ArchiveJune 2006

The Sixth Birthday of Midleton Farmers Market

At the Whit weekend we celebrated the sixth birthday of Midleton Farmers Market. The market has gone from strength to strength since that first weekend when a handful of local farmers and food producers first set up their stalls with a mixture of apprehension and excitement.

Willie Scannell borrowed a moulded plastic garden table and piled it up with his floury Ballycotton spuds. Frances Burns who had traded outside the mart for years was a dab hand at setting up a stall with help from her grandson. She sells local vegetables and some plants. Local goat cheese maker Jane Murphy arrived with her beautiful freshly made Ardsallagh Goat cheese.
Siobhan and David Barry from Carrigtwohill have now greatly added to the range of home-grown vegetables they started with and also offer vegetable plugs for ‘wannabe’ vegetable gardeners.

The next stall was erected by local councillor Ted Murphy who sells home grown plants and shares his patch with the Country Market ladies who pile their tables high with delectable confectionery, jams and chutneys. 

Wendy England set up a stall with her mother-in-law Hester and her neighbour Mary O’ Connell. They sell delicious home made cakes, bread, jams and pickles 

Fiona Burke sold a wide variety of fine cheeses, olives, tapenade, pesto and Gubbeen bacon. Local farmers Dan and Anne Aherne from Ballysimon outside Midleton, sold their organic beef and are now also famous for their free range organic chicken. 

The indomitable fish smoker Frank Hederman was also one of the original farmers market pioneers – his traditionally smoked eel, salmon, mackerel, sprats, mussels and hake were, and still are a magnet for discerning customers.

The Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm and Gardens Stall sells a selection of homemade vegetables, fruit and herbs, jams, pickles, free-range eggs from our happy lazy hens and occasionally our own home cured pork.

Kate O’Donovan was also there from the very beginning, selling her homemade salad dressings and marinades. She also barbecues juicy sausages and serves them with her relishes in crusty Arbutus Bread.

Margaret Keane sells a variety of savoury tarts and quiches, biscuits and cakes and jams and onion marmalade. Arbutus Breads made by ‘master-baker’ Declan Ryan have been one of the star attractions from the early days. People queue for the crusty soda, yeast and sour dough loaves.

Some of the early stall-holders like Clodagh McKenna have moved on but Barry Tyner stepped into her place. Catriona Daunt sells a huge variety of organic fruit and vegetables and fat Agen prunes. Margaret Martin mans Tim York’s stall with lots more organic vegetables and salad leaves. Deirdre Hilliard from Cobh joined the market in 2001, she does a range of delicious organic breakfast cereals, soups and salads. Beside her, Brian Cott and Chris Cashman sell a delicious range of cakes and cookies.

O’Connaill’s Chocolates have now added sublime hot chocolate and coffee to their tempting array. Orin Little of The Little Irish Apple Company drives down from Piltown in Co Kilkenny with his apple juice early every Saturday morning, he sells delicious apples in season and warm apple juice on chilly Saturday mornings.

Hail, rain or snow, customers pour in to fill their shopping bags and enjoy the music and the vibe.

Here are some suggestions for a Market Menu

Green Pea Soup with Fresh Mint Cream

This soup tastes of summer. If you are using fresh peas use the pods to make a vegetable stock and use that as a basis for your soup. Having said that, best quality frozen peas also make a delicious soup, either way be careful not to overcook. This soup may also be served chilled but serve smaller portions.
Serves 6-8

1 oz (30g) lean ham or bacon
½ oz (15g) butter
2 medium spring onions, chopped
1½ lbs (675g) podded peas, fresh or frozen
Outside leaves of a head of lettuce, shredded
A sprig of mint
1½ pints (900ml) light homemade chicken stock or water
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
2 tablesp. thick cream

Whipped cream
Freshly chopped mint

Heat the chicken stock.

Cut the bacon into very fine shreds. Melt the butter and sweat the bacon for about 5 minutes, add the spring onion and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Then add the peas, lettuce, mint and the hot chicken stock or water. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Bring to the boil with the lid off and cook for approx. 5 minutes until the peas are just tender. 
Liquidise and add a little cream to taste. Serve hot or chilled with a blob of whipped cream mixed with some freshly chopped mint. 

If this soup is made ahead, reheat uncovered and serve immediately. It will lose its fresh taste and bright lively colour if it sits in a bainmarie or simmers at length in a pot.
Be really careful not to overcook this soup or you will lose the fresh taste and bright green colour. Add a little extra stock if the soup is too thick

Chicken Salad with Mango and Roasted Cashew Nuts

Serves 8-10
1.35kg (3 lb) cooked free range organic chicken
1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 mangoes peeled, stoned and cut into 1cm (2 inch) pieces
225g (6-8oz) chopped celery
4 chopped scallions including green part
110ml (4fl oz) natural yoghurt
110ml (4fl oz) homemade Mayonnaise 
1½ teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
140g (5oz) roasted cashew nuts 
2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander, optional

Mix the cubed, cooked chicken in a large bowl with the freshly squeezed lemon juice, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the diced mango, celery and scallion.

Whisk the yoghurt with the homemade mayonnaise, heat the cumin and curry powder gently on a pan, add to the mayo and yoghurt. Mix everything together.
Taste and correct seasoning. Just before serving add the roasted cashew nuts, scatter with chopped coriander or parsley and serve.

