Christmas Leftovers

It always seems to be so difficult to decide just how much food one needs to buy in for Christmas, I never seem to get it right. Even my most meticulous plans change – late invitations mean that food is relegated to the back of the fridge and the best laid plans are cheerfully ditched to accept a spontaneous invitation.

Last week I was sorting through the miscellaneous items still in the fridge and pantry after the festive season, what a jumble. I’ve been making New Year resolutions to use up all those little bits that have been chucked into the freezer in a desperate effort to reduce waste when plans have changed.

So what did I find? Several bags of cranberries – they freeze brilliantly and can of course be made into cranberry sauce to accompany a juicy roast pheasant, guinea fowl or chicken at any time, but you may want to try something a little less predictable. Throw a fistful into the dry ingredients when you are making scones, or add them to a muffin mix, the bittersweet flavour is a delicious surprise. 

We have also been putting cranberries in ice-cubes to use in drinks over the festive season. They look pretty and taste good, particularly if you have time to prick them with a needle and soak the cranberries in a little simple sugar syrup beforehand.

A bittersweet cranberry sauce is delicious as a filling in a meringue roulade or in a feather-light sponge with some softly whipped cream. My current favourite though is a pear, cranberry and almond tart. It is rich and intense and keeps well – a little slice is perfect with a blob of whipped cream after dinner.

Many houses have a pot or two of mincemeat left over also, most recipes keep well, sometimes even for years, so there’s no great urgency to use it up, but when you begin to feel peckish again try making this mincemeat bread and butter pudding or mincemeat crumble tart. They are both so delectable that it is almost worth making mincemeat specially to try them. A layer of mincemeat is also delicious on the base of a Bramley apple tart.

certainly no hardship eating these leftovers.

I also found a bag of Brussels sprouts in need of attention, so I experimented with Thai flavours with delicious results. 

Brussels Sprouts puree is also delicious with a peppered steak.

This Christmas I got a present of not one, but two beautiful Pannetone. The rich featherlight yeasted Italian cake wrapped in gold paper and silk ribbon, makes an irresistible nibble over Christmas and leftovers made the best Summer pudding. Its certainly no hardship eating these leftovers.

Happy New Year to all our readers!

Festive Pear and Cranberry Tart

This is certainly one of the most impressive of the French tarts, it is wonderful served warm but is also very good cold and it keeps for several days. Splash in a little Kirsch if you are using pears.
Serves 8 - 10

3 ripe pears 
4ozs (110g) cranberries approximately

Shortcrust Pastry
7 ozs (200g) flour
4 ozs (110g) cold butter
1 egg yolk, preferably free range
pinch of salt
3-4 tablesp. cold water

3 ½ ozs (100g) butter
3 ½ozs (100g) castor sugar
1 egg, beaten 
1 egg yolk, preferably free range
2 tablesp. Kirsch if using pears 
4 ozs (110g) whole blanched almonds, ground 
1 oz (30g) flour

To Finish
¼ pint (150ml) approx. apricot glaze 

9 inch (23cm) diameter flan ring or tart tin with a removable base 

First make the shortcrust pastry,

Sieve the flour and salt 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 yolk and add the water. 

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 the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes or better still 30 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.

Next poach the pears (see Foolproof Food) and allow to get cold. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Roll out the pastry, line the tart tin with it, prick lightly with a fork, flute the edges and chill again until firm. Bake blind for 15-20 minutes.

Next make the frangipane. Cream the butter, gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and soft. Gradually add the egg and egg yolk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the ground almonds and flour and then add the kirsch or calvados. Pour the frangipane into the pastry case spreading it evenly. Drain the pears well and when they are cold cut them crosswise into very thin slices, then lift the sliced pears intact and arrange them around the tart on the frangipane pointed ends towards the centre. I use 5 halves and eat the sixth, heavenly!! Fill in all the spaces with the cranberries.

Turn the oven up to 200C/400F/regulo 6. Bake the tart for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is beginning to brown. Turn down the oven heat to moderate 180C/350F/regulo 4 and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the frangipane is set in the centre and nicely golden.

Meanwhile make the apricot glaze. When the tart is fully cooked, paint generously with apricot glaze, remove from the tin and serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

Apricot Glaze
Apricot glaze is invaluable to have made up in your fridge. It would always be at hand in a pastry kitchen and is used to glaze tarts which contain green or orange or white fruit, eg. kiwi, grapes, greengages, peaches, oranges, apples or pears. It will turn you into a professional at the flick of a pastry brush!

In a small saucepan (not aluminium), melt 12 ozs (350g) apricot jam with the juice of 3 lemons, water - or enough to make a glaze that can be poured. Push the hot jam through a nylon sieve and store in an airtight jar. Reheat the glaze to melt it before using. The quantities given above make a generous ½ pint (300ml) glaze.

Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding

Use up all that leftover bread and mincemeat in a delicious way.
Serves 6-8

12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed 
1lb (450g) mincemeat 
16 fl ozs (475ml) cream
8 fl ozs (225ml) milk
4 large free-range eggs, beaten lightly
1 teasp. pure vanilla extract
5 ozs (150g) golden castor sugar
grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
A pinch of salt
1 tablesp. sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding

Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish 

Arrange 4 slices of bread in a single layer in the dish. Sprinkle the mincemeat evenly over the top. Arrange another layer of bread over the mincemeat and sprinkle on the rest of the mincemeat. Cover with the remaining bread.

In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence, sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the grated citrus zest. Pour the liquid over the bread. Sprinkle the sugar over the top, cover with cling film and let the pudding stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.

Bake in a bain-marie - the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of a preheated oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the warm pudding with some softly-whipped cream.

Note: This pudding reheats perfectly but must be served hot otherwise the suet will congeal.

Delicious Bread and Butter Puddings can be made using:

1. Barmbrack as a base, add mixed spice or cinnamon.

2. Pannettone – proceed as above.

3. Brioche – proceed as Bread and Butter Pudding or use Apricot jam and lace with apricot brandy.

Brussels Sprouts with Thai Flavours

Serves 4-6
1lb (450g) Brussels sprouts, cut in half, blanched and refreshed in boiling salted water
400ml (14fl oz) coconut milk
1 tablespoon green curry paste
1 Thai green chilli, pounded (optional – if you like a hotter curry)
175ml (6fl oz) chicken stock 
2 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 tablespoon palm sugar or a little less of soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce (Nam Pla)
20 basil leaves
1 large red chilli, pounded
1 tablespoon soya sauce

Heat the wok on a low heat. Pour 110ml (4fl oz) coconut milk into the wok. Add the green curry paste and a pounded green chilli, and mix well. Then add the stock, remainder of the coconut milk, Brussels sprouts, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar and fish sauce, half the basil leaves and pounded red chilli.

Stir constantly on a medium heat until the sauce boils and foams up. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, otherwise the sauce may separate – it should be cooked in about 10 minutes. Add the remainder of the basil leaves, taste for seasoning, add soya sauce if necessary. Serve hot with steamed rice. 

Classic Parmesan and Gruyère Cheese Soufflé

Guests are always wildly impressed by a well risen soufflé and believe me its not rocket science so don’t imagine for one moment that you can’t do it - a soufflé is simply a well flavoured sauce enriched with egg yolks and lightened with stiffly beaten egg. Soufflés are much more good humoured than you think and can even be frozen when they are ready for the oven. The French do infinite variations on the theme, both sweet and savoury. I love to make this recipe with some of the best Farmhouse cheese eg: Desmond or Gabriel or a mature Coolea, you will probably find that you have bits of various cheese in the fridge since Christmas. It would also make a nice change from rich meat dishes.
Serves 8-10

For the moulds:
Melted butter

15g (½ oz) Parmesan cheese (Parmigano Reggiano is best) - optional
45g (1½ oz) butter
30g (1 oz) flour
300ml (½ pint) milk
4 eggs, preferably free range and organic 
55g (2 oz) Gruyere cheese, finely grated 
55g (2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper

8 individual soufflé dishes, 7cm (2¾ inch) diameter x (4cm)1½ inch high or one large dish 15cm (6 inch) diameter x 6.5cm (2½inch) high.

First prepare the soufflé dish or dishes: brush evenly with melted butter and if you like dust with a little freshly grated Parmesan. 

Preheat the oven to 200º C/400º F /gas mark 6 and a baking sheet. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir in the flour and cook over a gentle heat for 1-2 minutes. Draw off the heat and whisk in the milk, return to the heat, whisk as it comes to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Separate the eggs and put the whites into a large copper, glass or stainless steel bowl, making sure it’s spotlessly clean and dry. Whisk the yolks one by one into the white sauce, add the cheese, season with salt, pepper, cayenne and a little freshly ground nutmeg. It should taste hugely seasoned at this because the egg whites will dull the seasoning. Stir over a gentle heat for just a few seconds until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat. (can be made ahead up to this point)

Whisk the egg whites with a little pinch of salt, slowly at first and then faster until they are light and voluminous and hold a stiff peak when you lift up the whisk. Stir a few tablespoons into the cheese mixture to lighten it and then carefully fold in the rest with a spatula or tablespoon. Fill the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish or dishes (if you fill them ¾ full you will get about 10 but if you smooth the tops you will have about 8). Bake in a preheated oven for 8-9 minutes for the individual soufflés or 20-25 minutes. For the large one you will need to reduce the temperature to moderate, 180ºC / 350º F /gas mark 4, after 15 minutes and a bain marie is a good idea. 

Serve immediately.
Foolproof Food

Poached Pears

6 pears
½lb (225g) sugar
1 pint (600ml) water
a couple of strips of lemon peel and juice of 2 lemons

Bring the sugar and water to the boil with the strips of lemon peel in a non reactive saucepan. Meanwhile peel the pears thinly, cut in half and core carefully with a melon baller or a teaspoon, keeping a good shape. Put the pear halves into the syrup, cut side uppermost, add the lemon juice, cover with a paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer until the pears are just soft - the tip of a knife or skewer should go through without resistance. Turn into a serving bowl, chill and serve on their own or with homemade vanilla icecream and chocolate sauce, in which case you have Poires Belles Helene - one of Escoffier's great classics.

Top Tip: If you fill the soufflé dishes to the top smooth off with a palette knife then run a washed thumb around the edge of the dishes before they go into the oven to help to get the ‘top hat’ effect when the soufflé is well risen.

Individual frozen soufflés can be baked from the frozen but they will take a few minutes longer to cook.

Cheese Soufflés with salad leaves:
Just before the soufflés are cooling, toss a mixture of salad leaves and divide between the plates.

Hot tips  Created by one of the world's leading authorities on cheese, Juliet Harbutt, the Cheese Web has tons of information about cheese, cheesemakers, cheese sellers and cheese events around the world. It also gives you instant access to information about the British Cheese Awards and Great British Cheese Festival and Juliet's internationally acclaimed cheese books, workshops and masterclasses and tells you how she can help with marketing and merchandising your cheese, train your staff or simply answer any queries you have about cheese.

The Food Map 

About 6 months ago, began to develop maps of interest for people who like to cook. They now have nationwide maps for the following topics:

1. farmers’ markets

2. pick your own fruit and vegetable farms 3. cheese farms 4. farms where you can get fresh and heritage turkeys 5. wineries 6. wine shops 7. cooking schools 

They initially researched and populated these maps ourselves, with the idea in mind that cooking enthusiasts would subsequently add to, and enhance, the information we provided. They mapped each place, and provided space for a written description, photo, and link to a website. Worth a look if planning a foodie trip.

A Delicious little Christmas Eve supper

How about planning a delicious little Christmas Eve supper that can be slipped into the oven, something comforting to soothe your shattered nerves, when you are exhausted and fraught from trying to remember a zillion things, and doing your best to be all things to all men. A convivial family supper around the kitchen table is the true spirit of Christmas.

First pop a bottle or several of Prosecco into the fridge ‘just in case’ you feel like a little fizz. If a pot of tea seems more likely to hit the spot the bubbly will be well chilled for Christmas Day anyway.

French Peasant Soup would be delicious, its quite filling so if you opt for just soup and pud everyone could tuck into a second or even third bowl. While you are at it, make three or four times the recipe, it freezes brilliantly, little tubs are ideal and can be defrosted very quickly if some pals unexpectedly drop in and look as though they are not going to leave until they get fed!

For main course, a gratin would be easy and delicious. It takes a bit of putting together but it can of course be made ahead and just slipped into the oven until it is heated through and it is crunchy and bubbly on top.

Another alternative would be my sister Lizzie’s ‘supper in a pot’ which is so comforting and filling.

A green salad of winter leaves with a good punchy dressing made from really good extra virgin olive oil will make you feel less full so you have room for pudding. Dessert could be an Apple and Mincemeat Tart or maybe a Toffee and Date pudding with Butterscotch Sauce, or a Cool Yule Fruit Salad.

Alternatively forget pudding as such and just cut the Christmas Cake and enjoy a little slice with a glass of sweet sherry or ice wine.

Whatever the choice lets not forget to thank the good Lord for all the delicious food, spare a thought and share with those around us who are in need, and above all remember and reflect on the real reason for the celebration.

A very Happy Christmas to all our readers.

French Peasant Soup

This is another very substantial soup - it has 'eating and drinking' in it and would certainly be a meal in itself particularly if some grated Cheddar cheese was scattered over the top.
Serves 6

6 ozs (170g) unsmoked streaky bacon (in the piece)
Olive or sunflower oil
5 ozs (140g) potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
2 ozs (55g) onions, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic (optional)
1 lb (450g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1 x 14 oz (400g) tin of tomatoes and their juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½-1 teasp. sugar
1¼ pints (750ml) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 ozs (55g) cabbage (Savoy is best), finely chopped

Chopped parsley

Remove the rind from the bacon if necessary. Prepare the vegetables and cut the bacon into ¼ inch (5mm) dice approx. Blanch the bacon cubes in cold water to remove some of the salt, drain and dry on kitchen paper, saute in a little olive or sunflower oil until the fat runs and the bacon is crisp and golden. Add potatoes, onions and crushed garlic, sweat for 10 minutes and then add diced tomatoes and any juice. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Cover with stock and cook for 5 minutes. Add the finely chopped cabbage and continue to simmer just until the cabbage is cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley and serve.

Mediterranean Peasant Soup

Add ½ Kabanossi sausage thinly sliced to the soup with the potato. ¼ lb (110g) cooked haricot beans may also be added with the cabbage at the end for a more robust soup.
Winter Green Salad with Honey and Mustard Dressing
For this salad, use a selection of winter lettuces and salad leaves, e.g. Butterhead, Iceberg, Raddichio, Endive, Chicory, Watercress, Buckler leaf, Sorrel, Rocket leaves and Winter Purslane Mysticana. Tips of purple sprouting broccoli are also delicious and if you feel like something more robust, use some finely-shredded Savoy cabbage and maybe a few shreds of red cabbage also. 

