinse prawns under cold water and pat dry on kitchen paper.

Combine the carrots, pepper, cucumbers, red onion, red chilli, mint and the prawns in a large bowl. Just before serving, pour over the dressing and mix well. Serve the salad on a large platter with the coriander leaves, spring onions and chilli strips sprinkled over it.


This salad is delicious with chicken, seared beef fillet (tenderloin) or fresh seared tuna in place of prawns. Thin glass (cellophane) or vermicelli noodles could be used for vegetarians. Add crushed peanuts, cashews and/or fried shallots and Fried Ginger Sticks.

Asian Savoy Cabbage Salad

Serves 6 (Appetizer) or 8 (Side Dish)

½ Savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
½ red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 carrots cut into julienne
1 red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
8 spring onions , thinly sliced
3 shallots, finely chopped
1oz/25g fresh coriander leaves
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp regular soy sauce
1½ tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp sesame oil
4fl oz/125ml groundnut (peanut oil)

Put all the vegetables, the coriander and salt and pepper into a large bowl. Place all the dressing ingredients into a screw-top jar and shake well. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.


White cabbage could replace Savoy with great results. Grilled prawns or thinly sliced seared beef could be added for a more substantial salad. Crispy Shallots or crushed peanuts would be delicious added.

Claire McSweeney’s Wakame Seaweed Salad

I tasted this delicious salad at a recent meeting of the Cork Free Choice Consumer’s Group and Claire McSweeney generously shared her recipe with us.

Serves 8

1 bag of Wakame Seaweed
1 large cucumber

6 tablesp. rice wine vinegar
3 tablesp. Shoyu soy Sauce
2 tablesp. sugar

1 handful pickled ginger

Pour lots of cold water over the seaweed and leave re-hydrate for about 15 minutes.

Peel the cucumber in strips along the length, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and slice thinly.
Put about 8 fl.ozs (250ml) of water into a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of salt and the sliced cucumber. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a saucepan, warm gently until the sugar has dissolved. 

Drain the cucumber and press out any excess water.
Drain the seaweed well and rinse with cold water. Drain very well again.

Mix all the ingredients together with the pickled ginger.
Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving, so it becomes cool and crisp.

Great with fried fish or tempura.

Foolproof Food

Fresh Strawberry Shortcake

Serves 6 - 8

6 ozs (170g) flour
4 ozs (110g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar

½ lb (225g) strawberries
8 fl ozs (250ml) chantilly cream - whipped sweetened cream
1 teasp. icing sugar
Garnish: 6 - 8 whole strawberries and fresh mint leaves

Rub the butter into the flour and castor sugar as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Rest dough for a few minutes if you have time. Roll out into 2 circles 7 inches (17.5cm) in diameter, ¼ inch (7mm) thick. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, 15 minutes approx or until pale golden . Remove and cool on a rack. One circle may be marked with a knife into wedges while still warm, to facilitate cutting later.
Shortly before serving, sandwich with chantilly cream and halved sugared strawberries. Sieve icing sugar over the top and decorate with rosettes of cream, whole strawberries and fresh mint leaves.
Note: Individual strawberry shortcakes may be made with 3 inch (7.5cm) discs of shortbread. Cut the strawberries lengthways and brush with red currant jelly if available.

Hot Tips 

West Cork Food and Drink Fair at Mannings Emporium, Ballylickey on 19th & 20th June – today there will be a Food & Drink Quiz and on Sunday cooking demonstrations with Carmel from Good Things Café, Durrus and Ivan of Grapefruit Moon in Ballycotton. Special Guests John & Sally McKenna.

Waterford City Market at Jenkins Lane
Opened for business on Saturday 5th June – colourful range of quality local food produce, hand crafts and bustling atmosphere – supported by Waterford City Council. Open every Saturday 10-4 situated at Beach Tower off Georges St.

Other thriving new Markets springing up around the country – Dungarvan, Naas, Fermoy, Blackrock Park, Co Dublin ……..

If you plan a trip to London during the summer and would like to take in a cookery demonstration – check out
Books for Cooks – 4 Blenheim Crescent, London W11 INN (Notting Hill)
Tel 00 44 207 221 1992
Divertimenti – 34 Marylebone High St. London W1U 4PT Tel. 00 44 207 935 0689

Fresh Irish Strawberries – look out for your nearest grower or pick your own and enjoy the real taste of summer.

Obesity a Health Epidemic

Just last week the House of Commons Health Committee warned that children were in the grip of an obesity epidemic and lambasted the UK Government’s lamentable lack of action. In the past 20 years the prevalence of obesity has risen by 400%, and the number of overweight or obese children increased by 25% between 1995 and 2002. Researchers in the University of Southampton confirmed that food additives are causing behavioural problems in the same generation. In the UK it is estimated that a quarter of all women and one in five men are classified as obese, and that as many as 30,000 people die prematurely every year from obesity-related conditions. 

However, it is worth noting that the body mass index (BMI) has been revised downwards in the past six years, due to lobbying by groups who are determined to turn obesity into a disease which can be treated by pharmaceutical, diet and medical industries. Overnight 36 million people in the US woke up to find they were classified as obese. In ‘Dispensing with the Truth’, Alicia Mundy points out that in the US medicine is an industry. Think of it, Mundy says as Obesity Inc.!

Whatever the measurement, there’s no denying we’re getting fatter. It seems perfectly acceptable nowadays for youngsters to reveal layers of pudgy fat over the top of their tight-fitting jeans. Hitherto we would have done our best to camouflage the extra pounds with loose-fitting gear. Here in Ireland we have no reason to be smug or complacent, we are also facing a growing problem in every sense of the word, 13% of the population are classified as obese and almost half are overweight – (42% of males and 27% of females). If you personally are sylph like and feel this issue is irrelevant to you – think again. As taxpayers it effects each and every one of us. It is estimated that obesity accounts for up to 6% of Ireland's total health care costs. In the UK its costing the NHS at least £500m per year.

Over 50% of Americans are now classed as obese, 1 million are classified as super-obese which means they can barely walk and in many cases are completely immobile. A friend from Berkeley in California who is deeply concerned about these issues told me recently that there are 40 people who weigh over 400 lbs in just one of the several hospitals in Berkeley. The annual cost to the US economy of obesity-related problems such as cardio-vascular disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, just some of the ‘health’ problems linked to obesity is now in excess of $100 billion dollars a year. Ironically that figure exactly mirrors the amount that Americans spend on fast food annually.

The Obesity Report has generated enormous debate in the UK and has forced the government to explain its strategy. Food manufacturers, particularly those who make sweets, confectionery and soft drinks are having to rethink their marketing. The sort of promotions which encourage school children to collect wrappers to buy sports equipment or computers, are being hastily withdrawn and rightly so. 

Parents are exhausted from trying to resist the pleas of children seduced by carefully crafted ads for everything from sugar-laden cereals full of empty calories to chicken nuggets and soft drinks laced with aspartame. From watching children’s television or cartoons for even a short time, you will understand why our government recently published a code of practice. Under Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland code of Advertising and Children - An advertisement addressed to children ‘should not encourage an unhealthy lifestyle or unhealthy eating or drinking habits; advertisements representing mealtime should clearly and adequately depict the role of the product within the framework of a balanced diet; snack foods should be clearly represented as such, and not as substitutes for meals.’

It is unlikely to be a coincidence that childhood obesity rates are highest in countries where junk food advertising is least regulated – the US, the fattest nation on earth, UK second and Australia.

Why can’t we put the same resources into an advertising campaign to educate the public about the connection between the food we eat and how we feel. Our food should be our medicine. It is a damning reflection on the current situation that futurologists are now saying that mass-produced food is fast becoming the ‘new tobacco’.