Pickled Beetroot Salad

Serves 5-6
1 lb (450 g) cooked beetroot
8 oz (225g) sugar
16 fl oz (475 ml) water
8 fl oz (250 ml) white wine vinegar

Dissolve the sugar in water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the vinegar, pour over the peeled sliced beets and leave to cool.

Potato and Thyme Leaf Salad
Serves 6 approx.

Scant quart cooked potatoes peeled and cut into 2 inch (5mm) dice
4 fl ozs (120ml) fruity olive oil
1-2 tablespoons thyme leaves and thyme flowers if available
Salt and pepper to taste

Coat potatoes in a good oil. Season to taste and sprinkle liberally with fresh thyme leaves and flowers.

Fresh Apricot Tart

Serves 10-12
225g (8oz) plain flour
175g (6oz) butter
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons icing sugar
A little beaten free-range egg or egg yolk and water to bind

Apricot Glaze
6 tablespoons Apricot jam
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

8-10 fresh apricots
300ml (½ pint) cream
2 large or 3 small eggs
2 tablespoons castor sugar 
1 teaspoon pure Vanilla essence 

1 x 12 inch (30 cm) diameter tart tin or 2 x 7 inch (18cm) tart tins with removable bases

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

Make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way and leave to relax in a refrigerator for 1 hour. Roll out the pastry and line a tart tin with a removable base. Chill for 10 minutes. Line with kitchen paper and fill with dried beans. Bake blind in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans. Paint the tart base with a little egg wash and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes. Leave to cool.

In a small stainless steel saucepan, melt the Apricot jam with a squeeze of lemon juice, push the hot jam through a sieve and then brush the base of the tart with a little of this glaze. 
Halve the apricots and remove the stones. Arrange one at a time cut side upwards inside the tart, the apricots should slightly overlap in the inside. 

Whisk the eggs well, with the sugar and Vanilla essence, then add the cream. Pour this mixture over the apricots and bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes until the custard is set and the apricots are fully cooked. Brush generously with the Apricot glaze. Serve warm with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

Foolproof Food

Smoked Mackerel Pâte

4 ozs (110g) Frank Hederman’s undyed smoked mackerel, free of skin and bone

2-3 ozs (55-85g) softened butter
¼ teaspoon finely snipped fennel
½ teaspoon lemon juice
½-1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Melba toast

Sprigs of fennel 

Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste, add more lemon juice and garlic if necessary, it should be well seasoned. Put into little individual pots, or set in a loaf tin lined with cling film.

Alternatively, this pate can be piped in rosettes onto ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices of cucumber, melba toast, crostini or savoury biscuits. Garnish each one with a sprig of fennel. 
Serve with cucumber pickle and crusty bread.
Cooked fresh salmon, smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, trout or herring can be substituted in the above recipe.

Hot Tips

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The Irish Hospitality Institute in collaboration with Failte Ireland, Irish Hotels Federation and all in the Tourism Research Centre at the Dublin Institute of Technology have created two-day training courses based around the current business issues in Hospitality, Tourism and Catering Industry. 

WHO SHOULD ATTEND – Senior Managers, Deputy Managers, Sales & Marketing Managers, Human Resources & Training Managers and Departmental Heads. For any further information please contact: Eilish Kealy, Network Manager, Hospitality Management Skillnet, Irish Hospitality Institute, 8 Herbert Lane, Dublin 2, Tel: 01 662 4790, Email: 

Carrigaline Smoked Cheese
Lovers of Carrigaline Cheese will be glad to hear that they are now doing a Smoked Carrigaline cheese – its delicious so watch out for it. 

Ballycotton Arts Festival 
From Friday 23rd June to the evening of Sunday 25th Ballycotton in East Cork will be buzzing with a huge variety of fun filled workshops and family events for the 2nd Annual Ballycotton Arts Festival. There will also be a food stall on the pier on Sunday.

The Fish Store by Lindsay Bareham

I’ve always thought that every family should produce its own ‘cookbook’ so that the grown children can reproduce the much-loved comfort food of their childhood – Granny’s Apple Cake, Mammy’s Gravy or Lamb Stew, Auntie Betty’s Queen of Puddings ….

Most families, even those who think they have a limited repertoire, would have 30 or 40 dishes. The great thing is to get started, just buy a hardback copy book and write out one at a time. Involve grandparents, aunts, uncles, particularly those who are retired, and encourage them to include a little anecdote here and there, maybe add a photo or two – you never know.
When her sons inherited their father’s childhood home, once a commercial building for storing and packing pilchards, in a Cornish fishing village, Lindsay Bareham thought it would be a helpful idea to record some of the recipes and memories of this extraordinary place. It started as a notebook for her sons’ eyes only, with lists of favourite ways of cooking monkfish, mackerel and sole and how to make mayonnaise to go with the gift of a handsome crab or crayfish, but it then took on its own momentum and became this very special book, full of recollections and anecdotes and fabulous holiday food.

Buy From Amazon The Fish Store by Lindsay Bareham, published by Penguin Michael Joseph, 2006.