Honey and Mustard Dressing
6 fl ozs (150ml) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils, eg. sunflower and arachide
2 fl ozs (50ml) wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teasp. honey
2 heaped teasp. wholegrain honey mustard
2 cloves garlic

Mix all the ingredients together and whisk well before use.

Wash and dry the lettuces and other leaves very carefully in a large sink of cold water. If large tear into bite sized pieces and put into a deep salad bowl. Cover with cling film and refrigerate if not to be served immediately. Just before serving toss 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 be tired and unappetising.

Lizzie’s Chicken Hot Pot

This basic technique may also be used with lamb or pork.
Serves 6-8

8 potatoes
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
2-4 carrots, peeled and sliced ¼" thick
4-8 ozs (110-225g) streaky bacon, cut into lardous
free range organic chicken ( 6- 8 portions, e.g. 4 chicken breasts and 4 thighs or drumsticks cut into manageable size pieces)
salt, freshly ground pepper
chicken stock 
few sprigs thyme

Medium-sized Le Creuset type casserole 

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Regulo 8. 

Peel the potatoes, four thinly and the others in thick slices. Arrange a layer of thinly sliced potatoes in the base of the dish. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

A layer of thinly sliced onion comes next, then the carrot and bacon lardons, season again. Lay the chicken pieces on top. Another sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper and a sprig of thyme. Finally an overlapping layer of thickly sliced potatoes. Pour boiling stock over the lot to come about half way up the side. Cover. Put into the preheated oven and cook for 40-60 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the potato is crisp and golden on top. 

Toffee and Date Pudding with Butterscotch and Pecan Nut Sauce

Serves 6-8
225g (8oz) chopped dates
300ml (1/2pint) tea
110g (4oz) unsalted butter
170g (6oz) castor sugar
3 eggs, free-range and organic
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bread soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon Espresso coffee powder

Butterscotch Pecan Sauce

110g (4oz) butter
170g (6oz) dark soft brown, Barbados sugar
110g (4oz) granulated sugar
285g (10oz) golden syrup
225g (8fl oz) cream
1/2 teaspoon pure Vanilla essence
50g (2oz) chopped pecans

20.5cm (8inch) spring form tin with removable base.

Set the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.

Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes. Brush the cake tin with oil and place oiled greaseproof paper on the base.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour. Add the sieved breadsoda, Vanilla essence and coffee to the date and tea and stir this into the mixture. Turn into the lined tin and cook for 1-1½ hours or until a skewer comes out clean.

To make the Butterscotch pecan sauce: 
Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla essence and the pecans. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.

To Serve
Pour some hot sauce on to a serving plate. Put the sticky toffee pudding on top, pour lots more sauce over the top. Put the remainder into a bowl, and to serve with the pudding as well as softly whipped cream.

Apple and Mincemeat Tart

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from 'hot hands' don't have to worry about rubbing in the butter. Use it for a variety of fruit tarts. It can be difficult to handle when its first made and benefits from being chilled for at least an hour. Better still, if rested overnight.
Serves 8-12

225g (8oz) butter
50g (2oz) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free-range and organic
340g (12oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

675g (1½lb) Bramley Seedling cooking apples
110g (4oz) sugar
⅓-½ jar mincemeat

egg wash
castor sugar for sprinkling

To serve
softly whipped cream
barbados sugar

1 rectangular tin, 18cm(7 inch) x 30.5cm (12 inch) x 2.5cm (1inch) deep or 1 x 23cm (9inch) round tin
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.

First make the pastry. Beat the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 1 hour otherwise it is difficult to handle. 

To make the tart
Use a little less then two/thirds of the pastry to line the choose tin.

Roll the pastry 3mm (1/8inch) thick approx. Spread a layer of mincemeat on the pastry. Peel, quarter and dice the apples into the tart tin. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, stars, heart shapes or whatever takes your fancy. Brush with egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar. Serve. 

Foolproof Food

Cool Yule Fruit Salad

Serves 10-15
Equal volumes of:

ripe melon, balled
ripe papaya, sliced thinly and cut into squares.
ripe mango, sliced
passion fruit seeds
ripe pineapple, diced
ripe kiwi, sliced and quartered.
ripe banana, sliced
pomegranate seeds 

A glass bowl

Lime Syrup

8 oz (225g) sugar
8 fl oz (225 ml) water
2 limes

First make the lime syrup. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes; allow to cool. Meanwhile remove the zest from the lime either with a zester or a fine stainless steel grater and add to the syrup with the juice of the lime. 

Prepare all the fruits in individual bowls and cover with lime syrup.

Arrange the fruit in layers in a glass bowl. Cover and allow to chill and marinate for an hour at least.

To Serve
Ladle carefully into serving bowls so each guest gets a mixture of fruit. Serve alone or with softly whipped cream.

Cooks Book 

Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini published by Phaidon

This is the first cookbook by Rose Carrarini who co-founded the much-imitated delicatessen Villandry in London in 1988, and now serves her signature simple, fresh and natural food at Rose Bakery, the Anglo-French Bakery and restaurant in Paris. Rose holds a passionate philosophy that “life is improved by great food and great food can be achieved by everyone”. 

This book includes recipes for over 100 of Rose Bakery’s most popular dishes, from breakfast staples such as crispy granola to afternoon treats, including sticky toffee pudding and carrot cake, as well as soups, risottos and other dishes, perfect for a light lunch.

Banana Cake

You need very ripe bananas for this cake.
Serves 8

150g (5oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
180g (6oz) caster sugar
3 eggs
3 bananas, about 350g (12oz) total weight, mashed
110ml (3½fl.oz) buttermilk, or a mixture of milk and natural yogurt
1 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)
½ teaspoon salt
350g (12oz) plain flour, sifted
100g (3½oz) chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4
Butter a 25cm (10inch) loaf tin and line its base with parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugar until they are light and creamy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the bananas and the buttermilk or milk and yogurt.

Mix together the bicarbonate of soda and salt and carefully fold into the mixture with the flour, then fold in the walnuts.

Using a large spoon or spatula, combine the mixture well and spoon into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool the cake in the tin before taking it out.


Chocolate and Banana Cake
Use the same recipe, and add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder to the flour. Fold in 200g (7oz) chopped dark chocolate at the same time as the walnuts.
Hot Tips

The Rural Food Company Training Network
Courses in New Product Development, Business Growth and Development and Intermediate Hygiene are being run by the Rural Food Company Training Network until March 2008, to help management and staff of food businesses avail of very specific training which will assist their business in achieving growth, sustainability and competitiveness. Funded through the Dept of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. For details email: or contact Eilish Broderick at 068-23390 or 087-6386501, Rural Food Company Training Network, 58 Church St. Listowel, Co Kerry.

Holycross Stores, Holycross, Co Tipperary – near the famous Holycross Abbey – 5km from Cashel and 1.5km from Thurles
Ann Marie and Brian Walsh are now running the local village shop and have increased the range of products provided, including a deli and hot counter – hot lunches, soup, fresh salads and sandwiches. Their vision is to remain an independent retailer with a strong emphasis on providing fresh, Irish and local food wherever possible – they are sourcing local meats, cheeses, preserves, vegetables….086-8246310 

Brown Envelope Seeds

2007 Catalogue of Irish Certified Organic Vegetable Seeds now available  Tel 028-38184 
Limited stock so order early.

How about the perfect Foodie present?

My builder is fond of saying that there’s no problem getting something done ‘if you have the bit of gear’. 

The same applies in the kitchen – many frustrated wannabe cooks could achieve much more if they had a few more bits of basic kit.

A food mixer can revolutionise the life of a ‘cup cake queen’. This is one piece of equipment that’s really worth the money. The Kenwood Chef has really stood the test of time here at the Cookery School. Most come with a blender which means you can whiz up silky soup in seconds - available from stockists nationwide.

A food processor is another ‘must have’ for the keen cook, we use Magimix and find them very reliable, there is some overlap in that one can make some cakes and biscuits with it, but overall it does different things from the food mixer. Home-made mayonnaise is made in minutes, it chops and purees in a twinkling. The extra blades allow you to grate and slice in a few delicious seconds.

For the growing number of ‘urban farmers’ and smallholders who are enjoying curing their own meat, a sausage making attachment would be a presie from heaven.
Less expensive but a year round pleasure would be a gift subscription to ‘The Smallholder’

For those who would like to keep a few chickens in their town garden the ultimate presie is An Eglu, a little ‘palais des poulets’ large enough to keep two chickens (with a little run). Its light enough to be moved around so your ‘flock’ are on a fresh patch of grass every day. 

For serious coffee buffs, an Espresso Machine that really works would be the ultimate presie – It’ll set you back five or six hundred euros, but think of the frothy cappuccinos and earth-moving espressos – perhaps the whole family could club together – Gaggia or Francis, Francis really work.

Another kitchen toy that’s worth the money is a Braun Multipractic – great presie for a student who likes to dabble in the kitchen of their bedsit. Soups, smoothies, purées, all become possible in a matter of minutes – about €30 from good kitchen shops and electrical shops. 

A decent Set of Knives are always a bonus but you must be sure to get a coin from the benefactor so that the knives don’t cut your friendship. Global, Henkel and Victorinox are some of the good brands, but no matter how brilliant the knife it won’t keep its edge for long if you don’t try and learn how to use a steel. 

A gift token for a Wine Course is also a good present, there are many offered around the country – we offer one on 12th December 2007 at Ballymaloe Cookery School with Colm McCann, Sommelier at Ballymaloe House, Mary Dowey’s very popular wine course at Ballymaloe House will run from 23-25 March and 20-22 April 2007, Tel 021-4652531. The Wine Development Board of Ireland run courses, . and local wine shops often run wine appreciation courses. Failing that, a wine guide, John Wilson’s ‘Best of Wine in Ireland 2007’, a must for Irish oenophiles, younger enthusiasts will want to find Matt Skinner’s ‘Juice’ in their stocking, Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course gives a good grounding for those who want a bit of all round general knowledge as well as to impress the pals.

A good food guide would also be a terrific present for food lovers – Georgina Campbell’s Best of the Best and her new Guide for Garden Lovers– the very best places to eat, drink and stay – are much respected as are John & Sally McKenna’s Bridgestone guides, the new Good Food Ireland guide has a terrific map to show the traveller where the Farmers Markets are, as well as restaurants that serve local food.

For Christmas stockings, a microplane grater is a must-have for every nifty cook. A Japanese mandolin is another serious cook’s gadget. Maldon or Halen Mon sea salt is a treat - Interior Living on Cork’s McCurtain Street,(021-4505819) sells little gift packs with salt cellar and spoon from €20. A bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Urru in Bandon or Mallow, or from Midleton Farmer’s Market – Mani, Brindisa, Colonna, L’estornell, a l’Olivier are names worth looking out for.

Pannetone and Panneforte de Siena, available at Cork Market as well as a million other temptations, are super stand-bys. A little bunch of Madagascar vanilla pods, hand-tied with raffia, an old-fashioned butter curler and butter knife, tea strainer and a packet of single estate tea, a perfect cheese like a Crozier Blue – with some membrillo and Ditty’s oatcakes or homemade cheese biscuits. A pot of delicious local honey is always a treat, and for the slightly-green fingered – a terracotta pot and a packet of seeds for herbs or salad mix. How about a hamper of Asian, Polish or African ingredients for the adventurous cook. A Green Saffron Curry Voucher can be bought in any of the outlets selling the spice range – Kinsale or Mahon Farmers Market, Handmade Wines in Lismore, River House Cahir, or at The Stephen Pearce Gallery in Shanagarry, vouchers for Curry Nights in Shanagarry also available -  Tel 021-4645729,  

Now that Artisan, Local and Slow are currently the most desirable words in food, the ultimate food gift would be a membership of Slow Food, . 

Here are a few recipes which would make lovely Foodie gifts.

White Christmas Cake

This White Christmas Cake with its layer of crisp frosting is a delicious alternative for those who do not like the traditional fruit cake. It is best made not more than a week before Christmas.
140g (5oz) butter
200g (7oz) flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
85g (3oz) ground almonds
6 egg whites
225g (8oz) castor sugar
85-110g (3-4 oz) green or yellow cherries
55g (2oz) finely-chopped home-made candied peel

White Frosting
1 egg white
225g (8oz) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons water

18 cm (1 x 7 inches) round tin with a 7.5 cm (3 inches) sides

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/regulo 3.

Line the tin with greaseproof paper. Cream the butter until very soft, sieve in the flour, salt and baking powder, then add the lemon juice, whiskey and ground almonds. Whisk the egg whites until quite stiff; add the castor sugar gradually and whisk again until stiff and smooth. Stir some of the egg white into the butter mixture and then carefully fold in the rest. Lastly, add the chopped peel and the halved cherries. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1½ hours approx. Allow to cool, cover and ice the next day.

To make the white frosting: This delicious icing is just a little tricky to make, so follow the instructions exactly. Quick and accurate decisions are necessary in judging when the icing is ready and then it must be used immediately. Dissolve the sugar carefully in water and boil for 1½ minutes approx. until the syrup reaches the ‘thread stage’, 106-113C/223-236F. It will look thick and syrupy; when a metal spoon is dipped in, the last drops of syrup will form a thin thread. Pour this boiling syrup over the stiffly-beaten egg white, whisking all the time. Put the bowl in a saucepan over simmering water. Continue to whisk over the water until white and very thick. (This can take up to 10 minutes). Spread quickly over the cake with a palette knife. It sets very quickly at this stage, so speed is essential.

Decorate with Christmas decorations or crystallised violets or rose petals and angelica.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat Shortbread

Makes 16 or more if cut into small squares
8 oz (225g) plain white flour
1 oz (25g) semolina
1 oz (25g) custard powder
2 oz (50g) icing sugar
7 oz (200g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
cold water to bind

14 oz (400g) homemade mincemeat

4 oz (110g) plain white flour
½ oz (15g) semolina
½ oz (15g) custard powder
1 oz (25g) icing sugar
3½ oz (100g) unsalted butter
castor sugar for dusting

12 “ x 8 “ (30.5cm x 20.5cm) Swiss roll tin, greased

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regular 4/

To make the base. Sieve the flour, semolina, custard powder and icing sugar into a bowl. Mix well. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Carefully add just enough water to bring the mixture together. Press the mixture into the greased tin, making sure it fills into the corners of the tin.
Spread the mincemeat on top, leaving a narrow border all around.

