ArchiveMarch 2006

Antony Worrall Thompson’s GL Diet

During all the years I’ve written for the Irish Examiner, I’ve seen innumerable diet fads come and go, but have never advocated any regime. I simply encourage readers to seek out fresh naturally produced local food in season. Nothing I’ve seen or read has changed my mind, but the more I learn about the mass production of food and the problems associated with the intensive production systems and factory farming, the more convinced I am that organic is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
Antony Worrall Thompson, one of the UK’s best loved chefs, presenter of Saturday Kitchen and co-presenter of BBC Food and Drink Programme, is passionate about organic food, good animal husbandry and the importance of local producers.

Antony and his Irish wife Jay own four restaurants in London, including Notting Grill and Kew Grill. Both restaurants specialize in organic meat, fruit and vegetables, often supplied from their own farm. Antony is a keen proponent of healthy eating since he was diagnosed with Syndrome X, a pre-diabetic condition. He vowed to reverse this condition by eating well, losing weight and giving up the ‘smokes’.

He structured his diet on the sound principles of the Glycaemic Index – the G. I. measures the speed at which foods are broken down by the body to form glucose, the body’s source of energy. High G.I. foods break down quickly and leave you looking for the next food fix. Low G. I. foods break down more slowly and leave you feeling fuller, longer. It is these low G.I. foods that form the core of the diet.

The G.I. Diet makes all the calculations for you by listing all foods in three traffic light colour categories: red light foods which you avoid if you want to lose weight; yellow light listings are foods that are to be used occasionally; and green light foods – eat as much as you like.

In short, The G.I. Diet will not let you go hungry or feel deprived. It is simplicity itself .

It made perfect sense, so Antony embarked on this new exciting way of eating and of course wrote a book about his experience of the diet. He made it his mission to prove that one could still eat yummy, healthy food without it being boring.

The book ‘Antony Worrall Thompson’s GI Diet’ has to date sold over 350,000 copies. Little did Antony realize when he started to write the book that it would be the diet of 2005. 

The GL (Glycaemic load) Diet is the next exciting extension of GI principles. As it is a more precise calculation of GI and portion sizes, it allows an even bigger range of foods in your diet with more generous portions. 

Researchers have found that not all carbohydrates are the same, which means that you can’t group all the carbohydrate-containing foods together, as some diets do. Some carbohydrates are digested more slowly – they are said to have a low GI – which means that our blood sugar levels don’t yo-yo up and down and we feel satisfied for longer. It is when our blood sugar dips that we feel hungry and prone to having a fit of the munchies.

So, basing a diet around carbohydrates with a low GL without eliminating any of the important food groups means we can lose weight while enjoying a wide range of foods and a balanced diet.

The GL (Glycaemic Load) Diet Made Simple is the third book in Antony’s series, based on the GI diet. It takes the diet one step further by balancing foods on the plate, looking at portion sizes which the GI doesn’t do. For instance, carrots have a medium GI but its rating is based on 500g which of course you wouldn’t eat in one portion. The GL calculates the glucose effect of a normal portion size, say 80g, which means that the glycaemic load is in fact very low.

The real success of this diet is not just about losing weight but more important keeping it off.

The front of the book gives lots of clear information on GI and GL food tables so you don’t need to do any complicated calculations.

Even if one doesn’t have a propensity towards diabetes or syndrome X, this book is worth buying because choosing foods that release their energy slowly into our systems, rather than sugar laden goodies that give us an instant boost and then fizzle away, must be a good idea. 

Buy Antony Worrall Thompson’s GL Diet From Amazon    published by Kyle Cathie.

Energy Bars

Wholesome bars of goodness, these make a great snack with a glass of semi-skimmed milk. Wholegrain crispy rice is available in some supermarkets and health food shops.
Makes 12

25g (1oz) desiccated coconut
150g (5oz) ready to eat dried apricots
50g (2oz) dried cherries, cranberries or blueberries
2tbsp vegetable oil
2tbsp peanut butter
3tbsp clear honey 
1tsp natural vanilla extract 
100g (3½oz) whole rolled porridge oats
50g (2oz) wholegrain crispy rice
50g (2oz) raw cane soft brown sugar
25g (1oz) sunflower seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g (2oz) good-quality dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids, melted (optional) 

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

Spread the coconut on a baking tray and cook for about 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Alternatively, dry-fry in a non-stick frying pan.
Finely chop the apricots and cherries or whiz in a food processor.
Put the oil, peanut butter and honey in a heatproof bowl in the oven for 1-2 minutes or in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, just until they are easy to mix. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Mix all the ingredients except the chocolate until well combined then press firmly into a lightly oiled shallow 19cm square tin. Bake for 20 minutes then press lightly again. Leave to cool in the tin.
If wished, drizzle with melted chocolate and leave to set, then cut into 12 bars. 

