ArchiveAugust 19, 2006

The Bounty of the Garden

I’m regularly asked where I’m off to for my Summer break, naturally people expect me to name some exotic location – Azarbejan, Lanzerotte, St Barts …… not a bit of it. Nothing would persuade me to holiday outside Ireland during the Summer months. Airports are a nightmare, why on earth would one want to endure the queues in sweltering heat, the delays, the ratty responses of overstretched staff. Travel has become so frantic that one really needs a very good reason to go anywhere.

A further aggravation is the fact that most holiday bargains end up costing a fortune in over weight charges. Another very good reason to stay close to home is the bounty of the garden in late Summer, both the vegetable and fruit gardens are bulging with produce, lush ripe and ready for harvesting. There are not enough meals to eat it all, a glut of gorgeous ripe tomatoes, a glut of courgettes, a glut of cucumbers, blackcurrants and red currants. We’ve already had a feast of white peaches (they grow on a south facing wall under the dining room of the school). They crop unbelievably well and bruise very easily but make a divine puree to use for a classic Bellini. This freezes well in ice cubes ready to be popped into a glass of processo, - one sip is enough to transport you to Harrys Bar in Venice. We’ve also had the first Beauty of bath and Irish apples and soon there will be grenadier to make the first apple tart of the new season – Why on earth would one want to be anywhere else?

Red Currant Jelly
Red currant jelly is a very delicious and versatile product to have in your larder. It has a myriad of uses. It can be used like a jam on bread or scones, or served as an accompaniment to roast lamb, bacon or ham. It is also good with some rough pâtés and game, and is invaluable as a glaze for red fruit tarts.
This recipe is a particular favourite of mine, not only because it's fast to make and results in delicious intensely flavoured jelly, but because one can use the left over pulp to make a fruit tart, so one gets double value from the red currants. Unlike most other fruit jelly, no water is needed in this recipe.

We’ve used frozen fruits for this recipe also, stir over the heat until the sugar dissolves, proceeds as below.

Makes 3 x 1 lb (450g) jars

2 lbs (900g/8 cups) red currants
2 lbs (900g/8 cups) granulated sugar

Remove the strings from the red currants either by hand or with a fork. Put the red currants and sugar into a wide stainless steel saucepan and stir continuously until they come to the boil. Boil for exactly 8 minutes, stirring only if they appear to be sticking to the bottom. Skim carefully.

Turn into a nylon sieve and allow to drip through, do not push the pulp through or the jelly will be cloudy. You can stir in gently once or twice just to free the bottom of the sieve of pulp.

Pour the jelly into sterilised pots immediately. Red currants are very high in pectin so the jelly will begin to set just as soon as it begins to cool.

Apple and Tomato Chutney
Makes 10 x 1 lb (450 g) pots

7-8 lbs (3.2-3.4 kg) ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped 
1 lb (450 g) onions, chopped
1 lb (450 g) eating apples, peeled and chopped
3 lbs (1.35 kg) sugar
1½ pints (900 ml/3¾ cups) white malt vinegar
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground black pepper
3 teaspoons all spice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper
8-12 oz (225-340 g/1½-2 cups) sultanas

Prepare all the ingredients. Put into a large wide stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer steadily until reduce and slightly thick - 1 hour, approx. Pot in sterilized jars.

Cucumber Neapolitana
A terrifically versatile vegetable dish which may be made ahead and reheats well. It is also delicious served with rice or pasta. It makes a great stuffing for tomatoes and is particularly good with Roast lamb.
Serves 6 approx.

1 Irish cucumber
½ oz (15g\c stick) butter
1 medium onion - 4 ozs (110g) approx., sliced 
4 very ripe Irish tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2½ fl ozs (63ml/generous ¼ cup) cream
1 dessertsp. (2 American teasp.) freshly chopped mint
Roux (optional) 

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams add the onion. Cover and sweat for 5 minutes approx. until soft but not coloured. 

Meanwhile, peel the cucumber cut into ½ inch (1cm) cubes; add to the onions, toss well and continue to cook while you scald the tomatoes with water for 10 seconds. Peel the tomatoes and slice into the casserole, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cover the casserole and cook for a few minutes until the cucumbers are tender and the tomatoes have softened, add the cream and bring back to the boil. Add the freshly chopped mint. If the liquid is very thin, thicken it by carefully whisking in a little roux. Cucumber Neapolitana keeps for several days and may be reheated.