In a crisis the natural reaction seems to be to find someone to blame. Fast food outlets are being targeted and demonised but I fear it is wishful thinking to imagine that this sector is the sole cause of the problem. This type of food would certainly seem to be a contributory factor, but I believe the problem is much more fundamental. The food we eat has changed dramatically in the past 40 or 50 years. The fixation with cheap food has forced farmers and food producers to intensify their production methods to the detriment of the texture, flavour and nutritional content. Study after study is showing that much of our food contains dramatically less vitamins, minerals and trace elements than it did even in the 1970’s. Consequently much of the food we eat is neither nourishing nor satisfying, effecting both our mental and physical health, as we eat more empty calories.

We urgently need to readjust our priorities, people who regularly protest that they cannot afford to buy organic food may want to look at how much they spend in the pub, on magazines, sport, clothes, videos….

In 1979 we spent 26% of our income on food, in 1999 it was down to 12.9%. 

So much depends on the food we eat. Cheap mass-produced food may well prove to be the most expensive thing you can feed your family in health terms. An investment of a little more time in sourcing really fresh naturally-produced local food in season will pay handsome dividends.

Delicious early Summer foods now in season – Mackerel, Green Gooseberries, Broad Beans, Courgettes – enjoy!

Pangrilled Mackerel with Green Gooseberry Sauce

Mackerel are now in season so look out for some lovely shiny fresh fish to pan grill and serve with tart Green Gooseberry Sauce.
Serves 4

8 fillets of very fresh mackerel (allow 6 ozs (170g) fish for main course, 3 ozs (85g) for a starter)
Seasoned flour
Small knob of butter

Green gooseberry sauce – see below
Heat the grill pan. Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on that side before you turn them over. Continue to cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate accompanied by green gooseberry sauce.

Note: Fillets of any small fish are delicious pan grilled in this way. Fish under 2 lbs (900g) such as mackerel, herring and brown trout can also be grilled whole on the pan. Fish over 2 lbs (900g) can be filleted first and then cut across into portions. Large fish 4-6 lbs (1.8-2.7kg) can also be grilled whole. Cook them for 10-15 minutes approx. on each side and then put in a hot oven for another 15 minutes or so to finish cooking.

Green Gooseberry Sauce

Use the tart hard green gooseberries on the bushes at the moment, they make a delicious sauce.
10 ozs (285g) fresh green gooseberries
stock syrup to cover (see below) - 6 fl.ozs (175 ml) approx.
a knob of butter (optional)

Top and tail the gooseberries, put into a stainless steel saucepan, barely cover with stock syrup, bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit bursts. Taste. Stir in a small knob of butter if you like but it is very good without it.
Stock Syrup

4 fl ozs (120ml) water
4 ozs (110g) sugar

Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil together for 2 minutes. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator until needed. Stock syrup can also be used for sorbets, fruit salads or as a sweetener in homemade lemonades.

Carrigeen Moss Pudding

Serves 4-6
Carrigeen moss is bursting with goodness. I ate it as a child but never liked it as it was always too stiff and unpalatable. Myrtle Allen changed my opinion! Hers was always so light and fluffy. This is her recipe, it’s the best and most delicious. We find that visitors to the country are fascinated by the idea of a dessert made with seaweed and they just love it. The name comes from little rock.

8g (¼oz) cleaned, well dried carrigeen moss (1 semi-closed fistful)
850ml (12pint) milk 
1 tablespoon castor sugar
1 egg, preferably free range
2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence or a vanilla pod

Soak the carrigeen in tepid water for 10 minutes. Strain off the water and put the carrigeen 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 carrigeen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture whisking all the time. The carrigeen will now be swollen and exuding jelly. Rub all this jelly through the strainer and beat it 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. Green gooseberry compote.

Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote

Serves 6-8
Elderflowers have an extraordinary affinity with green gooseberries and by a happy arrangement of nature they are both in season at the same time.
900g (2 lb) green gooseberries
3-4 elderflower heads
600ml (1pint) cold water
450g (1 lb) sugar

First top and tail the gooseberries. Tie the elderflower heads in a little square of muslin. Put into a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts. Allow to get cold. Serve in a pretty bowl and decorate with fresh elderflowers.

Watchpoint: It is essential to cook the fruit until it actually bursts, otherwise the compote will be too bitter.

New Season Baby Broad Beans with Olive Oil and Sheep’s Milk Cheese

My ‘garden angels’ know broad beans, considered dull by many are my favourite vegetable. I insist on planting the first seeds in November. So that with luck we’ll have the first tender beans in June. With careful successive planting we still manage to have them until the end October.
Serves 6
450g (1 lb) new season broad beans - about 1.8kg (4 lb) in the pods
Extra virgin olive oil 
Sea salt 
A Sheep’s Cheese eg Knockalara or organic St Tola Goat Cheese
Crusty white bread – Ciabbatta would be good

Bring the broad beans to the table, have a bottle of your best extra virgin olive oil, a bowl of sea salt and a piece of sharpish sheep’s milk cheese or a lovely fresh goat cheese, Pecorino would of course be delicious or also a good Feta.

Let each person have the pleasure of removing the beans from the furry pods. When you’ve accumulated a little pile on your plate, dip one by one, first into olive oil then into sea salt. Enjoy with the tangy cheese and warm crusty Ciabatta. 

Thin slices of Parma ham (prosciutto) or very good Italian Salami would make a more substantial feast. 

Courgettes or Zucchini with Marjoram

Serves 4
I’m completely hooked on annual marjoram. The seed is sometimes difficult to track down because it can be called Sweet marjoram or Knotty marjoram, but if you have any little patch at all it’s worth growing because it transforms so many dishes into a feast.

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

Top and tail the courgettes and cut them into scant ¼ inch (5 mm) slices. Heat the oil, toss in the courgettes and coat in the olive oil. Cook on a medium heat until just tender –4-5 minutes approx. Add the marjoram or basil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Turn into a hot dish and serve immediately.

Courgettes are one of the trickier vegetables to cook. Like mangetout peas they seem to continue cooking at an alarming rate after you’ve taken them out of the pot, so whip them out while they are slightly al dente.

Foolproof Food
This muesli recipe may be varied with the seasons, adding, raspberries, blackberries, apple, chopped hazelnuts.

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

Serves 8
4 ozs (110g) fresh strawberries
3 heaped tablesp. rolled oatmeal 
6 tablespoons water
1 teasp. honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 10 or 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the strawberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a scant teaspoon is usually enough but it depends on how sweet the strawberries are.
Serve with cream and soft brown sugar.

Hot Tips 

Join an Organic Box Scheme and have a selection of fresh seasonal produce delivered to your home every week. Contact Organic Trust Ltd., Tel. 01 8530271, IOFGA, Tel. 0506-32563, or Demeter 056 - 54214.

Local Producers of Good Food in Cork – the revised edition of this great booklet has just been published by Cork Free Choice Consumer Group – compiled by Myrtle Allen and Fawn Allen – For more information about the group contact Caroline Robinson 021-7330178 , 

Check out the local Farmers’ Market – buy directly from the food producers, often cheaper and fresher, plus you have the bonus of knowing that your ‘food euro’ is encouraging sustainable agriculture and supporting your local community. Extra bonus of an interactive shopping experience (no trolley rage and no sweeties to tempt the kids).

Lobby your TD’s and MEP’s to provide cycle lanes and footpaths on all roads to facilitate people who would like to have the option to take a little exercise. We take our life in our hands, everything militates against the pedestrian and cyclist. Consider the idea of walking to school with your children in the summer. Parents could take turns doing the school walk – bonus of added time to chat, observe nature and get in some exercise all in one – just a thought!

Notice how often we eat between meals. Remember how this was discouraged when we were children. Is it my imagination, or are people eating and drinking non-stop nowadays – try having just three moderately-sized meals a day!