Seared Scallops with Crushed Minted Peas

The secret to cooking scallops is to turn them in olive oil to moisten, then get the pan very hot before you add them. For a special presentation thread them onto rosemary stalks before cooking.
Serves 2 

4 large fresh scallops (or 8 small ones)
1tsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper 
15g (½oz) unsalted butter
6 spring onions thinly sliced
175g (6oz) frozen peas 
150ml (5fl.oz) vegetable stock
2 tbsp freshly chopped mint leaves

Wash the scallops and pat dry on kitchen paper. Turn them in the oil and season with pepper. Set aside while you prepare the peas. 

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onions and soften for 1-2 minutes. Add the peas and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir the mint through then pulse in a food processor until roughly crushed. Return to the pan season with pepper and keep warm. 

Put a small non-stick frying pan over a high heat. When hot, add the scallops and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side (no longer or they will become tough). Remove from the pan and serve at once on top of the crushed peas. This is delicious with chunky oven-baked chips. 

Fiery Quinoa

Quinoa is a South American Seed which can be used as a (gluten-free) alternative to rice or couscous. This is a tasty snack on its own with a green salad, or serve it as an accompaniment to grilled meats. Toasting the quinoa in a dry frying pan until it starts to pop enhances its flavour.
Serves 4

250g (9oz) quinoa
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 
2 bay leaves
1tsp dried crushed chillies
400g (14oz) tinned chopped tomatoes
4tbsp freshly chopped parsley 

Put the quinoa in a non-stick frying pan and dry-fry over a medium heat, stirring frequently until it starts to pop.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until lightly golden if it starts to stick add 1-2 tablespoons of cold water.

Add the garlic, bay leaves, chillies and tomatoes to the onions with an equal quantity of water and bring to a simmer, stir in the quinoa. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Stir in the parsley.

Prawn and Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing

Soak beansprouts in cold water for 5 minutes then drain thoroughly – it really improves their crunch! You can replace the rice noodles with other noodles such as soba (buckwheat).
Serves 4 

100g (3½oz) thin rice noodles
250g (9oz) cooked peeled prawns
150g (5oz) beansprouts
150g (5oz) sugar-snap peas, roughly shredded
4 spring onions, shredded
2tbsp freshly chopped coriander 
1tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan.

75g (3oz) coarse peanut butter
1tbsp reduced-salt soy sauce
1tbsp clear honey 
½ tsp crushed garlic 
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2tbsp rice vinegar

For the dressing, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with 2 tablespoons hot water from the kettle.
Put the noodles in a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Leave to soak for 5 minutes then drain thoroughly and refresh in cold water. Drain thoroughly once more.
Combine all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, add the drained noodles, stir the dressing through and serve at once. 

Savoury Mince with Lentils

Mince is so versatile and easy to use and combining it with lentils reduces its GI as well as giving added interest and texture. This savoury dish is good as a simple meal with vegetables but also great spooned over a jacked potato – either a sweet potato or a traditional one – or with pasta. This recipe is also good for freezing.
Serves 6 

400g (14oz) very lean mince beef
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1tsp English mustard powder
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2tbsp tomato puree
400g (14oz) tinned tomatoes
200g (7oz) green lentils, rinsed
2tbsp freshly chopped parsley 
2tbsp freshly chopped chives 

Put the beef and onion in a large non-stick frying pan and cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently until they are well browned. 
Add the mustard, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and tomato puree and stir well. Add the tomato puree and stir well. Add the tomatoes with 1 tin of water and bring to a simmer. 

Stir in the lentils, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes until well cooked and reduced to a rich sauce. Add the chopped herbs just before serving. 

Pork Fillet Stroganoff

Using yogurt instead of double cream dramatically reduces the calories in this dish – the cornflour is added to stabilise the yogurt as it’s warmed. Serve with noodles or brown basmati rice and a green vegetable or salad.
Serves 4 

1tbsp vegetable oil
500g (18oz) pork tenderloin, cut into thick strips about 1 cm wide 
15g (½oz) unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 
250g (9oz) closed cup mushrooms, wiped and thickly sliced 
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
1tbsp Dijon mustard 
1tsp paprika 
150g (5oz) 0% fat Greek yogurt 
1tbsp cornflour mixed with 100ml cold water 
Freshly ground black pepper 

Preheat a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat and add the oil . Add the pork and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the pan. 
Add the butter to the pan, then the onion, mushrooms and thyme and pan fry until just softened. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, mustard and paprika. 
Return the pork with its juices to the pan and mix well. Combine the yogurt and cornflour mixture and fold through the meat to warm through. Season with pepper.

