Archive2007

Saturday 29th December

Its always a bit of an anti-climax when Christmas is over again for yet another year.  After a few simple suppers around the telly you may feel like blowing away the post-Yule blues by asking a few friends around for nibbles.  Choose 6 or 7 easy bites. Buy a few bottles of Prosecco to add some fizz and sparkle to the evening.  If you are one of the growing number who find they can longer drink the sulphite and chemical laden plonk, you may want to seek out organic wines which spare one the gnawing headache and hangover.  Not all organic wines are memorable either but there are a growing number of really good ones including some of the premier wines where it doesn’t necessarily say on the label that the grapes are grown organically or biodynamically.

Talk to your local wine merchant or contact Mary Pawle at info@marypawlewines.com

Now for the food – it doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious and think tiny portions of your favourite food.    Look into the fridge and see what you can put into a frittata – an 8 egg one will make about 40 squares.  Top each tasty morsel with a half cherry tomato and a fresh mint or basil leaf, filling and delish.

Frank Hederman’s smoked mussels or a fat prawn on little rounds of brown bread with a rosette of mayo and a sprig of flat parsley will also disappear in double quick time.

Cherry tomato lollipops on satay sticks are fun, so easy to make.

Icky sticky chicken wings are cheap and cheerful and moreish.  Provide lots of finger bowls and napkins.   Crispy Yorkshire puds with rare roast beef, horseradish cream and rocket leaves will vaporize off the serving platters.   Prosciutto wrapped grissini are easy as pie and will keep people nibbling.

Slow toasted almonds sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.  Roasted hazelnuts with thyme or chilli nuts are also irresistible.
Its also a terrific idea to serve soup, you’ll need lots of espresso cups that hold two or three mouthfuls, serve the soup early on so it lays down a good foundation.  Virtually anything can be served as a canapé provided you have suitable vehicle to serve it on.  Chinese teaspoons are perfect for mouthfuls of stew, tagine, or other saucy concoctions.

Shot glasses are perfect for oyster shooters or cold soups.  Pacific oyster shells make perfect receptacles for other tasty morsels.

Marks & Spencers have pastry spoons that are fun to use as bases and little tartlets are widely available.  There are a myriad of tasty fillings one can use, both sweet and savoury.  Experiment, taste and when you and your friends go ‘wow’ stick to that.

Variety and balance are essential.  If the situation allows, serve both hot and cold canapés, and balance meat dishes with vegetarian.

Attractive serving platters make serving easy and look good – you can use china, plastic, rushes, baskets, sushi and split cane mats, slate and galvanized tin plates.  Be careful that they are not too heavy or you’ll will be exhausted from carting them around.  Balsa wood circular boxes that large bries are sold in are also terrific. Virginia creeper leaves, vine leaves and even fig leaves are also very effective.  Now that we have a banana tree in the garden, we love to serve finger food on its shiny, green leaves.

Don’t forget to provide cocktail sticks, serviettes and suitable containers for your guests to discreetly deposit their used cocktail sticks, bones and pips into.

At a drinks party, start by serving savoury canapés with your cocktails, wine or champagne.  About two-thirds of the way through the evening, you may want to switch to a good dessert wine and replace your savoury selection with sweet canapés such as petits fours, little lemon tartlets and glazed strawberries.

There are always the delicious if predictable, goat cheese, sundried tomato, olive and basil leaf or pesto, but why not be a little more adventurous, cold scrambled egg with chives and a sliver of smoked eel or smoked mussel with mayonnaise and rocket leaves, Medjool date with cream cheese and pancetta……..

Don’t forget to serve lots of sparkling water and a home made lemonade, apple juice or elderflower cordial with sparkling water.  The bubbles will compensate for the lack of alcohol.   Have fun!

Thai Chicken on Chinese Spoons with a Leaf of Fresh Coriander

 

Makes 30

 

Serve on Chinese porcelain spoons

 

450g (1lb) skinless and boneless chicken breasts

50g (2oz) butter

40g (1 1/2oz) fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 teaspoon green peppercorns

1 stalk of lemon grass, finely chopped

2 red chillies, finely chopped

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

400ml (14fl oz) coconut milk (we use Chaokoh brand)

2 teaspoons freshly chopped coriander leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

30 Chinese spoons

 

Cut the chicken in 30 even sized cubes. Heat 25g (1oz) of the butter in a large frying pan and sauté the chicken pieces until lightly browned on all sides.