Organise a rota with your pals so you don’t have to bring your children into the supermarket. According to James McNeal, a professor of marketing at Texas A&M University, who wrote the influential sales handbook ‘Kids as Customers’, child pester power is responsible for 75% of spontaneous and un-intentioned food purchases, as tormented parents cave into advertising-fuelled pleas. 

Remember if you don’t have junk in the house, kids can’t eat junk.

Oatmeal has long been regarded as a healthy addition to the diet – and not just in porridge – Oat Millers of Ireland which incorporates Flahavans, Odlums and Whites Speedicook, have got together to produce a Summer Recipe Collection – which is available online at  or contact  or Tel. 01-6789762, The Oat Millers of Ireland, Huband House, 16 Upper Mount St. Dublin 2.

Eating outdoors throughout the seasons

Eating outdoors throughout the seasons is one of my greatest delights – Spring, Summer of course, as well as Autumn and even Winter. I always have several picnic baskets packed and ready to go. Old rugs folded, some are slightly tattered and moth-eaten, each with a story – a tartan rug from my boarding school days, a truly beautiful hand-woven rug, a present from Alice Roden, several treasured relics from the old Country Shop in Dublin’s Stephens Green, (a favourite childhood haunt, now long since gone), and finally several posh new rugs with waterproof lining and handles for ease of carrying.
One picnic basket has several cheap frying pans, tongs, egg slice, a large bottle of sunflower oil, a bag of kindling, firelighters, newspapers (mostly the sports sections) and matches. This is my kit for breakfast picnics - delicious in the Comeraghs or Knockmealdowns, or on the cliffs overlooking the little sandy coves on the coast. We bake a few loaves of soda bread and spotted dog, grab the basket of assorted jam and honey, squeeze some citrus fruit for fresh juice. Pack the hurricane kettle, also fill some flasks of boiling water in case the wind is blowing in the wrong direction.
When we reach our chosen site, preferably overlooking the sea, a shimmering lake or a babbling brook, we make several stone circles to enclose our fires, the children gather extra driftwood or ‘cipins’ and we get to work.
Nothing smells or tastes so tantalisingly irresistible as rashers and freshly laid eggs, sizzling sausages and fine flat mushrooms when they are cooked outdoors.
Our picnics are usually very simple, I rarely make fancy terrines or quiches. A frittata is certainly worth considering, but more often its just a piece of freshly boiled bacon, a simple roast chicken, a plump free-range organic one from Dan Aherne at Midleton Market, or one of Nora Aherne’s ducks. A few relishes and pickles, a bowl of freshly boiled shrimps and some homemade mayonnaise. A crisp cucumber and some ripe tomatoes are a must. If one is fortunate enough to have a Farmers Market locally, a visit will usually yield a variety of salami, chorizo, smoked fish, farmhouse cheese and if you are lucky enough to visit Midleton Farmers Market – crusty loaves of Declan Ryan’s Arbutus Breads.
Cool boxes are an ace invention, such a pity they usually look so ghastly. I’m ludicrously fussy about the aesthetics of a picnic, lots of napkins, a mixture of favourite mismatched cutlery bound with raffia or a rubber band to stop them rattling about. Speckled enamel plates and our local Shanagarry Pottery, glasses and pretty Bridgewater mugs, as well as brightly coloured plastic. For seaside picnics particularly, its fun to pop a chilled melon – Charentais, Gallia or Ogen, or a Water Melon, into the cold box with some home-made lemonade or elderflower cordial, and masses of ice.
For cold frosty Winter days which we can scarcely visualise by the end of May – flasks of hot soup and a hay box containing a pot of bubbling stew, unfailingly produce gasps of delight.
Basically, I virtually never travel without a picnic, as those who sit beside me on trains, buses and planes will no doubt be aware. Occasionally I bring it home untouched, but more often than not, I am so glad to have it.
Hugo Arnold, author of the indispensable Avoca Cookbooks, is also passionate about outdoor eating. In his new book ‘Barbecues and other Outdoor Feasts’, he writes, ‘Fresh air, the warmth of the sun on my back and the gentle rustle of trees, all help to sharpen the senses. How well the wine tastes, how more delicious is the bread, the fleshy sun-rich olives and the moist, golden-yellow, mayonnaise-laden salmon sandwiches. If there is a lake or babbling brook nearby, so much the better. It is time to relax. There is no better way to eat.
This beautifully illustrated book published by Kyle Cathie, includes Chapters on Eating in the open, Soups and hearty sandwiches; Pates, terrines and purees; Tarts, pies and pizzas; Picnic dishes for feasts and parties; Barbecues and fires; Vegetables both in and out of salads, Desserts. You may want to seek it out before you launch into the Summer outdoor feasting season – its worth the €19.99 for Hugo’s mouth-watering prose alone.

‘Barbecues and other Outdoor Feasts’ by Hugo Arnold, published by Kyle Cathie.

Seafood Salad, Lime and Chilli Dressing

From Barbecues and other Outdoor Feasts by Hugo Arnold
Serves 6-8 as a starter

250g/9oz shell-on prawns
200g/7oz shelled scallops, patted dry with kitchen paper
500g/1lb squid, cleaned and cut into 2cm/¾ inch pieces
salt and pepper
500g/1lb shell-on clams, cleaned
1kg/2lb 4oz shell-on mussels, cleaned
bunch of parsley, picked over
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
zest of 2 limes and the juice of 1

Preheat a grill or ridged griddle pan.
Season the prawns, scallops and squid with salt and pepper and grill until just done, about 2 minutes each side, transferring to a shallow bowl.
Put the clams and mussels in a saucepan, cover and cook over a medium heat until they open, about 5 minutes. Discard any shells that have not opened in that time.
Remove some of the excess half shells, they will only be discarded anyway, and add to the prawns, scallops and squid.
When all the fish is cooked, add the parsley to the bowl along with the chilli, lots of olive oil and the lime zest and juice.
Season, toss gently and serve.

Char-grilled Squid with Chilli Oil, Houmous and Rocket Salad

Serves 4
125g/4oz dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
2 garlic cloves, crushed to a pulp with a little salt
2 tablepsoons tahini*
1 bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
juice of 2-3 lemons
2 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
olive oil
1kg/2lb 4oz squid, prepared as described below
4 handfuls of rocket
1 lemon, quartered

Cook the chickpeas in fresh boiling water until tender – 45 mins to 1 hour. They should be nutty, but certainly not al dente.
Strain, reserving the cooking water, and puree the peas along with the garlic and tahini, adding the reserved cooking water until you have a puree the consistency of whipping cream.
Stir in the coriander and lemon juice to taste and set aside.
Combine the chilli with 125ml/4fl.oz of olive oil, gently heat until just warm and set aside.
Barbecue the squid for 2 minutes each side and serve with the houmous, rocket dressed with the chilli oil.
*It makes the task of extracting the tahini from the jar much easier if you sit it in a jug of boiling water 5 minutes before you need it.

To prepare squid:
Slide your finger down the cartilage and pull away from the body sac along with the head.
Slice off just behind the eyes and discard everything but the tubular body sac, head, tentacles and ink sack.
Run a knife down the body sac, open out and with your fingers take off the wings. With a knife scrape off the darker-coloured skin and cut into 5cm/2 in squares and rectangles. Wash thoroughly and drain.
With a sharp knife score the outside of the squid in a criss-cross pattern, making sure you don’t cut through the flesh.
This helps to stop it curling.

Meat & Chicken Satay

Serves 4
1 walnut sized piece of tamarind pulp
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3cm/1in piece of fresh root ginger, roughly grated
500g/1lb shoulder of lamb, cubed
500g/1lb boneless chicken thighs, cut into 3cm/1in cubes

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons plain un roasted peanuts, roughly crushed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
juice and zest of 1 lime
125ml/4fl oz coconut milk.