Next make the topping. Sieve the flour, semolina, custard powder and icing sugar together and rub in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Spread the crumble mixture on top of the mincemeat and gently press down with your fingers to ensure an even cover.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top. Cut into squares while still hot. Sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and allow to cool in the tin

Home-made Crackers

Can be made ahead and kept in a tin to serve with cheese or give as a present with some cheese.
Makes 20-25 biscuits

8 ozs (225g) plain white flour
½ teasp. baking powder
½ teasp. salt
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tablesp. cream
Water as needed, 5 tablesp. approx.

Put the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the butter and moisten with the cream and enough water to make a firm dough.
Roll out very thinly to one sixteenth of an inch approx. Prick with a fork. Cut into 

3 ½ inch squares with a pastry wheel. Bake at 150C/300F/regulo 2 for 30 minutes approx. or until lightly browned and quite crisp. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: For Wheaten Crackers – use 4ozs wholemeal flour and 4 ozs plain white flour.

Preserved Roasted Peppers with Basil

From Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home
These make a lovely gift potted into a pretty jar and topped up with olive oil.
Delicious as part of a salad, in a sandwich or thrown on top of freshly cooked pasta.
Makes 1 medium-sized jar

4 peppers of various colours, left whole
Olive oil
Basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 230C (450F). Gas Mark 8.

Rub some olive oil over the peppers, then pop on a baking tray in the oven. Cook for about 40 minutes, or until very soft and a little blackened. Take them out of the oven, put into a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to cool.

Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, take them out of the bowl and use your fingers to peel off the skin and break the peppers into quarters. Do not rinse in water or you’ll lose the flavour. Then, using a butter knife, scrape the seeds away, which should leave just the flesh. Layer in a sterilised jar*, adding basil leaves between the peppers, and fill up with olive oil.

*To sterilise jars, either put them through a cycle in your dishwasher, boil them for 5 minutes in a pan of water or place in an oven preheated to 150C(300F), gas mark 2 for 10 minutes.

Cooks Book

Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection – published by Headline

Mary Berry is well known as the author of more than sixty bestselling cookery books, including many on Aga cookery and has presented several television cookery series.

In her Christmas collection she combines her old winter recipe favourites such as Fillet of Pork with Cranberry and Madeira Gravy and Christmas Tarte Amandine with a variety of new and exciting dishes to spice up the season. Mary’s simple recipes and handy hints will take the pressure off entertaining. With an invaluable Christmas Day countdown, her ever-popular tips on preparing ahead and freezing, clues on how to turn leftovers into even more delicious meals, advice on cooking for a crowd and Aga instructions where appropriate, Mary will help solve all your Christmas cooking dilemmas, leaving you more time to enjoy some festive fun.

Scarlet Confit

This is Mary’s version of cranberry sauce – its is perfect with roast turkey or game. You can cook ahead and keep covered in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. You could freeze it too, for up to 3 months.
Serves 20

450g (1lb) fresh or frozen cranberries
225g (8oz) granulated sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
50ml (2fl.oz) port
50ml (2fl.oz) cider vinegar
A large pinch of ground allspice
A large pinch of ground cinnamon

Measure all the ingredients into a shallow saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Don’t worry if it looks a bit runny as it thickens when it cools.

Serve warm or cold.
If using an Aga, cook uncovered in the Simmering Oven for about 1 hour.
Darina's Fool Proof Food

Mulled Red Wine

Just before the festive season we make up lots of little packages with the sugar, spices and thinly pared lemon rind so when the pals arrive it’s just a question of opening a bottle of wine and warming it in a stainless steel saucepan with the spices.
You could attach a little pack of the spices to a nice bottle of red wine, with instructions for a lovely present. Leftover mulled wine keeps for a few days and reheats perfectly.
Serves 8 approx.

1 bottle of good red wine
100-110g (3 1/2-4oz) sugar, depending on the wine
Thinly pared rind of 1 lemon
1 small piece of cinnamon bark
1 blade of mace
1 clove

Put the sugar into a stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan, pour the wine over, add the lemon rind, cinnamon bark, mace and the clove. Heat slowly, stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Serve hot, but not scalding otherwise your guests will have difficulty holding their glasses.

Hot Tips

Athy Farmers Market and Craft Fair – every Sunday 10am – 3pm, Emily Square, Athy in front of Athy Heritage Centre.

Christmas Weekend Open – Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th and then closed till 28th January, resuming again every Sunday thereon. Unique selection of high quality local craft and food gifts – bread, cakes, puddings, pies, organic vegetables, free range meat and poultry…. Candles, cards, pottery, flowers, wreaths, watercolours, goats milk soaps, willow work, fabric crafts….

For Chocolate Lovers
French chocolatier Gwen Lasserre makes exquisite handmade chocolates in his shop on Main St. Schull, Co Cork (028-27853) – open every day 10-7 till Christmas – this year’s favourite flavours are fresh lavender and chilli.

Benoit Lorge also makes delicious chocolates at O’Connors Shop, Bonane, Co Kerry. Special orders taken for weddings etc. He also gives chocolate workshops for local children – just 5km from Kenmare on the Glengarriff Road. Tel 087-9917172 email:chocolatecrust@eircom .net 

O’Conaill Chocolates –made in Carrigaline Co Cork by the O’Conaill family, are available at Midleton, Mahon, Kinsale and Bandon Farmers Markets, their own shop in Frenchchurch St. Cork and outlets nationwide – 021-4373407

Eve Chocolates are another Cork favourite – Flair Confectionery, Magazine Road, Cork, Tel 021-4347781

The Abundance of Winter

A few weeks ago we picked the last of this year’s home grown tomatoes for the Farmers Market – they had gradually become less sweet as the weather turned more autumnal, but customers were distinctly crestfallen when they came to an end. 

Now its time to relish and enjoy the bounty of Autumn and Winter. Understandably in an age when everything is available in supermarkets year round, many people are confused about what exactly is in season.

Autumn and Winter bring an abundance of local root vegetables and brassicas. Citrus fruit and pomegranates come from warmer climes. Many types of game are now in season including wild duck, and the pheasant season opened on the first of November. When you are writing your shopping list, it is really worth zoning in on what’s in season. Produce will be fresher and usually less expensive. Even better it may well be local or at least Irish, so you have the extra bonus of the feel good factor of keeping the money in our own community.

The brassicas are particularly good at present – I am a huge fan of kale, curly kale, asparagus kale, red Russian kale and the elegant black Tuscan kale called Cavalo Nero. This family is bursting with goodness and has recently gained widespread attention due to the health-promoting, sulphur-containing phytonutrients. According to ongoing research these phytonutrients appear to have a role in preventing cancer. As well as that, kale is an excellent source of Vitamins K, A and C, and also contains copper, calcium and potassium as well as other trace elements, the highest of all the brassica family.

We eat kale raw in green salads, add it chopped to soups and cook it in lots of boiling salted water as a vegetable. 

Jerusalem artichokes are a wonder food, you are unlikely to find them in supermarkets, but may well find them in your local Farmers Market (several stalls in Midleton and Mahon Point had them recently.) They will be available until the end of January or February and are particularly delicious roast and served with game – pheasant, duck, partridge or venison. They also make great soups and gratins. They contain a high percentage of inulin, so are particularly brilliant for those who have recently been on a course of antibiotics. Inulin naturally replaces the good bacteria in our systems faster than any other food. The only disadvantage is that they are maddeningly knobbly and require considerable patience to peel. Just enjoy the process! Turn on the soothing strains of Lyric FM, grab a cup of coffee and a high stool and a peeler, and think of how delicious the end result will be.

Even amateur gardeners can grow a fine crop for next year, just pop a few into the ground about 6 inches deep and 12 inches apart in a place where you don’t mind them spreading. They grow effortlessly so you will have baskets full next year.

Pomegranates, (sometimes known as wine apples), also in season now, certainly don’t grow in this climate, they need the heat of the Mediterranean, but you never know with the dramatic global warming, who knows we may see them growing in Shanagarry before too long. Meanwhile we have to accept airmiles. They too have been shown to dramatically reduce cholesterol, so eat one a day or juice them as you would an orange. The jewel like seeds are also delicious sprinkled over starters or green salads, add to lamb or pheasant stews, or a dish of cous cous. They also embellish fruit salad or a simple bowl of natural yogurt.

Get the children involved, ask them to draw name cards with seasonal fruit or vegetables and produce a prize or give them pride of place on the table.

Kale and Parsley Pesto

Serves 12-16 approx.
1 lb (450g) fresh Kale
1 clove garlic crushed
2 teasp. sea salt
3-5 flozs (75ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 tablesp. parsley, optional

Strip the kale from the stalks and wash well. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz to a thick paste. This can be made ahead and stored in a covered jar in the fridge for several days.

If you prefer a mellower flavour, blanch the kale in boiling salted water for 3 or 4 minutes, refresh and drain well and proceed as above.
Serve on freshly cooked crostini – see recipe

May be served as a starter, main course or as part of a buffet.
3-5, â…“ inch thick slices of really good quality French baguette per person. Cut the bread diagonally rather than just into rounds.
Not long before serving, saute the crostini. Put a 5mm (1/4inch) of olive oil in a pan and heat until very hot. Cook the crostini a few at a time, turn as soon as they are golden, drain on kitchen paper. Arrange your chosen topping, garnish and serve a.s.a.p.

Cavolo Nero Soup

– from River Café Easy by Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers*
see Hot Tips

500g (18oz) Cavolo Nero 
4 garlic cloves
2 red onions
4 carrots
1 celery head
1 dried chilli
400g (14oz) tin Borlotti beans
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ teasp. Fennel seeds
1 x 200g (7oz) tin tomatoes
500ml (18fl.oz) chicken stock
¼ sourdough loaf

Peel the garlic, onion and carrots. Roughly chop 3 garlic cloves, the onion, pale celery heart and carrots. Crumble the chilli. Drain and rinse the beans.

Heat 3 tablesp. olive oil in a thick-bottomed pan, add the onion, celery and carrot and cook gently until soft. Add the fennel seed, chilli and garlic and stir, then add the tomatoes, chopping them as they cook. Season, and simmer for 15 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and stock, and cook for another 15 minutes.

Discard the stalks from the Cavolo nero and boil the leaves in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, drain and chop. Keep 4 tablesp. of the water. Add the water and cavolo to the soup. Stir and season.

Cut the bread into 1.5cm slices. Toast on both sides, then rub with the remaining garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Break up the toast and divide between the soup bowls. Spoon over the soup and serve with more olive oil.

Rose and Ruth say that all bean soups are made more delicious with a generous addition of the spicy-flavoured newly pressed olive oil poured over each serving. Tuscan olive oil is pressed at the end of October, which is also when the frosty weather starts and cavolo nero is ready to be picked.

Curly Kale with Olive Oil and Garlic

From Cook by Thomasina Miers
Serves 4-6

3 tablesp olive oil
1 large head of curly kale, stem discarded, leaves rinsed and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 fresh red chilli, seeded and chopped (optional)
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or wok until really hot, and add the kale (it makes a great sizzling noise). Give it a good stir and add the garlic and chilli, if you like a bit of a kick. Stir fry for 7-8 minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic, then season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle over the lemon juice. Then eat up your greens.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Crispy Croutons

Jerusalem artichokes are a sadly neglected winter vegetable. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants!
Serves 8-10 

55g (2oz) butter
560g (13 lb) onions, peeled and chopped
225g (½ lb) potatoes, peeled and chopped
1.15kg (22 lb) artichokes, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock
600ml (1 pint) creamy milk approx.

Freshly chopped parsley
Crisp, golden croutons

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onions, potatoes and artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk, and adjust the seasoning.

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with chopped parsley and crisp, golden croutons.
Note: This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required. 

Braised Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes are a perennial winter vegetable; once you plant them, they usually re-emerge every year and even spread if you are not careful. The flavour is particular good with game, beef or shellfish.
Serves 4

1 ½ lbs (675g) Jerusalem artichokes 
1 oz (30g) butter
1 dessertsp. water
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
Chopped parsley

Peel the artichokes thinly and slice ¼ inch (5mm) thick. Melt the butter in a cast-iron casserole, toss the artichokes and season with salt and freshly-ground pepper. Add water and cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid. Cook on a low heat or put in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, until the artichokes are soft but still keep their shape, 15-20 minutes approx. (Toss every now and then during cooking.)
Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

* If cooking on the stove top rather than the oven turn off the heat after 10 minutes approx. - the artichokes will continue to cook in the heat & will hold their shape. 

Chicken Salad with Pomegranate, Pine nuts and Raisins

Use up left over morsels of chicken (or turkey) in a delicious way.
Serves 8

700-900g (11/2-2lbs) freshly roast chicken 
1 pomegranate
75-110g (3-3 1/2oz) fresh pine nuts, pecans or walnuts
a selection of salad leaves including watercress, frisée and rocket leaves
lots of fresh mint leaves
50g (2oz) raisins, Lexia if possible

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil
2 tablespoons, best quality white wine vinegar
1-2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper

If the chicken has been refrigerated, bring back to room temperature. 
Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together. Cut the pomegranate in half and flick the seeds into a bowl - careful not to include any of the astringent pith.

Roast or toast the pine nuts, walnuts or pecans briefly, chop coarsely. Just before serving, sprinkle a little of the dressing over the salad and mint leaves in a deep bowl. Toss gently. There should be just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten. Taste. Add a little dressing to the pomegranate seeds, toss and taste, correct seasoning if necessary. Slice the chicken into chunky pieces. Sprinkle a little dressing over and toss gently. Combine the ingredients. Divide pleasingly between 8 large white plates. Sprinkle with toasted pine kernels roughly chopped pecans or walnuts. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Pheasant, guinea fowl or free-range turkey would also be delicious, a few green grapes also make a good addition. A combination of walnut and sunflower oil may be substituted for olive oil in the dressing.

Foolproof Food

Agen Stuffed Prunes with Rosewater Cream

This ancient Arab Recipe from the Middle East will change your opinion of prunes - a pretty and delicious dish. Claudia Roden originally introduced me to this recipe when she taught at the school many years ago – we are very excited that she will be coming back to teach a one day course on Jewish Food on 30th August next year.
Serves 6

450g (1 lb) Agen prunes, pitted 
Same number of fresh walnut halves
150ml (¼ pint) each water and red wine or more or 300ml (½ pint) water
300ml (½ pint) cream 
2 tablespoons castor sugar
1 tablespoon rose blossom water
A few chopped walnuts
Rose petals - optional

We’ve experimented with taking out the stones from both soaked and dry prunes, unsoaked worked best. Use a small knife to cut out the stones and then stuff each with half a walnut. Arrange in a single layer in a saute pan. Cover with a mixture of wine and water. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add more liquid if they become a little dry. They should be plump and soft. Lift them gently onto a serving plate in a single layer and let them cool. . 

