ArchiveMay 2006

A Hen Party for Twenty Friends of a Certain Age

Boulangerie, Patisserie, Epicerie, Viennoiserie, Brasserie, Trattoria – cobbled streets near Gare St Lazare – how divine is Paris. Its years since I’ve been here. The sun is shining, everyone seems to be in high spirits, Parisians dressed to impress, sitting at the pavement cafes drinking tea or sipping beer or a glass of wine. I’m over here for the weekend for my first ever ‘hen party’, twenty friends of a ‘certain age’ have converged excitedly on Paris to launch our friend on her very first venture up the aisle. She looks wonderful, absolutely radiant. We meet at sunset to toast her with lots of delicious fizz. Everyone comes bearing silly presies – a little veil, a tiara, lots of teeny frilly bits, each of which causes great hilarity when the parcels are opened.

Later we repair to La Closerie des Lilas for a delicious dinner. Grilled fat shrimps with risotto, Sea Bass with Anise Hollandaise with a tian of vegetables and a delicious charlotte of seasonal fruit for pudding.

For the rest of the weekend we drift in and out of groups, each following their own passion, some shopping, others seeking out museums or galleries. I caught the last day of the Bonnard Exhibition at the Musée d’Arte Moderne. Even by 9am on Saturday morning there was a considerable queue, but the bonus was the Farmers Market all along the Avenue Pierre de Serbie. Maybe 35 or 40 stalls brimming with vegetables and lots of food ready to eat, steaming soups, fat sandwiches, and some delicious Lebanese food. For breakfast I ordered several Lamajun, one with minced lamb, and another with sesame seeds, olive oil, pepper and thyme. They were cooked on a stove called a Sag, it looked like an upturned wok over a gas jet. Each had a topping of hummus and tabouleh – wish we could get more Lebanese food over here – so good. These can be made easily at home and are brilliant for an interactive kitchen supper.

I revisited some of my old haunts – I adore Café Flore – a Parisian institution, a great spot for people watching, I ordered a Croque Monsieur and watched the Parisians promenading with their little ‘chien’ on a lead. Deux Magots around the corner is also a favourite and overlooks the ancient church of St Germain de Prés. Across the road is Brasserie Lipp where I tucked into Choux Croute garni and Andouillettes for lunch. My friends wanted to know what the andouillettes were made from? I told them they didn’t need to know what they are made from, also difficult to describe the flavour - they taste like a barnyard smells! I so love all those delicious offaly bits that one can still get in France because the French really appreciate the flavour.

At the organic market on Rue Raspail on Sunday morning, the longest queues were at the stall selling unpasteurised milk and cream and yoghurt. Later in the day I visited Artisan baker Poilane in Rue Cherche Midi where I bought a huge sour dough loaf with the traditional P inscribed on the crust. They also sell the best bread knives in the world and melt in the mouth sablés and flaky apple tartlets. Round the corner is the legendary Maison du Chocolat, I don’t each much chocolate, but when I find exquisite temptations like these I can’t resist.

Two other highlights not to be missed on a weekend in Paris are Berthillon on Rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile and Angelina on Rue de Rivoli. Long established Berthillon still does the best ice-cream in Paris, they offer about 30 flavours a week which they change with the seasons. You can enjoy your favourite flavour in a little wafer basket or a cone, but try to make time to sit in the ice-cream parlour with its dark paneled walls and mirrors, and green mottled marble tables. My ice came piled high in a scalloped silver coupe, raspberry sorbet, vanilla bean ice-cream, fresh raspberries, fresh raspberry sauce and chopped pistachios. The bells of Notre Dame chimed in the background – bliss. My final treat was a hot chocolate at Angelina’s. At this celebrated Salon de Thé on Rue de Rivoli, they melt real chocolate to make the most sublime hot chocolate I have ever tasted. A few blissful minutes on the lips and surely a month on the hips, but worth every mouthful. You might also want to taste their Mont Blanc – a chestnut purée and meringue confection for which they are justly famous. Time to head for the airport – amazing how much one can fit into a weekend in Paris. Zagat’s restaurant guide is a must, to discover the best places for food-lovers to explore.

Closerie des Lilas, 171 Blvd du Montparnasse, 6e Tel 01 40 51 3450
Café les Deux Magots, 6 Place St Germain des Prés, 6e 01 45 48 55 25
Café de Flore, 172 Blvd. St Germain, 6e. Tel. 01 45 48 55 26
Brasserie Lipp, 151 Blvd. St Germain, 6e, Tel 01 45 48 5391

Lemon Tart with Candied Julienne of Lemon Peel – Tarte au Citron

Serves 8
Shortcrust Pastry (enough for two tarts)
11 ozs (310g) plain flour
6 ozs (170g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
1 oz (30g) icing sugar
1 free range egg

Filling
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk
zest of 2 lemons (washed well)
juice of 3 lemons (200ml/7fl oz) and juice of 1 orange (150mls/¼ pint)
3 pint (150ml) generous ½ cup double cream
52 ozs (155g) sugar
Candied Julienne of Lemon Peel
2 lemons 
stock syrup made with 6 ozs (170g) sugar and 6 fl ozs (175ml) water, cooked together for 2 minutes.

1 x 8 inch (20.5cm) tin

First, make the pastry. This pastry can be made by various methods. Number 1 is our preferred method.

Make in a food processor. Stop as soon as the pastry starts to come together. Flatten, wrap and chill overnight if possible. 
or
Make by pâté brisée method. Flatten, wrap and chill overnight if possible. 
or
Make by the rubbing-in method. Flatten, wrap and chill for several hours if possible. 
If the pastry is needed urgently, divide into 2-3 equal parts. Flatten and chill for minimum 30 minutes, better still an hour.

Preheat the oven to 1801C/3501F regulo 4. 

Line the 8 inch (20.5cm) tin with pastry and bake it blind for 20-25 minutes until it is golden and fully cooked. Remove the beans, paint the base with a little egg white and replace in the oven for 2-3 minutes. When it is cooked, let it cool while the filling is prepared. Lower the oven temperatures to 160C/325F/regulo 3.

Grate the zest finely, (careful not to get any pith).

Whisk all the ingredients for the tart filling together - the eggs, orange and lemon juice, lemon zest, cream and sugar. When the mixture is nice and frothy, pour most of it into the tart shell. The mixture needs to come right to the top, but to avoid spilling it, put the partly filled tart into the oven (with the temperature now reduced) and finish filling it with a spoon.

Bake the tart until the filling has become firm. This should take about 35 minutes. Check by giving the tin a little shake. Take the tart out of the tin when it is lukewarm and leave it on a 

wire rack to cool. Decorate it crystallized lemon rind and tiny mint or lemon balm leaves. Best eaten on day it is made.

Candied Julienne of Lemon Peel

Peel 2 lemons very thinly with a swivel top peeler, be careful not to include the white pith, cut the strips into a fine julienne. Put in a saucepan with 2 cups of cold water and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the pot, refresh in cold water and repeat the process again. Put the julienne in a saucepan with the syrup and cook gently until the lemon julienne looks translucent or opaque. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on bakewell paper or a cake rack. When cold sprinkle with castor sugar.*
* Can be stored in a jar or airtight tin for weeks or sometimes months.

Tarte Tatin

The ultimate french apple tart. The Tatin sisters ran a restaurant at Lamotte-Beuvron in Sologne at the beginning of the century. They created this tart, some say accidentally, but however it came about it is a triumph - soft, buttery caramelised apples (or indeed you can also use pears) with crusty golden pastry underneath. It is unquestionably my favourite French tart! One can buy a special copper tatin especially for this tart.
Serves 6-8

1.24kg (2¾lb) approx. Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Bramley Seedling cooking apples
170g (6oz) puff pastry or rich sweet shortcrust pastry 
110g (4oz)) unsalted butter
225g (8oz) castor sugar

a heavy 20.5cm (8inch) tatin mould or copper or stainless steel sautepan with low sides

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/regulo 7 for puff pastry. For shortcrust -180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4.