Place the tamarind in a small cup of warm water and as the pulp becomes malleable squeeze out as much as you can. Drain through a sieve, squeezing out as much liquid from the solids as possible. Discard the pulp.
Combine the tamarind liquor with the garlic, shallots, lime juice and zest, soy sauce and ginger.
Thread the meat on to soaked skewers* and brush over the marinade.
To make the sauce, fry the peanuts in the oil until browned.
Place the chillies, garlic and shallots in a processor and blitz.
Add to the peanuts and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring all the time to prevent sticking. Add the lime juice and zest and the coconut milk and stir well so everything is amalgamated.
Cook the skewers over a moderate heat for 20 minutes, turning frequently and basting with any remaining marinade. Serve with the sauce.

* You need to soak the skewers in cold water for about 1 hour to prevent them burning. If you can’t wait for that long, wrap the exposed ends in a bit of foil, fiddly, but it does the trick.

Grilled Entrecote with Field Mushroom and Béarnaise Sauce

Barbecued steaks are great, but it is also worth buying a cut like entrecote in a large piece. That way you get the smoky charred outside and a pink, delicate inside. It is much easier to carve along the short side.
Serves 6-8

For the reduction:
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
few sprigs fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon peppercorns

To make the Béarnaise Sauce:
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon reduction
250g/9oz butter
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, eg tarragon, chervil, chopped
salt and pepper

12cm/4in-piece of entrecote weighing about 1.5kg/3lb
olive oil
8 medium sized field mushrooms

Combine all the reduction ingredients in a saucepan and add 4 tablespoons of water.
Bring to the boil and reduce until you have about 1 tablespoon of liquid left.
Push through a sieve and set aside.
For the Béarnaise sauce, combine the egg yolks with the reduction in a bain-marie or in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently boiling water. Add the butter, a lump at a time stirring constantly until it thickens. Remove from the heat, stir in the herbs and check seasoning. It will sit, quite happily, for half an hour or so provided it is warm.
Rub the entrecote all over with the garlic and then a few tablespoons of olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and barbecue for 1015 minutes, turning frequently (10 minutes will give rare, 15 minutes medium and 20 minutes almost, though not quite, well done).
Brush the mushrooms with olive oil and cook/barbecue, gill side up, at the same time. Serve the entrecote with the mushrooms and Béarnaise sauce. 

Foolproof Food

Barbecue Sauce

Makes 225ml (8fl oz) approx. can be used to marinade lamb chicken or pork or even sausages
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
110g (4oz) finely chopped onion
1 x 400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes
7 tablespoons tomato puree
7 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons pure Irish honey
4 tablespoons Worcester sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic, onion and sweat gently for 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and juice, cook for a further 4 or 5 minutes, season with salt, freshly ground pepper. Puree in a liquidiser or food processor, add the remainder of the ingredients and bring to the boil, simmer for 4 or 5 minutes. Use as a sauce or marinade.
Note: Don’t marinade for longer than 15-20 minutes or the meat will be inclined to burn easily.

Top Tips

For picnics - Bring a damp J-cloth or two in a plastic bag to deal with sticky or charcoal covered fingers.
Several old recycled carrier bags are terrific for food scraps or refuse.
A packet of good sausages are a must for any picnic. You may want to bring some honey wholegrain mustard and rosemary mixed in a pot.

1-day Barbecue Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School – Friday 25th June – 021-4646785  

AGA – Chef Seamus O’Connell will perform an AGA cookery demonstration at the National Country Fair on Sunday June 6th and Monday June 7th at Emo Court, Emo, Co Laois. Seamus of Cork’s Ivory Tower Restaurant and presenter of Soul Food series on RTE, recently won the title of Best Chef of the Year from the National Restaurant Association of Ireland. 

Schull Farmers Market is worth a detour - every Sunday 11-3 – on a recent visit the stalls were laden with local food, farmhouse cheese, charcuterie, vegetables, plants and crafts.

Gudrun and Frank Shinnick have been making cheese in Fermoy for several years. Recently I came across some of their wonderful cheese, a delicious hard St Gall and a sublime gooey melting St Brigid Rua. They can scarcely keep up with demand at the moment but try some of the selected outlets they supply – On the Pig’s Back in Cork’s English Market, Sheridan's in Dublin, Country Choice in Nenagh, the Quay Food Company in Kinsale or Mark Hosford at the Coal Quay Market in Cork on Saturdays. You may also like to look out for their 3rd cheese called Cáis Rua. Contact Gudrun or Frank at the Fermoy Natural Cheese Company 025-31310 to find the outlet nearest you.
CHASE Gala Summer Ball – Friday 11th June at Rochestown Park Hotel – Champagne Reception, dinner, dancing plus lots more – all proceeds to CHASE
Contact Katie Cullinane 4863467, Debra Hurley 4843932, Hillary O’Malley 4841361

Healthy Gluten Free Eating

For several years I have had repeated requests to write a cookbook with delicious recipes for coeliacs – so at last Healthy Gluten-free Eating is in the shops. My co-author Rosemary Kearney, originally a student and later a teacher at the Ballymaloe Cookery School has been a coeliac all her life. She and I spent over a year collaborating and researching, egged on by the students on the annual coeliacs’ courses at the school. The long-awaited cookbook, published by Kyle Cathie, has been endorsed both by the Coeliac Society of Ireland and the UK.
The number of coeliacs and people with wheat intolerance is growing at an alarming rate. At present 7 per 1,000 of the population have been diagnosed as coeliacs.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune genetic disease which results in a permanent intolerance to gluten. Gluten is the name given to a number of different proteins (gliadin is the protein found in wheat, hordein is the protein in barley, secalin is the protein in rye and avenin is the protein in oats) which cause the immune reaction in coeliacs. It is gluten that gives bread is elasticity and cakes their spring. Unfortunately, even the tiniest amount of gluten can cause problems for coeliacs, despite the fact that individuals may not always be aware of the symptoms.

The gluten damages an area in the small intestine, causing inflammation and subsequent malabsorption of food and nutrients. The only treatment required though, to enable the person to return to normal and the painful effects of gluten intolerance to cease is to follow a completely gluten-free diet.

However if you suddenly discover that you are a coeliac don’t panic.

First reaction is what am I going to eat? No more bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits – the list seems endless. It doesn’t have to be like this – take a step back and look at the wider picture. You have been diagnosed with a disease whereby you don’t need to take tablets or receive injections because it is treatable – or rather controllable – by the food you eat. If anything, being diagnosed with coeliac disease can be a wake up call - as it can make us realise how much processed food we may have been consuming! Therefore, it is time to go right back to basics. We need to use natural ingredients and be responsible for the food we are eating in order to sustain our bodies.

Healthy eating for coeliacs need not mean tasteless, boring meals – no one has to compromise on flavour just because gluten has to be excluded from the diet and it need not lessen the pleasure in cooking and eating. Rather, see it as a fresh beginning, an opportunity to try new ingredients and a wide and more exciting range of recipes.

TYPICAL SYMPTOMS OF COELIAC DISEASE would include – chronic tiredness, lethargy, headache, nausea, vomiting, bloating and cramps, diarrhoea, anaemia, mouth ulcers, thyroid problems, Type 1 diabetes, osteopenia and osteoporosis, delayed or stunted growth in children, poor weight gain, weight loss, problems with fertility and pregnancy.

WHAT TO BUY – you will need to stock up your store cupboard with coeliac products and become familiar with their use, so you can whip up some yummy meals in minutes. We have put together a list of products to keep in stock. However, in a household where just one person is coeliac, remember, if it’s practical, to reserve a cupboard for their use alone see. 