Whip the cream to soft peaks, add the castor sugar and rose blossom water. Spoon blobs over the prunes and chill well. Just before serving sprinkle with rose petals and a few chopped walnuts. 
Just before serving, scatter a few chopped walnuts over each blob of cream, sprinkle with rose petals and serve well chilled.
This dessert tastes even better next day. 

Cooks Book

 Verdura- Vegetables Italian Style by Viana la Place published by Grub Street.  

Buy this Book from Amazon

Since its first publication in 1991 Viana La Place’s Verdura has become a much loved classic. Its 300 irresistible recipes represent the best of the Italian approach to vegetable preparation. The vegetables that she explores run from the familiar – artichokes, aubergines, radicchio – to the more exotic. Desserts are also included. 

Little Devil Olive Oil – Olio al Diavolino
How about this for a Christmas pressie for a foodie friend.

Makes 475ml/16 fl.oz

This is spicy olive oil at its finest. The raw oil is infused with the burning quality of chillies without using any heat. It looks lovely, a deep greenish gold, but it is very hot. Stir in a few drops just before serving to liven up the flavour of a soup or pasta.

475ml (16fl.oz) extra-virgin olive oil
Small handful of dried red chillies, crushed
Select a jar large enough to contain the olive oil. Pour in the oil and add the chillies. Cover the jar and let rest for 1 month, or until the oil is very spicy.

Hot Tips

Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers new paperback series –
Just launched by Ebury Press the River Café Pocket books at £8.99 – delicious recipes from the London’s acclaimed River Café – Pasta&Ravioli, Salads&Vegetables, Fish&Shellfish, Puddings, Cakes&Ice Creams. 

Gubbeen Venison Salami
Just tasted some of Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen Venison Salami – very good stuff and very moreish – a perfect standby for nibbling and entertaining or indeed present giving over Christmas.

Bandon Christmas Farmer’s Market on Saturday 16th December
There will be lots of tastings of seasonal produce including home made Christmas Puddings, mulled apple juice, a special oyster bar serving half a dozen freshly opened Roaring Water Bay Oysters with Tabasco and lemon juice, gourmet gift hampers, Martin Carey's award winning spiced beef and fresh duck from Ballydehob, free range turkeys from Beechwood Farm Kinsale and lots of other lovely stuff too! A raffle for a fresh turkey sponsored by Martin Carey, Carols from the children of Lauragh N.S and Santa and Mrs Claus will be coming too! With goodies for the children!

Standing room only at the Organic Conference

It gave me an oops in my tummy to see standing room only at the Organic Conference in Carrick-on-Shannon recently – what a change from the years gone by when there might be a scattering of 40 or 50 pioneers and a few reluctant, not to mention deeply sceptical officials from the department.

The worldwide increase in demand for organic produce is fuelling a growing interest in all things organic. In the US supermarkets simply cannot get enough produce.

When Walmart announced its plan to stock organic produce earlier this year few people believed that they were motivated by eco-friendliness – organic purists were concerned that they would force a dilution of the standards. Reality is that Walmart like all the multiples are keenly aware that customers have a genuine appetite for food that is free of pesticides, GMO’s and anti-biotic residues.

All over the world the trend is the same – in the UK the demand has skyrocketed. In the UK it has increased 1000 fold since 1993, to 1.6 billion sterling in 2006. Sales of organic produce in Tesco are rising at the rate of £7 million a week, up 30% on last year.

Irish consumers now spend an estimated €66 million on certified organic products and production is expected to increase significantly. According to a study commissioned by Bord Bia at the launch of Organic Food Week in Carrick-on-Shannon recently.

Bord Bia have allocated €1.5million euros to promote this sector. This was welcomed by delegates at the Conference but was generally considered to be inadequate, considering the obvious opportunities for Ireland the Food Island in this sector.

So what is driving the staggering growth in the artisan and specialist food sector?.

There is unquestionably a growing awareness of the importance of the food we eat to our health. Words that were considered to be esoteric a few years ago are now mainstream language.

Customers are asking more and more searching questions about how their food is produced and where it comes from. They want food with a story – for more and more people real quality must encompass a whole range of attributes – sustainability, animal welfare, fair trade, GMO free, anti-biotic and pesticide free, carbon footprint…..
At the farmers markets, more customers are interested in variety and are asking about breed and feed, nutritional content…. A growing number are purposely seeking out local food, in fact the sexiest words in current culinary jargon are local, artisan and slow.

Where to buy organic?

Directly from local producers at a local farmers market 
Organic box scheme 
On –line shopping on an organic website eg.  
From local supermarket

For best flavour buy local food in season. At present root vegetables, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, pumpkins, red and Savoy cabbage, kale, broccoli, leeks, citrus fruit, pomegranates…

Glazed Carrots

You might like to try this method of cooking carrots. Admittedly it takes a little vigilance but the resulting flavour is a revelation to many people.
Serves 4-6

450g (1lb) organic carrots, Early Nantes and Autumn King have particularly good flavour
15g (1/2 oz) butter
125ml (4fl oz) cold water
Pinch of salt
Good pinch of sugar

Freshly chopped parsley or fresh mint

Cut off the tops and tips, scrub and peel thinly if necessary. Cut into slices 7mm 

(1/2 inch) thick, either straight across, or at an angle. Leave very young carrots whole. Put them in a saucepan with butter, water, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil, cover and cook over a gentle heat until tender, by which time the liquid should have all been absorbed into the carrots, but if not remove the lid and increase the heat until all the water has evaporated. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shake the saucepan so the carrots become coated with the buttery glaze.

Serve in a hot vegetable dish sprinkled with chopped parsley or mint.

Note: It is really important to cut the carrots into the same thickness. Otherwise they will cook unevenly.

Baby carrots:
Scrub the carrots with a brush but don’t peel. Trim the tails but if the tops are really fresh, leave a little of the stalks still attached. Cook and glaze as above, scatter with a little fresh parsley and mint.

Foolproof Food

Potato and Parsnip Mash

Serves 8
700g (1 1/2lb) parsnips
700g (1 1/2lb) fluffy mashed potatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped parsley
50-75g (2-3 oz) butter

Peel the parsnips thinly. Cut off the tops and tails and cut them into wedges. Remove the inner core if it seems to be at all woody, divide the wedges into 2cm (3/4inch approximately) cubes. Cook them in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes. They should be quite soft. Drain. Mash with a potato pounder, add the mashed potatoes, a nice bit of butter and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. The texture should not be too smooth.

Whole Pumpkin baked with Cream

From the River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
This is an incredibly simple and elegant dish, in which the finished ‘soup’ is scooped out from the whole baked pumpkin – rich, filling and satisfying, so ideal sustenance after some hard graft in the garden on a cold autumn day. You can use as big a pumpkin as will fit in your oven but be aware that if you use a real monster, judging the cooking time becomes hard and the risk of collapse increases greatly. You will use a huge amount of cream and cheese, too, so you need to have a lot of hungry people on hand. You can also make this recipe with small squash varieties such as acorn or Sweet Mama, and serve one per person. A medium pumpkin serves 4 to 6, generously.

1 medium (3-4kg/6-9lb) pumpkin or several smaller squashes (1 per person)
Up to 500g (18oz) Gruyere cheese, grated (depending on the size of your pumpkin)
Up to 1 litre (1¾pint)double cream (again depending on the size of your pumpkin)
Freshly grated nutmeg
A knob of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the top off the pumpkin or squashes three-quarters of the way up and retain; this is your lid. Scoop out all the seeds and surrounding fibres from the pumpkin. Place the scooped-out pumpkin on a baking tray or in an ovenproof dish (which must have sides to catch any leaking cream – an accident that shouldn’t, but can, happen.)

Put enough grated Gruyere into the empty cavity of the pumpkin to fill about a third of it, then pour in double cream until the cavity is two-thirds full. Add a few gratings of nutmeg, a little salt and plenty of black pepper. Throw in a knob of butter and replace the lid, so the pumpkin is whole again.

Place in a fairly hot oven (190C/gas mark 5) and cook for 45mins - 1¼ hours, depending on the size of the pumpkin. Test for doneness by removing the lid and poking at the flesh from the inside. It should be nice and tender. At this point, the skin maybe lightly burnt and the whole thing beginning to sag a bit. Be wary: when the pumpkin is completely soft and cooked through, there is a real danger of collapse. The larger the pumpkin, the bigger the danger. Don’t panic if it happens – it will look at bit deflated but will still taste delicious.

Serve small squashes individually in bowls, with spoons to scoop out the flesh. Serve the larger pumpkin by scooping plenty of flesh and the creamy, cheesy liquid (the Gruyere comes out in lovely long, messy strings) into warmed soup bowls. Either way, serve piping hot. 

Yoghurt and Cardamon Cream with Pomegranate Seeds perfumed with Rose Blossom Water

Serves 8-10
425ml (15 fl ozs) natural yoghurt
230ml (8 fl ozs) milk
200ml (7 fl ozs) cream
175g (6 ozs) castor sugar (could be reduced to 5oz)
¼ teaspoon cardamon seeds, freshly ground - you’ll need about 8-10 green cardamon pods depending on size
3 rounded teaspoons powdered gelatine
Pomegranate Seed with Rose Blossom Water
1-2 pomegranates depending on size
a little lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons castor sugar
Rose blossom water to taste

Garnish: Sweet geranium or mint leaves

Remove the seeds from 8-10 green cardamon pods, crush in a pestle and mortar.

Put the milk, sugar and cream into a stainless steel saucepan with the ground cardamon, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse while you dissolve the gelatine. 

Put 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatine over the water, allow to ‘sponge’ for a few minutes. Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine has melted and is completely clear. Add a little of the cardamon infused milk mixture, stir well and then mix this into the rest. Whisk the yoghurt lightly until smooth and creamy, stir into the cardamon mixture.

Pour into a wide serving dish or a lightly oiled ring mould and allow to set for several hours, preferably overnight.
Meanwhile, cut the pomegranates in half around the Equator! Carefully separate the seeds from the membrane. Put the seeds into a bowl, sprinkle with just a little freshly squeezed lemon juice, add castor sugar and rose blossom water to taste. Chill.

If the cardamon cream has been set in a ring mould, turn out onto a chilled white plate. Fill the centre with chilled rose-scented pomegranate seeds. Garnish with sweet geranium or mint leaves or even prettier, garnish with crystallized rose petals. I’ve got a wonderful Irish rose called ‘Souvenir de St Ann’s” in Lydia’s garden. This rose has a bloom even in the depths of winter so I steal a few petals and crystallize to decorate this and other desserts. 

Book of the Week – Vegetables –the new food heroes
Buy this Book from Amazon
By Peter Gordon – published by Quadrille with photographs by Jean Cazals
The dishes in this book are designed to showcase vegetables and bring them centre stage. There are inspirational recipes for vegetables both familiar and unusual, humble and glamorous, as well as dishes to suit vegetables of all seasons.

Potato, Celeriac and Leek Gratin with Sage and Feta

Most root vegetables can be cooked like this, layered in a dish and flavoured with anything from herbs and cheeses through to spices and nuts. Then, you pour over boiling water, stock or double cream, seal tightly with foil and bake until the vegetables are cooked. The top may then be coloured under a grill. Choose a dish just large enough to hold everything, but one in which the liquids won’t boil up and out of the dish. Cut out a sheet of non-stick baking parchment the same size as the dish – this will come between the vegetables and the foil, which otherwise has a habit of sticking to the top layer of vegetables. This gratin is perfect with roast salmon or chicken.
Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for the baking parchment
3 large baking potatoes, cut into 5mm (¼ in) thick slices
100g (3½ oz) feta cheese, crumbled *
Small handful of sage leaves, roughly shredded
350g (12oz) celeriac (about ½ of a large one) peeled and thinly sliced
½ leek, thinly sliced and rinsed if gritty
150ml (5fl.oz) boiling water

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Brush the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a suitable baking dish (approx. 1.5litres/2½ pints capacity) and arrange half the potato slices on the bottom of the dish. Scatter half the feta and sage on top, sprinkle with a little salt, then lay the celeriac slices on top of that, followed by the leek and the remaining feta and sage. Lay the remaining potato slices on top, pour in the 150ml (5fl.oz) boiling water, then lightly season (remembering the feta will be a little salty). Brush one side of a sheet of non-stick baking parchment the same size as the dish with a little extra olive oil and lay this side on top of the potatoes. Cover with foil and seal tightly.

Bake for 1½ hours, then remove the boil and baking parchment, and place the dish under a hot grill to colour the potatoes. Serve from the dish while piping hot.

You could use Knockalara cheese when making this dish.

Hot Tips

Last Sunday at Schull Farmers Market from 10-1 Niamh G was selling her Chocolate Chip Cookies - 
There she was in her spotless apron at her little stand displaying her cookies in a basket lined with a tea towel – beautifully presented cellophane packs with a colourful label and a picture of 11 year old Niamh - best before date, list of ingredients, everything just right - I managed to get her last couple of cookies before she sold out – it is wonderful so see such an enterprising young lady – we should encourage young entrepreneurs like Niamh – they are the future.

Christmas at Arnotts in Dublin

Well known as a shopping destination in the heart of Dublin, Arnotts is now on the map as a place to eat well and shop for good food. They now have La Brea Bakery Café, the first outside the US – they stock Nancy Silverton’s famous sourdough bread and other loaves as well as sandwiches and pastries. Sheridans Food Hall has also recently opened on the Lower Ground floor stocking gourmet dried produce, fresh ‘ready meals’, olives, wines, tarts and of course their huge cheese selection. A series of wine tasting evenings is planned between now and Christmas with David Whelehan of O’Briens wines. 

Ardrahan Lullaby Milk

Lullaby Milk produced by Mary Burns of Ardrahan near Kanturk has sleep inducing properties because of its higher melatonin content – widely available in Munster from most supermarkets – all Super-Valu, Dunnes and Tesco branches, some Spar and Centra and On the Pig’s Back in the English Market in Cork. 
Watch out for the new Duhallow Cheese soon coming on stream from Ardrahan – this is a mild flavoured semi-soft cheese made from unpasteurised cows milk.