Melt the remaining butter in the frying pan, sauté the ginger, garlic, peppercorns, lemon grass and chillies. Add the lime juice and ground coriander. Gradually stir in the coconut milk, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Add the chicken pieces, continue to simmer for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the coriander leaves and season to taste. *

Serve on porcelain Chinese spoons with a coriander leaf on top of each one.

 

* May be prepared ahead to this point.

 

 

Tomato and Coconut Milk Soup with Coriander Leaves

 

Tinned tomatoes and coconut milk are must have store cupboard ingredients. This soup can be made in a few minutes or well ahead and frozen

 

Serves 6

 

1 small onion, finely chopped

10g (1/2oz) butter

850ml (1.5 pints) homemade tomato purée or 2 x 400g (14oz) tins of tomatoes, liquidized and sieved

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of coconut milk (we use Chaokah brand)

250ml (9fl oz) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander leaves

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

 

Garnish

crème fraîche

fresh coriander leaves

 

Sweat the onion in the butter on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured.  Add the tomato purée (or chopped tinned tomatoes plus juice), coconut milk and homemade chicken or vegetable stock.  Add the chopped coriander, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.

Liquidize, taste and dilute further if necessary. Bring back to the boil and correct seasoning.  Garnish with a tiny blob of crème fraîche and some coriander leaves.

*Tinned tomatoes need a surprising amount of sugar to counteract the acidity.

* Fresh milk cannot be added to the soup – the acidity in the tomatoes will cause it to curdle

Note: This soup needs to be tasted carefully as the final result depends on the quality of the homemade purée, stock etc.

For a drinks party serve in espresso cups with tiny bread sticks.

 

 

Peppered Beef Yorkshire Puds with Rare Roast Beef and Horseradish Sauce and Rocket Leaves

 

We use Maldon or Halen mon sea salt

 

Makes 28 approx.

 

4oz (110g) plain flour

2 eggs, preferably free-range

½ pint (300ml) milk

½ oz (15g) butter, melted

 

Horseradish Sauce 

 

2 x 5 ozs (150g) sirloin steaks

 

black peppercorns

sea salt

extra virgin olive oil

 

Rocket or flat parsley leaves

1 tray of 1¾ inch (4.5cm) bun tins

 

Sunflower oil for greasing tins

 

Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre of the flour, drop in the eggs.  Using a small whisk or wooden spoon, stir continuously, gradually drawing in flour from the sides, adding the milk in a steady stream at the same time.  When all the flour has been incorporated whisk in the remainder of the milk and cool melted butter.  Allow to stand for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo8.  Heat the patty tins in the oven, grease with sunflower oil and fill a2 full with batter.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until crisp, golden and bubbly. 

Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

 

Heat the pan grill.  Crack the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar.  Drizzle the steaks with extra virgin olive oil.  Dip each side in the cracked peppercorns.  Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.  Cook the steaks to medium rare, allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

 

To Serve

Warm the Yorkshire puddings if necessary.  Fill each with a tiny blob of Horseradish Sauce.  Top with a thin sliver of rare to medium rare peppered beef. 

Garnish with a sprig of flat parsley or a rocket leaf.  Serve soon – best freshly cooked.

 

 

 

 

Cherry Tomato Lollipops

 

Fun, delicious and easy to make

 

Makes 20

 

20 sweet cherry tomatoes

Tapenade – about 4 tablespoons

Or

Basil Pesto

 

Fresh basil leaves

20 bocconcini

Extra Virgin Olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

 

20 satay sticks

 

Cut a slice off the top of each tomato.

Scoop out the seeds with a melon baler.  Turn upside down to drain.

Drain the bocconcini.

Put into a bowl.   Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.   Drizzle sparingly with extra virgin olive oil and add some freshly chopped parsley.

 

To assemble:

Spoon a little tapenade or pesto into each cherry top.

Top with a drained bocconcini.

Secure the two by sticking a cocktail stick up from the base of the tomato.  They are easy to serve and look great.