STORE CUPBOARD INGREDIENTS – rice flour, tapioca flour, potato flour, corn flour, cornmeal, Soya flour, gram flour, buckwheat flour. Xantham gum, bicarbonate of soda, gluten-free baking powder, bextartar. Milk powder, Lecithin (this comes from Soya beans and is available from chemists or health food shops. It is rich in phosphatidl choline, an important nutrient in the control of dietary fat which helps the body to convert fats into energy rather than storing them as body fat. Check that it is GM free). Dried active yeast, Nuts, including ground almonds and pine nuts, Millet flakes, Rice bran, Rice flakes, Dried fruit, Pure vanilla extract, Rice, Rice paper wrappers, Rice noodles – fine and flat. Gluten-free pasta – penne, lasagne, macaroni. Dried pulses – beans/lentils, eg haricot beans/chickpeas. Gluten-free icing sugar, Best quality dark chocolate – minimum 70% cocoa solids, Oils and vinegars, including sesame oil, Dijon mustard. Whole spices including black peppercorns/white peppercorns (ensure that you use pure white pepper as some brands are bulked with flour), Japanese tamari soy sauce, Nam pla (fish sauce), Gluten-free poppadums.


Baking powder, Communion wafers, ‘Corn Tortillas’ may also contain regular flour.

Frozen chips – flour may be present to keep them white. Stock cubes/powder. Vegetable soup may contain pearl barley. White pepper may be ‘bulked’ with flour. Inferior brands of ground almonds may contain breadcrumbs. Seasoning mixes, Mustard Powder.

Packet suet may have flour in it to stop it sticking together. Packets of ready-grated cheese may contain flour. Cheese spreads. Commercial salad dressings and mayonnaise.

Soy Sauce (there are gluten-free brands available, eg. Japanese tamari. Dry-roasted nuts, Pretzels, Bombay mix. Scotch Eggs. Food that has been deep-fried with other gluten-containing food, eg battered fish and chips. 

Processed meats, e.g. ham, may be injected with a cereal ‘filler’ to increase their protein content or thinly sliced meats may also have ‘fillers’.

Flavoured crisps. Some fizzy drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) may contain barley flour to give a cloudy appearance. Always check the source.

Coffee from vending machines. Malted milk drinks. Barley water or flavoured barley water. Beer, lager, stout and ale are all made from grain. Some tablets contain flour as a binder or filler. Children’s ‘pick & mix’ sweets may be coated in flour to stop them sticking together. 

Brightly coloured modelling dough used by children is not a food, but strangely enough it can sometimes get into their little mouths and you should be aware that it is made from wheat flour.

Check all brands and processed foods as they may contain added ingredients that are not gluten-free.

Much of this hidden gluten is contained in processed foods – which is another good reason for coeliacs and non-coeliacs alike to cook with fresh, natural ingredients.

Healthy Gluten-free Eating, by Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney ,published by Kyle Cathie. €17.99

Darina Allen runs the Ballymaloe Cookery School at Shanagarry, Co Cork Tel 021-4646785 

Tomato, Feta and Pesto Tart

Serves 6-8
1 x recipe for gluten-free savoury pastry (see recipe)

2 red peppers
8 tbsp tomato fondue (see recipe)
175g (6 oz) feta cheese
Approximately 10 basil leaves
4 tsp basil pesto 
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp Olive oil

1 x 7” (18cm) quiche tin / flan ring

Preheat the oven to 2500C / 4750F / regulo 9

First, roast the red peppers. Rub with a little olive oil and put them on a baking tray.
Bake in a hot oven for 20 – 30 minutes, until they are soft and the skin blisters. Put them in a sealed plastic bag to cool. Peel the peppers and remove the stalk and seeds. Don’t wash away the lovely juices. 

Reduce the oven temperature to 1800C / 3500F / regulo 4.

Now, make the gluten free savoury pastry in the usual way. Line the tin with the pastry and bake blind for 20 minutes in a moderate oven. Remove the beans, egg wash the base and return to the oven for a further 2 minutes. This seals the pastry and helps to avoid a soggy bottom!

Using your finger-tips, crumble half of the feta cheese over the base of the pastry. Arrange a layer of roasted red pepper and basil leaves on top. Season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper (take care when seasoning as feta is quite salty). Now cover with a layer of tomato fondue and crumble over the remaining feta cheese. Return the tart to the oven for 10-15 minutes until it is hot and bubbly. Drizzle the tart generously with Pesto and serve immediately with a salad of rocket leaves or a good green salad.

Tomato Fondue

Serves 6 approximately 

115g (4ozs) sliced onions
1 clove of garlic, crushed 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
900g (2lbs) very ripe tomatoes in Summer, or 2½ tins (x 14oz) of tomatoes in Winter, but peel before using
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste
1 tablespoon of any of the following;
freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil

Heat the oil in a non reactive saucepan. Add the sliced onions and garlic toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added. Slice the fresh tomatoes or tinned and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity). Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cook uncovered for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens. Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. Tinned tomatoes need to be cooked for longer depending on whether one wants to use the fondue as a vegetable, sauce or filling. Note: A few drops of Balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhances the flavour.

Coconut and Raspberry Slice

125g (4 ½ oz) butter, softened
60g (2 ½ oz) castor sugar
1 egg, preferably free – range, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
100g (3 ½ oz) rice flour
75g (3oz) tapioca flour
1 teaspoon gluten – free baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
50 ml (2 floz) milk

175g (6oz) homemade raspberry jam
250g (9oz) raspberries

100g (3 ½ oz) butter, softened
150g (5oz) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free-range , beaten
225g (8oz) dessicated coconut
60g (2 ½ oz) rice flour

Preheat the oven to 180oC / 350oF/regulo 4
1 swiss roll tin 30cm x 20cm (12 inch x 8 inch) – lined with bakewell paper

Cream the butter and gradually add the castor sugar. Beat until it is soft and light and quite pale in colour. Add the beaten egg and the vanilla extract gradually and beat well after each addition.

Sieve together the dry ingredients – the rice flour, tapioca flour, gluten – free baking powder and xanthan gum and stir in gradually. Mix all together lightly and add the milk to moisten. Pour the mixture into the prepared swiss roll tin, smoothing it out to the edges. Spread the home – made raspberry jam gently over the cake mixture and sprinkle with the raspberries. It may be necessary to press them down gently into the cake mixture.

Make the topping: Cream the butter and the sugar together as before so that it is pale, soft and light. Add the beaten eggs gradually, beating well after each addition. Mix together the dessicated coconut and the rice flour and fold into the mixture. Spread gently but evenly over the raspberries and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. 

Allow to cool and cut into 24 biscuits.

Chocolate Brownies

Makes 18 chocolate brownie fingers

7 oz (200g) whole almonds with skins left on
10½ oz (300g) Lesme, Callebaut or Valrhona chocolate
7 oz (200g) unsalted butter
12 oz (340g) castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 eggs, free-range preferably

Preheat the oven 180°C/350°F/ regulo 4

Line a swiss roll tin 9" x 12" (22½ cm x 30 cm) with bakewell paper leaving a rim around the circumference at least 2" high. Staple the sides so that they don’t fall over!

Place the whole almonds on a baking sheet and roast in a moderate oven for approximately 10 minutes. Allow to cool and coarsely chop or whizz in a food processor for a few seconds. Melt the chocolate and the unsalted butter in a pyrex bowl over a pan of simmering water. Separate the eggs and mix the egg yolks with the castor sugar until pale, thick and creamy. Add the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Now, fold in the roasted chopped almonds.

In a large pyrex or stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, being careful not to overwhip. Fold the stiffly beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture using a large spatula and pour into the prepared swiss roll tin.

Bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes until firm to touch on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle. Allow to cool in the tin before cutting into 18 fingers.