Terra Madre means Mother Earth

Fashionistas have Fashion Week, artists have Burning Man, racing car enthusiasts have Silverstone…. farmers, fishermen, cooks and chefs interested in sustainable food and local food economies have Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto.
As Slow Food Councillor for Ireland, I was privileged to attend the first Terra Madre two years ago in Turin, Terra Madre means Mother Earth. It is the brainchild of Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food International, who in the early eighties became haunted by the spectre of fast food companies eroding Italy’s ancient food culture. He realized the only way to counter the threat was to tackle the problem internationally, by promoting a gastronomic culture, safeguarding bio-diversity, developing taste education, creating presidia to protect traditional foods in danger of extinction and so Slow Food was born. The association is also dedicated to supporting local food economies and promoting sustainable methods of food production. There are now 80,000 members in 180 countries including Ireland, who are actively involved in fulfilling the aims of Slow Food.
The first Terra Madre in October 2004 provided a meeting place and a forum for people from around the world - farmers, fishermen, seed-savers, shepherds, nomads, cooks, cheese-makers, fish smokers, cured meat producers, foragers … came together to exchange ideas, share their diverse experiences and try to find solutions to similar problems.
This year over 6,000 people participated in Terra Madre, including 400 professors and researchers representing 250 universities and academic institutions in 50 countries around the world. Petrini’s vision was to create a virtuous triangle that would connect farmers and food producers with chefs, professors and food scientists, so they could share their knowledge and experience and co-operate to support sustainable food production.
This year’s event was held in the Oval Lingotto in Turin, where the skating competitions were held at the Winter Olympics. It had the full support of the Italian government and was opened by the President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano amidst much pomp and ceremony and a parade of flags from 150 countries, including the Irish tri-colour.
At the opening session on Thursday, Iraq and Iran, two countries President Bush defined as part of the ‘axis of evil’, received some of the warmest applause, as did the delegation from Lebanon. Later in the ceremony, Kamal Mouzawak, founder of the farmers’ market in Beirut – billed as Lebanon’s first - provided one of the most poignant moments. Beirut has lost almost all of its public gathering places, which makes the farmers’ market so vital. “Without a place to sell local products, farmers lose hope. And without local food traditions, people lose hope”, he said.
“If you don’t dream, you don’t exist,” he told the crowd. “So lets dream together”.
Carlo Petrini set out his agenda to protect the rights of the small farmer and promote sustainable agriculture.
It was also a call to unite against the growing domination of the multinationals and large corporations, ‘alone and divided communities can not react against violence’, Petrini told the enthusiastic if jet-lagged assembly, who had converged on Turin from all corners of the earth. Some had never before strayed from their villages, not to mention travelled on trains or planes. They came, each food heroes in their own way, each with an amazing story to tell, some clutching precious seeds, others with grains, all with a deep knowledge of their own food culture. Many were dressed in their colourful traditional clothes, distinctive headdress – from Indian feathers to cowboy hats, sombreros, head scarves…
From the several keynote addresses translated into eight official languages, it was clear that politics not just pleasure would dominate the three days of workshops. Carlo Petrini called for food production to be good, clean and fair. “Clean, because one cannot produce nourishment by straining ecosystems, ruining the air, and destroying biodiversity. Fair, because the citizen must be paid; if we want the young people to stay and return to the land here in our countries they must have dignity and fulfillment, and they must be valued. It is inconceivable that a civilized nation could enslave the workers of other nations to produce tomatoes. It is inconceivable that a civilized country can encourage organic economies like that of green California at the same time that it reduces many Mexican farmers to slavery. So good, clean and fair are three adjectives that farmers must offer to the consumers, whom I would like to call co-producers, in an effort to change this system that is turning into a big mistake.”
Both Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Indian activist Vandana Shiva accused decision makers of being out of touch with farmers, ‘the earth’s caretakers’, and stressed
the need for bio-diversity. Speaker after speaker lashed out against transgenic crops, illustrated how globalization is causing the erosion of rural communities, how the indiscriminate use of pesticides and antibiotics is destroying the land and how the WTO organization accords affect farmers and food producers.
Where else would Masai peasants meet Afghan raisin farmers, American maple syrup producers meet Tibetan yak herders, Irish raw milk cheesemakers meet their counterparts from Kyrayzstan, Tolosa Black Bean producers of Spain meet the Irish Seed Savers from Co Clare……
If you would like to know more about Slow Food check  or

Sweet Sour Pork with Prunes, Raisins and Pinenuts
Jo Bettoja whose food I adore served us this rich sweet sour stew in her home in Rome. It’s an old family recipe for wild boar that has been passed down through the generations. I loved the rich gutsy flavour so she kindly shared her recipe.

1.7kg (4lb) boneless shoulder or leg of pork

6 juniper berries
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon thyme leaves.
1 carrot chopped
1 onion chopped
1 stick celery chopped
725ml (24 fl oz) or more dry red wine
50ml (2 fl oz) red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
180ml (6fl oz) red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
36 prunes soaked in water
½ cup raisins, plumped in hot water
50 g (1¾oz) pine nuts toasted
2 tablespoons sugar
40g (1½ oz) dark chocolate

Soft Polenta 

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Add the cubes of pork, stir well. Cover and marinade for 48 hours in the fridge. Stir every now and then during this period.
Drain the meat, reserve both the marinade and vegetables. Dry the meat on kitchen paper.
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides and then transfer to a casserole, season with salt. Add a little more oil to the pan, cook the marinated vegetables for 5-8 minutes or until the onion is soft, add a few tablespoons of the marinade to prevent the vegetables from burning. Add to the meat in the casserole. Deglaze the pan with the rest of the marinade plus 2 fl oz of red wine vinegar, bring to the boil and scrape into the casserole.
Add ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, bring back to the boil, cover and cook in a preheated oven 160ºC - 325ºF regulo 3 until the meat is tender, 1½ hours approximately.
Remove the meat to a bowl and strain the sauce into a saucepan, press the vegetables through the sieve to get the last of the juices. Add the prunes, raisins and pinenuts to the sauce.
In another small saucepan simmer 4 fl oz of red wine vinegar with 2 tablespoons sugar for 4 minutes then add to the sauce with the grated chocolate and the meat. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve with soft Polenta and follow with a good green salad.

Hazelnut Semi fredo Con Nocciole
Serves 10-12

10 ozs (285g) sugar
5 ozs (150g) unpeeled hazelnuts, lightly toasted and peeled
vegetable oil
4 free range eggs, separated
2 tablesp. white rum
12 fl ozs (400ml) cream

1 large loaf tin

Lightly oil a marble surface or a large platter. Put the hazelnuts and 3½ ozs (100g) of sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, do not stir. When this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel. When the nuts go 'pop' pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold. When the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.
Reserve ¼ of the praline for garnish.
Mix the egg yolks, with 3½ ozs (100g) sugar until thick and fluffy. Add the rum. In a separate bowl whisk the cream until stiff. Whisk the egg whites stiffly adding the remaining sugar a little at the time. Gently fold the cream into the yolks followed by the egg whites. Spoon a little of the mixture into the prepared mould and sprinkle some crunchy praline on top. Repeat twice more always spooning the mixture into the mould rather of pouring. Cover the mould tightly and freeze overnight.
When ready to serve, turn the semifreddo out onto a chilled platter and leave for a few minutes. Remove the silicone paper. Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnut praline. Serve with hot chocolate sauce if desired.

Hazelnut Semi fredo Con Nocciole
Serves 10-12

10 ozs (285g) sugar
5 ozs (150g) unpeeled hazelnuts, lightly toasted and peeled
vegetable oil
4 free range eggs, separated
2 tablesp. white rum
12 fl ozs (400ml) cream

1 large loaf tin

Lightly oil a marble surface or a large platter. Put the hazelnuts and 3½ ozs (100g) of sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, do not stir. When this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel. When the nuts go 'pop' pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold. When the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.
Reserve ¼ of the praline for garnish.
Mix the egg yolks, with 3½ ozs (100g) sugar until thick and fluffy. Add the rum. In a separate bowl whisk the cream until stiff. Whisk the egg whites stiffly adding the remaining sugar a little at the time. Gently fold the cream into the yolks followed by the egg whites. Spoon a little of the mixture into the prepared mould and sprinkle some crunchy praline on top. Repeat twice more always spooning the mixture into the mould rather of pouring. Cover the mould tightly and freeze overnight.
When ready to serve, turn the semifreddo out onto a chilled platter and leave for a few minutes. Remove the silicone paper. Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnut praline. Serve with hot chocolate sauce if desired.

Sweet Sour Pork with Prunes, Raisins and Pinenuts
Jo Bettoja whose food I adore served us this rich sweet sour stew in her home in Rome. It’s an old family recipe for wild boar that has been passed down through the generations. Tim and I loved the rich gutsy flavour so she kindly shared her recipe.

1.7kg (4lb) boneless shoulder or leg of pork

6 juniper berries
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon thyme leaves.
1 carrot chopped
1 onion chopped
1 stick celery chopped
725ml (24 fl oz) or more dry red wine
50ml (2 fl oz) red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
180ml (6fl oz) red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
36 prunes soaked in water
½ cup raisins, plumped in hot water
50 g (1¾oz) pine nuts toasted
2 tablespoons sugar
40g (1½ oz) dark chocolate

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Add the cubes of pork, stir well. Cover and marinade for 48 hours in the fridge. Stir every now and then during this period.
Drain the meat, reserve both the marinade and vegetables. Dry the meat on kitchen paper.
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides and then transfer to a casserole, season with salt. Add a little more oil to the pan, cook the marinated vegetables for 5-8 minutes or until the onion is soft, add a few tablespoons of the marinade to prevent the vegetables from burning. Add to the meat in the casserole. Deglaze the pan with the rest of the marinade plus 2 fl oz of red wine vinegar, bring to the boil and scrape into the casserole.
Add ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, bring back to the boil, cover and cook in a preheated oven 160ºC - 325ºF regulo 3 until the meat is tender, 1½ hours approximately.
Remove the meat to a bowl and strain the sauce into a saucepan, press the vegetables through the sieve to get the last of the juices. Add the prunes, raisins and pinenuts to the sauce.
In another small saucepan simmer 4 fl oz of red wine vinegar with 2 tablespoons sugar for 4 minutes then add to the sauce with the grated chocolate and the meat. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve with soft Polenta and follow with a good green salad.

Foolproof Food

Marrons Glacé with Sweet Cream

The cafes and food shops of Turin were all selling little trays of beautiful new season’s marrons glacé in October. They were sold on little gold trays decorated with crystallized violets.

The Italians eat them for dessert on a bed of crème Chantilly. The combination sweet cream and marrons glace is divine.
Look for them in specialist food shops during Christmas.

Hot Tips

FAUCHON est arrive!
Lovers of luxurious chocolates, rare Champagnes and a range of speciality foods such as Truffles and Foie Gras, will welcome the recent arrival of FAUCHON which is now available in Ireland. The famous Parisian food house based in the heart of Paris is one of France’s oldest and most renowned fine food stores. Gift selection available to order on line at  or by phone on 01-2805795/2957522

New Ross Christmas Market – December 8th-10th – on the Quayside in New Ross as part of a Christmas Festival in the town.
Dublin Docklands Christmas Market – 12-23 December 12 noon to 8pm daily
‘12 days of Christmas’ with a Bavarian theme – German Mulled Wine stall, Erdinger Beer Bar and a programme of entertainment throughout the event.

North Cork Coop will sponsor a Cookery Demonstration by Darina Allen on
Thursday 14th December in Kanturk Hall at 7.30pm on the theme of ‘A Stress-free Christmas’
Check out  courses on Game Cooking (13th December) and Christmas Flower Arranging (14th December) Tel 021-4646785

Book of the Week

The Festive Food of Italy by Madalena Bonino published by Kyle Cathie
Festival of Wild Mushrooms and Truffles –
During the mushroom season from the end of September to November, Italians all over the country begin the serious ritual of mushroom hunting. Rising early in the morning, not only at weekends but sometimes before going to work, they venture into the woods kitted with woven baskets (any other kind of carrier could damage the spoils of the search), walking sticks, short knives and Wellington boots, and the hope of a good catch. Everyone has a favourite place to go and this closely guarded secret is not shared with just anyone but passed from generation to generation.

Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout
Serves 4

1½ litres milk
300g maize flour
115g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mushroom Ragout
70ml olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
550g mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and roughly cut
3 tablespoons dry white wine
115g butter
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the polenta, heat the milk and season well. When it starts to simmer gradually whisk in the maize flour. Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the butter and mix.
To make the ragout, heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic, and leave to colour. Add the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes, then add the white wine and a couple of tablespoons of water. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and allow most of the juices to evaporate, then incorporate the butter and lemon juice. Stir in the parsley, check the seasoning and serve immediately with the polenta.
From the Festive Food of Italy by Madalena Bonino.

The School on Tour

This is the time of year when our Autumn Certificate class head off on their ‘school tour’. We are almost half way through the 12 week course, with a lively group made up of seven different nationalities. Much of the food they cook with comes directly from the school farm and gardens, or from local producers. Some smoke fish, or make wonderful farmhouse cheese, others rear free range chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. The students have huge respect and admiration for these food heroes. They also appreciate the passion and sheer hard work it takes to provide these quality ingredients.

While I was assisting Philip Dennhardt in our ‘How to Cure a Pig in a Day’ course Rory O’Connell headed off at the crack of dawn with a bus full of sleepy students.

By the time they drove over the Vee Gap to Clogheen in Co Tipperary, they were wide awake and looking forward to the first stop at cheesemakers Anne and Dick Keating’s farm. Baylough is a hard territorial type cheese, hand made from cow’s milk. Up to last year the Keatings had their own herd, but they now buy in milk from the top class Friesian herd of Jim O’Leary of Ballybacon in Ardfinnan. This means they have more time to devote to cheese-making. Recently they have developed Baylough Select, this is a more mature cheddar type cheese wrapped in muslin in the traditional time-honoured way. Dick gave me a month old piece to taste recently and I was blown away by the flavour, I’m not surprised to hear that Anne can scarcely keep up with demand. The students arrived just in time to see the curd being cut. Anne and Dick explained the cheese-making process, from the pasture to the mature cheese. They were fascinated and full of admiration for the skill and hard work involved. This is a particularly busy time for the Keatings who also supply cheese for the Christmas hamper market. Despite that,

in his ‘spare time’ Dick manages to make home-made cider and fruit wines which he demonstrated to a class at the school recently.

Next stop – a restaurant that’s really causing a stir in foodie circles, the Old Convent Gourmet Hideaway in Clogheen town. Christine and Dermot Gannon ran Gannon’s restaurant in Cahir, Co Tipperary for 3 busy years. They were longing to move to the country so in Autumn 2005 they bought and began to renovate the old convent in Clogheen. There are seven lovely guest bedrooms. They have quickly built up an enviable reputation for their Tasting Menu of eight courses of modern Irish food, largely locally sourced. Christine explained to the students how they got started in the business and showed them around the Old Convent – the Chapel Dining Room, the Mother Superior’s Room, Goddess Powder Room….. Then they had a delicious Taste of Tipperary tasting lunch- Baylough Cheddar and Celeriac Velouté Shot with Truffle Butter, Ballybrado Organic Pork Salad with Crozier Blue Cheese and Clove Poached Pear with Toasted Pecan Nuts, Tipperary Organic Ice Cream Grasshopper Martini and The Old Convent Organic Chocolate Fondue. This was an invaluable insight into the restaurant business, they are open for dinner from Thursday to Sunday.