First, roll out the pastry into a round slightly larger than the saucepan. Prick it all over with a fork and chill until needed.

Peel, halve and core the apples. Melt the butter in the saucepan, add the sugar and cook over a medium heat until it turns golden – fudge colour. Put the apple halves in upright, packing them in very tightly side by side. Replace the pan on a low heat and cook until the sugar and juice are a dark caramel colour. Hold your nerve otherwise it will be too pale. Put into a hot oven for approx. 15 minutes.

Cover the apples with the pastry and tuck in the edges. Put the saucepan into the fully preheated oven until the pastry is cooked and the apples are soft-25-30 minutes approx. For puff pastry reduce the temperature to 200C/400F/gas 6 after 10 minutes.

Take out of the oven and rest for 5-10 minutes or longer if you like. Put a plate over the top of the saucepan and flip the tart on to a serving plate. (Watch out - this is a rather tricky operation because the hot caramel and juice can ooze out). Reshape the tart if necessary and serve warm with softly whipped cream.

French Onion Soup with Gruyere Toasts

French onion soup is probably the best known and loved of all French soups. It was a favourite for breakfast in the cafes beside the old markets at Les Halles in Paris and is still a favourite on bistro menus at Rungis market. In France this soup is served in special white porcelain tureens.
Serve with a glass of gutsy French vin de table.
Serves 6

1.35kg (3 lb) onions
55g (2oz) butter
1.7Litre (3 pints) good homemade beef or chicken stock or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
To Finish
6 slices of baguette (French bread), 2 inch (1cm) thick toasted
85g (3oz) grated Gruyére cheese

Peel the onions and slice thinly. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion and cook on a low heat for about 40-60 minutes with the lid off, stirring frequently - the onions should be dark and well caramelised but not burnt.

Add the stock, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, bring to the boil and cook for a further 10 minutes. Ladle into deep soup bowls, put a piece of toasted baguette covered with grated cheese on top of each one. Pop under the grill until the cheese melts and turns golden. Serve immediately but beware - it will be very hot. Bon appetit!

Useful tip: Hold your nerve: - The onions must be very well caramelized otherwise the soup will be too weak and sweet. 

Choucroute, Sausages and Bacon

Serves 8-10
3lb (1.3kg) sauerkraut
3 tablesp pork, lard, duck, goose or chicken fat, alternatively use olive oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
16 fl.oz (450ml) German Riesling white wine
8fl.oz (250ml) chicken stock or water
2lb (900g) thick pork shoulder chops
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves
8 juniper berries
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
4 cloves garlic
6 knackwurst
6 fresh German frankfurters
1lb (450g) smoked pork sausage, eg Polish Kielbasa
2 lb (900g) potatoes
1lb (450g) streaky bacon, cut into large chunks

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C/gas 5)

Rinse the sauerkraut in a colander under cold running water. If it is very acidic or very salty, you many need to repeat several times. Drain well.

Melt the fat in a large casserole over a low heat, add the chopped onions. Saute until the onions are wilted, then add the wine and chicken stock or water. Add the pork chops. Cover with the sauerkraut. Add the pepper, cloves, juniper berries, bay leaves, and garlic. Cover and cook in the oven for 1-1½ hours. 

Meanwhile, cook the streaky bacon in lots of water until tender – 30 minutes approx.

Just before the sauerkraut is cooked, cook each variety of sausage in a separate saucepan in gently simmering water for 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to allow the water to boil or the sausages will burst. Drain all the sausages, slice the Polish kielbasa, and keep everything warm until serving time.

Meanwhile, boil or steam the potatoes. Peel and keep warm. 

To serve, drain the sauerkraut (removing the herbs and spices) and mound it in the centre of a large, heated serving platter. Surround the sauerkraut with the pork chops, the sausages, including the sliced kielbasa, the potatoes and the bacon. Serve with Dijon and grainy mustard and plenty of chilled white Riesling wine.

Lamajun with Sesame and Thyme Leaves

I first tasted this version of Lebanese flat bread Lamajun in the market on Rue Pierre de Serbie, close to the Museum d’Arte Moderne in Paris.
They are cooked on a concave stove called a sag which looked like an upturned wok. The beaming cook who turned these Lamajun and other toppings out like hot cakes, had a little roller which he dipped in the sesame and thyme mixture and used to cover the base evenly at the speed of light. 

Dough
10oz (275g) plain flour
8fl oz (225ml) natural yoghurt

Topping 
5 fl oz (150 ml) olive oil
2 tablespoons dried thyme
4 tablespoons sesame seeds
½ - 1 teaspoon sea salt

Hummus – optional
Tabouleh – optional

Heavy iron frying pan.
Mix all the ingredients for the topping in a bowl. 
Mix the flour with the yoghurt to form a soft dough. Heat the frying pan and preheat the grill.

Spread the topping evenly over the dough, a brush works well. Slap onto the hot pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes and flash under the grill. 
Serve alone or with Hummus and Tabbouleh.

Foolproof Food

Sablés

Makes 25
6 ozs (170g) white flour 
4 ozs (110g) unsalted butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to ¼ inch (7mm) thick. Cut into rounds with a 2½ inch (6cm) cutter or into heart shapes. Bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 to pale brown, 8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the biscuits. Remove and cool on a rack.
Serve with fruit fools, compotes and ice creams.

Note: Watch these biscuits really carefully in the oven. Because of the high sugar content they burn easily. They should be a pale golden colour - darker will be more bitter.

Hot Tips

The Skelligs Chocolate Company
The most westerly chocolate factory in Europe, have just launched a new easy to use on line shopping facility. Now from the comfort of their own home, customers can purchase from a range of Skelligs best-selling chocolate products, truffles, fudges and a recently introduced range of sugar free chocolates. All of Skelligs Chocolates are available in a range of packaging options including unique hand painted boxes and a range of chocolate hampers. Tel 066-9479119 info@skelligschocolate.com  www.skelligschocolate.com 

Fundraiser for HIV Clinic for children in Kampala in Africa
On Friday 16th June at John M Keatings, (formerly the church opposite the AXA Office) Mary St, Dublin at 8pm , entry €10 – West African Percussion Band, auction of terrific prizes and a DJ to finish off the night – further details from sarahtaaffe@eircom.net  

Taste of Dublin 2006
Dublin’s first outdoor gourmet food and drink festival will take place in the historic gardens of Dublin Castle, from Thursday 22nd June to Sunday June 25th 2006. 

Taste of Dublin, sponsored by Oceanico Developments, will present 15 of Dublin’s finest restaurants, each cooking up their signature dishes. In addition, there will be tutored wine and spirit tastings, artisan food stalls, a large Chefs’ Demonstration Theatre, themed bars and lots more entertainment for foodies and wine lovers alike.

Participating restaurants in Taste of Dublin 2006 include Bang Café, Chapter One, Diep Le Shaker, Jaipur, King Sitric, La Stampa, L’Ecrivain, Peploes Wine Bistro, Roly’s Bistro, Silk Road Café, The Cellar Restaurant at The Merrion, Town Bar & Grill, Unicorn, Yo’Thai & Chai-Yo.

Feeling the heat in the Chef’s Theatre will be a constellation of star names including Anthony Worrall Thompson, Derry Clarke, Darina Allen, Kevin Dundon, Rachel Allen, Richard Corrigan and Ross Lewis. www.tasteofdublin06.ie 

Ways with noodles by Hugo Arnold

Slurpy noodles are one of the world’s most comforting foods -the fast food of the 21st century, high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat.