Foolproof Food

Gluten-free Savoury Pastry

3 oz (85g) rice flour
3 oz (85g) fine ground cornmeal
3 oz (85g) potato flour
1 heaped teaspoon xanthan gum* see Hot Tips
pinch salt
5 oz (140g) butter
1 egg (free range preferably) mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water

To make the pastry
Sieve the rice flour, fine ground cornmeal, potato flour, salt and xanthan gum into a pyrex bowl and mix well. Cut the butter into cubes and gently rub into the flour mixture. Make a well in the centre on the pyrex bowl and carefully add in some of the egg/water mixture, using a fork to bring the pastry together. It is tempting to add more liquid at this stage but try not to, as it is very easy to make the pastry too wet! On a very lightly rice floured board, gently knead the dough with the heel of your hand for a few minutes to form a silky smooth ball of dough. Flatten slightly, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for a least 1 hour. When it has chilled enough, roll out the pastry, (I find putting it between 2 sheets of bakewell paper stops it sticking) and line the tart tin.

Hot Tips

Xanthan gum
This is a relatively new product which is an invaluable aid for gluten free baking, as gluten-free flours are less elastic in texture. Adding a small amount of xanthan gum will to some extent replace these elastic qualities. It is now available in the special dietary section of some of the major supermarkets, and health food shops that stock a good range of gluten-free products. 

The Coeliac Society of Ireland (CSI) may be contacted for help and advice – The Coeliac Society of Ireland, Carmichael Centre, 4 North Brunswick St. Dublin 7. Tel 01-872 
For over 30 years CSI has provided aid to its members. Through its network of branches the CSI organises public meetings and cookery demonstrations. The Head Office in Dublin circulates information leaflets, provides a Telephone Help Line and twice yearly, a Newsletter.

The Manufacturers List (gluten-free food list), is the mainstay of the Society’s support for its members. This booklet, produced annually, contains details of all brands of food and drink available in retail outlets that do not contain gluten. In order to produce this list the CSI has to contact Food Technologists in all the manufacturing companies and supermarket chains to obtain documentation regarding the constituents of all products. The Society’s dietitian checks the material before products are accepted into the Manufacturers List. In the case of foods which can contain hidden gluten, the manufacturer/retailer has to provide laboratory test results confirming that the products comply with the appropriate International Standards.

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group

Next Meeting on Thursday 27th May at 7.30pm in the Crawford Art Gallery Café, Emmet Place – ‘Seaweed- our own free, healthy, versatile and plentiful food’-

Speakers Christine Thery from Heir Island and Olivier Beaujouan from Castlegregory. Launch of new revised edition of ‘Good Food in Cork’. Admission €5 including tea, coffee and tasting.

New Season’s Irish Asparagus is now available, treat yourself to a little bundle and taste what asparagus should really taste like.

Foraging for wild foods

Foraging for wild foods is one of my favourite pastimes, relaxing, rewarding and yummy – this primeval activity somehow touches very basic cords in our psyche - links us to our hunter gatherer instinct. Doesn’t have to be confined to Autumn – the season of full and plenty. It can be a year round exercise.
The Wild Garlic blooming all over the countryside at present is a true harbinger of Spring. There are two varieties Allium Triquetrum, three-cornered garlic and Allium Ursinum also called Ransomes. We use them both, but I’m particularly fond of Allium Triquetrum, with its umbellliferous heads and pretty star-like flowers. We scatter both the leaves and flowers into salads and use them for garnishing. They make a delicious addition to a potato soup. If you have wild garlic in abundance the leaves made a delicious wild garlic pesto. We’ve also been enjoying wild garlic in champ in addition to the usual spring onion.
A walk through the woods at present is such a joy not only because the bluebells, wood anemones and primroses are in bloom, but I’ve been enjoying the fresh green leaves of the wood sorrel. These cute little shamrock-like sharp fresh tasting leaves are also delicious sprinkled into salads or as a garnish.
Buckler leaf sorrel and lamb’s tongue sorrel are also worth seeking out, as is the common field sorrel Rumex Acetosa.
The little leaves are easy to spot with little ‘pointy ears’ at the base of the leaf. 
For those of us who live close to the coast, sea spinach is at its best at present, easy to identify, it resembles slightly coarse perpetual spinach and can be eaten and cooked in exactly the same way. This is also the very best time of the year for nettles. They are young and tender. Remember our ancestors swore by four feeds of nettles in the month of May to clear the blood and keep the rheumatics at bay.
The darling little primrose and violet flowers can also be eaten and are particularly irresistible when crystallised. We use them to decorate cakes and buns, my daughter-in- law Penny makes adorable little cup cakes and decorates them with crystallised flowers, which have now become known affectionately as Penny’s buns.
So how about a walk on the wild side this weekend to discover the gastronomic delights of the hedgerow and seashore. 

Lydia’s Almond Cake with Crystallized Violets and Angelica

In Lydia Strangman’s time they used to pick the violets at Kinoith and send them off to Covent Garden in London. When I started gardening at Kinoith I gathered up all the remnants of the violets I could find and made a violet bed. We do not know of a better way to remember Lydia than to crystallize the little flowers to use as precious decoration. We often make this delicious, rich little cake that keeps well in a tin for ages. A tiny slice is just perfect to nibble slowly with a demi-tasse of espresso or a cup of China tea. Violets appear early in spring and are over by May. The art of crystallizing flowers simply takes patience and a meticulous nature - the sort of job that drives some people around the bend but others adore. If it appeals to you, the work will be rewarded - the violets look and taste divine. If properly done they will last for months. We store them in a pottery jar or in a tin box interleaved with kitchen paper.

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

Serves 10

110g (4 oz) ground Almonds
110g (4oz) icing sugar
75g (3oz) white flour
3 egg yolks
125ml (4 fl oz) melted butter

175g (6oz) icing
1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or boiling water

Crystallized Violets (see below)
7" round tin with shallow sides - A pop up base is handy but is not essential. 

Grease the tin well with melted butter and dust out with a little flour. 
Put the ground almonds, icing and flour into a bowl and mix well. Make a well in the centre and add the egg yolks and the cooled melted butter, stir well until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Spread the cake evenly in the prepared tin, make a little hollow in the centre and tap on the work top to release any large air bubbles. 
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. It should still be moist but cooked through. Allow to sit in the tin for 5 or 6 minutes before unmoulding onto a close wire rack.
Allow to cool.
Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, mix to a thickish smooth icing with the lemon juice or boiling water. Use a palette knife dipped in the boiling water and dried to spread it gently the top and sides of the cake.
Decorate with the crystallized violets and little diamonds of angelica.
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Crystallized Flowers – 
Use fairly strong textured leaves. Smaller flowers are more attractive when crystallized eg. primroses, violets, apple blossom, violas….
The castor sugar must be absolutely dry. Allow to dry in a very low oven for about 2 hour approx.
Break up the egg white slightly with a fork. Using a child's paint, brush the egg white very carefully over each petal and into every crevice. Pour the castor sugar over the flower or leaf with a teaspoon. Arrange carefully on bakewell paper to ensure a good shape. 
Allow to dry overnight in a warm dry place, e.g. close to an Aga or over a radiator. If properly crystallized these flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a covered pottery jar or a tin box.
Remember to do lots of leaves as well as flowers so one can make attractive arrangements - e.g. mint, lemon balm, wild strawberry, salad burnet or marguerite daisy leaves etc. 

Sea Spinach Soup

If you live near a rocky strand, look out for sea spinach - it's shiny green leaves are unmistakable. It can be cooked exactly like garden spinach and it also makes a delicious soup. Not surprisingly because sea spinach is washed by the tides it is full of iodine, minerals, and other trace elements and it has an addictive salty tang. As with all marine plants it should be gathered from an area where the water is clean and unpolluted.
Serves 6-8

2 ozs (50g) butter
4 ozs (110g) chopped onion
5 ozs (140g) chopped potatoes
8-12 ozs (225-350g) chopped spinach
1 pint (600ml) home made chicken stock
:-1 pint (450-600ml/22 cups) creamy milk (3 cream and : milk)
salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons whipped cream (optional)
freshly chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it foams add the potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the boiling stock and milk, bring back to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are soft. Add the spinach and boil with the lid off for about 3-5 minutes, until the spinach is cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Liquidise, taste and add some freshly grated nutmeg. Serve in warm bowls garnished with a blob of whipped cream and some chopped parsley.