Back to Cork then for a tour of the English Market – this is always an endless source of fascination for our students as they go from stall to stall marvelling at the range of delicacies on offer – from traditional tripe and drisheen to the newcomers offering ethnic ingredients, as well as the terrific butchers, poultry suppliers and fish stalls. It’s a treasure on our doorstep – a food market serving the people of Cork. For an insight into the history and lore I recommend ‘Serving a City’ the story of the market written by Diarmuid and Donal O’Drisceoil, published last year.

Last stop was at Frank Hederman’s award-winning Smokehouse at Belvelly near Cobh, where they learned about the craft of smoking fish. Frank smokes delicious wild and organic salmon, mackerel, mussels and eel in the traditional way, they enjoyed a taste of all these delicious goodies.

Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we are immensely grateful to the farmers and other producers whose hard work enables our students to cook with top quality ingredients.

Baylough Cheese, Clogheen, Co Tipperary, Tel 052-65275, (see Hot Tips for stockists)

The Old Convent Gourmet Hideaway, Clogheen, Co Tipperary, Tel 052-65565 

The English Market, Princes Street and Grand Parade, Cork.

Frank Hederman, Belvelly Smokehouse, Belvelly, Cobh, Co Cork, Tel 021-4811089 

The Old Convent Caribbean Martini

At the Old Convent they serve these cocktails as pre-dessert appetisers, Dermot says the secret is to use the very best ice-cream, he highly recommends Paddy and Joyce O’Keeffe’s Tipperary Organic Ice-Cream and good quality vanilla pods are essential. You can vary the ice-cream flavour and the liqueur according to your taste, eg you could use Malibu, Crème de Menthe…… Don’t know what Mother Superior would say!
Makes 4

2 scoops Tipperary Organic Banana and Cinnamon Ice-cream
8 fl.ozs (225ml) cold milk
1 vanilla pod
Couple of shots of Galliano liqueur – to taste
To serve: 4 Martini glasses.

Frost the martini glasses by dipping the rims in lemon juice and then in coloured sugar.

Put the ice-cream into a blender.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into the cold milk to make vanilla milk, then pour into the blender.
Add the liqueur. 
Whizz all together until blended. Taste and add more milk or liqueur according to how strong you like it. 
Serve immediately.

Toasted Prawns with Baylough Select Cheese

With a bag of prawns in the freezer, you are never stuck for a quick meal. This recipe combines defrosted prawns, with melted cheese, bacon and spring onions, to make a very tasty snack.
Serves 3-4

1oz (25g) butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
4ozs (110g) mild bacon (back rashers), cut into strips
8oz (225g) prawns
2 dessertspoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
½ teasp. Cayenne pepper

¼ pint (150ml) cream
2oz (50g) Baylough Select cheese

Melt the butter in a pan, add the chopped bacon, saute for 2 minutes, add the garlic and spring onions and cook for a further couple of minutes, do not allow the garlic and spring onion to burn. Add the defrosted prawns, sprinkle with lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper and cook for a few minutes, until the prawns are no longer translucent. 

Add the cream and cheese to the pan. Heat until melted, then transfer to a lightly buttered ovenproof serving dish. Flash under a very hot grill under bubbling and golden. Serve hot with slices of wholemeal bread and a green salad.

Baked Suir Salmon and Smoked Baylough Cheese Pie

This recipe was devised by Linda Lynch of St Ailbe’s Vocational School, Tipperary Town who came first in Tipperary Schools Cooking Competition.
Serves 4

18oz (500g) fresh salmon fillet
9fl.oz (250ml) chicken stock
9fl.oz (250ml) cream
Salt, black pepper
3oz (75g) diced onion
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
18oz (500g) mashed potato
8 spring onions, chopped
3oz (75g) Smoked Baylough Cheese (or other smoked cheddar if you can’t get Baylough)

Cut the salmon into large dice and poach for 15 minutes in the stock and cream that has been seasoned.
Remove from the stock and place in the bottom of a medium sized pie dish.
Sprinkle on the diced onion and arrange the sliced hard-boiled egg on top.
Reduce the cooking liquor by one-third and pour this into the pie dish.
Mix the spring onions and in with the mashed potato and spread evenly over the top of the pie dish.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 160C/325F/gas 3. Remove and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Replace in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Some menu ideas from Frank Hederman.

Smoked Mussels:
Pasta with Smoked Mussels and Roast Red Peppers 
Per person allow approx.
100g (3½ oz) pasta 
Half red pepper
5-6 mussels – they are very rich so that should be plenty

Frank suggests adding cooking some fresh egg pasta like tagliatelle, add roast red pepper and smoked mussels. There is no need to cook the mussels, they will heat through in the steam of the cooked pasta.

Smoked Eel:
Try them with crisp green bacon on dressed baby spinach leaves 
With celeriac and potato mash and crisp bacon on a warm vinaigrette-dressed potato salad

Smoked Mackerel:
With a salad or ripe cherry tomatoes 
In a fresh buttered batch bread sandwich

Smoked Salmon:
Frank thinks that his wild smoked salmon is best unadorned without even lemon or black pepper – but of course you can use it in your favourite recipe –

With savoury buttermilk pancakes, or boxty or potato cakes – with crème fraiche and chopped chives 
On poached egg crostini with buttery spinach and hollandaise 
Or on a platter of Frank Hederman Smoked Seafood

Foolproof Food

Winter Vegetable and Bean Soup with Spicy Sausage

Just the thing for the cooler days - We make huge pots of this in the Winter, I usually keep some in the freezer. Kabanossi is a thin sausage now widely available, it gives a gutsy slightly smoky flavour to the soup which although satisfying is by no means essential.
Serves 8-9 

225g (8ozs) rindless streaky bacon, cut into ¼ inch (5mm) lardons
2 tablespoons olive oil
225g (8ozs) onions, chopped
300g (10½ozs) carrot, cut into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
215g (7½ozs) celery, chopped into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
125g (4½ozs) parsnips, chopped into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
200g (7ozs) white part of 1 leek, ¼ inch (5mm) slices thick approx. 
1 Kabanossi sausage,* cut into one-eight inch (3mm) thin slices
400g (1 x 14ozs) tin of tomatoes
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
1.7L (3 pints) homemade chicken stock, 
225g (8ozs) haricot beans, cooked * (see below)

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) parsley, freshly chopped 

Blanch, the chunky bacon lardons, refresh and dry well. Prepare the vegetables. Put the olive oil in a saucepan, add bacon and saute over a medium heat until it becomes crisp and golden, add the chopped onion, carrots and celery. Cover and sweat for five minutes, next add the parsnip and finely sliced leeks. Cover and sweat for a further 5 minutes. Slice the Kabanossi sausage thinly, and add. Chop the tomatoes and add to the rest of the vegetables and the beans. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar, add the chicken stock. Allow to cook until all the vegetables are tender, 20 minutes approx. Taste and correct the seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with lots of crusty brown bread.

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water. Next day, strain the beans and cover with fresh cold water, add a bouquet garni, carrot and onion, cover and simmer until the beans are soft but not mushy – anything from 30-60 minutes. Just before the end of cooking, add salt. Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables and discard.

Book of the Week

Nigel Slater’s books – Real Cooking, Real Fast Food, The 30-minute Cook and Real Fast Puddings have all been refreshed and will be published by Penguin next week. 
From the delicious and nourishing recipes and suggestions in Real Food, to the inspiring collection of quick and mouth-watering desserts in Real Fast Puddings, freshness, simplicity and flavour permeate throughout.
Here is a delicious recipe from Real Fast Puddings –

Croissants with Hot Apples and Crème Fraîche

Minute for minute, probably the most delicious fast pudding in the book.
For 2

30g/1oz butter
1 large dessert (eating) apple
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 large flaky croissants
3 tablespoons crème fraîche

Melt the butter in shallow pan. Halve and core the apple and cut into about ten segments. Cook the apple in the butter till tender, turning once to cook the other side, then add the sugar and cook over a high heat till the mixture caramelizes.

Warm the croissants under the grill, split each one in half, and sandwich together with the crème fraîche and some of the hot apple slices.
Spoon over any remaining buttery sauce, and replace the top halves. Eat while still hot.

Hot tips 

Baylough Cheese is available at Country Choice, Nenagh, McCambridge’s, Galway, On the Pig’s Back, English Market, Cork, Urru Foods, Bandon and Mallow, Hudsons Whole Foods, Ballydehob, West Cork. Super Valu, Poppyfield, Clonmel, and various Farmers Markets countrywide.

Helena Chocolates represents Ireland in international chocolate championships 
Dirk Schonkeren of Mayo-based Helena Chocolates, who is a Master Chocolatier, was the first competitor ever invited from Ireland to take part in the World Chocolate Masters, he didn’t win but it was a fantastic competition -“The Chocolate Oscars” is the light-hearted description of this event, but as Dirk explains it’s not something to take lightly at all, “It was a huge honour to be selected to represent Ireland”. Dirk, who is originally from Belgium, set up Helena Chocolates twenty years ago, manufacturing in Ballyvary, Co. Mayo, and selling through his shop in Castlebar and selected outlets countrywide. Tel: 094 9031270 Email: 

Red Stables Market, St Anne’s Park, Raheny, Dublin 5
Red Stables Art & Craft and Food Market is held every Saturday from 10-5. From Sunday 29th October an Arts & Craft Market will be held every Sunday from 10-5 and a special Christmas Market will take place each Sunday from from November 26th and on 3,10 & 17 December. Full details from Or 086-805 5082

Halloween Dates from an Ancient Celtic Festival

Halloween dates from the ancient Celtic festival Samhain which was the first day of Winter on November 1st , it later became All Souls Day which was an important date in the church calendar. The night before Samhain is Hallowe’en or All Hallow’s Eve, and this was traditionally the night for the festivities. As children we always had a Hallowe’en party and had the greatest fun planning it for weeks before. We made black witches’ hats, scary masks and polished up our collection of ghost stories. Trekking from house to house we gathered ‘monkey’ nuts and apples and a few coins if we were lucky. Hollowed out turnips were used to make lanterns with eerie toothless faces and we put these on the gate post of the house where the party was being held. 

Nowadays the children can buy their readymade Hallowe’en outfits, pumpkins abound, ‘trick or treat bags’ can be bought and its very easy to organize a party for children or adults. Hallowe’en is an excuse to play all sorts of old-fashioned games – like snap apple and dunking for apples and to indulge in some divination. 

To get everyone in the spirit of things, drape twists of black and orange crepe paper all over doors and window frames. Weave cobwebby tangles of grey wool and make broomsticks from autumnal twigs and leaves. 

For the feast make some Witches’ Bread or Barm Brack and hide a ring, pea, stick and rag inside so your guests can predict their fortune. Colcannon is another traditional Hallowe’en dish - don’t forget to put a little bowl on the windowsill for the fairies and to ward off evil spirits. After hollowing out a pumpkin for a lantern you could use the cut away flesh from inside to make some warming Pumpkin Soup. Warm apple cake fresh from the oven with cream and soft brown sugar is irresistible, or easier still some Baked Apples would be delicious. Have fun and remember don’t eat any blackberries after Hallowe’en because the devil or the púca might have spat on them!


Songs have been sung and poems have been written about Colcannon. It’s one of Ireland’s most famous traditional potato dishes. It’s comfort food at its very best and terrific for a party.
Serves 8 approx.

450g (1lb) Savoy or spring cabbage
1.35kg (3lb) 'old' potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
250ml (8fl oz) boiling milk approx.
30g (1oz) scallion or spring onion, optional
salt and freshly ground pepper
55g (2oz) butter approx.

Scrub the potatoes, put them in a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for 'old' potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put onto a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked.

Remove the dark outer leaves from the cabbage. Wash the rest and cut into quarters, remove the core and cut finely across the grain. Cook in a little boiling salted water or bacon cooking water until soft. Drain, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little butter. If using kale, remove the central rib. Cook the kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender. This may take 8-10 minutes, depending on the type and maturity of the kale. Curly kale is sweetest after it has been mellowed by a few night frosts.

When the potatoes are just cooked, put the milk, and the finely chopped scallions into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pull the peel off the potatoes and discard, mash quickly while they are still warm and beat in enough boiling milk to make a fluffy puree. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes in the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade.) Then stir in the cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. For perfection, serve immediately in a hot dish with a lump of butter melting in the centre.

Colcannon may be prepared ahead up to this point and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4, for 20-25 minutes approx. Cover while reheating so it doesn't get too crusty on top.

Halloween Barmbrack

This delicious tea brack recipe was given to me by Lana Pringle, who lives in Shanagarry. Lana makes her delicious cakes by hand and cooks them in her old Aga.
Halloween is a terrific time to have a party. In Ireland a barmbrack is a must for the festivities. The work “barm” comes from the old English “beorma”, meaning yeasted fermented liquor. “Brack” comes from the Irish “brac”, meaning speckled – which the cake is, with dried fruit and candied peel. Traditionally a Halloween Barmbrack is made with yeast but for easy entertaining this tea brack is much less stressful to make. Halloween has always been associated with fortune telling and divination, so various objects are wrapped up and hidden in the cake mixture – a wedding ring, a coin, a pea or a thimble (signifying spinsterhood), a piece of matchstick (which means that your husband will beat you!).

400g (14 oz) dried fruit, raisins and sultanas
50g (2 oz) cherries
50g (2 oz) chopped candied peel - see recipe
110g (4 oz) soft brown sugar
110g (4 oz) granulated sugar
450g (15 fl oz) tea 
400g (14 oz) plain white flour
1/8 teaspoon of baking powder 
1 egg, free-range and organic
3 tins 10 x 15 x 7.5cm deep (4 x 61/4 x 3 inch deep)
or 2 tins 25.5 x 38 x 6.5cm deep (5 x 8 x 21/2 inch deep)

Put raisins and sultanas into a bowl, cover with tea (Lana occasionally uses a mixture of Indian and Lapsang Souchong, but any good strong tea will do) and leave overnight to allow the fruit to plump up. Next day add the halved cherries, chopped candied peel, sugar and egg and mix well. Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in thoroughly. The mixture should be softish, add a little more tea if necessary 50ml (2 fl oz). 

Grease the tins with melted butter (Lana uses old tins, heavier gauge than are available nowadays, light modern tins may need to be lined with silicone paper for extra protection.)

Divide the mixture between the three tins and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 40 minutes approx.