You may like to add a little extra water for a thinner sauce or another tub of yogurt for a creamier sauce.
Foolproof Food

Crunchy Breakfast Cereal

A healthy alternative to shop-bought products. Choose from the variety of fruit spreads available in health food shops to vary the final flavour slightly.
Serves 4 

100g (3½oz) whole rolled oat flakes
100g (3½oz) rye flakes
25g (1oz) brazil nuts, roughly chopped 
25g (1oz) whole almonds, roughly chopped 
100g (3½oz) fruit spread (with out added sugar)
50g (2oz) plain bran cereal such as All-Bran
2-3 Bananas, to serve
100-150g (3½-5oz) Berries of your choice, to serve 
Semi-skimmed milk or low-fat natural yogurt to serve 

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6.

Combine the first five ingredients in a large roasting tin. Whisk the fruit spread with 4 tablespoons of boiling water to make a smooth puree then stir through the cereals, seeds and nuts until well mixed. Spread out evenly.

Bake for 10 minutes, stir well and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes until golden. Leave to go cold then stir in the All-Bran. Store in an airtight container. 

Serve with roughly chopped banana, berries and milk or yogurt. 

Hot Tips

Second Wise Woman Weekend 26-28 May 2006 , Dromahair, Co Leitrim
A weekend of learning, discovery, celebration and fun.  Tel 071-913 4913 or 086-8286303

Hegarty’s Cheddar Cheese –
This delicious mature cheddar is available in Cork in the English Market at On the Pigs Back and Iago, The Quay Food Company in Kinsale, and in Sheridans and Superquinn in Dublin – look out for it.

Irish Foodwriters Guild (IFWG) Awards
Four Irish speciality food businesses were honoured by the IFWG for the excellence of their produce. The Awards Ceremony took place at L’Ecrivain Restaurant in Dublin.

Valerie and Alan Kingston won their award for their Glenilen Farm range of artisan dairy products produced on their small farm in Drimoleague, West Cork.

Ballycross Apple Farm, Bridgetown, Co Wexford – award for their range of artisan, pure, natural fruit juices.

Brady Family Ltd, Timahoe, Co Kildare – for its quality Irish hams.

A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dublin Jack and Betty Hick for traditional hand-crafted pork products. 

Third generation family firm Keelings of Co Dublin , won an accolade for the production of quality Irish-grown peppers. Until this year, 95% of peppers on the €28 million home market were imported. Producing 1,500 tonnes of peppers a year under glass, Keelings created 50 jobs and consumers have peppers on their table a day after harvesting.

The Irish Government never voted against GM food and crops

The controversy over GMOs was re-ignited recently in Ireland when the world’s largest chemicals and biotechnology company BASF submitted an application to the EPA for permission to conduct open-air experimental field trials of genetically modified (GMO) potatoes near the Hill of Tara in Co. Meath. BASF says the potatoes may provide greater resistance to late potato blight. 

The memory of the Great Famine of the 1840’s still resonates in the nation’s consciousness and potato blight is an emotive issue, so it is no surprise that the biotech industry chose a potentially blight-resistant potato as a strategic spearhead to introduce GMO crops into Ireland. Most GMO crops are intended to be immune to weedkillers or to produce their own pesticides. But many do not perform as expected, end up requiring more chemicals and produce “superweeds”. Farmers in the USA and Canada have filed class action lawsuits against GM companies in relation to GM crop failures. 

Despite the growing popularity of rice and pasta, the potato still holds a very special place in the Irish diet – we love our floury spuds and eat 121 kg of potatoes per person per year, nearly 1,000 potatoes for every man, woman and child. Unless the EPA denies permission, the BASF experiment will commence this April on a farm at Arodstown, Summerhill, Co Meath for the next five years. 

But the GMO potatoes would have to carry a GM label, and there is no market for GM foods in Europe. The 30 largest food brands and 30 largest retailers have a GM-free policy. Moreover, the majority of EU governments, 175 Regional governments, and over 4,500 local authorities and smaller areas prohibit the cultivation of GM crops amid mounting evidence of their health and environmental risks.