Slow-Braised Lamb with Flageolets

Serves 6
2 large onions
12 shallots
12 garlic cloves
350 g (12 oz) flageolet beans, soaked overnight in plenty of water or 2 x 400g (14oz) cans flageolet beans
2 bay leaves
4 branches of rosemary or a small bunch of thyme
2 branches of sage
Salt and pepper
300 ml (10 fl oz) red wine or half-wine, half water
2 x 400g (14oz) Italian tomatoes
1 lemon
1 shoulder of lamb or 2 half-shoulders
2 tablespoons anchovy essence

Peel, halve and thinly slice the onions. Trim the root end of the shallots, peel and separate the sections, leaving the shoot-end intact. Smack the garlic cloves with your fist to loosen the skin, and then peel it away. 

Tip the canned flageolet beans into a colander or sieve, rinse under running water and drain. If using dried flageolets, boil them in plenty of unsalted water for 15 minutes and drain. Tip the beans into a large casserole or ovenproof earthenware dish. 

Push the sliced onions amongst the beans with the shallots and herbs and all but two of the peeled garlic cloves. Season very generously with pepper but lightly with salt. Pour over the wine, tomatoes and their juice, breaking up the tomatoes a bit, and squeeze over the lemon juice. 

Trim away any flaps of fat from the lamb and make several incisions in the fleshy parts with a small sharp knife. Peel and slice the two remaining garlic cloves and post the slivers in the gashes. Smear the anchovy essence over the lamb (this adds a subtle, salty pungency) and push the joint into the beans. 

Cover the casserole or use foil to make a lid and cook for 4 hours in the lower part of the oven at 275ºF/140ºC/Gas 1. Remove the lid, increase the oven temperature to 425ºF/220ºC/Gas 7 and cook for another hour. 

Serve directly from the dish, carving the meat in chunky pieces. Serve with green beans.

Arabian Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 6
1 kg (2¼ lb) similar-sized potatoes
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons sultanas
Pinch of saffron stamens
4 carrots
1 chicken stock cube
400 g (14 oz) can chickpeas
400 g (14oz) can Eazy fried onions or 2 medium onions and 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
600 g (1¼ lb) roast lamb or chicken
2 tablespoons couscous
1 lemon
50 g (2 oz) bunch coriander
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC/Gas 6. 

Boil the unpeeled potatoes in plenty of salted water until tender. Drain, return to the pan and cover with cold water. Leave for a minute or so, drain and remove the skins. Crush the potatoes into chunky pieces. 

Meanwhile, place the sultanas in a cup, add the saffron and just cover with boiling water. Leave for a few minutes to soften. Trim and scrape the carrots, then grate on the large holes of a cheese grater. Dissolve the stock cube in 500 ml (18 fl oz) boiling water. 

Drain the chickpeas, rinse with cold water and shake dry. If using Eazy fried onions, tip them into a spacious, heavy bottomed pan placed over a medium heat and stir in the ground coriander and 2 teaspoons of cumin. Cook, stirring to distribute the spices, for a couple of minutes before adding the carrots. Stir thoroughly, season with salt and pepper, cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes. If using fresh onions, peel, halve and finely chop them and cook for about 15 minutes in 2 tablespoons of olive oil to soften before proceeding with the recipe. 

Tear the lamb or chicken into bite-sized chunks and stir into the pan. Add the sultanas and their saffron soaking water. Stir in the couscous and then the stock. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until the couscous has hydrated and thickened the mixture. Taste the gravy and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Coarsely chop the coriander and stir into the mixture. 

Tip into a suitable gratin-style, ovenproof dish. Spoon the crushed potato over the top. Season with the remaining cumin and dribble with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook in the oven for 15 minutes until the potatoes are crusty and the filling is piping hot and bubbling up round the edge.
Thai Mussels
Serves 4
2 kg (4½ lb) mussels, cleaned, broken and unopened shells discarded
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves
1 small unwaxed lemon
2 red bird’s eye chillies
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
200 ml (7 fl oz) coconut cream
Freshly milled black pepper
50 g (2 oz) bunch of coriander

Leave the mussels in a colander to finish draining while you prepare the broth. 

Peel, halve and finely chop the onion and garlic. Using a zester or potato peeler, remove the zest from the lemon in wafer-thin strips. Chop quite small. Trim and split the chillies, scrape away the seeds, slice into thin strips and then across into tiny scraps – don’t forget to wash your hands to remove the chilli juices that will burn eyes and other sensitive parts. 

Heat the oil in a large pan with a good-fitting lid. Stir in the onion, lemon zest, garlic and chilli and cook, adjusting the heat so nothing burns, for 6-7 minutes until the onion is soft. Add the nam pla, coconut cream and juice from half the lemon. Season generously with black pepper. Chop the coriander, including the stalks, which should be sliced very finely. Add the stalk half of the coriander to the pan. Simmer for a couple of minutes, taste and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice. 

Tip the drained mussels into the pan, stir a couple of times with a wooden spoon, clamp on the lid and cook at a high heat for 5 minutes. Lift off the lid, have a look to see if the mussels are opening – it doesn’t take long – and give the pan a good shake or another stir, trying to bring the already opened mussels on the bottom to the top. Replace the lid and cook for a few more minutes. Check again that all the mussels are open, returning the lid for a couple more minutes if necessary, add the rest of the coriander, give a final stir and then tip the contents of the pan into a warmed bowl. Do not eat any mussels which haven’t opened.