Lana bakes her barmbracks in the Aga, after 40 minutes she turns the tins around and gives them a further 10 minutes approx.* Leave in the tins for about 10 minutes and then remove and cool on a wire rack. 

*If you are using two tins the barmbracks will take 1 hour approx.

Irish Apple Cake

Apple cakes like this one are the traditional sweet in Ireland. The recipe varies from house to house and the technique has been passed from mother to daughter in farmhouses all over the country for generations. It would originally have been baked in a bastible or pot beside an open fire and later in the oven or stove on tin or enamel plates. These are much better than ovenproof glass because the heat travels through and cooks the pastry base more readily - worth remembering, as a tart with a soggy base is not attractive! In Ireland all apple cakes are made with cooking apples.
Serves 6 approx.

8 ozs (225g) flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
4 ozs (110g) butter
4½ ozs (125g) castor sugar
1 egg, preferably free-range
2-4 fl. ozs (50-120ml) milk, approx.
1-2 cooking apples - we use Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
2-3 cloves (optional)
egg wash

Ovenproof plate 

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs, add 3 ozs (85g) castor sugar, make a well in the centre and mix to a soft dough with the beaten egg and enough milk to form a soft dough. Divide in two. Put one half onto a greased ovenproof plate and pat out to cover. Peel, core and chop up the apples, place them on the dough and add 1½ ozs (45g) sugar, depending on the sweetness of the apples. Roll out the remaining pastry and fit on top, this is easier said than done as this 'pastry' is more like scone dough and as a result is very soft. Press the sides together, cut a slit through the lid, egg wash and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 40 minutes approx. or until cooked through and nicely browned. Dredge with castor sugar and serve warm with Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream.

Book of the Week –

This recipe for Pumpkin Soup comes from The Festive Food of America by Martina Nicolls published by Kyle Cathie with wonderful photographs by Will Heap. It is a vibrant collection of both the traditional and more unusual foods that are cooked on festive occasions throughout the year. Be it Creole cooking in New Orleans where Mardi Gras is (still) celebrated in grand style to a warming feast at Hallowe’en , and from Labour Day fare to Thanksgiving, the Americans know how to feast .

Buy this Book from Amazon

This is Martina’s description of Hallowe’en festivities in America.
“All Hallows’ Eve, 31st October is the night witches fly on broomsticks across the moonlit sky, Jack-0-lanterns (hollowed-out pumpkins with grinning, demonic faces lit by candles) flicker mysteriously in dark windows and children all over America dress in spooky costumes and frightening masks. They go from house to house asking for ‘Trick or Treat’ – custom evolving from pagan Celtic fire festivals to frighten away evil spirits returning from the dead. These pagan rituals eventually became secularised, and developed into children’s games. They were probably brought to America by immigrants, particularly the Irish in the late 19th Century. A treat is asked for or a trick is played. Bags of sweets and cookies are quite acceptable and if not forthcoming the wicked witches’ curse will descend upon the house and its unfortunate occupants. The evening usually ends with ghost stories around the fire and mugs of hot Pumpkin Soup”

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkins were introduced to the early settlers by Indian tribes and are traditionally made into pies and soups. This is a beautifully coloured soup.
Serves 8-10

1 large orange pumpkin
1kg piece of pumpkin, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Small bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3-4 celery leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
85g butter
1.6 litres of chicken stock
350ml single cream
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
225g croutons
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Slice the top off the pumpkin to make a lid, scrape out the seeds and stringy bits and carefully scoop out 1kg of flesh for the soup. (Use a separate piece of pumpkin if you prefer.)

Sauté the onion, spring onions, celery leaves and garlic in 50g of the butter until tender but not brown.
Add the pumpkin chunks and cook gently for 10 minutes. Add the stock and simmer, stirring until the pumpkin is tender, about 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and pureé in a food processor until smooth. Return to the pan, whisk in the cream and remaining butter and heat thoroughly without boiling. It should be satin smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Warm the hollowed-out pumpkin in a preheated oven, 180C/350F.gas 4, for 15 minutes. Pour in the hot soup, sprinkle with parsley and serve the croutons separately. Or, if preferred, serve in bowls.

Foolproof food

Witches Bread with Chocolate and Raisins

450g (1lb) flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon bread soda, sieved
1 level teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
50g (2oz) dark chocolate roughly chopped
50g (2oz) raisins
400ml (14fl oz) buttermilk or 350ml (12fl oz) + 1 egg

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas 7.

In a large bowl sieve the flour and bread soda and add the salt, sugar, chocolate and raisins. Make a well in the centre and pour most of the buttermilk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the side of the bowl, adding more buttermilk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn the dough onto a floured board. Wash and dry your hands.

With floured fingers tidy up the dough gently and flip over and tuck it in underneath. Pat the dough into a round about 4cm (11/2in) deep. Cut a deep cross on it and prick in the centre of the four segments to let the fairies out. 

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6, for 35 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom: if it is cooked it will sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack. Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter. 

Make 8 – 10 mini witches, don’t forget to cut a cross in them also. 

Hot Tips

Cuthbert’s Polish Bread
Look out for Cuthbert’s sliced white Polish bread in shops in East Cork. Small local bakers really need our support to help them to compete in a very tough marketplace. This is a real find – bread like it used to be and ‘a little taste of Poland’. 

‘Tots to Teens’ the latest in the BIM series of health information leaflets aims to inform parents of the positive benefits of including fish in children’s diets. It is available from GP’s, dietitians and fish retail outlets, and on request from BIM 01-214 4100 or visit  

First Cross Border Organic Food Conference
National Organic Week runs from 6 - 12 November. One of the flagship events is the first all Ireland Organic Food Conference on 7th November at The Landmark Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim. 
The event has been produced by Atlantic Organics Ltd, a new organic food company which was set up with EU funding support. The Conference is for everyone in the 32 counties involved in organic food, from production and processing through to retailing.
To register contact Atlantic Organics Ltd on Tel: 071 98 54014 or email:  For further information visit www.atlantico

The Tate and Lyle Tin

I’ve always loved the distinctive design of the tins of treacle and golden syrup on my kitchen shelf.
There’s something comforting and reassuring about a product and design that remains constant in our fast changing world.
The Victorian design of the Tate and Lyle tin has altered little over the years; although the tin itself was made from strong cardboard during the war years when tin was in short supply.
The Lyle’s tin is itself a piece of history. Its image of the lion and bees and the biblical quotation, testify to a distinctly Victorian image of moralism, industrial drive and budding concern for social welfare.
The tins were surprisingly strong. Legend has it that famous explorer Captain Scott took some golden syrup on his ill-fated Antarctic expedition in 1910. One of the cans was discovered by explorers with the syrup inside still in good condition in 1956.

Almost every day I reach for the red and gold tin to add a dollop of treacle to the yeast when I mix the Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread.
The green and gold syrup tin, consistent since 1883, also reminds me of boarding school, nostalgic memories of slathering golden syrup onto slices of Sister Marcella’s soda bread. Presumably it was cheaper than honey, but we loved its sweet, slightly malty taste.
Nowadays I drizzle it on pancakes and use in a whole variety of sweet treats like chocolate and toffee squares and flapjacks.
Here are a few of my favourite recipes to tempt you.

Florrie’s Chocolate and Toffee Squares

These much loved biscuits sometimes called Millionaire’s Squares are a fiddle to make, so get the maximum flavour for your effort by making them with butter and best quality chocolate.

Makes 24 or 32

Biscuit base
12 ozs (340g) self raising flour
8 ozs (225g) butter
4 ozs (110g) castor sugar

Toffee Filling
8 ozs (225g) granulated sugar (can be reduced to 6 ozs)
8 ozs (225g) butter
4 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tin Nestles full creamed sweetened condensed milk

Chocolate Top
6-8 ozs (170g-225g) Lesme, Callebaut or Valrhona chocolate, melted

1 large swiss roll tin 10 x 15 inch (25.5 x 38cm) 

First make the shortcake base.
Mix the flour with the sugar, rub in the butter and work until the mixture comes together. Alternatively, blend the three ingredients in a food processor. Roll the mixture evenly into the lightly greased tin. Prick the base with a fork. Cook in a preheated oven 1801C/3501F/regulo 4 for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden in colour and fully cooked.

Next make the filling.
Melt the butter over a low heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the sugar, golden syrup and lastly the condensed milk, stir after each addition and continue to stir over a low heat for the next 20 minutes approx. 

(The toffee burns very easily so don't stop stirring.)

When the toffee is golden brown, test by dropping a little blob into a bowl of cold water. A firm ball of toffee indicates a firm toffee, if its still a little soft continue to cook for a few more minutes but be careful if it gets too hard it will pull your teeth out later! When it reaches the correct stage pour it evenly over the shortbread base. Allow to cool. 

Melt the chocolate over a gentle heat preferably in a pyrex bowl over simmering water and spread evenly over the toffee. Decorate immediately with a fork to give a wavy pattern.

Cut into small squares or fingers when the chocolate is set.

Foolproof Food

Butterscotch Sauce

This irresistible sauce is delicious served with ice-cream. Also great with pancakes and sliced bananas or chopped nuts, eg pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts, or with sticky toffee pudding.

4 ozs (110 g) butter
6 ozs (170 g) dark soft brown Barbados sugar
4 ozs (110 g) granulated sugar
10 ozs (285 g) golden syrup
8 fl ozs (225 ml) cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla essence

Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla essence. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth. 

Serve hot or cold.

Note: This sauce will keep for several weeks stored in a screw-top jar in the fridge.

Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread

When making Ballymaloe brown yeast bread, remember that yeast is a living organism. In order to grow, it requires warmth, moisture and nourishment. The yeast feeds on the sugar and produces bubbles of carbon dioxide which causes the bread to rise. Heat of over 50˚C will kill yeast. Have the ingredients and equipment at blood heat. White or brown sugar, honey golden syrup, treacle or molasses may be used. Each will give a slightly different flavour to the bread. At Ballymaloe we use treacle. The dough rises more rapidly with 30g (1oz) yeast than with 25g (¾oz) yeast.

We use a stone ground wholemeal. Different flours produce breads of different textures and flavour. The amount of natural moisture in the flour varies according to atmospheric conditions. The quantity of water should be altered accordingly. The dough should be just too wet to knead - in fact it does not require kneading. The main ingredients - wholemeal flour, treacle and yeast are highly nutritious.

Note: Dried yeast may be used instead of baker's yeast. Follow the same method but use only half the weight given for fresh yeast. Allow longer to rise. Fast acting yeast may also be used, follow the instructions on the packet.

Makes 1 loaf
450g (16oz) wholemeal flour OR
400g (14oz) wholemeal flour plus 50g (2oz) strong white flour
425ml (15floz) water at blood heat (mix yeast with 140ml (5floz) lukewarm water approx.)
1 teaspoon black treacle or molasses
1 teaspoon salt
30g (3/4oz -1oz) fresh non GM yeast

sesame seeds – optional

1 loaf tin 13x20cm (5x8inch) approx.
sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8.

Mix the flour with the salt. The ingredients should all be at room temperature. In a small bowl or Pyrex jug, mix the treacle with some of the water, 140ml (5floz) for 1 loaf and crumble in the yeast.

Sit the bowl for a few minutes in a warm place to allow the yeast to start to work. Grease the bread tins with sunflower oil. Meanwhile check to see if the yeast is rising. After about 4 or 5 minutes it will have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top. 

When ready, stir and pour it, with all the remaining water, into the flour to make a loose-wet dough. The mixture should be too wet to knead. Put the mixture into the greased tin. Sprinkle the top of the loaves with sesame seeds if you like. Put the tin in a warm place somewhere close to the cooker or near a radiator perhaps. Cover the tins with a tea towel to prevent a skin from forming. Just as the bread comes to the top of the tin, remove the tea towel and pop the loaves in the oven 230C/450F/gas mark 8 for 50-60 minutes or until it looks nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. The bread will rise a little further in the oven. This is called “oven spring”. If however the bread rises to the top of the tin before it goes into the oven it will continue to rise and flow over the edges. 

We usually remove the loaves from the tins about 10 minutes before the end of cooking and put them back into the oven to crisp all round, but if you like a softer crust there's no need to do this.

Makes 4 large or 5 smaller loaves
1.8 kg (4lb) wholemeal flour OR
1.5 kg (3 1/2lb) wholemeal flour plus
225g (1/2lb) strong white flour
1.6-1.7litre (2 3/4-3pints) approx. water at blood heat – use 285ml (1/2 pint) of the lukewarm water to mix with the yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2-3 well rounded teaspoons black treacle
50-100g (2-3oz) non GM yeast

sesame seeds (optional)

4 or 5 loaf tins 13x20 (5x8inch) approx.

Elizabeth Mosses Gingerbread
Makes 2 loaves

1 lb (450g) flour
1/2 teasp. salt
1 1/2 teasp. ground ginger
2 teasp. baking powder
1/2 teasp. bread soda
1 fistful of sultanas if liked
8 ozs (225g) soft brown sugar
6 ozs (170g) butter, cut into cubes
3/4 lb (340g) treacle
1/2 pint (300ml) milk
1 egg, free range if possible

2 x 9inch (23cm) x 5inch (12.5cm) x 2inch (5cm) loaf tins lined with silicone paper

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

Sieve all the dry ingredients together. Gently warm the brown sugar with the cubed butter and treacle. Then add milk. Allow to cool a little and stir into the dry ingredients, add the beaten egg and the sultanas if desired. Mix very thoroughly and make sure that there are no little lumps of flour left. Bake in one or two lined loaf tins for approx. 1 hour in a moderate oven.
This gingerbread keeps very well. 

Hot Tips

Pig Out Day Courses with Frank Krawczyk
Frank, one of Ireland’s best known and most respected salami and sausage makers will share the secrets of his art during a one-day action packed demonstration using every single part of a pig to produce a huge range of pork delicacies. Courses will be held on November 11th and 25th, enquiries to Frank Krawczyk, Derreenatra, Schull, Co Cork, Tel 028-28579 email;  

Glebe Brethan
An artisan gruyere-type cheese made from Montbeliarde cow’s milk has won a Gold Medal and a Major Category Award for Best New Cheese at the recent prestigious British Cheese Awards. Glebe Brethan is made on the Tiernan family farm in Dunleer, Co Louth where they have a long tradition of dairying. Tel Mairead or David Tiernan 041-6851157  

The first Soil Association Food Festival to be held in Scotland is taking place in Glasgow on 4 and 5 November. It promises to showcase the best in organic products in the run-up to the busy Christmas period. With Scotland accounting for over 50% of organically managed land in the UK there will be plenty of tasty organic food and drink on offer, as well as talks, tastings and much more. WhyOrganic[]

Darina’s book of the week
Duchy Originals Cookbook by Johnny Acton and Nick Sandler, published by Kyle Cathie.
Duchy Originals was founded by Prince Charles in 1990. The company had a clear mission: to promote top-quality British food produced according to the principles of sustainable agriculture. The venture has succeeded beyond all expectations. Since making its debut with a delicious oaten biscuit made from organic grain grown on the Prince’s Gloucestershire farm, Duchy Originals has expanded its range to include more than 200 products, from Scottish heather honey to Essex Bronze turkeys. It is now one of Britain’s leading premium and organic food brands.