Wild Mushroom and Garlic Frittata

Frittata is an Italian omelette. Kuku and Tortilla all sound much more exciting than a flat omelette although that’s basically what they are. Unlike their soft and creamy French cousin, these omelettes are cooked slowly over a very low heat during which time you can be whipping up a delicious salad to accompany it! A frittata is cooked gently on both sides and cut into wedges like a piece of cake. Omit the tomato and you have a basic recipe, flavoured with grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of herbs. Like the omelette, though, you’ll occasionally want to add some tasty morsels, to ring the changes perhaps some Spinach, Wild Garlic, Ruby Chard, Calabreze, Asparagus, Smoked Mackerel etc... the list is endless but be careful don’t use it as a dust bin - think about the combination of flavours before you empty your fridge!
450g (1lb) mushrooms - flat, oysters, shittake, washed and sliced. 
8 large eggs, preferably free range
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
110g (4ozs) Gruyére cheese, freshly grated
25g (1 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
4 tablespoons wild garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
25g (1oz) butter
1 tablespoon basil or marjoram

non stick pan - 7 inch (19cm) bottom, 9 inch (23cm) top rim

Serves 2-4

Preheat the oven to 180/350/regulo 4. 
Heat some olive oil in a hot pan, add the sliced mushrooms. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook over a high heat until just wilted, cool.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, chopped herbs and wild garlic, mushrooms and grated cheese into the egg mixture. 
Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs. Turn down the heat as low as it will go. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 15 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.
Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set and barely brown the surface. 
Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate. 
Serve cut in wedges with a good green salad and perhaps a few olives. 

Nettle or Wild Garlic Champ
Nettles have been valued in Ireland since ancient times, not only as a food, but also as a purifier of the blood. The belief is still strong particularly among older people in the country that one should have at least three dinners of nettles in April and May to clear the blood and keep away the 'rheumatics' for the coming year.
Serves 3-4

12 lbs (700g) old potatoes, eg. Golden Wonders
1 tea cup chopped nettles or wild garlic
2 pint (300ml) milk
1-2 ozs (25-50g) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until tender. Meanwhile, chop the young nettle tops and cook in the milk for approx. 20 minutes. As soon as the potatoes are cooked, drain and peel immediately while they are still hot. Mash until soft and free of lumps. Pour in the boiling milk add the nettles and a good lump of butter, beat until soft and creamy. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve hot with a lump of butter melting into the centre.
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Wild Garlic Pesto

2oz (50g) wild garlic leaves
1oz (25g) pinenuts 
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed 
6-8 fl ozs(170-225ml) olive oil
1½ oz (40g) freshly grated Parmesan, (Parmigiano Peggiano )
salt and sugar to taste

Whizz the wild garlic, pine kernels, garlic and olive oil in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar. Remove to a bowl and fold in the finely grated Parmesan cheese. Taste and season. Store in a sterilized, covered jar in the fridge. 

Pennys Buns

Makes 12

150g (5oz) butter (at room temperature)
150g (5oz) caster Sugar
150g (5oz) self raising flour
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
½ tsp pure vanilla extract.

Icing sugar
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 muffin tray lined with 12 muffin cases.

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5.

Put all ingredients except milk into a Magimix, whizz until smooth. Scrape down sides of Magimix, then add milk and whizz again.
Divide mixture between cases in muffin tin.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 –20 mins or until risen and golden.


Scented Geranium Cupcakes.

8 Medium sized Geranium Leaves.

Follow the master recipe but put the geranium leaves in to the milk and bring up to simmer. Allow to cool before adding to Magimix.

Put a crystallized rose petal on top for decoration.

Foolproof Food

Flavoured Butters

Flavoured Butters are delicious served with pan-grilled fish

Parsley or Herb Butter 
4ozs (110 g) butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or a mixture of chopped fresh herbs - parsley, chives, thyme, fennel, lemon balm
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cream the butter and add in the parsley or mixed herbs and a few drops of lemon juice. Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tinfoil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.

Wild Garlic Butter

Substitute wild garlic leaves for parsley in the recipe above. Garnish the fish with wild garlic leaves and flowers.
Hot Tips

Growing Awareness is a Skibbereen based food and farming group established in 1998 with the aim of ensuring that everyone has access to food grown and produced in a way that restores respect for the earth, respect for food and respect for farmers and growers. They run Garden and Farm Walks, Sustainable Food and Farming Workshops including Forest Foods and Edible Seaweed.  Tel Madeline McKeever 028-38184

Foraging – A Walk on the Wild Side with Darina Allen – 18th September 2004 at Ballymaloe Cookery School –  Tel 021-4646785

Megabytes by John & Sally McKenna – An up to the minute selection of news and reviews which will tell you everything you need to know about who and what is happening in contemporary Irish food –  

L’Apéritif a la Francaise is a celebration of French gastronomy and its going to take place every year on the first Thursday in June. This year 16 cities are taking part on 3rd June , next year the number is set to rise to 33. In Dublin the party will happen from 4-7pm in the Round Room of the Mansion House. Tickets for the event at €15 each will be on sale from 10th May in selected Dublin off-licences and directly from The Dubliner magazine, supporters of the event –

The Tourist Season

The tourist season has started with an optimistic bang. The fabulous weather over Easter helped us all to shake off the Winter lethargy. Hotels, restaurants and B & B’s, lifted the dust sheets, did their annual spring clean and cranked themselves into action for the season. For those in the hospitality industry, particularly in seasonal resorts, Easter is always a shock to the system, many places go from being either closed or very quiet to being packed to capacity overnight. New staff are learning the ropes and are often of necessity thrown in at the deep end. For just a few days, everyone works from dawn to dusk and then suddenly its quiet again with a gradual trickle of guests until the season gathers momentum again in May or June.
Overall, the predictions for this season are more promising than last year but the industry must carefully consider the statistic reported on last year that Ireland is the second most expensive country in the Eurozone to live in, after Finland. When I was in the US earlier this year it was clearly evident that word to his effect has already reached many would-be travellers. Obviously the weak dollar doesn’t help.
In the end, all anyone is asking for is what they perceive to be value for money. They are not interested in hearing about increased insurance costs, labour costs, waste disposal charges… They just want to feel that they haven’t been ripped off. Those who avail of the tempting offers on the internet compare prices all over the Eurozone and return with concrete examples of value for money. So, given our fixed charges, what can we do to surprise and delight our guests – well, often its little simple touches that can make the difference, in the end the way to most people’s hearts is through their tummies, so start by dumping the squishy sliced bread, bake some crusty bread for breakfast. It takes no length to make and if you are really pushed for time brown or white scones can be out of the oven in 10-15 minutes depending on size. Good home-made jam and marmalade always delight – three fruit marmalade can be made year round and there are jams that can be made in any season – we’ve just made our first batch of rhubarb and ginger (see recipe on my page of April 17th). It won’t be long before the elderflowers start to flower in the hedges, so then look out for some green gooseberries to make green gooseberry and elderflower jam. Both of these jams can make a welcome change from the endless raspberry and strawberry jams, no matter how delicious.
The jam tastes even more delicious when you pick your own and don’t underestimate how thrilled your guests will be to discover the jams are not only home-made but home grown. Lemon curd is also a gem of a recipe made in minutes.
Local honey is an even easier option, make inquiries in your area, serve it proudly, encourage your guests to taste, perhaps have two different types to compare.
Really good free range country eggs from hens that run freely around a farm are jewels – now a forgotten flavour for so many – If you can access eggs like these, highlight them on your menu and serve. Don’t forget to offer a freshly boiled egg with soldiers, the mere mention brings childhood memories tumbling back.
I’m running out of space so finally a non-foodie suggestion to enhance your guests’ experience in your establishment. When we’re on holidays we all like to chat, learn about the area. Very often the owners and staff are too busy to stop for any length of time, but this element of a holiday is enormously important. All over the country there are retired people who have some time on their hands and who really enjoy meeting people. Why not think about inviting someone who lives close by, or several people on a rota basis to drop by for a few hours to chat to your guests and help them with their travel plans, you may well be doing everyone a favour and the arrangement could well be made on a barter system – just a suggestion.