Crab Bruschetta

Serves 4
1 red chilli
200 g (7 oz) approx. dressed crab, preferably with some chunky white meat
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
Maldon sea salt and black pepper
4 slices sourdough bread
1 big garlic clove

Trim and split the chilli. Scrape away the seeds; slice into skinny strips and then into tiny pieces. Stir the chilli into the crab. Add half the lemon juice and stir in 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a steady trickle. Stir in the coriander; season lavishly with black pepper and lightly with salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more lemon juice. Toast the bread; rub one side vigorously with peeled garlic and dribble with the remaining olive oil. Spread the bruschetta with crab. Cut the slices into quarters and serve.

Gooseberry Frangipane Tart

Serves 8
200 g (7 oz) plain flour
Pinch salt
100 g (3½ oz) butter
2 tablespoons natural yoghurt or water
400 g (14 oz) gooseberries
2 tablespoons sugar
100 g (3½ oz) ground almonds
50 g (2 oz) caster sugar
2 eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC/Gas 5. 

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl (or the bowl of your food processor). Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Either quickly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles damp breadcrumbs or pulse in the food processor. Stir or briefly pulse the yoghurt into the mixture, until the dough seems to want to cling together. Form into a ball; dust with extra flour if it seems too wet, adding a little extra yoghurt or water if it seems too dry. To avoid shrinkage when the pastry is cooked, cover and leave for 30 minutes before rolling. Butter a 20 cm loose-bottomed flan tin and roll out the pastry to fit. Cover with tinfoil and weight it with rice. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, top and tail the gooseberries and place in a saucepan with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and not quite enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat immediately and cook for 1 minute. Drain the gooseberries and leave to cool. Blitz the ground almonds, butter and caster sugar in a food processor for 1 minute. Add the eggs and pulse briefly until blended. Arrange the gooseberries in the pre-baked pastry case, pour over the frangipane and bake until the top is firm, risen and golden, checking after 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before removing the collar. 

Serve in wedges.

Foolproof Food

Snotched Herring or Mackerel

2-3 herring or mackerel per person
This is arguably the best way of cooking fresh-from-the-sea herring or mackerel. It is certainly the simplest. ‘Snotch’ is a Cornish term which means slashing the fish two or three times in the middle of both sides so that the plump middle of the fish cooks as quickly as the thinner ends.

The fish need to be gutted and scaled but heads and tails are left intact. If cooking under the grill, lay the fish on foil generously spread over the grill pan to avoid smelly washing-up. (The foil is also useful for wrapping up bones, etc. after you’ve finished.) Place the pan under a very hot grill. As the fish begins to cook, the slashes will gape open. The softer, more delicate herring takes 2-3 minutes a side, mackerel probably double that, but don’t overcook. Serve with lemon wedges and brown bread and butter. Gooseberry sauce is lovely with grilled mackerel. Make it by simmering topped and tailed gooseberries with a little sugar until very soft and then cooking them with a scoop of clotted cream until thick and sauce-like.

Hot Tips

Georgina Campbell’s Ireland: The Best of the Best

Published for the first time this year, this guide will alternate with its comprehensive big sister Georgina Campbell’s Ireland: The Guide which is widely regarded as the must-have glove compartment accessory for independent travelers in Ireland. Far from being restricted to five-star hotels and restaurants, Georgina Campbell’s Ireland: The Best of the Best offers a true Irish experience through a cross-section of the very best hospitality at all price levels.

Gardening Course with Brian Cross at Ballymaloe House 3-5 September 2006.

Brian Cross, one of Ireland’s most knowledgeable and successful gardeners will conduct an exciting short course from Ballymaloe House – the course will include visits to the best gardens and nurseries of the area and discussions on design and plant material. Tel 021-4652531,  Ideal gift for a garden lover.

Greenbox – short leisure breaks in Ireland’s North West
Healthy Hen Parties, Golf & Gourmet Breaks, Teddy Bear Weekends –
Greenbox supports low impact, culturally sensitive, community orientated Irish Tourism.

Paul Waddington is a ‘wannabe’ farmer

Paul Waddington is a ‘wannabe’ farmer who lives in a terraced house in Brixton in the London suburbs. He and his wife longed to be self-sufficient. “Many of us dream of ‘four acres and freedom’ – the idyllic, self-sufficient life in which we flee the city to live in harmony with the land, dependent on no-one. For all but a fortunate few, this is now an impossible dream. Absurd property prices have put four acres and a farmhouse out of reach of anyone lacking a six-figure sum of capital. Today, only the rich can afford to be peasants”. They have 100 square metres of garden and Paul also managed to secure an allotment in South London a year and a half ago – no mean feat nowadays when there is an unprecedented demand from urban dwellers desperate to connect with nature and to at least grow a little of their own produce. His wife wanted to plant flowers, he wanted to be self sufficient – we can’t eat flowers he reasoned. Eventually a compromise, and so started an exciting botanical adventure where they had to discover everything by trial and error. Gradually they worked out the vegetables that were worthwhile for a smallholder, and those that weren’t, for example Brussels sprouts take six months to grow, as opposed to spinach which can be harvested within a month, and the more one cuts it the more it comes. Beetroot is another gem which one can eat hot or cold at various stages of growth and where one can eat the leaves and stalks also. Radishes take 12-14 days from sowing the seed. Gooseberries and blackcurrants are a delight and an apple tree can be pruned to suit the size of the garden. 