Stand in a tall glass or galvanized flower pot.

Provide paper napkins for drips.

 

 

Smoked Salmon, Leek and Dill Frittata

 

Makes 40 servings for nibbles  or will serve 6-8 as a main course.

 

1 oz butter

2 medium leeks, thinly sliced

8 free range eggs

2-3 tablespoons freshly chopped dill

(25g)1 oz Gruyere cheese, grated

1 teaspoon salt

lots of freshly ground pepper

175-225g (6-8 ozs) smoked salmon, cut into dice

 

1  x 9” (23cm) non-stick pan

 

Melt the butter in a sauté pan.  Add the finely sliced leeks, toss.  Cover and cook on a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave to continue cooking while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Whisk the eggs, add the chopped dill and grated cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the cooked leeks.  Melt a little more butter

in the non-stick frying pan.  When it foams, add the egg mixture, reduce the heat to minimum.  Sprinkle the smoked salmon over the top and allow to sink into the egg mixture.  Continue to cook for 8-10 minutes until almost cooked.

Meanwhile preheat the grill.  Flash under the grill until the top is puffed and golden.  Turn out onto a warm plate and serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a good green salad.

 

Foolproof Food

 

Smoked Mussels with Home-made Mayonnaise

 

Brown Soda Bread or Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread

Butter

Lollo rosso or rocket leaves

Home made mayonnaise

 

Smoked mussels

 

Stamp out 1½ inch (4cm) rounds of bread.  Spread with a little butter, put a little Lollo rosso or rocket on top and a blob of home-made Mayonnaise.  Sit one or two smoked mussels on the Mayonnaise and garnish with a sprig of chervil. 

 

 

Roasted Almonds

Whole unpeeled almonds

 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Put the almonds dry onto a baking sheet, and roast until golden and crisp, 10-15 minutes.  Toss in olive oil and sea salt, cool.  Try not to the eat lot!

 

Lemon Curd Starlets

 

Makes 24

 

Sweet shortcrust pastry

 

Home-made Lemon Curd  (see recipe)

 

1-2 shallow non-stick bun trays.

2½ inch round or 3½ inch star-shaped cutter

 

Make the pastry as directed in the recipe.

Cover and chill for at least one hour, better still make the pastry the day before.

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

 

Roll the pastry out thinly and stamp into rounds or star shapes. Use to line the bun trays.

Put a small teaspoon of lemon curd into the tartlets and bake for 14-18 minutes until the pastry is just lightly golden.

Or alternatively you may bake the empty tartlets (no need to use beans). Allow them to cool. Then put in a spoon of lemon curd.

They are delicious both ways, see which you prefer.

 

Lemon Curd

Makes 2 jars

 

Tangy delicious lemon curd can be made in a twinkling, use it to fill tartlets, smear it over a sponge, or onto fresh bread, buttery scones or meringues.

 

2 ozs (55g) butter

4ozs (110g) caster sugar

Finely grated rind and juice of 2 good lemons, preferably organic

2 free-range eggs and 1 egg yolk (keep white aside for meringue)

 

On a very low heat melt the butter, add castor sugar, lemon juice and rind and then stir in the well beaten eggs. Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spoon until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Draw off the heat and pour into a bowl or sterilized jar (it will thicken further as it cools.)

Cover when cold and store in the refrigerator.  Best eaten within a week or a fortnight.

 

Glazed Strawberries

To be served as a petit four or as a garnish on dessert plates or cakes.

 

 

Strawberries  (unhulled) or

you could also any of the following -cherries with their stalks, grapes, segments of tangerine or clementine or physalis  (cape gooseberry)

 

8 ozs (225g) sugar

4 fl ozs (125 ml) water

 

This amount of syrup would glaze about 1lb of fruit – eg 8oz (225g) strawberries, 4oz (110g) physalis and 4oz  (110g) grapes.

 

Dissolve sugar in the water in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Bring to the boil and cook to a light caramel. Carefully dip the fruits into the caramel to glaze them lightly. Put them immediately onto silicone paper or onto an oiled surface where the glaze will set hard. Keep in a dry place and serve in individual petit four cases within an hour.