Noodles are central to Asian cooking. They star in a myriad of dishes in Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. They add substance to soups, salads, meat dishes and make a pleasing accompaniment to curry. They can be stir-fried, or cooked in an aromatic broth. Some frizzle up deliciously when they are deep-fried. Their flexibility and sheer convenience make them a thoroughly modern food.

Noodles come in a mind-boggling array of sizes, shapes and colours.

1. Rice noodles – sometimes called rice stick noodles or vermicelli noodles. They only need to be soaked in boiling water for a few minutes, drained, and then they are ready to be used in soups, salads, stir-fries, spring rolls… Rice noodles have the added bonus of being gluten and wheat free.

2. Buckwheat noodles – are an unappetizing shade of browny grey, but don’t be put off – they’ve got a delicious nutty flavour. In Korea they are called naengmyon. In Japan they are called soba and are often served cold, dipped in a light sauce – also gluten and wheat free. 

3. Bean thread noodles – sometimes referred to as cellophane noodles, great in salads and laksa.

4. Wheat noodles – purported to be the oldest form of Chinese noodle, have a firm silky bite. The thin version called somen noodles are great in soups, while the thicker fat white unctuous, slippery Udon noodles are better in stir-fries or in dishes with a rich sauce.

5. Egg noodles – the word immediately conjures up images of the archetypal Chinese noodle – they come both thick and thin.

Ramen, also egg noodles have a defined place in Japanese cooking.

All the above come dried, so they are a brilliant option for the kitchen store cupboard, and once you get on the noodle groove, there are millions of recipes that you can whip up in a matter of minutes.

If you are already nutty about noodles, or need further inspiration., a terrific book has just been published by Kyle Cathie - Wagamama – ways with noodles. 

Author Hugo Arnold’s enthusiasm rings through every page of the book. He is a self confessed noodle head, so when he was asked to write the Wagamama Cookbook the opportunity to indulge in even more noodle dishes was too great a temptation to ignore.

The name Wagamama has become synonomous with noodles, particularly Ramen, ever since they opened the first Wagamama in London in 1992 . Wagamama which opened in Cork in March 2005, was the 45th world wide, and by the end of last year there were 50 and still going strong.

The food is all about speedy, nutritious dishes which satisfy deliciously but don’t make on feel over full.

Here are some recipes from Wagamama – Ways with noodles by Hugo Arnold, published by Kyle Cathie.  Buy from Amazon

Stir-fried Chicken and Mushrooms with Somen Noodles

Serves 2
100 g (4 oz) somen noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized slices
75 g (3 oz) button mushrooms, thinly sliced
75 g (3 oz) shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 cm (1¼ in) piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon mirin – see note
1 lime, cut into wedges
Handful of coriander leaves

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water. 

Heat the oil in a hot wok over a medium heat and stir-fry the chicken, mushrooms, ginger and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add the soy sauce, sake, mirin and 2 tablespoons water, continue to stir fry for 2 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
Stir in the noodles to heat through and serve with a wedge of lime and a scattering of coriander leaves.

Note: Sake, which is combined with sugar so it has a sweet, tangy flavour. It is used in small quantities to give a smooth roundness to dishes.

Hot and Sour Pork and Prawns with Ramen Noodles

Serves 2
125 g (5 oz) ramen noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
125 g (5 oz) minced pork
6 button mushrooms, sliced
Bunch of spring onions, cut into 6 cm (2½ in) lengths
100 g (4 oz) raw, peeled prawns
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely-sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced with a little salt
2 teaspoons muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 handfuls of beansprouts
2 tablespoons roughly chopped coriander leaves
1 lime, halved

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water. 
Heat the oil in a hot wok and stir fry the pork for 3 minutes, then add the mushrooms, spring onions, prawns, chillies, garlic, sugar, fish sauce and rice vinegar. Stir-fry for a further 3 minutes.

Add the noodles and toss to ensure that everything is well combined. 
Divide between 2 bowls and serve topped with the beansprouts and coriander and a lime half to squeeze over.

Wide Noodle Hot-Pot with Seven Vegetables

Serves 2
2 small pak choi, quartered lengthways
75 g (3 oz) broccoli, cut into small florets
50 g (2 oz) wide rice noodles
150 ml (5 fl oz) chicken stock 
2 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 garlic clove, peeled and mashed
2 cm (¾ in) piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
1 red chilli, chopped
Handful of finely shredded Chinese cabbage
Handful of mangetout
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 small courgette, thinly sliced
4 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
Handful of coriander leaves

Blanch the pak choi and broccoli in a pan of boiling water until just tender. Drain and refresh under cold water.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water.

Put the stock, mirin, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and chilli in a heavy, lidded saucepan, cover and bring to the boil. Add the Chinese cabbage, mangetout, carrots, courgette and mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes, or until softened but still crunchy. Add the blanched vegetables and noodles, check the seasoning and simmer over a gentle heat for 2 minutes. Allow to rest for 2 minutes, stir in the coriander and serve.

Soba Noodle Salad

Serves 2
for the dressing
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon fish sauce (nam pla)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon mirin

100 g (4 oz) soba noodles
Zest and juice of 1 lime
8 radishes, thinly sliced
½ cucumber, deseeded and finely sliced
1 carrot, julienned
bunch of mint, leaves roughly chopped
2 handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
salt and white pepper

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water.
Mix together the dressing ingredients in a small pan, bring to the boil and set aside to cool. Stir in the lime zest and juice.
Combine the noodles with the radishes, cucumber, carrot, mint and spinach, add the cooled dressing and toss to ensure that everything is coated. Check the seasoning and serve.

Seafood Salad with Wilted Greens

Serves 2
for the dressing
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 spring onions, finely sliced
3 cm (1¼ in) piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced with a little salt

100g (4 oz) cellophane noodles
1 head little gem lettuce, trimmed and shredded
small handful of mangetout, thinly sliced lengthways
small handful of beansprouts
¼ cucumber, deseeded and julienned
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 scallops, trimmed (if large, slice horizontally)
4 raw, peeled prawns
8 clams, well rinsed and drained
handful of spinach
bunch of coriander, leaves picked

Soak the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water. Roughly chop and put into a large bowl.

Combine the dressing ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add to the bowl with the lettuce, mangetout, beansprouts and cucumber, toss well and check the seasoning. Heat the oil in a hot wok over a medium heat and stir fry the scallops, prawns and clams for 2 minutes until cooked and the clams are open.
Add the spinach, wilt briefly over the heat and add everything to the salad bowl. Toss well, adding in the coriander as you go, and serve.

Marinated Duck Salad

Serves 2
for the marinade
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 duck breast, sliced on the diagonal
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
200 g (8 oz) somen noodles
bunch of spring onions, sliced lengthways
½ cucumber, deseeded and julienned
1 carrot, julienned
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
salt and white pepper
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, briefly toasted in a hot, dry frying pan

Combine the marinade ingredients in a small pan with 100 ml (3½ fl oz) cold water, bring to the boil and remove from the heat as soon as the honey has melted. Allow to cool completely and pour over the duck slices. Toss gently and set aside for 1 hour; overnight in the fridge is even better.

Pour the marinade off the duck and discard. Heat the oil in a hot wok and stir fry the duck for 3-4 minutes until cooked. Set aside.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water.

Combine the noodles with the spring onions, cucumber, carrot and hoisin sauce in a large bowl. Add the duck and toss everything gently so it is well mixed and coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
Serve topped with the sesame seeds.

Stir-fried prawns and pork with crispy noodles

Serves 2
100g (3½ oz) raw, peeled tiger prawns
50g (2oz) rice vermicelli
Vegetable oil
2 tablesp. finely chopped shallots
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
Pinch of chilli flakes (or to taste)
200g (7oz) minced pork
Large handful of beansprouts
½ teasp light brown sugar
1 tablesp. Fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablesp. mirin 
Small handful of coriander leaves
Juice of 1 lime

Butterfly the prawns by cutting each one lengthways almost right the way through, and open out the two halves.