The most extraordinary thing about GMO crops is that they are patented. Under the WTO’s trade-related intellectual property rights agreement, farmers whose crops have been contaminated – often by wind-borne pollen or seed dispersal from a neighbour’s farm - no longer own their crops. Monsanto is currently pursuing 9,000 farmers for patent infringement in the USA and Canada. Most settle out of court, but the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, whom I met last year at Slow Food’s wonderful Terra Madre conference in Turin, fought his case all the way to the Supreme Court. Monsanto demanded patent royalties for every acre of his contaminated crops, plus a million dollars in court costs. The Court admitted that Schmeiser had no intention of stealing the patented genes, but ruled that his crops now belong to Monsanto!

In this context, why has the Irish Government never voted against GM food and crops in a dozen votes in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers? Why do the Irish Farmers Association, Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association and Macra na Feirme, appear to have no policy on GM?

The Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers’ Association is one of 80 farm and food organisations that are vehemently opposed to the proposed trials on the basis they would irrevocably destroy this country’s economically valuable clean green marketing image as Ireland – The Food Island. Thousands of contamination incidents around the world make it clear that GMO crops cannot possibly “co-exist” with conventional and organic farming. We have come to a fork in the road, and the time has come to choose what kind of farming future is best for Ireland.

More blight-resistant potatoes are a desirable trait. But natural blight-resistant varieties are already available to Irish farmers, and non-GMO breeding techniques provide the only safe way to increase resistance. There is growing scientific evidence of deaths and disease attributable to GMO foods in laboratory animals and the human population. With so many independent scientists invoking the precautionary principle, and the insurance industry’s refusal to provide cover for GMO crops, the EPA should not allow this experiment to go ahead.

According to Michael Antoniou Clinical Geneticist and senior lecturer in pathology at Guys Teaching Hospital in London - ‘Once released into the environment, unlike a BSE epidemic or chemical spill, genetic mistakes cannot be contained, recalled or cleaned up, but will be passed on to all future generations’.

Once the genie is out of the bottle there is no putting it back in again. 

There is also a growing concern that so many university and research institutes are funded by biotech companies. More independent research is urgently needed.

If genetically modified crops are allowed to be grown and cross-contamination becomes a reality, neither conventional nor organic farmers will be able to label their produce GM free - Ireland the Food Island will have lost its most precious and priceless marketing tool – somehow Ireland the GM Food Island doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

Most Irish meat, poultry and dairy produce already comes from animals whose diet includes GM ingredients, but is not labelled as such because of a loophole in EU law. Whatever one’s opinion on GMOs, the reality is that if we get an allergy or an inflammation or an impaired immune system, our doctors have no way of knowing if such genetically modified food was the cause because food containing GMO’s was released onto our shelves completely unlabelled. We are all guinea pigs in this corporate experiment. This is the single most important food and health threat in our lifetime – and that of our children and grandchildren.

Foolproof Food

Potato Soup with Parsley Pesto

Most people would have potatoes and onions in the house even if the cupboards were otherwise bare, so this 'simply delicious' soup could be made at a moment's notice. While the vegetables are sweating, pop a few white buttermilk scones into the oven!
Serves 6

2 ozs (55g) butter
4 ozs (110g) diced onions
15 ozs (425g) peeled diced potatoes eg. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
1 generous teasp. salt
Lots of freshly ground pepper
36flozs (1L) home made chicken stock
4 fl ozs (130ml) cream or creamy milk, approx.
Parsley Pesto (see recipe)

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are just soft. Puree the soup in a blender. Taste and adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk to the required consistency. 
Put a swirl of parsley Pesto on top of each soup before serving.

Other good things to serve with Potato soup.

1. Cut 4ozs streaky bacon into lardons (little strips) . Cook until crisp on a hot pan in a little oil. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle over the soup with some chopped parsley, just before serving. 

2. Stir a mixture of freshly chopped herbs eg. Parsley, Chives, Thyme, Mint into about 2ozs of softly whipped cream. Put a blob on top of each bowl of soup .

3. Just fresh mint flavoured cream is also delicious, particularly if you add some freshly chopped mint to the soup just before liquidizing .

4. Dice of roast red pepper mixed with cream and coarsely chopped basil or coriander.

Potato, Chorizo & Flat Parsley Soup

3 ozs (85g) Chorizo sausage
flat parsley sprigs

Make the soup as in the master recipe. Slice the Chorizo thinly – you will need 18 slices. Cook on a medium heat on a frying pan.
Just before serving, lay three slices of Chorizo on top of each bowl of soup. Drizzle with Chorizo oil and garnish with sprigs of flat parsley.