White Soda Bread and Scones

Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 20-30 minutes to bake. It is certainly another of my 'great convertibles'. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses. It's also great with olives, sun dried tomatoes or caramelized onions added, so the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.

1 lb (450g) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon breadsoda
Sour milk or buttermilk to mix - 12-14 fl ozs (350-412 ml) approx.

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8.
Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up and flip over gently. Pat the dough into a round about 1½ inches (2.5cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/regulo 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

White Soda Scones
Make the dough as above but flatten the dough into a round 1 inch (2.5cm) deep approx. Cut into scones. Cook for 20 minutes approx. in a hot oven (see above).

White Soda Bread with Herbs

Add 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped herbs eg. rosemary or sage, thyme, chives, parsley, lemon balm to the dry ingredients and continue as above. Shape into a loaf or scones and bake as for soda bread.

Cheddar Cheese and Thyme Leaf Scones

Substitute thyme leaves for mixed herbs in above recipe.

Cheese Scones or Herb and Cheese Scones

4 ozs (110g) grated mature Cheddar cheese
Egg wash

Make the White Soda bread or herb dough. Stamp into scones, brush the top of each one with egg wash and then dip into grated cheddar cheese, bake as for soda scones, or use to cover the top of a casserole or stew.

Rosemary and Olive Scones

Add 1½ tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary and 2 tablespoons roughly chopped stoned black olives to the dry ingredients and proceed as in the master recipe.

Rosemary and Sundried Tomatoes

Add 1-2 tablespoons of chopped rosemary, 2 tablespoons of chopped sundried tomatoes to the flour and continue as in the basic recipe. Form into a loaf of bread or scones.

Olive Scones

Make a white soda bread dough with or without herbs. Flatten into a 1 inch square. Dot the top with whole olives. Brush generously with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, cut into square scones and bake as above.

Lemon Curd
Tangy delicious lemon curd can be made in a twinkling, smear it over a sponge or onto fresh bread, buttery scones or meringues
2 ozs (55g) butter
4 ozs (110g) castor sugar
grated rind and juice of 2 good lemons
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk (keep white aside for meringue)

Makes 1 pot

On a very low heat melt the butter, add castor sugar, grated rind and lemon juice and then stir in the well beaten eggs. Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spoon until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Draw off the heat and pour into a bowl or sterilized jar (it will thicken further as it cools.)
Cover when cold and store in the refrigerator. Best eaten within a week or fortnight.

Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit Marmalade

Home-made marmalade is always a welcome present, particularly at Christmas, because quite often people have just run out of the previous year’s marmalade. Seville oranges don’t arrive into the shops until the end of January, so make this tangy 3-fruit marmalade in the meantime. It is made from orange, lemon and grapefruit, so may be made at any time of year.

Yield 10-10½ lbs (4.5 kg)

2 sweet oranges and 2 grapefruit, weighing 3 lbs (1.35 kg) altogether
4 lemons
6 pints (3.4 L’s) water
5 lbs (2.2 kg) sugar

Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a sharp spoon, keep aside. Cut the peel in quarters and slice the rind across rather than lengthways. Put the juice, sliced rind and water in a bowl.
Put the pips and membrane in a muslin bag and add to the bowl. Leave overnight. The following day, simmer in a stainless steel saucepan with the bag of pips for 1½-2 hours until the peel is really soft. (Cover for the first hour). The liquid should be reduced to about ⅓ of the original volume.
Then remove the muslin bag and discard. Add the warmed sugar to the soft peel, stir until the sugar has dissolved: boil until it reaches setting point, about 8-10 minutes. Pour into sterilised jars and cover while hot.
Note: If the sugar is added before the rind is really soft, the rind will harden and no amount of boiling will soften it.

Ginger Marmalade

Add 6-8 ozs (170-225 g) peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger to once the recipe.

You may like to substitute Demerara sugar for a fuller flavour and darker colour.

Elderflower and Green Gooseberry Jam

Makes 6 x 450g (1 lb) pots

In season: late spring

The gooseberries should be tart and green and hard as hail stones - as soon as the elderflowers are in bloom in the hedgerows search for the gooseberries under the prickly bushes or seek them out in your local greengrocer or farmers market.

1.35kg (3 lb) green gooseberries
5-6 elderflower heads
600ml (1pint) water
1.57kg (32 lb) sugar

Wash the gooseberries if necessary. Top and tail them and put into a wide stainless steel preserving pan with the water and elderflowers tied in muslin. Simmer until the gooseberries are soft and the contents of the pan are reduced by one third, approx. 2 hour. Remove the elderflowers and add the warm sugar, stirring until it has completely dissolved. Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until setting point is reached (220F on a jam thermometer). Pour into hot clean jars, cover and store in a dry airy cupboard.
This jam should be a fresh colour, so be careful not to overcook it.

Breakfast Fruit Salad

Serves 8
Breakfast cereals that can be made ahead and kept in the fridge are particularly useful, we love this one and often eat it as a Winter dessert with a few pistachio nuts or toasted almonds added.

6½ ozs (185g) prunes
6 ozs (170g) dried apricots
1 small handful of raisins
3-4 bananas
1-2 tablesp. pure Irish honey
grated rind of ½ lemon
8 fl ozs (250ml) freshly squeezed orange juice

Soak the prunes and apricots overnight. Next day put the prunes, apricots, raisins and lemon rind into a casserole. Mix the honey with ½ cup warm water and enough of the fruit soaking water to cover the prunes and apricots. Bring to the boil and simmer for 35 minutes approx. Allow to cool and keep in the refrigerator. Just before serving, add a little fresh orange juice and some sliced bananas to each bowl. Serve with pouring cream.
Keeps for 1-2 weeks in a kilner jar in the fridge.

Foolproof Food

Beginners Wholemeal Bread

This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldn’t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well greased tin.
This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.

Makes 1 loaf

400g (14 oz) stone ground wholemeal flour
55g (3oz) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1 egg, preferably free range
1 tablespoon arachide or sunflower oil, unscented
425ml (15fl oz) buttermilk or sourmilk approx. (put all the milk in)
Sunflower or sesame seeds optional

Loaf tin - 9 inches (23cm) x 5 inches (12.5cm) x 2 inches (5cm)

Preheat oven to 2001C/4001F/regulo 6.
Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey most of the buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin and bake for 60 minutes approx, or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Top Tips
Just about time to plant a few gooseberry, blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes.

Unwaxed Lemons – look out for these for your lemon curd or three-fruit marmalade – available in Marks and Spencers and specialist greengrocers.

2004 Seafood Circle Pub Lunch Awards
The names of Ireland’s leading seafood pub lunch venues were published recently in the 2004 BIM Seafood Circle Pub Lunch Guide – the aim of the Seafood Circle Programme, which was developed by BIM in association with the vintners, is to support and encourage pubs to improve the quality, range and understanding of seafood dishes on their lunchtime menus – ‘to bring the best of Irish seafood and great Irish pub ambiance to both tourists and Irish customers alike’ says Pat Keogh CEO of BIM – copies of the guide are available from BIM Market Development – Tel 01-2144100 or e-mail   

Bord Bia is to sponsor the world’s first University of Gastronomic Sciences -
This will be established in Italy by the Slow Food Movement which has more than 50,000 members in 50 countries.


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


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