The recently published, Duchy Originals Cookbook , enshrines the two principles that have guided the brand since its inception: to combine traditional wisdom with contemporary creativity and to encourage people to think about where their food has come from. Following the rhythms of the seasons, the authors Johnny Acton and Nick Sandler, spent a year immersed in the Duchy Originals world. They visit Duchy suppliers throughout the UK, from the Amiss family in Devon with their clouds of white geese to the venerable Walkers biscuit makers of Speyside in Scotland.

Ginger Nuts

This recipe produces a soft, chewy ginger nut. These biscuits must not be overcooked or they will lose their ‘juiciness’. Duchy Originals don’t currently sell ginger nuts, but if they did, they would be as good as these.
Makes 35-40 biscuits

You will need a silicone sheet or a well-greased baking tray and a wire rack.

150g (5½ oz) light muscovado sugar
50g (2oz) sesame seeds
15g (¾oz) dried ginger
50g (2oz) desiccated coconut
150g (5½oz) golden syrup
150g (5½oz) unsalted butter
200g (7oz) plain flour

Preheat the oven to 140C/290F/gas mark 2

Combine the sugar, sesame seeds, ginger and desiccated coconut in a large bowl.
Melt the golden syrup and butter together and combine with the above ingredients.
Add the flour and stir into a thick paste. Pick up a little bit of the dough with a tablespoon and roll into a ball (a 15-20g(½-⅓oz) ball will make a medium-sized biscuit)

Place the balls of biscuit mix on the baking tray, quite well spaced because they will spread during cooking.
Bake immediately for 15 minutes. You don’t want the biscuits to brown. If they do, you are cooking them for too long or on too high a heat.

When the biscuits come out of the oven they are a little flimsy so let them rest for a minute or two before you transfer them to cool on a wire rack.
The ginger nuts will keep very well for a week or two in an airtight container.

Saké and Kappa-ya in Galway city

Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery near Skibbereen, beat over 4,500 entries to win the title of Supreme Champion,
More news from Carmel Somers

I’ve only tasted saké once or twice in Japanese restaurants, it seemed to be the appropriate beverage to drink with a Japanese meal but what I tasted was distinctly underwhelming. It came in a porcelain ‘bud vase’ and was served warm in little thimble like containers, a drink to be endured rather than enjoyed. 
Saké has played a central role in Japanese life for over 2,000 years, so I knew there had to be something more exciting on offer.

Well, as luck would have it, I recently received a beautifully embossed invitation from the Japanese Ambassador to a Saké Tasting at Kappa-ya in Galway city. This little restaurant, owned by Junichi Yoshiyagawa and Yoshimi Hayakawa, has been on my ‘must do’ list for over a year now. Good news travels fast in the restaurant world and I’d heard about the delicious food that was making waves in foodie circles in Galway, so – a double whammy.

Saké is Japan’s national drink, its most ancient and sacred beverage. Even today saké plays a profound role in native Shinto belief. Tiny cups of saké are placed as offerings in domestic shrines at festive times of the year. In the Shinto wedding ceremony, it is the exchange of cups and the drinking of saké that seals the marriage vows.

Saké is a clear liquid made from fermented rice and water with an alcohol content of 14-17%. Steamed white rice is inoculated with a special mould (koji kabi; Aspergillus oryzae) and then fermentation occurs. It takes 45-60 days to produce saké from start to finish. There is no ageing period involved. Unlike wine or distilled spirits, saké can be drunk immediately, in fact some people believe that it is best drunk within three months of bottling. Saké has no vintage years and is best drunk within a year of being made. Unlike wine, ageing doesn’t enhance the flavour. Because it is fermented rather than distilled, it should be drunk reasonably quickly once the bottle is opened.

The best saké is made from the finest rice and the purest water. Much of Japan’s saké is mass produced nowadays, but there are still some traditional breweries which continue to produce saké in a time honoured way.

Recently I met Mr Kujeihi Kuno, the current director of Banjo Jozo, founded in 1647. He is the fifteenth generation to bear the family’s professional name, and the ninth generation to specialize in saké production. This innovative traditionalist brought his artisan sakés from Japan and proudly served them with Junichi’s delicious food. 

Not one was served lukewarm, some were chilled, others enjoyed at room temperature. Each was fresh and delicious with hints of melon, bitter almonds, seaweed and spices – the experience was a revelation after my earlier experiences with warm sweet saké. Hopefully these superb sakés will be available on the Irish market before too long.

From the cook’s point of view, saké has many desirable attributes. The Japanese have long been aware that rice wine is a tenderizer. It is one of the ‘big 4’ of Japanese cooking ingredients, coupled with dashi stock, soy sauce and miso fermented bean paste. The amino acids in the saké tenderize. Saké also has the effect of repressing saltiness, takes away strong smells and helps to eliminate fishy tastes. It also makes a delicious aperitif, but carefully partnered with Junichi’s Japanese food as chosen by Enrico Fantasia, it was sublime. Contact the Japanese Embassy for details of availability – 01-2028300.

Kappa-ya, 4 Middle Street, Galway. Tel 086-3543616 

Here is a recipe from Kappa-ya

Tori no sakamushi (Steamed Chicken)
Serves 1

1 free range chicken breast

Sake 50cc
Salt & Pepper pinch
Ginger 1 slice, crushed
Garlic 1 slice, crushed
Leek 10cm, chopped
Scallions half bunch finely chopped
Sauce; Ponzu:Sesame oil=2:1

Season the chicken breast with salt and freshly ground pepper and put onto a deep plate.
Cover the chicken with saké.
Sprinkle the ginger, garlic and leeks onto the chicken, then cover the plate with cling film.

Steam it in the oven or steamer for 15-20min.

Leave the chicken in the sake to cool, (in this process, all flavour goes into the chicken) Cut chicken into bite size pieces. It will be delicious to eat at room temperature or re-heated. Put chopped scallions into a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes to remove the bitterness. Strain.
Spoon the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the chopped scallions.

Coincidentally I just got a copy of a new Japanese Cookbook - Japanese Pure and Simple by Kimiko Barber, published by Kyle Cathie. 
Buy this Book from Amazon

Japanese food is synonymous with great health – from fighting the effects of ageing, to reducing the risk of cancer and shedding excess pounds. The benefits of the Japanese diet are out in the press, and its unique combinations and subtle, sophisticated flavours have created a huge market for trendy sushi bars and Japanese restaurants. But the food itself is not complicated, and once you understand the washoku philosophy of food, there is no dish that cannot be made in your home – which, let’s face it, is the most nourishing, healthy way to feed yourself and family.

Kimiko Barber was born in Kobe, Japan and arrived in UK in 972. After over ten years in investment banking in both London and Tokyo, a chance visit to Books for Cooks, a Mecca for foodies in Notting Hill, inspired her to change her career and focus on cooking and entertaining. She teaches Japanese and Asian fusion cooking in various cooking schools. Her first book Sushi Taste and Technique won the bronze award in Best Food Book category in Jacob’s Creek World Food Media Awards. She is an enthusiastic organic kitchen gardener.

Here are some recipes from the book.

Seared Beef Salad with Watercress and Grapefruit
This cooking method is called tataki, which literally means ‘to hit’ or ‘to beat’: you hit the meat with the palm of your hand to flatten and tenderise it. Traditionally the seared meat is plunged into iced water to stop further cooking and to tighten it. ‘But recently I have used rice vinegar instead – the purpose of searing is not to cook the meat through but to burn off the fat and seal in the taste, whereas plunging it in ice water will congeal the fat you are trying to get rid of’ (Kimiko Barber).

200g (7oz) rump or sirloin steak
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 grapefruit, segmented
100g (3½oz) watercress, trimmed
100g (3½oz) rocket
1 pack of salad cress

For the salad dressing:
Juice of 1 grapefruit
100g (3½oz) grated fresh ginger juice*
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce

Take the meat out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature (as cold meat is tough and takes longer to cook).

Brush the meat with the vegetable oil and rub with salt and pepper. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat and sear the meat on both sides. Place the meat on a chopping board and let it cool enough to handle. With a sharp knife, slice the meat into 5mm (¼in) thick slices and pour over the rice vinegar. Separate each slice and give it a light but firm slap with the palm of your hand.

Remove the pellicle (thin skin) from each grapefruit segment. Put the watercress, rocket, salad cress and grapefruit in a salad bowl and arrange the meat on top. Mix the dressing ingredients, pour over the salad, toss and serve.

*To extract the juice from grated ginger, simply squeeze it and discard the fibrous remains.

This recipe can work very well as a main course for a smart dinner party. You can change the combination of salad to suit your preference.

Teriyaki Pork Steak
Succulent tender pork steak is perfectly matched with nutty sweet teriyaki sauce and a dash of rice vinegar highlights the tastes and flavours.

4 pork steaks, each weighing 125g (4½oz)
4 tablespoons cornflour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
Handful of watercress

For the teriyaki sauce:
4 tablespoons sake
4 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
50g (2oz) fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Take the meat out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking. Dust the steaks with the cornflour. Heat a frying pan over a moderate/low heat and add the vegetable oil. Sauté the steaks for 3 minutes on each side, then reduce the heat and cover the pan with a lid to steam-cook for a further 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and add all the ingredients for the teriyaki sauce. Shake the pan to coat the steaks evenly with the sauce and reduce it a little. Add the rice vinegar and stir the sauce. Remove the steaks and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Arrange the meat on individual plates, drizzle over the sauce and serve with a garnish of watercress.

This teriyaki cooking sauce works well with lamb chops. Serve with cauliflower miso gratin or leek and carrot mini frittatas.

Prawn, pomegranate and green chilli sushi
The pomegranate originates in the Middle East and is widespread throughout Asia. They were brought to Japan from China in the twelfth century; the flowers were used for ornamental and the fruits for medicinal purposes. There are many references to them in mediaeval Japanese paintings and literature.

2 ripe pomegranates
4 tablespoons pomegranate juice
350g (12oz) prepared sushi rice – see recipe 
200g (7oz) cooked prawns
1-2 large green chillies, finely chopped
Few sprigs of coriander and mint leaves

Halve the pomegranates horizontally, separate the individual fruitlets from the rind and reserve. Moisten the inside of a large mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of the pomegranate juice to stop the rice sticking. Add the prepared sushi rice, sprinkle over the remainder of the pomegranate juice to separate the rice and mix. Add the cooked prawns, chopped chillies and reserved pomegranate and mix with a flat spatula in a cut-and-turn motion. Transfer the sushi mixture into either a large serving dish or individual dishes. Garnish with the coriander and mint leaves and serve.
This recipe works equally well with white crabmeat instead of prawns.

Isaac’s Sushi Rice
450g (1lb) sushi rice ” No 1 Extra Fancy”

600ml (1 pint) water

Vinegar Water

50ml (2fl oz) rice wine vinegar
1½ tablespoons sugar
2½ teaspoons salt

Rinse the rice for 10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.

‘Wake up’ the rice by sitting it in 600ml (1pint) cold water for 30 to 45 minutes. In the same water, bring to the boil and then cook for 10 minutes until all the 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 the lid, place a tea towel over the rice, replace the lid and sit for 20 minutes.

Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together in a bowl until dissolved. Turn the rice out onto a big flat plate (preferably wooden). While the rice is still hot pour the vinegar solution over the rice and mix the rice and vinegar together in a slicing action with the aid of a wooden spoon. Don’t stir. You must do it quickly preferably fanning the rice with the fan. This is much easier if you have a helper. Allow to cool on the plate and cover with kitchen paper or a tea towel. (It will soak up the liquid as it cools.)

Foolproof Food

Crab Apple or Bramley Apple Jelly

Apples are very plentiful this autumn – a delicious way to use up the windfalls.
Makes 2.7-3kg (6-7 lb)

2.7kg (6 lb) crab apples or wind fall cooking apples
2.7L (43pints) water
2 unwaxed lemons

Wash the apples and cut into quarters, do not remove either peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large saucepan with the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until reduced to a pulp, approx. 2 hour.

Turn the pulp into a jelly bag* and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted - usually overnight. Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 450g (1lb) sugar to each 600ml (1pint) of juice. Warm the sugar in a low oven.

Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8-10 minutes. Skim, test and pot immediately.
Flavour with sweet geranium, mint or cloves as required. 

Hot Tips

Apology – I neglected to mention the full title of the Lebanese Cookbook in my article of 30th September – it is The Lebanese Cookbook by Hussien Dekmak, published by Kyle Cathie.

Irish Seedsavers Association (ISSA) will hold an Apple Tasting on Sunday 15th October 12 noon – 5pm at Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare
Over 100 varieties of rare, native apples are grown by Seed Savers. At this time of year the apples are harvested and in peak condition. Seed Savers invite you to join them tomorrow and take part in a tasting and trial and give your opinion on the apples. Guided tours of the heritage gardens and orchards will be taking place. If you have any windfall/damaged apples bring them with you and with their state of the art apple press, they can turn them into the best apple juice you have ever tasted!
No booking necessary, cost €5. Tel 061-921866  

Pig in a Day Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday 18th October.
Philip Dennhardt a brilliant young butcher from Stuttgart will show how to butcher and cure one of our own free range pigs from nose to tail – dry and wet cured bacon, pancetta, ham, homemade sausages, salami, chorizo, brawn, pate de campagne …. Tel 021-4646785 

Farmleigh House, Catstlknock, Dublin 15 – Check out their impressive foodie line-up for Autumn.
Enjoy lunch at new Boathouse Restaurant or coffee at the Motorhouse café – see  Tel -01 8155966 or Boathouse Tel 01-8157255

Great Taste Awards in London 
At last month’s awards Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery near Skibbereen, beat over 4,500 entries to win the title of Supreme Champion, Best Irish Food (sponsored by Bord Bia) and best chilled product – 
Of the 510 gold medals awarded by over 400 food experts, 116 went to Irish producers.

More news from Carmel Somers at the Good Things Café in Durrus, West Cork 
2 Day practical Kitchen Miracle programme. 
Carmel has slotted in an extra course before Christmas. The new course date is 28th & 29th October (the October bank holiday weekend).Limited places available.
Call 027 61426 or email 


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