Parsley Pesto

25g (1oz) flat parsley leaves (no stalks)
1‑2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
40g (1½ozs) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
25g (1oz) pine kernels
75ml (3 fl ozs) extra virgin olive oil

Put all the ingredients except the oil into the food processor. Whizz for a second or two, add the oil and a little salt. Taste and correct seasoning.

Potato, Carrot and Cauliflower Curry

Sophie Grigson, made this exceptionally delicious vegetable curry when she was guest chef at the school some years ago.
Serves 4

7 ozs (200g) small new potatoes, or waxy salad potatoes
7 ozs (200g) cauliflower florets
7 ozs (200g) carrots, sliced at an angle
4 green cardamon pods
2 dried red chillis, deseeded and broken into pieces
1 tablesp. coriander seeds
2 teasp. cumin seed
4 tablesp. desiccated coconut
1 scant teasp. grated fresh ginger
8 fl ozs (250ml) Greek style yoghurt
12 ozs (45g) butter
2 tablesp. sunflower oil
1 small onion, grated
1 oz (30g) toasted flaked almonds
1 tablesp. fresh chopped coriander leaves

Boil the potatoes in their jackets until just tender. Skin and halve. Steam or boil the cauliflower until barely cooked. Drain well. Steam or boil the carrots until barely cooked.

Split the cardamon pods and extract the seeds. Mix with coriander and cumin seeds. Dry fry in a heavy pan over a high heat until they smell of incense. Tip into a bowl. Dry fry the chilli (which makes it easier to grind) and then add the coconut and fry until pale golden, mix with the spices. Cool, grind to a powder and mix with ginger and yoghurt.

Melt the butter with oil and fry the potatoes, cauliflower and carrots briskly until patched with brown. Set aside. Add the onion to the fat and fry until golden brown, then stir in the yoghurt mixture a tablespoon at a time. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes, then stir in 2 tablespoons water, followed by the potatoes and cauliflower. Stir until piping hot, and then serve sprinkled with toasted almonds and fresh coriander leaves.

Fadge or Potato Bread

In Ulster people are passionate about fadge or potato bread. It can be cooked on a griddle, in a frying pan or in the oven.
Serves 8

2 lbs (900g) unpeeled 'old' potatoes eg. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg, preferably free range
1-2 ozs (30-55g) butter
Creamy milk
1 tablespoon chopped Parsley, Chives and Lemon thyme, mixed, (optional)
Seasoned flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bacon fat, butter or olive oil for frying

Cook the potatoes in their jackets, pull off the skin and mash right away. Add the beaten eggs, butter, flour and herbs (if using). Season with lots of salt and freshly ground pepper, adding a few drops of creamy milk if the mixture is altogether too stiff. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shape into a 2.5 cm/1 inch thick round and then cut into eighths. Dip in seasoned flour. Bake on a griddle over an open fire or fry in bacon fat or melted butter on a gentle heat. Cook the fadge until crusty and golden on one side, then flip over and cook on the other side (4-5 minutes approx each side). Serve with an Ulster fry or just on its own on hot plates with a blob of butter melting on top.

Celeriac and Potato Puree

Great with game, turkey, chicken, duck or guinea fowl.
Serves 4-6

a large celeriac, 700g (1½lb) approx.
225g (8oz) potatoes
110-175g (4-6oz) butter
parsley, chervil, 
salt and freshly ground pepper
lemon juice to taste

Quarter, peel and cut the celeriac into 2.5cm (1inch) cubes. Cook in boiling salted water for 15 minutes approx. or until tender, drain well,

Meanwhile, scrub and boil the potatoes. Peel and put into a food processor together with the celeriac. Add the butter, chopped herbs and cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and add a few drops of lemon juice if necessary.

Potato, Parsnip and Parsley Colcannon

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. In Dublin, parsnip colcannon was very popular, the proportion of parsnips to potato varied. Here is my version which is a big hit in Cork at any rate! Why not try a dish for St Patrick’s Day.
Serves 8 approx.

2 lbs (900g) parsnips
1 lb (450g) 'old' potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
8-10 fl oz (250-300ml) approx. creamy milk
2 tablesp. chopped scallion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 ozs (55g) approx. butter
2 tablesp. chopped parsley

Scrub the potatoes, put them into 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.

Peel the parsnips, and cut into chunks, cook in boiled salted water until soft. Drain and mash, keep warm.