At a recent Slow Food Event at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Paul doled out lots of pragmatic advice for the 21st Century Smallholder. He warned against being too romantic and first reeled off a whole list of reasons to consider before embarking on urban ‘farming’.

1) Total self sufficiency is not really an option in a town garden
2) Won’t save much money
3) It costs a lot to get started - must buy some kit – trowels, digging fork, a propagator, and seeds. He was shocked to discover he had spent 50 pounds on ‘poo’!
4) Takes time and can become an obsession!
5) Slightly incompatible with children but you can reach a compromise.

But on the other hand - reasons to produce your own.

1) Immense satisfaction – such a buzz when you eat your first home-grown salad or freshly laid egg.
2) Fresh organic food full of micro nutrients for all the family - Conventional food has become greatly demineralised because of increasingly intensive production systems.
3) You can start with a window box, tub or hanging basket.
4) You will learn a great deal, develop new skills and become aware of the seasons

When he started a few years ago Paul hadn’t a clue when anything was in season, now he writes a weekly column for The Guardian – “What’s Good Now.”

So how much time have you got? How do you want to grow - conventional or organic?. The latter means you have to work at building up the health of your soil and start a compost heap. A productive fruit and veg garden is a nicer place to be than a desert of decking, both for you and the countless bugs and creatures that run our ecosystem. If you look after the soil you will have the nutrients you need. Urban gardeners can also have a few hens (no cockerel or the neighbours will be up in arms). Paul also has a couple of beehives, we were surprised to learn that this is a fast-growing hobby in urban areas. One of Paul’s friends with 55 hives on his roof top in Hackney, gets incredible yields of top quality mixed honey from the urban gardens. Despite the fact that it sounds dangerous, bee stings are rare. In his book, ‘The 21st Century Smallholder’, Paul gives several brilliantly detailed plans for urban gardeners, using every possible horizontal and vertical surface, fruit trees on south facing walls, others trained into espaliers or fan shapes, hanging baskets and window boxes, bulging with fresh herbs and trailing tomatoes.

Every cook should know the magic of sowing a seed and watching it growing some of their own food. When you sow a seed yourself and patiently wait for it to grow into beautiful produce, it gives one a far greater appreciation of good food, plus one is far less likely to ‘boil the hell out of it’ when you get it into the kitchen.

Paul Waddington’s books will inspire even the most reluctant urban gardener.

“21st Century Smallholder” – from window boxes to allotments: how to go back to the land without leaving home. Buy from Amazon

“Seasonal Food – a Guide to what’s in season when and why” - both published by Eden Project Books   Buy from Amazon

Globe Artichokes with Melted Butter

Whole Globe artichokes are quite fiddly to eat. First you pull off each leaf separately and dip in the sauce. Eventually you are rewarded for your patience when you come to the heart! Don't forget to scrape off the tickly 'choke'; then cut the heart into manageable pieces, sprinkle with a little sea salt before you dip it into the remainder of your sauce. Simply Delicious!
Serves 6

6 globe artichokes
1.1L (2pints) water
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons approx. white wine vinegar

Melted Butter
170g (6oz) butter
freshly squeezed juice of 3 lemons approx.

Some restaurants do very complicated preparation but I merely trim the base just before cooking so the artichokes will sit steadily on the plate, rub the cut end with lemon juice or vinegar to prevent it from discolouring. 

Have a large saucepan of boiling water ready, add 2 teaspoons of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt to every 2 pints of water, pop in the artichokes and bring the water back to the boil. Simmer steadily for about 25 minutes. After about 20 minutes you could try testing to see if they are done. I do this by tugging off one of the larger leaves at the base, it should come away easily, if it doesn't continue to cook for another 5 - 10 minutes. Remove and drain upside down on a plate.
While they are cooking simply melt the butter and add lemon juice to taste.

To Serve
Put each warm artichoke onto a hot serving plate, serve the sauce or melted butter in a little bowl beside it. Artichokes are eaten with your fingers, so you might like to provide a finger bowl. A spare plate to collect all the nibbled leaves will also be useful.

Blackcurrant leaf sorbet

We also use this recipe to make an elderflower sorbet - substitute 4 or 5 elderflower heads in full bloom.
2 large handfuls of young blackcurrant leaves
225g (8ozs) sugar
600ml (1 pint ) cold water
Juice of 3 lemons
1 egg white (optional)

Crush the blackcurrant leaves tightly in your hand, put into a stainless steel saucepan with the cold water and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar, bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Add the juice of 3 freshly squeezed lemons*.

Strain and freeze for 20-25 minutes in an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere. Serve in chilled glasses or chilled white china bowls or on pretty plates lined with fresh blackcurrant leaves.

Note: If you do not have a sorbetiere, simply freeze the sorbet in a dish in the freezer, when it is semi-frozen, whisk until smooth and return to the freezer again. Whisk again when almost frozen and fold in one stiffly beaten egg white. Keep in the freezer until needed.

If you have access to a food processor. Freeze the sorbet completely in a tray, then break up and whizz for a few seconds in the processor, add 1 slightly beaten egg white, whizz and freeze again. Serve.

Blackcurrant Leaf Lemonade

Ingredients as above plus
1¼-1½ pints (750-900ml) still or sparkling water
ice cubes

Proceed to * in Blackcurrant Leaf Sorbet recipe, add 1¼ pints (750ml) still or sparkling water, taste and add more water if necessary. Serve chilled with lots of ice. 