 

 

 

Hot Tips

 

Centre for Adult Continuing Education, University College Cork

For full 2008 course programme contact Tel 021-4902301 or email: ace@ucc.ie www.ace.ucc.ie

One of the courses being offered will be a unique course in Ireland’s food culture –

A Little History of Irish Food – a 10 week course delivered by Regina Sexton, food historian, journalist and lecturer.

 

Baileys Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year 2007 –

Congratulations to Ian Ussher, chef de partie at Bank Café on Dublin’s Merrion Row – the 21-year old chef from Tallaght beat four other finalists to win Ireland’s toughest and most prestigious culinary competition which took place recently at Dublin’s Four Seasons Hotel.   Now in its 18th Year, the Baileys Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year competition represents the best establishments and emerging chefs in the country, open to chefs under the age of 25.

 

Good Things Café and Cookery School, Durrus, West Cork

Course programme for 2008 now available –

Tel 027-61426, info@thegoodthingscafe.com   www.thegoodthingscafe.com

Saturday December 22nd

How about a little Christmas Eve supper around the fire, something light and delicious and not too time consuming to make. Just one course of something comforting to soothe frayed nerves. Wouldn’t it be lovely to tuck into a pie – I adore Ballycotton Fish Pie, or a Shepherd’s Pie with a blob of garlic butter melting onto the crispy potato topping, or maybe Babotie, the spicy South African version of Shepherd’s Pie. Easier still, a bubbly Macaroni Cheese with lots of Dan Hegarty’s mature cheddar cheese melting into the sauce.

Quesadillas are really quick to make, this recipe has a pumpkin filling but you can use whatever you like or have to hand.

A good green salad made up of winter greens like Arctic green lettuce, curly kale, finely shredded Savoy cabbage and watercress, with a honey and mustard dressing would be so welcome. A plate of green salad has the magical effect of making you feel less full so you have room for pudding or a piece of delicious Irish farmhouse cheese.

Membrillo or quince paste is one of my favourite accompaniments with cheese, Medjool dates and those plump Turkish figs on raffia string also make irresistible nibbling. Lots of sweet clementines, a Panforte di Siena, and a Panettone (the light Italian Christmas confection) are worth having as a standby, as is a Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese.

If you just feel like a snack and a glass of wine, this unctuous creamy cheese hidden under the rumpled crust, is heaven on a cracker and totally stress-free.

I had this wonderful light Christmas pudding at a friend’s house the other night, the recipe comes from ‘Delia Smith’s Christmas’, trust Delia to come up trumps again. You may not wish to eat it on Christmas Eve if you are having Plum Pudding again next day, but if you haven’t got around to making a pudding it would fit the bill!

We wish you a peaceful and convivial Christmas.

Hot Tips

 

Vacherin Mont d’Or – available from Iago and On the Pigs Back in Cork’s English Market, Sheridans Cheesemongers in Dublin and Galway, Peter Ward in Nenagh, Urru in Bandon and Mallow.

 

Greatfood2buy.com – new fine food shop opened in every town in Ireland –

Gourmands countrywide now have access to a well stocked, specialist ingredients outlet and gift food online shop which delivers direct to their door anywhere in Ireland.  It explains what each item is like and even suggests how it may be used.  They also do gift vouchers.

 

Morrin O’Rourke Farm Foods, Kilcock, Co Kildare

Certified organic farm foods – beef, lamb and vegetables.   Delicious meat pies,(nicest bite I’ve had in a long time), breads, jams, chutneys, sauces and other seasonal treats.  Their philosophy is ‘the best life for all involved’ – humans and animals.   Tel 086-3208940 or email morrinoh@yahoo.ie

 

Quesadillas with Pumpkin,Wicklow Blue and Rocket Leaves

 

 

Serves 8

 

 

16 flour tortillas

750g (1¾lb) pumpkin or butternut squash

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 teasp. fresh thyme leaves

100g (3½oz) mature cheddar, grated

125g (4½oz) soft blue cheese, eg Wicklow Blue, crumbled

125g (4½oz) mozzarella, grated

 

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas6

 

 

 

Halve, deseed and peel the pumpkin, dice the flesh.   Transfer to a baking tray, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper and a teaspoon of thyme leaves.