When the potatoes are just cooked, put on the milk and bring to the boil with the scallions. Pull the peel off the potatoes, 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 add in the mashed parsnip with the chopped parsley and the butter and taste for seasoning. Cover with tin foil while reheating so it doesn't get crusty on top.

Colcannon may be prepared ahead and later reheated in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 20-25 minutes approx.

Serve in a hot dish or with a lump of butter melting in the centre.

Baked Potatoes

8 x 8 ozs (225g) old potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
Sea salt and butter

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

Suggested Stuffing for Baked Potatoes
Garlic mayonnaise with tuna fish
Fromage Blanc with smoked salmon and chives
Garlic butter with crispy rasher.
Crème Fraiche with Harrissa, or Tapenade or Smoked Mackerel and Dill

Hot Tips

Fair Trade Fortnight 

Is running until 19th March – the aim is to increase consumer awareness of the FAIRTRADE MARK and to encourage people up and down the country to purchase Fairtrade products. With an ever growing range of Fairtrade Mark products available , its easier than ever to include Fairtrade in your everyday shopping and thus help to protect the livelihoods of farmers and workers in developing countries. Have a look at the website  for ideas on fair-trade events and what you can do.  

New Farmers Markets in Co Cork

Ballincollig Farmers Market opened on 8th March
And will run every Wednesday from 10am to late afternoon in Time Square by the Reel Cinema.
Bandon Farmers Market will open on 1st April 
It will be held in the Car Park of Mace Supermarket in Bandon on the first Saturday in every month from 10-2. Potential stall holders should contact Veronica Neville on 087-2324327, 

Food for Life by Kevin Thornton of Thornton’s Restaurant is available from Thornton’s, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,Tel 01-4787008 and Mitchell & Son, Kildare St., Berry Bros and Rudd, Harry St. and Green’s Bookshop on Clare St., all in Dublin.
Priced at €100 the book is for charity and a cause very close to his heart. 

Organic eggs cost a lot to produce well

Even if free range organic eggs cost €12 a dozen they would still be cheap at the price. After all, two boiled eggs and soldiers for supper leaves one fully satisfied. Incredible value for 50-70p and would still be worth every penny if they were to cost €2.

Real free range organic eggs cost a lot to produce well, hens need grass and lots of it. If they are organic they must have a special feed which does not contain any animal materials or animal fats, any products derived from genetically modified organisms, or any raw materials produced by chemical processes, and it costs about 60 % more than conventional feed.

There is a growing demand for eggs of this quality. People flock into farmers markets searching for free range eggs from happy lazy hens – for many, a forgotten flavour.

The reality is that under Irish law, local farm eggs cannot be legally sold in local shops unless the producer is registered with the Department for Agriculture and Food and registration is based on compliance with certain EU legislation. The cost of compliance with the regulations makes it totally uneconomic and impractical for a small producer to be registered.

Those brave or foolhardy (depending on how you look on it), shopkeepers who dare to stock these eggs for their special customers, have to hide them underneath the counter, or risk having them broken into a bucket or plastic bag by a Department of Agriculture Inspector.

This scenario has been played out in many shops during the past few months, not only with fresh farm eggs, but also eggs that were less than one week from their ‘use by’ date.

Many consumers and shopkeepers angered by what they perceive to be extraordinarily extreme action have asked if this regulation has more to do with protectionism rather than food safety? ( After all they are only eggs, not dynamite!)

Surely as consumers we should have the right to choose and more and more people are voting with their feet. Despite threats of Avian flu, the fastest growing hobby in the UK is keeping a few chickens in your garden. Over here the numbers of people of all ages keeping a few hens is also skyrocketing. In our area alone I can count 8 or 10 people keeping a few hens – anything from two in the cute little eglu chicken house (have a look at ) to 6-10. Just enough to supply the eggs for an average household. 

It’s a simple holistic system, the food scraps from the house go to the hens and come back as eggs a few days later. The chicken manure goes onto the compost and is eventually returned to the soil to make it more fertile for vegetable growing.

The first course I did at the school called ‘How to Keep a few Chickens in the Garden’, was totally over subscribed. It is part of a growing interest in ‘forgotten skills’, a small but significant number of people want to produce their own food, eggs, chickens, bacon, yogurt, simple cheese. Several courses are available – Among their huge range of courses, The Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co Leitrim runs a ‘Poultry for the Home’ course in June, Sarah Raven’s Cutting Garden at Perch Hill Farm in East Sussex has ‘Keeping Chickens’ with Matthew Rice in March and we will be running our own course here at the Cookery School on 11th March.

