Just back from another trip to New York

Just back from another trip to New York – I don’t usually whizz in and out of the Big Apple twice within a month but I was on my way to Dallas to the IACP Conference so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to take up Arlene Feltman’s invitation to teach a class at her cooking school – De Gustibus in Macys.
I brought some of Bill Casey’s Shanagarry smoked salmon which fortunately the terrifying sniffer dogs at Newark Airport didn’t seem at all interested in. Arlene’s classes are very civilized, guests arrive a 5pm and are greeted and treated to a glass of cool sparkling wine to soothe their frazzled nerves having battled through rush hour in Manhattan.
I made a few loaves of Ballymaloe Brown Bread, spread them proudly with Kerrygold butter and topped the slices with juicy salmon – everyone loved it. We were off to a good start. Arlene invites chefs from all over the world to teach at her school as well as hot New York and other US chefs.
I chose a simple menu, perfect for an early Spring dinner to showcase fresh seasonal ingredients and a few simple techniques. I really wanted people to be able to cook all the dishes after the class. The Potato, chorizo and flat parsley soup demonstrated the basic soup technique. US potatoes in general aren’t a patch on good Irish potatoes, but a variety called Yukon Gold works well. When I’m teaching I try to encourage people to really think about the provenance of their food when they shop and no matter how busy to try to source really top quality, fresh local food in season, organic if at all possible.
Local is not always easy in New York, but nonetheless superb produce can be bought at the green market in Union Square, right down in Greenwich Village,- one can get free range eggs, delicious organic chickens, gorgeous organic salad leaves and micro greens for a green salad. ….. I used some verjuice in the dressing -verjuice, made from unripe grapes or apples, is having a revival. This product was widely used in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance but its popularity waned when lemons began to be more widely used.
The lamb came from Jamison farm in Pennsylvania, John and Sukey Jamison raise sheep and allow them to range freely on their organic pasture. The resulting lamb is much sweeter and more succulent than most US lamb, but scarcely as good as the lamb you’d get from Irish family butchers who know the farmers who rear the animals - how fortunate we are to still have so many local butchers, a source of real envy to many of my US foodie friends. 
This time of the year is referred to as ‘the hungry gap’ for fresh vegetables, most of the winter greens are finished or the crop is running to seed – the new season’s vegetables really don’t come on stream until Whit, hence the spiced aubergine recipe. However, we do have lots of rhubarb, how gorgeous does that taste after a long Winter – you just know its doing you good, clearing the blood and providing us with lots of calcium, potassium, manganese and some vitamins A & C. Arthritis sufferers however, should desist as rhubarb is reported to aggravate that condition. I made a Roscommon rhubarb pie (see article of 12th March) from my Irish Traditional Food book with the first of the new season’s rhubarb in New York. This was originally baked in a bastible over the open fire but it also works very well and tastes delicious when its baked in an ordinary oven. 
This, and champ with a lump of butter melting in the centre is real comfort food which brought nostalgic whimpers from the Irish in the audience. 
I rounded off the meal with some superb Irish farmhouse cheeses from Murray’s Cheese Shop. Rob Kaufelt selected Cashel Blue, Crozier Blue and a gorgeous pungent Ardrahan.
Rob has now got a cult following and recently moved into much larger premises across the road from his original shop in Bleecker Street and his cheese shop in Grand Central Station is also bursting at the seams. Farmhouse or farmstead cheese as they are called in the US, are the hottest food items on restaurant menus and delis, in a country where the majority of people would hardly let a bit of cheese pass their lips up to a few years ago.
I told the class all about the Irish farmhouse cheese industry and the close bond between many of our cheesemakers and their counterparts in the US, who have invited their Irish heroes to come and help them with their cheesemaking techniques.
By the time the class was over, Arlene had poured two other wines to complement the meal and I’d managed to dispel the myth of Ireland as the land of corned beef and cabbage, and whip everyone into a frenzy of excitement about Ireland and Irish food and they couldn’t wait to rush out to the nearest Fairways food shop to buy some rich Irish butter to slather on their bread.