Roast in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

Heat a wide heavy iron or wide non-stick pan on a medium heat, pop a flour tortilla into the pan.  Sprinkle on a little grated cheddar.  Top with a layer of roasted pumpkin and a liberal scattering of crumbled blue cheese and mozzarella.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Top with some fresh rocket leaves.   Press the other tortilla down, the underneath should be lightly browned by now, so turn over and continue to cook for about 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and beginning to ooze.   Slide onto a timber board, cut into quarters or eighths and pass around immediately.  

 

Babotie

 

Serves 8-10

 

This South African recipe was given to us by Alicia Wilkinson from Silwood Kitchens in Capetown.

 

generous 30ml (1fl oz) oil

4 tablespoons butter

450g (1lb) lamb, freshly minced

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

110g (4oz) grated carrot

 

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2½ teaspoons ground ginger

3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh herbs

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cinnamon

sugar to taste – 1 teaspoon approx.

a piece of red chilli

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

15g (½oz) almonds, chopped

some lemon leaves or 2 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind

generous 15ml (2½fl oz) wine vinegar

2 x 2.5cm (1inch) slices of sandwich loaf, soaked in water, drained and squeezed dry

 

Topping

250ml (9fl oz) buttermilk

2 large eggs, free-range and organic

salt and freshly ground pepper

2½ teaspoons turmeric

seasoning

 

Heat the butter and oil, add onion and garlic and cook until soft.  Add mince and stir well, add grated carrot, spices, chilli, seasoning, chopped almonds and lemon rind.     Stir well and continue to cook until the flavours mingle.   Stir in the soaked and squeezed bread, and the wine vinegar.  Mix well, taste and correct seasoning.

Put the meat into a shallow rectangular baking dish and smooth over.  

Whisk all the ingredients together for the topping, check the seasoning and strain over the meat.  Bake at once in a pre-heated oven 180C/350F/gas 4 until topping is set and golden.

 

 

Ballycotton Fish Pie 

Serves 6-8

 

Many different types of really fresh fish may be used for a fish pie, so feel free to adapt this recipe a little to suit your needs. Periwinkles would be a good and cheap addition and a little smoked haddock is tasty also.

 

2½ lbs (1.25kg) fillets of cod, haddock, ling, hake, salmon or pollock or a mixture, skinned

 

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pint (600ml) full cream milk and a very little cream (optional)

1-2 slices onion

3 or 4 slices of carrot

1 small bay leaf

a sprig of thyme

3 peppercorns

 

18 cooked mussels (optional)

roux made with 1 oz (30g) butter and 1 oz (30g) flour

 

4 hard boiled eggs

½ oz (15g) butter

4oz (120g) onion, chopped

6 ozs (170g) sliced mushrooms, preferably flat

2 tablesp. chopped parsley

2 lbs (900g) fluffy mashed potato or Champ

 

Accompaniment

Parsley and anchovy or Garlic butter (optional)

 

Cut the fish into 5-6 oz (140-170g) chunks.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the onion, carrot, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns into the milk, bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Strain.  (This step is optional but adds extra flavour to the milk).

Wash the mussels (if using), put into a shallow pan in a single layer, cover and cook over a medium heat just until the shells open – 3 or 4 minutes approx. Cool.

Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes in boiling salted water, cool and shell.

Sweat the onion in a little melted butter on a gently heat until soft but not coloured, remove to a plate.

Increase the heat, sauté the sliced mushrooms in the hot pan, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add to the onions. Put the fish into a wide sauté pan or frying pan, in a single layer, cover with the flavoured or plain milk.

Don’t use more than 4 ozs of smoked haddock unless you want the smoky flavour to predominate. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and simmer gently until the fish is just cooked – no more than 3-4 minutes.

Remove the fish carefully with a slotted spoon, carefully removing any bones or skin.

Bring the liquid to the boil and thicken with roux  (see recipe), add a little cream (optional) and the chopped parsley, roughly chopped hard boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, chunks of fish and the mussels. Stir gently, taste and correct the seasoning.

Spoon into 1 large or 6-8 small dishes and pipe fluffy mashed potato or Scallion Champ on top.    The pie may be prepared ahead to this point.

To reheat, put into a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 10-15 minutes approx. if the filling and potato are warm, or 30 minutes approx. if reheating the dish from the cold. Flash under the grill if necessary to brown the top.