Tomato Fondue

Readers of my books will hopefully have incorporated this wonderful tomato stew into their regular fare. It is best made during the summer months when the tomatoes are very ripe, but it can still be very good made with tinned tomatoes in the winter. It is another of my 'great convertibles', we serve it not only as a vegetable but also as a sauce, a filling for pancakes and omelettes, or a topping for pizzas etc. Reduce it a little more for pizza topping or it may be too sloppy.
4 ozs (110g/1 cup) sliced onions
A clove of garlic, crushed (optional)
1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) olive oil
2 lbs (900g) very ripe tomatoes, or ½ fresh and ½ tinned
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of any of the following chopped or a mixture of - thyme, parsley, mint, basil, lemon balm, marjoram
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

Sweat the sliced onions and garlic (if used) in oil on a gentle heat. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added. Remove the hard core from the tomatoes. Put them into a deep bowl and cover them with boiling water. Count to 10 and then pour off the water immediately; peel off the skins, slice and add to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar and add a generous sprinkling of chopped basil. Cook for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens.

Tomato Fondue with Chilli and Variations
Add 1-2 chopped fresh chilli to the onions when sweating.

Tomato Fondue with Chilli and Basil
Add torn basil instead of mixed herbs to the Tomato Fondue.

Tomato and Coriander Fondue
Substitute fresh coriander for basil in the basic recipe.

Blackcurrant Fool

Serves 10 approx.
¾ lb (340g) fresh blackcurrants
Stock syrup (see recipe)
Whipped cream

Cover the blackcurrants with stock syrup. Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts about 4-5 minutes. Liquidise

and sieve or puree the fruit and syrup and measure. When the puree has cooled, add up to equal quantity of softly whipped cream, according to taste. Serve with Jane's biscuits.

Note: A little stiffly beaten egg white may be added to lighten the fool. The fool should not be very stiff, more like the texture of softly whipped cream. If it is too stiff stir in a little milk rather than more cream.

Frozen blackcurrants may be used
Alternative presentation chose tall sundae glasses. Put 2 floz of blackcurrant puree into the base of the glass, top with a layer of softly whipped cream, another layer of blackcurrant puree and finally a little more cream. Drizzle a little thin puree over the top, serve chilled with shortbread biscuits.

Blackcurrant ice cream

Left over blackcurrant fool may be frozen – it makes a delicious ice cream. Serve with blackcurrant coulis made by thinning the blackcurrant puree with a little more water or syrup.
Stock Syrup
Makes 28 fl ozs (825 ml/3½ cups)

1 lb (450 g/2 cups) sugar
1 pint (600 ml/2½ cups) water

To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.

Frosted Blackcurrant Fool with Blackcurrant Coulis
Pour the blackcurrant fool into a loaf tin lined with pure cling film. Cover and freeze. Serve cut in slices with blackcurrant coulis drizzled over the top.
Serves 10 approx

Jane’s Biscuits – Shortbread Biscuits

Makes 25
6 ozs (170g/1¼ cups) white flour or Spelt
4 ozs (110g/1 stick) butter
2 ozs (55g/¼ cup) 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.

Darina's Fool Proof Recipe

Courgette Soup with Curry Spices

Serves 12
8 large courgettes, sliced
2 large onions,peeled & sliced 
4 teaspoons curry powder 
6 ozs (175g) butter
4 pints (2.2 litres) homemade chicken stock 

Melt the butter and allow to foam. Add the sliced onions and curry powder. Coat in the butter, reduce the heat, cover with greaseproof and a lid and sweat gently until the onions are tender. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Add the courgettes, season with salt & pepper and cook quite gently, uncovered until the courgettes are just tender. Purée immediately and correct seasoning. Thin with extra stock if necessary. Serve with chopped parsley & chives. Add a little cream if the soup needs it.

Hot Tips:

Georgina Campbell’s Ireland for Garden Lovers – Gentle Journeys through Ireland’s most beautiful gardens with delightful places to stay and eat along the way – co-authored with Marianne Heron. This guide provides a wonderful framework for the garden lover’s Irish holiday, North and South.

Visiting Bristol – 
On a recent trip to Bristol, I had a delicious breakfast at Ocean Cafe, lunch at Quartier Vert and dinner at Fishworks – the fish was spanking fresh and beautifully cooked, we had the bonus of extra special service from our waitress Sarah from Douglas in Cork, who is doing a Masters in International Politics in Bristol University. All three restaurants are on Whiteladies Road in Bristol. Ocean – Tel 0117 946 9825 Quartier Vert – Tel 0117 973 4482 Fishworks – Tel 0117 974 4433


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