Put the vermicelli into a small bag and break into short lengths. Heat 3cm (1¼ in) oil in a hot wok and stir fry the shallots for 1 minute. Add the garlic, chilli flakes and pork and continue stir frying for a further 2 minutes or until the pork is almost cooked. Add the prawns, beansprouts, sugar , fish sauce and mirin and continue stir frying for a further 2-3 minutes or until the prawns are cooked. Toss the coriander through.

Serve the pork and prawn mixture on top of the noodles with the lime juice squeezed over.

Foolproof Food

Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

Makes about 200 ml
250 g (10 oz) red chillies, trimmed
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
100 g (4 oz) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Combine everything in a small pan with 100 ml (3½ fl oz) water, bring to the boil and simmer over a moderate heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Blitz in a blender and season with a scant teaspoon of salt. Return to the pan; simmer for a further 10 minutes, taking care not to let it catch on the bottom. Allow cool and refrigerate.

Many bought sweet chilli sauces deliver too much sweetness and not a lot of character in the chilli, two things which you maintain control over when you make this all-purpose sauce at home. It will last indefinitely in the fridge and is, according to some, rather good on a bacon sandwich in place of ketchup.

Hot Tips

For a selection of noodles try Mr Bell’s stall in the English Market in Cork, the Asia Market at 18 Drury St. and the Oriental Emporium at 25 South Great Georges Street, both in Dublin 2.

East Cork Slow Food present Paul Waddington, author of ‘21st Century Smallholder at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Co Cork on Wednesday 24th May at 7pm - €15 members and €20 non-members – booking essential. Tel 021-4646785 or email info@cookingisfun.ie  

‘What food is practical to both grow and raise at home, whether you have just a tiny balcony or a garden? The focus of this talk is on practicality: how much time does it take, is it worth the bother, how much will it cost me? There will be an emphasis on the gourmet and nutritional reasons for growing your own food.’

Another opportunity to hear Paul Waddington at the Cork City Slow Food Workshop on Tuesday 23rd May at 7pm at the Imperial Hotel –

‘Growing and Raising Food with Paul Waddington and Caroline Robinson’ - €8 members and €10 non-members, includes glass of wine. Optional supper at Jacques Restaurant in Cork at 9pm – set dinner and glass of wine - €36 members and €41 non-members. Tel Clodagh McKenna on 087-7971776 email:clodaghmckenna@eircom.net 

The Organic Centre, Rosinver, Co Letrim
Workshop on Cooking with Seaweeds by Dr. Prannie Rhatigan 27th May.
Tel. 071-9854338 Organicentre@eircom.net  www.theorganiccentre.ie  

Glebe House, Baltimore, Co Cork
Plant sale today Saturday 20th May from midday – Café open weekends till June and then Wednesday to Sunday inclusive till September. Driving into Baltimore there is a ‘Baltimore’ sign on the left – entrance is directly opposite on the right.

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

Ways with noodles by Hugo Arnold

Slurpy noodles are one of the world’s most comforting foods -the fast food of the 21st century, high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat.

Noodles are central to Asian cooking. They star in a myriad of dishes in Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. They add substance to soups, salads, meat dishes and make a pleasing accompaniment to curry. They can be stir-fried, or cooked in an aromatic broth. Some frizzle up deliciously when they are deep-fried. Their flexibility and sheer convenience make them a thoroughly modern food.

Noodles come in a mind-boggling array of sizes, shapes and colours.

1. Rice noodles – sometimes called rice stick noodles or vermicelli noodles. They only need to be soaked in boiling water for a few minutes, drained, and then they are ready to be used in soups, salads, stir-fries, spring rolls… Rice noodles have the added bonus of being gluten and wheat free.

2. Buckwheat noodles – are an unappetizing shade of browny grey, but don’t be put off – they’ve got a delicious nutty flavour. In Korea they are called naengmyon. In Japan they are called soba and are often served cold, dipped in a light sauce – also gluten and wheat free. 

3. Bean thread noodles – sometimes referred to as cellophane noodles, great in salads and laksa.

4. Wheat noodles – purported to be the oldest form of Chinese noodle, have a firm silky bite. The thin version called somen noodles are great in soups, while the thicker fat white unctuous, slippery Udon noodles are better in stir-fries or in dishes with a rich sauce.

5. Egg noodles – the word immediately conjures up images of the archetypal Chinese noodle – they come both thick and thin.

Ramen, also egg noodles have a defined place in Japanese cooking.

All the above come dried, so they are a brilliant option for the kitchen store cupboard, and once you get on the noodle groove, there are millions of recipes that you can whip up in a matter of minutes.

If you are already nutty about noodles, or need further inspiration., a terrific book has just been published by Kyle Cathie - Wagamama – ways with noodles. 

Author Hugo Arnold’s enthusiasm rings through every page of the book. He is a self confessed noodle head, so when he was asked to write the Wagamama Cookbook the opportunity to indulge in even more noodle dishes was too great a temptation to ignore.

The name Wagamama has become synonomous with noodles, particularly Ramen, ever since they opened the first Wagamama in London in 1992 . Wagamama which opened in Cork in March 2005, was the 45th world wide, and by the end of last year there were 50 and still going strong.

The food is all about speedy, nutritious dishes which satisfy deliciously but don’t make on feel over full.

Here are some recipes from Wagamama – Ways with noodles by Hugo Arnold, published by Kyle Cathie.  Buy from Amazon

Stir-fried Chicken and Mushrooms with Somen Noodles

Serves 2
100 g (4 oz) somen noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized slices
75 g (3 oz) button mushrooms, thinly sliced
75 g (3 oz) shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 cm (1¼ in) piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon mirin – see note
1 lime, cut into wedges
Handful of coriander leaves

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water. 

Heat the oil in a hot wok over a medium heat and stir-fry the chicken, mushrooms, ginger and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add the soy sauce, sake, mirin and 2 tablespoons water, continue to stir fry for 2 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
Stir in the noodles to heat through and serve with a wedge of lime and a scattering of coriander leaves.

Note: Sake, which is combined with sugar so it has a sweet, tangy flavour. It is used in small quantities to give a smooth roundness to dishes.

Hot and Sour Pork and Prawns with Ramen Noodles

Serves 2
125 g (5 oz) ramen noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
125 g (5 oz) minced pork
6 button mushrooms, sliced
Bunch of spring onions, cut into 6 cm (2½ in) lengths
100 g (4 oz) raw, peeled prawns
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely-sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced with a little salt
2 teaspoons muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 handfuls of beansprouts
2 tablespoons roughly chopped coriander leaves
1 lime, halved

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water. 
Heat the oil in a hot wok and stir fry the pork for 3 minutes, then add the mushrooms, spring onions, prawns, chillies, garlic, sugar, fish sauce and rice vinegar. Stir-fry for a further 3 minutes.

Add the noodles and toss to ensure that everything is well combined. 
Divide between 2 bowls and serve topped with the beansprouts and coriander and a lime half to squeeze over.

Wide Noodle Hot-Pot with Seven Vegetables

Serves 2
2 small pak choi, quartered lengthways
75 g (3 oz) broccoli, cut into small florets
50 g (2 oz) wide rice noodles
150 ml (5 fl oz) chicken stock 
2 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 garlic clove, peeled and mashed
2 cm (¾ in) piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
1 red chilli, chopped
Handful of finely shredded Chinese cabbage
Handful of mangetout
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 small courgette, thinly sliced
4 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
Handful of coriander leaves

Blanch the pak choi and broccoli in a pan of boiling water until just tender. Drain and refresh under cold water.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water.