The thrill of collecting an egg directly from the nest is something that delights everyone from tiny tots to aged grans and grandas. When you start off with a real free range egg it is a whole other thing.

Plump poached eggs are a cinch – no special equipment is needed, just a fresh egg.

Homemade mayonnaise emulsifies in seconds, classic Hollandaise or Bearnaise are whipped up in minutes.

An omelette is a thing of beauty – the texture and flavour a revelation. So this week I concentrate on simple recipes where the humble egg stars and delights.

Foolproof Food

Perfect Poached Eggs on Toast

No fancy egg poachers or moulds are needed to produce a perfect result - simply a really fresh egg laid by a happy lazy hen.
Serves 1

2 eggs, free-range if possible 
toast, freshly made from a slice of pan loaf

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, reduce the heat, swirl the water, crack the egg and slip gently into the whirlpool in the centre. For perfection the water should not boil again but bubble very gently just below boiling point. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes until the white is set and the yolk still soft and runny.

Meanwhile make a slice of toast, cut off the crusts, butter and pop onto a hot plate. Drain the poached egg or eggs and place on top. Serve immediately.

Note: Poached eggs are also delicious served on a bed of creamy spinach nicely flavoured with nutmeg, or on top of Piperonata.

A Great Kedgeree

Kedgeree immediately conjures up images of country house breakfasts which were often a veritable feast. It would usually have been served on a silver dish on the polished sideboard, so that guests could help themselves. Easy peasy to make and delicious for brunch.
Serves 6-8

450g (1lb) wild salmon, freshly cooked, or
225g (8oz) salmon and 225g (8oz) cooked smoked haddock or smoked mackerel
225g (8oz) white long grain basmati rice
3 hardboiled eggs, free-range and organic if possible
225ml (8fl oz) cream
40g (1 1/2oz) butter
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes or a good pinch of cayenne 
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper 

Poach the piece of salmon in a small saucepan just large enough to fit it, cover with boiling salted water (use a dessertspoon of salt to every 600ml (1 pint) water*). Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for just 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to sit for a few minutes before removing from the water, cool. 

Meanwhile, cook the rice in boiling salted water, 8-10 minutes approx. Hard boil the eggs, also in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Drain off the water and run under a cold tap to cool and stop the cooking. Peel and chop roughly.

Remove the skin and bones from the fish and flake into small pieces. 

Heat the cream and butter in a saucepan with the chilli flakes, a good pinch of cayenne if using and the chopped parsley and chives. As soon as it bubbles, add the cooked rice, flaked fish and the hardboiled egg. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Mix very gently. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Pile into a hot dish and serve with freshly baked bread or with hot buttered toast.

*Note: if using fillet use 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 pint of water and cook for just 8 – 10 minutes.

A foolproof omelette

French Omelette
An omelette is the ultimate instant food but many a travesty is served in its name. The whole secret is to have the pan hot enough and to use clarified butter if at all possible. Ordinary butter will burn if your pan is as hot as it ought to be. The omelette should be made in half the time it takes to read this recipe, your first, may not be a joy to behold but persevere, practice makes perfect. The best tender golden omelettes take no more than 30 seconds to cook - 45 seconds if you are adding a filling - time yourself, you'd be amazed.
Serves 1

2 eggs, preferably free range organic
1 dessertspoon water or milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 dessertspoon clarified butter or olive oil
filling of your choice
omelette pan, preferably non stick, 23cm (9 inch) diameter 

Warm a plate in the oven. Whisk the eggs with the water or milk in a bowl with a fork or whisk, until thoroughly mixed but not too fluffy. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the warm plate beside the cooker. Heat the filling also to hand, hot if necessary with a spoon at the ready. 

Heat the omelette pan over a high heat - add the clarified butter it should sizzle immediately. Pour in the egg mixture. It will start to cook instantly so quickly pull the edges of the omelette towards the centre with a metal spoon or spatula, tilting the pan so that the uncooked egg runs to the sides 4 maybe 5 times. Continue until most of the egg is set and will not run any more, the centre will still be soft and uncooked at this point but will continue to cook on the plate. If you are using a filling, spoon the hot mixture in a line across the centre at this point.

To fold the omelette: Flip the edge just below the handle of the 

pan into the centre, then hold the pan almost perpendicular over the plate so that the omelette will flip over again, then half roll half slide the omelette onto the plate so that it lands folded in three. (It should not take more than 30 seconds in all to make the omelette, perhaps 45 if you are adding a filling).

Serve immediately.