Potato, Chorizo and Parsley Soup

Most people would have potatoes and onions in the house even if the cupboard was otherwise bare so one could make this simply delicious soup at a moment's notice. While the vegetables are sweating, pop a few white soda scones or cheddar cheese scones into the oven and wow won't they be impressed.
We love Fingal Ferguson's Gubbeen chorizo, so much that we dream up all sorts of ways of using it. The strong hot spicy taste adds lots of oomph to the silky potato soup.
Serves 6

55g (2oz) butter
425g (15oz) peeled diced potatoes, one-third inch dice
110g (4oz) diced onions, one-third inch dice
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
900ml (1½pints) home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock
120ml (4fl oz) creamy milk
18 slices of chorizo

snipped flat parsley sprigs

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes approx. Meanwhile bring the stock to the boil, when the vegetables are soft but not coloured add the stock and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk to the required consistency. 
Just before serving cook the slices of chorizo for a minute or two on each side on a non stick pan, oil will render out of the chorizo.
Serve three slices of chorizo on top of each bowl, sprinkle a few flat parsley sprigs on top, drizzle a little chorizo oil haphazardly over the soup and serve immediately.

Green Salad with Verjuice Dressing

Green Salad has been included in all my books because we serve it with every lunch and dinner, varying the dressing to suit the menu.

A selection of lettuces and salad leaves eg. Butterhead, Iceberg, Cos, Oakleaf, (green or bronze), Chinese leaves, Lollo rosso, Raddichio trevisano, Rocket, Salad burnet, Golden marjoram or edible Chrysanthemum leaves and edible flowers.

Verjuice and Honey Dressing

2fl oz (50ml) verjuice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6fl oz (175ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
salt, freshly ground pepper

Wash and dry very well carefully the lettuces, salad leaves and flowers. Tear into bite-sized pieces and put into a deep salad bowl. Cover with cling-film and refrigerate, if not to be served immediately.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Mix all the ingredients together, whisking well before use. Just before serving, toss the leaves with a little dressing – just enough to make the leaves glisten. Serve immediately.
Note: Green Salad must not be dressed until just before serving, otherwise it will look tired and unappetising.

Lamb Roast with Coriander Seeds and Spiced Aubergine

A shoulder of lamb is much trickier to carve but the flavour is so wonderfully sweet and juicy, its certainly worth the struggle, particularly at home where perfect slices of meat are not obligatory.
Serves 8-10 approx.

1 leg of lamb
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons approx. coriander seeds
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

8-10 medium-sized potatoes
Gravy
1 tablespoon fresh ground coriander, if available
450ml (¾ pint) Home-made Lamb or Chicken Stock 

Ask your butcher to trim the knuckle end and to remove the aitch bone for ease of carving.
Warm the coriander seeds slightly on a pan, crush them in a pestle and mortar. Cut the peeled cloves of garlic in strips. Make a few incisions with the point of a sharp knife in the leg of lamb and insert a piece of garlic and some crushed coriander into each hole. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil, roast in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 in the usual way. Add some medium sized potatoes to the dish half way through cooking. The coriander seeds give a delicious flavour to the meat. Carve it into thick slices so that everybody gets some coriander. Serve with a light gravy to which a little freshly ground coriander has been added. The meat should be moist and tender.
Lamb Roast with Cumin
Substitute freshly ground cumin for coriander in the recipe above. Alternatively mix cumin and coriander.