Put the stock, mirin, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and chilli in a heavy, lidded saucepan, cover and bring to the boil. Add the Chinese cabbage, mangetout, carrots, courgette and mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes, or until softened but still crunchy. Add the blanched vegetables and noodles, check the seasoning and simmer over a gentle heat for 2 minutes. Allow to rest for 2 minutes, stir in the coriander and serve.

Soba Noodle Salad

Serves 2
for the dressing
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon fish sauce (nam pla)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon mirin

100 g (4 oz) soba noodles
Zest and juice of 1 lime
8 radishes, thinly sliced
½ cucumber, deseeded and finely sliced
1 carrot, julienned
bunch of mint, leaves roughly chopped
2 handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
salt and white pepper

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water.
Mix together the dressing ingredients in a small pan, bring to the boil and set aside to cool. Stir in the lime zest and juice.
Combine the noodles with the radishes, cucumber, carrot, mint and spinach, add the cooled dressing and toss to ensure that everything is coated. Check the seasoning and serve.

Seafood Salad with Wilted Greens

Serves 2
for the dressing
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 spring onions, finely sliced
3 cm (1¼ in) piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced with a little salt

100g (4 oz) cellophane noodles
1 head little gem lettuce, trimmed and shredded
small handful of mangetout, thinly sliced lengthways
small handful of beansprouts
¼ cucumber, deseeded and julienned
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 scallops, trimmed (if large, slice horizontally)
4 raw, peeled prawns
8 clams, well rinsed and drained
handful of spinach
bunch of coriander, leaves picked

Soak the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water. Roughly chop and put into a large bowl.

Combine the dressing ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add to the bowl with the lettuce, mangetout, beansprouts and cucumber, toss well and check the seasoning. Heat the oil in a hot wok over a medium heat and stir fry the scallops, prawns and clams for 2 minutes until cooked and the clams are open.
Add the spinach, wilt briefly over the heat and add everything to the salad bowl. Toss well, adding in the coriander as you go, and serve.

Marinated Duck Salad

Serves 2
for the marinade
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 duck breast, sliced on the diagonal
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
200 g (8 oz) somen noodles
bunch of spring onions, sliced lengthways
½ cucumber, deseeded and julienned
1 carrot, julienned
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
salt and white pepper
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, briefly toasted in a hot, dry frying pan

Combine the marinade ingredients in a small pan with 100 ml (3½ fl oz) cold water, bring to the boil and remove from the heat as soon as the honey has melted. Allow to cool completely and pour over the duck slices. Toss gently and set aside for 1 hour; overnight in the fridge is even better.

Pour the marinade off the duck and discard. Heat the oil in a hot wok and stir fry the duck for 3-4 minutes until cooked. Set aside.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and refresh under cold water.

Combine the noodles with the spring onions, cucumber, carrot and hoisin sauce in a large bowl. Add the duck and toss everything gently so it is well mixed and coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
Serve topped with the sesame seeds.

Stir-fried prawns and pork with crispy noodles

Serves 2
100g (3½ oz) raw, peeled tiger prawns
50g (2oz) rice vermicelli
Vegetable oil
2 tablesp. finely chopped shallots
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
Pinch of chilli flakes (or to taste)
200g (7oz) minced pork
Large handful of beansprouts
½ teasp light brown sugar
1 tablesp. Fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablesp. mirin 
Small handful of coriander leaves
Juice of 1 lime

Butterfly the prawns by cutting each one lengthways almost right the way through, and open out the two halves.

Put the vermicelli into a small bag and break into short lengths. Heat 3cm (1¼ in) oil in a hot wok and stir fry the shallots for 1 minute. Add the garlic, chilli flakes and pork and continue stir frying for a further 2 minutes or until the pork is almost cooked. Add the prawns, beansprouts, sugar , fish sauce and mirin and continue stir frying for a further 2-3 minutes or until the prawns are cooked. Toss the coriander through.

Serve the pork and prawn mixture on top of the noodles with the lime juice squeezed over.

Foolproof Food

Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

Makes about 200 ml
250 g (10 oz) red chillies, trimmed
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
100 g (4 oz) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Combine everything in a small pan with 100 ml (3½ fl oz) water, bring to the boil and simmer over a moderate heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Blitz in a blender and season with a scant teaspoon of salt. Return to the pan; simmer for a further 10 minutes, taking care not to let it catch on the bottom. Allow cool and refrigerate.

Many bought sweet chilli sauces deliver too much sweetness and not a lot of character in the chilli, two things which you maintain control over when you make this all-purpose sauce at home. It will last indefinitely in the fridge and is, according to some, rather good on a bacon sandwich in place of ketchup.

Hot Tips

For a selection of noodles try Mr Bell’s stall in the English Market in Cork, the Asia Market at 18 Drury St. and the Oriental Emporium at 25 South Great Georges Street, both in Dublin 2.

East Cork Slow Food present Paul Waddington, author of ‘21st Century Smallholder at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Co Cork on Wednesday 24th May at 7pm - €15 members and €20 non-members – booking essential. Tel 021-4646785 or email info@cookingisfun.ie  

‘What food is practical to both grow and raise at home, whether you have just a tiny balcony or a garden? The focus of this talk is on practicality: how much time does it take, is it worth the bother, how much will it cost me? There will be an emphasis on the gourmet and nutritional reasons for growing your own food.’

Another opportunity to hear Paul Waddington at the Cork City Slow Food Workshop on Tuesday 23rd May at 7pm at the Imperial Hotel –

‘Growing and Raising Food with Paul Waddington and Caroline Robinson’ - €8 members and €10 non-members, includes glass of wine. Optional supper at Jacques Restaurant in Cork at 9pm – set dinner and glass of wine - €36 members and €41 non-members. Tel Clodagh McKenna on 087-7971776 email:clodaghmckenna@eircom.net 

The Organic Centre, Rosinver, Co Letrim
Workshop on Cooking with Seaweeds by Dr. Prannie Rhatigan 27th May.
Tel. 071-9854338 Organicentre@eircom.net  www.theorganiccentre.ie  

Glebe House, Baltimore, Co Cork
Plant sale today Saturday 20th May from midday – Café open weekends till June and then Wednesday to Sunday inclusive till September. Driving into Baltimore there is a ‘Baltimore’ sign on the left – entrance is directly opposite on the right.

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

Peter Gordon, chef of Sugar Club comes to Ballymaloe

I am so excited – Peter Gordon, chef of Sugar Club fame and one of my great heroes, has agreed to be guest chef at the Ballymaloe Cookery School this year. We met originally on a foodie trip to Barcelona about 8 years ago – I was struck by his passion for food, his curiosity and his self-deprecating humour. Even though he was a super star among London chefs, he was totally grounded, not a universal trait among celebrity chefs – altogether a nice guy.

New Zealand-born Peter is co-owner and head chef of London's Providores and Tapa Room, and is renowned as a leading light of the Antipodean fusion-style of cookery. 
Peter began his career at the age of 17 as an apprentice in Melbourne. With this grounding he spent the next year travelling around south-east Asia, India and Nepal - an experience that was the catalyst to his development of the fusion style of blending East and West cuisines.
Back in New Zealand in 1986, he became head chef of the original Sugar Club in Wellington. Its success convinced the owners to transplant it to Notting Hill in 1995, where he was again appointed head chef. The Sugar Club quickly became one of the hottest tickets in town and picked up a Time Out award only a year later. The best-selling Sugar Club Cookbook followed soon after alongside monthly columns for glossies and several TV appearances.

He left the Sugar Club in 1999 and two years later got together with Anna Hansen and they opened the Providores and Tapa Room to the same critical and public acclaim as the Sugar Club. He also set up the annual charity event Who's Cooking Dinner? in 1999 to raise money for leukaemia research. Like everything else he's been involved in, it's been a roaring success.