Suggested Fillings

Tomato fondue with or without Pesto 


Mushroom a la crème 

Crispy bacon, diced cooked ham or chorizo sausage

Goats cheese, grated Cheddar, Gruyere, Parmesan or a mixture.

Fines herbs: add 1 teaspoon each of freshly chopped parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon to the eggs just before cooking or scatter over the omelette just before folding.

Smoked salmon or smoked mackerel: add about 1 oz (30g) and perhaps a little finely chopped parsley or dill. 

Kidney: cook one cleaned and diced lamb's kidney gently in a little butter, add 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped parsley and keep warm.

How to clarify butter

Clarified butter is excellent for cooking because it can withstand a higher temperature when the salt and milk particles are removed. It will keep covered in a refrigerator for several weeks.

Melt 225g (8oz) butter gently in a saucepan or in the oven. Allow it to stand for a few minutes, then spoon the crusty white layer of salt particles off the top of the melted butter. Underneath this crust there is clear liquid butter which is called clarified butter. The milky liquid at the bottom can be discarded or used in a white sauce. Cover and store.

Pan РGrilled Steak with B̩arnaise Sauce

Of all the sauces to serve with steak, Béarnaise is my absolute favourite. We find a heavy-ridged cast-iron grill pan the best to cook the steaks when you don’t need to make a sauce in the pan.
Serves 6

6 x 6 oz (170 g) sirloin or fillet steaks
1 clove of garlic
A little olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Béarnaise Sauce (see recipe)
Fresh watercress (optional)

Prepare the steaks about 1 hour before cooking. Cut a clove of garlic in half; rub both sides of each steak with the cut clove of garlic, grind some black pepper over the steaks and sprinkle on a few drops of olive oil. Turn the steaks in the oil and leave aside. If using sirloin steaks, score the fat at 1 inch (2.5 cm) intervals. Make the Béarnaise Sauce and keep warm. Heat the grill pan, season the steaks with a little salt and put them down onto the hot pan.

The approximate cooking times for each side of the steaks are:

Sirloin Fillet

rare 2 minutes 5 minutes
medium rare 3 minutes 6 minutes
medium 4 minutes 7 minutes
well done 5 minutes 8-9 minutes

Turn a sirloin steak over onto the fat and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the fat becomes dry. Put the steaks onto a plate and leave them rest for a few minutes in a warm place.

To Serve: Put the steaks on hot plates. Serve the Béarnaise Sauce over one end of the steak or in a little bowl on the side of the plate. Garnish with Pommes Allumettes and fresh watercress.

Bearnaise Sauce

4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
4 tablespoons dry white wine 
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots 
A pinch of freshly ground pepper 
1 tablespoonfreshly chopped French tarragon leaves
2 egg yolks (preferably free-range) 
115-175g (4-6 oz) butter approx., salted or unsalted depending on what it is being served with.
If you do not have tarragon vinegar to hand, use a wine vinegar and add some extra chopped tarragon. 

Boil the first four ingredients together in a low heavy bottomed stainless steel saucepan until completely reduced and the pan is almost dry but not browned. Add 1 tablespoon of cold water immediately. Pull the pan off the heat and allow to cool for 1 or 2 minutes.

Whisk in the egg yolks and add the butter bit by bit over a very low heat, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece; it will gradually thicken. If it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped French tarragon and taste for seasoning. 

If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to a coating consistency. It is important to remember, however, that if you are making Bearnaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce!

Another good tip if you are making Bearnaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so that you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if it becomes too hot. 

Keep the sauce warm in a pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water or in a Thermos flask until you want to serve it. 

Hot Tips

Courses  Tel 071-98 54338 
Sarah Raven’s Cutting Garden –  Tel 0845 050 4849  Ballymaloe Cookery School  Tel 021-4646785

Reference Books
Small Scale Poultry Keeping – a guide to Free-Range Poultry Production - by Ray Feltwell , Faber & Faber
Keeping Pet Chickens - bring your garden to life and enjoy the bounty of fresh eggs from your own small flock of happy hens – by Johannes Paul and William Windham,

Interpet Publishing
Chickens at Home – by Michael Roberts – in the Gold Cockerel series published by Domestic Fowl Research UK
Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance – reflections on keeping chickens – by Martin Gurdon – New Holland

Eggs by Michel Roux – Quadrille Publishing 2005
Irish Egg Cookbook by Nuala Cullen – Gill & Macmillan 2005
Get Cracking by Alex Barker – Southwater (Anness Publishing) 2001


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