Foolproof Food

Roast Beetroot with Ardsallagh Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar

Serves 4
6-12 baby beetroot, a mixture of red, golden and Clioggia would be wonderful
Maldon Sea Salt
Freshly cracked pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
170g (6oz) goat cheese -Ardsallagh or St. Tola
Rocket and beetroot leaves 
Wild garlic leaves if available

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/regulo 8

Wrap the beetroot in aluminium foil and roast in the oven until soft and cooked through - 30mins to an hour depending on size.

To serve:
Rub off the skins of the beetroot, keep whole or cut into quarters. Toss in extra virgin olive oil.
Scatter a few rocket and tiny beetroot leaves on each serving plate,. Arrange a selection of warm beetroot on top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and Balsamic vinegar. Put a dessert spoonful of goat cheese beside the beetroot. Sprinkle with Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with tiny beet greens or wild garlic flowers and serve.

Beetroot Tops

Serves 4
450g (1lb) fresh beetroot tops
butter or olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the stalks and leaves into approx. 2 inch pieces. Cook in boiling salted water (3 pints water to 2 teaspoons salt) for 6-8 minutes or until tender. Drain, season and toss in the little butter or olive oil. Serve immediately.

Beetroot tops are full of vitamins and minerals and are often unecessarily discarded - if you grow your own remember to cook them as well as the beetroot. When the leaves are tiny they make a really worthwhile addition to the salad bowl both in terms of nutrition and flavour. 

Kinoith Summer Garden Salad

A selection of fresh lettuces and salad leaves for example:

eg. Butterhead
Mesculum or Saladisi 
Lollo Rosso
Red Orah
Rocket (Arugula)
Edible chrysanthemum leaves
Wild sorrel leaves or Buckler leaf sorrel
Golden Marjoram, Annual Marjoram, tiny sprigs of Dill, Tarragon or Mint
Salad Burnet
Borage flowers
Young Nasturtium leaves and flowers
Marigold Petals
Chive or wild garlic flowers
Herb leaves eg. lemon balm, mint, flat parsley
Green Pea Shoots or Broad Brean tips
Tiny Chard & Beetroot leaves

Ballymaloe French Dressing

50ml (2fl oz) wine vinegar
150ml (6fl oz) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils. eg. sunflower and arachide
1 level teaspoon mustard (dijon or English)
1 large clove of garlic
1 scallion or small spring onion
sprig of parsley
sprig of watercress
1 level teaspoon salt
few grinds of pepper

First, make the dressing.

Put all the ingredients into a blender and run at medium speed for 1 minutes approx. or mix oil and vinegar in a bowl, add mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and mashed garlic. Chop the parsley, spring onion and watercress finely and add in. Whisk before serving.

Wash and dry the lettuces and salad leaves. Tear into bite sized bits. Sprinkle with edible flowers and petals. Just before serving toss in a little dressing, not too much just enough to coat the leaves lightly. Serve immediately.

Hot Tips 

Fair Trade – Congratulations to Bantry on becoming Ireland’s 12th Fairtrade town –

Bantry now joins Belfast, Clonakilty, Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Limerick, Thurles, Waterford, Wexford and Mullingar. Sales for Fairtrade products are growing by approximately 40% a year.
 Altogether there are 35 groups of Fairtrade volunteers around Ireland working to meet the criteria necessary to make their towns or cities Fairtrade Towns. For more information contact Melanie Drea, Fairtrade Mark Ireland. Tel. 01-475 3515 

Green Ireland Conference – Kilkenny Castle 16-18 June 
Branding and protection for sustainable farming, safe food and eco-tourism.
Co-hosted by An Taisce/the National Trust for Ireland and the GM-free Ireland Network.
Details on  or 

Cork Show takes place in Cork City on Sunday 18th June from 9am 
Onwards at the Munster Showgrounds, Ballintemple.
It is primarily agri-oriented, but this year will also focus on the important areas of renewable energies, eco-homes, sustainable agriculture, alternative farm incomes (organics, bee-keeping, cheese-making.....etc) and environmental issues.

Agriculture and Food 2006 – 
Teagasc is hosting a major national event at Kildalton College this summer on June 21st. Fundamental shifts are occurring across the whole agricultural sector. Now more than ever farm families need clear information on their options for the future. Agriculture and Food 06 is a key event in Teagasc’s campaign to provide clear direction and leadership on the wide range of challenges facing farm and rural communities. 

A Wonderful Bouquet of Asparagus

I’ve just got a present of a wonderful bouquet, more precious than orchids – a bunch of fresh organic Irish asparagus. The season is short, just 5 or 6 weeks – May into early June, depending on the vagaries of the weather. Most of the cookery students were astonished to hear that asparagus had a season, like most other vegetables its available in the supermarkets from January to December.

Irish grown asparagus in season is quite another thing, sometimes you can get the thin spears called sprew, delicious little wisps, perfect for salads, risotto or for dipping into a freshly boiled egg instead of soldiers of toast.
The plumper spears can be quickly cooked and served unadorned with a little silky Hollandaise.

Serious gourmands and country house kitchens will have a special tall asparagus pot with internal basket to keep the precious spears upright while they cook. That way the ends are cooked while the tender tips are steamed. Ideal, but not essential. An oval cast-iron pot or even an ordinary saucepan will do the trick, oval is good because it fits the spears more neatly.