Spiced Aubergine

Serves 6
1 inch (2.5cm) cube of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely crushed
50ml (2 fl ozs) water

800g (1¾ lbs) aubergines
250ml (8 fl ozs) approximate vegetable oil (we use Arachide) 
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
350g (¾ lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped or 1 x 400g (14ozs) tin tomatoes + 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander seeds
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric 
a teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like) 
Sea Salt
55g (2ozs) raisins

Cut the aubergine into ¾ inch (2cm) thick slices. Heat 175ml (6 fl ozs) of oil in a deep 10-12 inch (25-30cm) frying pan. When hot, almost smoking, add a few aubergine slices and cook until golden and tender on both sides. Remove and drain on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Repeat with the remainder of the aubergines, adding more oil if necessary. 
Put the ginger, garlic and water into a blender. Blend until fairly smooth. 

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in the frying pan. When hot, add the fennel and cumin seeds, (careful not to let them burn). Stir for just a few seconds then put in the chopped tomato, the ginger-garlic mixture, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the spice mixture thickens slightly, 5-6 minutes. 
Add the fried aubergine slices and raisins, and coat gently with the spicy sauce. Cover the pan, turn the heat to very low and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Serve warm.
The spiced aubergine mixture is also good served cold or at room temperature as an accompaniment to hot or cold lamb or pork. 

Scallion Champ

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions and a blob of butter melting in the centre is ‘comfort’ food at its best.
Serves 4-6

1.5kg (3lb) 6-8 unpeeled 'old' potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders, 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

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. Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butte 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. 

Scallion and Potato Cakes
Shape leftover scallion mash into potato cakes, cook until golden on both sides in clarified butter or butter and oil. Serve piping hot.

Wild Garlic Mash

Wild garlic is now prolific in the hedgerows and woods
Add 50-85g (2-3oz) roughly chopped wild garlic leaves to the milk just as it comes to the boil. Continue as above.


Foolproof Food

Crunchy Apple or Rhubarb Crumble Tart

Serves 8
Pastry
6 ozs (170g) plain white flour 
3 ozs (85g) butter 
1 dessertspoon castor sugar 
1 beaten egg, approx.

5-6 stalks of red rhubarb or
5-6 well flavoured eating apples, Coxs Orange Pippin or Golden Delicious 
Crumble
3 ozs (85g) unsalted butter
3 ozs (85g) plain white flour
6 ozs (170g) granulated sugar from the vanilla pod jar
3 ozs (85g) chopped almonds (unpeeled)
3 teasp. cinnamon 

9 - 10 inch (23-25.5cm) tart tin

First make the pastry.
Sieve the flour and sugar into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible, if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.
Whisk the egg. Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. 
The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, 'shorter' crust. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Line the tart tin with pastry. 
Fill with chopped rhubarb or peeled and chopped dessert apples.
Next make the crumble. 
Rub the butter into the flour and sugar to make a coarse crumble. Add the ground cinnamon and chopped almonds. Spread the crumble over the top of the fruit.
Bake in a preheated oven 190C/375F/regulo 5 until fully cooked - 35-40 minutes.
Serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

Hot Tips 

New weekly news series on food traceability on RTE Radio 1
Consumed • Mondays at 8pm from 11 April to 30 May
Expect to hear discussions of GM animal feed and food on the new weekly RTE Radio 1 programme Consumed, which traces everyday food products from retail outlets, not only back to the farm of origin, but to the origin of the commodities used in the production process. Presented by Tommy Standún. 
You can listen to the show later at www.rte.ie/radio1/  
Tommy Standun would love to have a live viewer call-in discussion of GM issues as the final programme in the series. He recommends you ask RTE to provide this service by sending an email request to the show’s producers at consumed@rte.ie. 

Farmers Market at Farmleigh in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, this Sunday 1st May from 10am – 6pm and on the First Sunday in June, July and August. 

Relaunch of Docklands Market at The IFSC on Excise Walk every Thursday from May 5th 10.00am – 3.00pm

Cornucopia of Culinary Talent at Tasting Australia 2005.
This major event on the world’s gastronomic calendar takes place in Adelaide, South Australia from 21-30 October 2005. Full details at 
www.tasting-australia.com.au