Peter also opened a restaurant, dine by Peter Gordon in Auckland, New Zealand in 2005 in the gorgeous 5 star SKYCITY Grand Hotel. Peter now travels to lovely New Zealand 4 times a year to implement seasonal menu changes assisted by his head chef Cobus Klopper and restaurant manager Julie Woodyear-Smith. The menu in New Zealand is based on exceptional regional New Zealand ingredients (fresh wasabi, Wagyu beef, manuka honey, kumara, baby paua (black abalone), avocado oil, native herbs…) combined with the finest ingredients from around the world. 

Peter and Michael, partners since 1988, have also invested in a new vineyard in Kurau, North Otago, called Waitaki Braids. The wines will be made by famed New Zealand winemaker Michelle Richardson. The area is an exciting new region, which will soon develop a reputation for its Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and other cool climate varietals. 

Peter also consults for Air New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand, New Zealand Lamb, Foods from Spain, London’s Gourmet Burger Kitchen and the fantastic changa restaurant in Istanbul and PUBLIC restaurant in New York. Although he is a flag waver for eclectic and exciting Fusion Food, he is also passionate about traditionally made British Cheese and judges at the annual British Cheese Awards, organized by friend and fellow New Zealander Juliet Harbutt. 

We are delighted to welcome Peter to the Ballymaloe Cookery School on 17th July 2006 to teach a 1 day course – www.cookingisfun.ie  Tel 021-4646785. Here are some recipes from Peter’s book ‘Cook at Home with Peter Gordon’ (Hodder & Stoughton)
Learn to Cook  with Peter Gordon at Ballymaloe
Buy this book from Amazon

Duck, ginger and peanut spring rolls with ginger dipping sauce

from Peter serves these spring rolls as canapés.
Makes 12-15

2 large duck legs, approx. 500-600g (18-20oz)
2 teasp. salt
2 ‘thumbs’ of ginger, peeled and finely minced
100g (3½oz) roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 cup coriander leaves
8 spring onions, finely sliced
10 x 15cm (6in) square, spring wrappers
1 egg, beaten, to seal the wrappers
300ml (10fl.oz) soy sauce
50ml (2 fl.oz) cider vinegar
50ml (2 fl.oz) light honey

Put the duck legs into a saucepan, cover them with cold water, add the salt, bring to the boil and simmer rapidly for 60 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the meat to cool in the liquid. Remove and discard the skin, then take the flesh off the bones and shred it finely. Mix it with half the ginger, all of the peanuts, the coriander and spring onions then taste for seasoning. Separate the spring roll wrappers, then stack them on top of each other to prevent them drying out. (They separate best at room temperature.) Have them in front of you in the shape of a diamond. Brush the egg-wash along the corner furthest away from you, then place a heaped tablespoon or so of duck mixture, shaped into a fat sausage, running left to right in the centre. Roll the edge closest to you tightly over the filling, then fold each side (left and right) over it, overlapping slightly. Roll it away from you towards the egg-wash until you have a firm, sealed spring roll. Place it on a tray lined with clingfilm. Continue until you have used all the mixture.

Make the ginger dipping sauce: put the remaining ginger, the soy, vinegar and honey into a saucepan. Simmer to reduce by half, then strain.

Deep-fry the rolls in oil at 180C, 6-8 at a time, until golden.

Marinated Salmon and Cucumber Salad

Makes a perfect light lunch or early supper on a hot day.
Serves 2 as a small snack

¼ teasp. wasabi powder
20ml (2 dessertp) lemon juice
250g (9oz) salmon fillet, boned and skinned, thinly sliced into 8 pieces
⅓ cucumber, seeded and coarsely grated
½ teasp. caster sugar
2 spring onions, finely sliced
50ml (2fl.oz) soy sauce

Dissolve the wasabi in the lemon juice and mix it with the salmon. Place it in the fridge for 15 minutes, stirring once. Meanwhile mix the cucumber with the sugar and put it in the fridge. Just before serving, drain and discard the liquid from the cucumber, then mix the cucumber with the marinated salmon and spring onions and serve in small bowls, with the soy sauce drizzled over to taste.

Salad of spicy chicken, coriander and peanuts with green yoghurt sauce

This salad will need to be kept cold so if you are bringing it on a picnic put it in a coolbox. Can be adapted by adding chunks or ripe mango or pear, more or less chilli or some fresh Thai basil.
Serves 6

3 chicken legs, skinned and boned
3 chicken breasts, skin and wing bones removed
2 hot red chillies, stems removed, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and grated
1 teasp. ground coriander seeds
1 teasp. cumin seeds
100ml (3½ fl.oz) cooking oil
50ml (2fl.oz) Thai fish sauce
50ml (2fl.oz) water
2 cups coriander leaves, picked from the stems
1 cup mint leaves
8 spring onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely crushed
300ml (10 fl.oz) Greek style yoghurt
1 cup peanuts, roasted and roughly chopped

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

Put the chicken legs and breasts into a bowl. Place the next 8 ingredients into a blender (not a food processor) and puree to a paste. Pour the paste over the chicken pieces, mix well, then place them in a roasting dish. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn them over and cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the dish and leave it to cool. Drain the juices from the roasting dish into a jug.

Meanwhile, put half of the coriander, the mint, spring onions and garlic into a food processor, roughly chop, add the yoghurt and blend well, add a pinch of salt, then place in the fridge in a clean bowl.
Cut the chicken into chunks, mix it with half of the roasting dish juices, the remaining coriander and the peanuts and mix well. Leave to chill for a few hours.

To serve, simply spoon the yoghurt mixture on top of the chicken, and you’re ready.

Foolproof Food

Mango, banana, cardamom and yoghurt lassi

Lassis are to be found all over India, they are often plain, sometimes salted and are always a refreshing drink to accompany a spicy meal.
Serves 4

500ml (18fl.oz) plain yoghurt
200ml (7 fl.oz) cold water
1 large ripe mango, peeled, then the flesh taken off the stone and roughly chopped
1 banana, peeled and sliced into 8
½ teasp. ground cardamom
Juice of 1 large lime or lemon
100ml (3½ fl.oz) runny honey
1 cup ice cubes

Put the yoghurt, water, mango and banana into a blender and puree for 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients, and puree for another 30 seconds. You can either drink it now, or pour it into a Thermos with a few extra ice cubes to keep it cold.

Tomato, basil and ginger dressing

This light dressing goes particularly well with grilled duck, cold roast pork, poached chicken and grilled tuna. It is also good as a salad dressing or poured over grilled vegetables. Once again, you will need a blender and very ripe sweet tomatoes.
Enough for 8 main course servings

200ml (7fl.oz) extra virgin olive oil
400g (14oz) ripe tomatoes, washed and quartered
A generous handful of basil leaves
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and finely grated (optional)
1 teasp. salt
1 teasp. freshly ground black pepper

Place all the ingredients in a blender, in the order above, and process to a reddish pink puree. It will take around 45 seconds. Taste for seasoning, then serve. This will keep in the fridge for 1 day, but remember to serve it at room temperature.

Ginger Crème Caramel

The addition of ginger to crème caramel is a match made in culinary heaven. The creaminess combined with the refreshing bite of ginger is fantastic.
Serves 6

400g (14oz) caster sugar
100ml (3½ fl.oz) water
600ml (1 pint) milk
400ml (14 fl.oz) double cream
80g (3oz) stem ginger, finely sliced
7 eggs

Preheat the oven to 170C/400F/gas 6

First make a bain-marie: fill a roasting tin with 3cm (1¼ in) hot water and place it in the oven on the middle shelf. Now bring half of the sugar and all the water to the boil in a saucepan and continue to boil until it caramelises. Do not stir or the caramel may crystallise. When the caramel has turned a dark golden colour, pour it very carefully into the ramekins and leave it to set. (A handy hint: to clean the saucepan, put boiling water into it and boil for a few minutes to dissolve any caramel left behind.) Put the milk, cream and ginger into a saucepan and slowly bring it to the boil, pour it slowly into the egg mixture while whisking gently then divide it among 6 x 300ml (10 fl.oz) ovenproof ramekins. Sit them in the bain-marie and pour in more hot water to come three-quarters of the way up their sides. Cook for 35 minutes, then test them by inserting a thin knife into the centre: it should come out clean but if it doesn’t cook them for 3-5 minutes more and test again.