Freshness is of paramount importance – like corn, the most sublime and unforgettable asparagus is that which is rushed from the asparagus bed in the garden, into the pot. For that reason it is truly worth considering making a little raised bed in your garden so you can indulge in even five or six asparagus feasts each year. That’s the ultimate, but for the rest of us it’s a question of buying the asparagus as fresh as possible. Keep an eye out for tightly closed tips, if they are beginning to open the asparagus will be past its best.

Preparation is simple, hold an asparagus spear close to the end in your hand between your thumb and index finger. Bend the spear over your finger, the woody end of the asparagus will snap at the point where the stalk is beginning to get tough, use the trimmings for stock or soup. Some cooks like to peel the stalk with a potato peeler but I feel that results in a loss of flavour, cook and eat as soon as possible.

Roast Asparagus with Sea Salt and Parmesan

Roast asparagus as in the previous recipe. 

Sprinkle a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano, and sea salt over the roast asparagus and eat immediately. Completely exquisite!

Tagliatelle with Cream and Asparagus

Wickedly rich but utterly delicious once a year!
Serves 4 as a main course

8 ozs (225 g) fresh Irish asparagus
8 ozs (225 g) tagliatelle, preferably fresh and homemade
4 pints (2.3L) water
2 large tablespoons salt
1 oz (30 g) butter
6 ozs (170 g) best quality cream
2 ozs (55 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
Freshly ground pepper, nutmeg and sea salt

Snap off the root end of the asparagus where it breaks naturally; cook the asparagus in boiling salted water until al dente, drain and save.

Bring the water to a good rolling boil, add the salt and drop in the tagliatelle; cover the pot for just a few seconds until the water comes back to the boil. Cook the tagliatelle until barely al dente (remember it will cook a little more in the pan). Homemade tagliatelle will take only 1-2 minutes whereas bought pasta will take considerably longer – 10-12 minutes depending on the brand.

Cut the asparagus into thin slices at an angle (no thicker than ¼ inch/5mm). Melt the butter in a wide saucepan, add half the cream and simmer for a couple of minutes just until the cream thickens slightly; then add the asparagus, the hot drained tagliatelle, the rest of the cream and the cheese. Season with freshly ground pepper, nutmeg and sea salt. Toss briefly – just enough to coat the pasta, taste and add a little more seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately.

Asparagus and Spring Onion Tart

Serves 6
Shortcrust Pastry
4 ozs (110 g) white flour
2 ozs (55 g) butter
1 egg, preferably free-range

5 ozs (140 g) asparagus, trimmed and with ends peeled
½ oz (15 g) butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
9 ozs (255 g) onion, finely chopped (we use about half spring onion complete with green tops and half ordinary onion)
4 ozs (110 g) Irish Cheddar cheese, grated
3 eggs, preferably free-range
4 fl ozs (120 ml) cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 x 7 inch (18 cm) quiche tin or 1 x 7 (18 cm) flan ring

First make the shortcrust pastry. Sieve the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg to bind the pastry. Add a little water if necessary, but don’t make the pastry too sticky. Chill for 15 minutes. Then roll out the pastry to line the quiche tin or flan ring to a thickness of 1/8 inch (3mm) approx. Line with greaseproof paper and fill to the top with dried beans and bake blind for approximately 20 minutes in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/Gas 4. Remove the beans, egg wash the base and return to the oven for 1-2 minutes. This seals the pastry and helps to avoid a ‘soggy bottom’.

Next make the filling. Melt the butter, add the olive oil and onions; sweat the onions with a good pinch of salt until soft but not coloured. 

Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water until al dente, then drain. When it is cool enough to handle, cut into ½ inch (1 cm) pieces. 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl; add the cream, almost all the cheese, onion and the cooked asparagus. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour into the pastry case, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/Gas 4, for 40-45 minutes.

Asparagus and Mint Frittata

Serves 6
8 eggs, preferably free-range 
225g (8oz) thin asparagus
Salt and freshly ground pepper
55g (2oz) Parmesan, Parmigano Reggiano, freshly grated or
25g (1oz) Parmesan and 25g (1oz) Gruyere
2-3 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil

non stick frying pan - 7½ inch (19cm) bottom, 9 inch (23cm) top rim 

Bring about 1 inch of water to the boil in an oval casserole. Trim the tough ends of the asparagus, add salt to the water and blanch the spears until just tender for 3 or 4 minutes. Drain. Slice the end of the spears evenly at an angle keep 1½ inches at the top intact. Save for later.

Whisk the eggs together into a bowl. Add the sliced asparagus, most of the grated Parmesan and chopped mint leaves, reserving a little for the end. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Heat the oil in the pan, add egg mixture, reduce the heat. Continue to cook over a gentle heat until just set - about 12 minutes. Arrange the asparagus over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining mint and Parmesan. Pop under a grill for a few minutes but make sure it is at least 5 inches from the element. It should be set but not brown. Serve immediately , cut into wedges and follow with a green salad.

