ArchiveDecember 2006

Christmas Leftovers

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

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

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

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

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

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

certainly no hardship eating these leftovers.

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

Brussels Sprouts puree is also delicious with a peppered steak.

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

Happy New Year to all our readers!

Festive Pear and Cranberry Tart

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

3 ripe pears 
4ozs (110g) cranberries approximately

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

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

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

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

First make the shortcrust pastry,

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop. Whisk the egg yolk and add the water. 

Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper shorter crust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delicious Bread and Butter Puddings can be made using:

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

2. Pannettone – proceed as above.

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

Brussels Sprouts with Thai Flavours

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

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

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

Classic Parmesan and Gruyère Cheese Soufflé

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

For the moulds:
Melted butter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve immediately.
Foolproof Food

Poached Pears

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

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


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

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

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

Hot tips

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


The Food Map
www.find.mapmuse.com/interest/category/Food_and_Drink 

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

1. farmers’ markets

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

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

A Delicious little Christmas Eve supper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A very Happy Christmas to all our readers.

French Peasant Soup

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

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

Garnish 
Chopped parsley

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

Mediterranean Peasant Soup

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

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

Mix all the ingredients together and whisk well before use.

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

Note: Green Salad must not be dressed until just before serving, otherwise it will be tired and unappetising.

Lizzie’s Chicken Hot Pot

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

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

Medium-sized Le Creuset type casserole 

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

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

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

Toffee and Date Pudding with Butterscotch and Pecan Nut Sauce

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

Butterscotch Pecan Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple and Mincemeat Tart

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

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

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

egg wash
castor sugar for sprinkling

To serve
softly whipped cream
barbados sugar

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

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

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

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

Foolproof Food

Cool Yule Fruit Salad

Serves 10-15
Equal volumes of:

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

A glass bowl

Lime Syrup

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

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

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

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

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

Cooks Book 

Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini published by Phaidon

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

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

Banana Cake

You need very ripe bananas for this cake.
Serves 8

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

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

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

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

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

Variation:

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

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

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

Brown Envelope Seeds

2007 Catalogue of Irish Certified Organic Vegetable Seeds now available
www.brownenvelopeseeds.com  Tel 028-38184 email:madsmckeever@eircom.net 
Limited stock so order early.

How about the perfect Foodie present?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White Christmas Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ballymaloe Mincemeat Shortbread

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

14 oz (400g) homemade mincemeat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home-made Crackers

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

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

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

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

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

Preserved Roasted Peppers with Basil

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cooks Book

Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection – published by Headline

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

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

Scarlet Confit

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

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

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

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

Mulled Red Wine

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

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

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

Hot Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Abundance of Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kale and Parsley Pesto

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

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

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

Crostini
May be served as a starter, main course or as part of a buffet.
3-5, ⅓ inch thick slices of really good quality French baguette per person. Cut the bread diagonally rather than just into rounds.
Not long before serving, saute the crostini. Put a 5mm (1/4inch) of olive oil in a pan and heat until very hot. Cook the crostini a few at a time, turn as soon as they are golden, drain on kitchen paper. Arrange your chosen topping, garnish and serve a.s.a.p.

Cavolo Nero Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curly Kale with Olive Oil and Garlic

From Cook by Thomasina Miers
Serves 4-6

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

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

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Crispy Croutons

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

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

Garnish
Freshly chopped parsley
Crisp, golden croutons

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

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

Braised Jerusalem Artichokes

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

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

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

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

Chicken Salad with Pomegranate, Pine nuts and Raisins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foolproof Food

Agen Stuffed Prunes with Rosewater Cream

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

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

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

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

Cooks Book

 Verdura- Vegetables Italian Style by Viana la Place published by Grub Street. www.grubstreet.co.uk  

Buy this Book from Amazon

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

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

Makes 475ml/16 fl.oz

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

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

Hot Tips

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

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

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

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