Take the ramekins out of the bain-marie and leave them to cool before covering them and placing them in the fridge to firm up over at least 3 hours.

To serve, run a blunt knife around the sides of each ramekin then gently shake it from side to side. Invert it on a plate and tip out the crème caramel with the syrup.

Warm walnut whiskey and sultana cake with mango and mascarpone

This cake may be served warm as a pudding, with afternoon tea or even as a wedding cake, covered with marzipan. It will also keep in an airtight tin for 3 days.
Serves 10-12

200g (7oz) walnut halves
250g (9oz) raisins, currants, muscatels or a mixture
280g (10oz) butter, at room temperature, cut into 2cm (¾in) chunks
400g (14oz) light brown sugar
3 eggs
120ml (4fl.oz) Irish whiskey
350g (12oz) flour
3 teasp. baking powder
2 large ripe mangoes, stoned, peeled and cut into chunks
200g (7oz) mascarpone

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas 3

Line a 30cm cake tin with non-stick baking parchment. Put the walnuts and sultanas in a saucepan and cover them with cold water. Bring it to the boil, then simmer rapidly for 10 minutes. Drain them in a colander, discarding the liquid, and return them to the pan. Add the butter to the pan and stir over a low heat until it has melted. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar for 30 seconds, then stir in the walnut mixture and the whiskey. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and stir to incorporate. Spoon the cake mixture into the tin and bake it in the centre of the oven for 40-50 minutes. The cake is cooked when a thin knife or skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cook in the tin. Turn out. Spread the mascarpone over it and scatter on the mango. 


Hot Tips

The Irish Cookbook by Carla Blake has just been published by Mercier Press – This is a revised and updated edition of Carla’s much-loved book which was first published in 1971. In this book traditional Irish dishes are adapted to suit present day tastes and lifestyles. The book includes plenty of modern recipes using our finest fresh seafood, farmhouse vegetables, prime Irish meats and cheeses. Carla passionately believes that tasty food that is good for you can be achieved by anyone. 

Carla is well known for her weekly column in the Irish Examiner and many of her readers have visited her wonderful garden in Conna over the years. A founder of the Irish Food Writers Guild, Carla has been writing about food since 1974. She is featured in the dictionary of Munster Women Writers 1800-2000 which cites her journalism as a unique record of 1960’s and 1970’s Irish social history. The Irish Cookbook €9.99.

Jeanette Orrey The Dinner Lady

Jeanette Orrey is a Dinner lady, albeit the most highly awarded dinner lady ever. She was the inspiration for Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s School Dinners’ and is now the school meals policy advisor for the Soil Association in the UK. Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association says “Jeanette Orrey is an inspiration - she is living proof that one person who has a combination of energy and the right ideas at the right time can quite literally change the world.”.
The Soil Association has helped over 500 schools to improve school meals with their “Food for life” project which encompasses the whole school approach. www.soilassociation.org 
Jeanette was one of the dinner ladies at St Peter’s School in Nottinghamshire, not necessarily because she had a ‘true vocation’ but because she wanted 2 or 3 hours work a day while her children were at school. All the skills she needed were to be able to use a scissors “to cut open packets of orange pulp and bung them in the ovens. Then we scooped out the mush and flung it into plastic flight trays” Everything was frozen supposedly safer. Most of the food came in kid friendly shapes, turkey dinosaurs, cheese feet, potato portholes, pork hippos ……
She wasn’t particularly passionate about food but she was totally shocked by the atrocious quality of the food supplied by the catering company for her to ‘heat up’ for the children. Her budget was 43p to provide 2 meals a day.
The final straw came when she opened the oven to take out a tray of pork hippos and was so repulsed by the smell and the pool of grease that she went to the headmaster and refused to serve the food to the kids preferring to go out and buy from her own pocket. She then persuaded the school to do in-house catering and gradually persuaded the parents to support what she was doing. She jumped in her car and went to visit local farmers and farm shops and did deals with them to supply local food. She also involved the children in the menus. One of the challenges was to convince the children that chickens were not dinasaurs. The numbers coming for school dinners shot up from 120 to 180 immediately.
The school became calmer as the childrens’ concentration and behaviour visibly improved. Her budget now is 70p – still minimal but it’s truly amazing what can be achieved with imagination and determination.
In 2005 she went on to write book of her recipes. - ‘The Dinner Lady’ was an instant success and the sequel ‘Second Helpings’ is also a best seller. Parents and senior citizens are invited to the school to the lunch club.
Jeanette recently spoke at a Slow Food event at the Cookery School and to the Free Choice Consumer group in Cork. She painted a grim picture of the situation at present.
As more children eat fast food on a regular basis, fewer families sit down to a meal together and a growing number cannot use cutlery. In the US 50% of kids can’t use a knife and fork. In 1930, 35% of a family income was spent on food – it is now less than 10% and statistics are similar in Ireland. We are now a much wealthier nation – why are we spending less on food? Our food should be our medicine rather than causing medical problems as so much food does nowadays. In the UK 40% of girls are deficient in iron. Numerous children are deficient in calcium, folic acid and essential vitamins and minerals for healthy growth..
There is a huge increase in Type 2 diabetes. The list goes on and is scary. Our children are our future – it must be a priority to feed them with fresh naturally produced food that will give them strength energy, vitality and the ability to concentrate. We are in the midst of a terrifying crisis. Many children have no idea where food comes from, a growing number of children cannot recognize even basic vegetables

Jeanette Orrey “The Dinner Lady” change the way your children eat, for life, published by Bantam Press €26.00     Buy this Book from Amazon
Jeanette Orrey “Second Helpings from the Dinner Lady” published by Bantam Press €29.00

Reuben’s Deli Wraps

These wraps make a great nutritious lunch for kids and adults. Parents seem to love their fresh-from-the-deli taste, and kids feel very grown-up eating them. Serve with a baked potato for a meal, or on their own as a snack. This recipe is slightly adapted from one used by chef friend Brent Castle.
Serves 4 Serves 96

450g (1lb) chicken breast 5.4kg (12lbs)
225g (8oz) iceberg lettuce 2.7kg (6lbs)
225g (8oz) white cabbage 2.7kg (6lbs)
225g (8oz) carrots 2.7kg (6lbs)
115g (4oz) Cheddar cheese 1.3kg (3lbs)
115g (4oz) Mayonnaise 1.3kg (3lbs)
25g (1oz) tomato ketchup 300g (10½ozs)
4-8 tortilla wraps 96

Preheat the oven to 120°C/250°F/Gas ½ 

Cut the chicken meat into fine slices and stir-fry in a little oil in a heavy based pan until thoroughly cooked. (If making the larger quantity, bake the chicken strips in the oven preheated to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 for 5-10 minutes until thoroughly cooked.)

Finely shred the lettuce and cabbage, and grate the carrots and cheese. Mix together the grated vegetables and cheese. Mix together the mayonnaise and tomato ketchup to make a sauce. 
Brush the tortilla wraps with a little oil and put in a low preheated oven for 2 minutes to warm through. 

Spoon a little of the sauce over the wraps, lay a slice or two of the chicken strips along the wrap and put a spoonful of the vegetable and cheese mix on top. Wrap up and serve.