Bread Pudding with Asparagus and Fontina

Mary Risley from Tante Marie's Cooking school in San Francisco shared this delicious recipe with us.
Serves 8

12-16 thick slices of best quality white bread
600ml (1 pint) milk or 425ml (15 fl oz) + 140ml (5 fl oz) buttermilk
560g (1lb) asparagus
4 eggs, preferably free range and organic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
28g (¾oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano
225 g (8oz) Fontina cheese, Swiss cheese or other white cheese, roughly grated
15g (2oz) butter

Lasagne dish: 10 x 8 inches in diameter

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

First butter the bread and then whisk the eggs with the milk. Trim the asparagus spears. Bring a little water to the boil in a heavy oval casserole, add salt. Add asparagus and cook for 3-4 minutes or until al dente. Drain and refresh under cold water. Cut in thin diagonal slivers. 

Pour a little of the egg and milk mixture into the base of a buttered lasagne dish. Arrange a layer of bread on top. Sprinkle half the asparagus over the bread. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Strew one third of each of the cheeses on top. Pour some of the egg mixture on this layer then repeat the layers and seasoning and finish with a layer of bread. Pour the remainder of the liquid evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake in a bain-marie in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until crisp and golden on top. Serve with a good green salad.

Asparagus on Toast with Hollandaise Sauce

This is a simple and gorgeous way to serve fresh Irish asparagus during its short season, it
was my father-in-law's favourite way to eat Irish asparagus during its short season.
Serves 4

16-20 spears fresh green asparagus
Hollandaise sauce, (see recipe)
4 slices of homemade white yeast bread
sprigs of chervil

Hold each spear of asparagus over your index finger down near the root end, it will snap at the point where it begins to get tough. Some people like to peel the asparagus but we rarely do. Cook in about 2.5cm (1inch) of boiling salted water in an oval cast iron casserole. Cook for 4 or 8 minutes or until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily. Meanwhile make the toast, spread with butter and remove crusts. Place a piece of toast on a hot plate, put the asparagus on top and spoon a little Hollandaise sauce over. Garnish with a sprig of chervil and serve immediately.

Asparagus Bundles with Sauce Hollandaise
This is a rather fancy way to serve asparagus. you could dispense with the ties and just serve them with the sauce if you like
Serves 4

1½-2 lbs (560-900g) fresh asparagus
1 leek or some chives
Sauce Hollandaise 

Wash the leek (if using) and cut in half lengthways. Blanch and refresh under cold water. Drain on kitchen paper. Peel and trim the root end of the asparagus. Cut into uniform lengths and save the trimmings for soup. 

Make the sauce and keep warm. Just before serving, cook the asparagus in boiling salted water. If you have a special asparagus pot, that's wonderful, but you can manage very well without it. Depending on the thickness of the spears it may take from 8-12 minutes to cook. Test by putting the tip of a sharp knife through the thicker end. Remove from the water and drain. Tie the asparagus into bundles of 3 or 5 with the strips of leek. Put a generous tablespoonful of Sauce Hollandaise on each warm plate and place the asparagus bundle on top. Garnish with chervil and serve immediately.

Sauce Hollandaise

Serves 4-6, depending on what it is to be served with.
2 egg yolks, free-range
4 ozs (110g) butter
1 dessertsp. cold water
1 teasp. lemon juice approx.

Serve with poached fish, eggs and vegetables

Put the egg yolks into a heavy stainless steel saucepan on a low heat, or in a bowl over hot water. Add the water and whisk thoroughly. Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly 'scrambling' remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water if necessary. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add the lemon juice to taste. 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 coating consistency.

It is important to remember that if you are making Hollandaise 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 Hollandaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if it becomes too hot.

Keep the sauce warm until service either in a bowl over hot but not boiling water, or in a thermos flask. Hollandaise Sauce should not be reheated. Leftover sauce may be used as an enrichment for cream sauces, or mashed potatoes, or to perk up a fish pie etc.
Foolproof Food

Roast Asparagus with Sea Salt

This rather bizarre way of cooking asparagus comes to us from California. Roast asparagus may sound unlikely, but its flavour is wonderfully intense and particularly good served as part of a plate, which includes chargrilled red and yellow peppers, aubergine slices, chargrilled onions and courgettes with marjoram.
Serves 4

1 bunch of fresh Irish asparagus
1 tablespoon approx extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt (Maldon if possible)

Trim the asparagus and peel the root ends with a swivel top peeler. Drizzle the spears with a little olive oil. Toss gently to coat, season with sea salt, put onto a roasting tin and roast in a hot oven, 230C/450F/Gas 8, for 8-10 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread.

Hot Tips

Look out for fresh new season’s asparagus at your local Farmers’ Market –
Check out  – this site will give you details of the farmers’ market nearest to you, also lists country markets in the area. Anyone setting up new markets should also contact the site for a wealth of advice and information.

Visit the seven new Artist Workshops at Stephen Pearce Gallery in Shanagarry, East Cork. This is a unique facility designed to support individual or small groups of artists in developing their art and craft which will be available for sale in the workshops – paintings, furnishings, textiles, jewellery, spices, pottery …..The project has been part funded by East Cork Area Development under the rural development scheme.

Great Taste Awards
Last week Bord Bia hosted a Speciality Food Forum for 150 leading buyers from UK, Ireland and Continental Europe with a combined purchasing power of almost €8 billion. To coincide with the event the UK Guild of Fine Food Retailers brought the Irish element of the Great Taste Awards to Ireland for the first time. Congratulations to Myrtle Allen who was presented with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award by the Taste Council for her pioneering work in promoting Irish food and cooking. 


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