Taken from Jeanette Orrey’s ‘The Dinner Lady’ © 2005


Jeanette Orrey’s Cheesy Yorkshire Puddings

When I make these, I always leave the batter mixture to rest for about 20 minutes. Then, just before I put the liquid into the tin, I give the batter one last whisk. The puddings always seem to rise better this way – try it! The home-kitchen quanity makes about 24 small puddings. Serve with some good local sausages, mashed potato and seasonal vegetables.
Serves 4 Serves 96

225g (8oz) plain flour 2.7kg (6lb)
a pinch ground pepper ½ teaspoon
2 eggs 24
600ml(1 pint) milk 6.8 litres (12 pints)
115g (4oz) Cheddar cheese 1.3kg (3lb)
olive oil

Sift the flour and pepper together into a bowl. Add the eggs and half the milk, and beat well until smooth. Beat in the remaining milk. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven well to 200°C/425°F/Gas 7. Grate the cheese.

Grease patty or Yorkshire pudding tins with olive oil and put into the hot oven for 5 minutes. Take out of the oven and divide the batter mix between the tins. Quickly add a little cheese to each Yorkshire, and bake in the very hot preheated oven until well risen and golden brown, around 10 minutes.

Taken from Jeanette Orrey’s ‘The Dinner Lady’ © 2005

Jeanette Orrey’s Real Chicken Nuggets

This is one of the simplest recipes in the book, and I’d much rather have the children eat these, made from local free-range or organic chicken, than any of the ingredients in the shop-bought chicken nugget. Get the children to help you make them – they love tossing the chicken in a bag of breadcrumbs. One adult portion will be roughly ten nuggets. Serve with some home-made tomato sauce or relish.
Serves 4 Serves 96

225g (8oz) bread (brown or white) 2.7kg (6lbs)
½ teaspoon garlic powder 3 tablespoons
¼ teaspoon paprika 2 tablespoons
1 egg 12
125ml (4floz) milk 1.5 litres (2½ pints)
900g (2 lb) diced chicken 10.8kg (24lbs) 

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6

Slice the bread, then toast it until light brown. Break up into pieces, crusts and all, and reduce to fine crumbs in the food processor. Add the garlic powder and paprika, and whiz again. Place the breadcrumbs in a large plastic freezer bag or a deep tray. 

Beat the egg in a large bowl with the milk, and add the chicken pieces, in batches if necessary. Transfer the chicken pieces to the bag or tray of breadcrumbs and toss to coat evenly. 

Arrange the crumbed chicken on a lightly greased baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes until browned and crisp and cooked through. 

Taken from Jeanette Orrey’s ‘The Dinner Lady’ © 2005

Jeanette Orrey’s Spicy Lamb Burgers

This recipe was devised at the new training kitchen in Essex, and I have thank Simon Owens, who work with there. Everyone who eats the burgers thinks they are great. Serve in a halved warm pitta bread or mini burger buns, with salad and a fresh mint and yoghurt dressing, or a salad of chopped carrots, tomato and cucumber. Add a squeeze of lemon to the lamb burgers once they are cooked.
Makes about 16

½ bunch of fresh coriander
175g (6oz) onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 kg (2¼ lb) minced lamb
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 egg, beaten

Wash the fresh coriander thoroughly. Cook the onion and chilli in the olive oil in a frying pan until golden and soft. Leave to cool a little.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir until thoroughly mixed. Divide the mixture into small burgers, shaping them as you wish; but it should make about 16. 

Place on a baking sheet and cook under a hot grill for 3-4 mins on each side, or for 2-4 mins on each side on the barbeque.

Taken from Jeanette Orrey’s ‘Second Helpings from The Dinner Lady’ © 2006

Jeanette Orrey’s Vegetable Lasagne

This is a good way to get children to eat vegetables. Make sure you dice them very small and to begin with just give them a small amount. They will be back for more, I can tell you. Serve with some fresh bread rolls or crusty bread.
Serve 4 Serves 96

225g (8oz) pre-cooked lasagne 2kg (4½lb)
1 tablespoon olive oil 175ml (6floz)
175g (6oz) onions 1.3kg (3lb)
175g (6oz) carrots 1.3kg (3lb)
3 sticks celery 2 heads
175g (6oz) courgettes 1.3kg (3lb)
½ teaspoon mixed dried herbs 55g (2oz)
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes 2 x A10 (2.7kg) cans
115g (4oz) tomato puree 1.3kg (3lb)
300ml (10floz) water 3.4 litres (6pints)

Cheese Sauce
115g (4oz) Cheddar cheese 1.3kg (3lb)
25g (1oz) butter or margarine 350g (12oz)
25g (1oz) plain flour 350g (12oz)
600ml (1pint) milk 6.8 litres (12pints)
½ teaspoon wholegrain mustard 55g (2oz)


Preheat the oven the 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Grease a deep lasagne dish, approximately 30cm (12in) square, with a little of the oil. 

Peel and dice the onions. Wash the carrots and celery and then dice. Trim the courgettes, and slice thinly. Grate the cheese for the sauce. 
Saute the onions, carrots, celery and courgettes in the remaining olive oil for a few minutes, then add the herbs, tomatoes, tomato puree and water. Bubble for 10-15 minutes. 

Make the cheese sauce by melting the butter or margarine then adding the flour. Cook until the texture and colour are sandy, then add the milk, stirring continuously until thickened and smooth. Add the cheese and mustard, and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Arrange half of the lasagne on the base of the dish. Pour half the vegetables over the lasagne, then top with another layer of lasagne. Top with the remaining vegetables, then pour over the cheese sauce. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown and the lasagne is soft, about 30-35 minutes.

Taken from Jeanette Orrey’s ‘The Dinner Lady’ © 2005

Fool Proof Recipe

Jeanette Orrey’s Banana Loaf

This loaf is ideal for us at school because you just have to slice it to serve. Bananas are great for energy, as well, just what the children need after working hard all morning. You could also ice this (add a little vanilla essence to the icing), if you like.
Serves 4 Serves 96

2 ripe banana 24
175g (6oz) butter or margarine 1.3kg (3lb)
175g (6oz) caster sugar 1.3kg (3lb)
3 eggs 24
225g (8oz) self-raising flour 2.7kg (6lb)
½ teaspoon baking powder 2 tablespoons
½ teaspoon vanilla essence 2 tablespoons
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 tablespoons
1 banana for decoration (optional ) 12

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4

Peel the bananas then crush with a fork. Beat together the butter or margarine and sugar, then add the eggs alternately with the flour and baking powder. Fold in the crushed banana, vanilla essence and cinnamon.

Pour the mixture into a greased 450g (1lb) tin, and top, if liked, with long thin slices of banana. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes. Cool slightly then turn on to a wire tray. When cool, slice.

Taken from Jeanette Orrey’s ‘The Dinner Lady’ © 2005

Hot tip
Lovers of Irish farmhouse cheese, ‘new age’ food producers and artisans will be delighted to hear that Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen Cheese, near Schull in west Cork, will hold a three-day cheese-making course on her farm from May 19-21.
For details, phone 028-28231 or email
gianaferguson@eircom.net  

Grow your own — pick up ready-to-plant salad and vegetable plants in Cork at Midleton farmers’ market on Saturdays, 9am-1pm, or Mahon Point farmers’ market, Thursdays, 9am-2pm. 

Clodagh McKenna’s Food Fair is at Cork’s Fota House every Sunday, 11am-5pm. It includes a farmers’ market with more than 20 stalls selling delicious pates, fresh breads, smoked fish, juices, chocolates and more. Eat some fantastic food while you’re there, from crepes and BBQ sausages to fresh smoothies and great coffee. 

For cookery demonstrations, check out www.fotahouse.com   for info on classes. There’s also live music, the wildlife park and gardens. For train connections (only 15 minutes from Cork, at which there are inter-city trains) to Fota, see www.irishrail.ie

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