Serve with Garlic butter or Parsley butter.

 

Roux

 

4 ozs (110 g) butter

4 ozs (110 g) flour

 

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally.  Use as required.  Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred.  It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

 

Foolproof Food

Parsley Butter

 

2 ozs (55g) butter

4 teasp. finely chopped parsley

Few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

 

Cream the butter, then stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at the time. Roll into butter pats of form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tin foil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.

To serve: Remove the tin foil and cut into 3 inch (5mm) slices.

 

Garlic Butter

 

2 ozs (55g) butter

4 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped

2-3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

 

Cream the butter, stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at a time.  Add the crushed garlic.  Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tinfoil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker.  Refrigerate to harden.

 

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.

 

Macaroni Cheese

 

Serves 6

 

Macaroni cheese is one of my children’s favourite supper dishes. We often add some cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni.

 

8 ozs (225g) macaroni

6 pints (3.4L) water

2 teaspoons salt

 

2 ozs (55g) butter

2 ozs (55g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1½ pints (850ml) boiling milk

3 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon  freshly chopped parsley, (optional)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

5 ozs (145g) grated mature Cheddar cheese (We use our local Cheddar which is made at Mitchelstown and matured at Imokilly Creamery)

 

1 x 2 pint (1.1L) capacity pie dish

 

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook until just soft, 10-15 minutes approx. drain well.

Meanwhile melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, parsley if using and cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately.

Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place, it is very good served with cold meat particularly ham.

 

Top Tip: Macaroni soaks up an enormous amount of sauce.  Add more sauce if making ahead to reheat later.

Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Salmon

Add 4 ozs (110 g) of smoked salmon pieces to the macaroni cheese.

 

Macaroni Cheese with Mushrooms and Courgettes

Add 8 ozs (225 g) sliced sautéed mushrooms and 8 ozs (225 g) sliced courgettes cooked in olive oil with a little garlic and marjoram or basil and add to the Macaroni cheese.  Toss gently, turn into a hot serving dish and scatter with grated cheese – delish.

 

Light Christmas Pudding

 

Serves 8

 

6oz (175g) self-raising flour, sifted

Pinch of salt

4oz (110g) butter, softened

4oz (110g) soft light brown sugar

1 medium cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped small

2 eggs, size 1

3 rounded tablespoons mincemeat

⅓ teaspoon ground mace

1 teaspoon lemon juice

The grated zest of 1 small orange

The grated zest of 1 small lemon

2 pieces whole candied orange peel

2 pieces whole candied lemon peel

1 piece candied citron peel

 

2 pint (1.2litre) pudding basin – rounded-based sort is best

 

 

Prepare the basin by buttering it lightly and arranging the candied peel in the base.  First snip the citron peel into ½ inch (1cm) strips and arrange these in an overlapping circle in the centre of the base of the basin; you need something that resembles a flower.  Then, using a sharp pair of scissors, snip the whole candied peels lengthways into strips, but leaving the end intact.  Imagine five fingers attached to a hand and you’ve got it.  Now arrange these around the ‘flower’, spreading out the strips as much as possible.

Now, for the pudding, simply beat the sugar and butter with an electric hand whisk until the mixture is pale and creamy and drops off a spoon easily with a sharp tap.  Then beat the eggs in a jug and add these a minute amount at a time, whisking well after each addition.  When all the liquid egg is incorporated carefully fold in the sifted flour, mace and salt, followed by the lemon juice, grated lemon and orange zest, chopped apple and finally the mincemeat.

Now spoon the mixture into the basin, being careful to leave your artistic arrangement intact.   Tie a double piece of pleated foil on to the basin, place it in a steamer over boiling water and steam for 2½ hours.

If you are not using it immediately, allow it to get completely cold. Turn it out, wrap it well and freeze till needed.  Take it out of the freezer the night before you want to use it.

Re-steam for 1½ hours and serve with Brandy butter, Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce, softly whipped cream or Hot Punch Sauce as Delia suggests.

 

Hot Punch Sauce

 

This sauce can be made well in advance, as long as you re-heat it gently and don’t let it boil.

 

10fl.oz (275ml) water

2oz (50g) caster sugar

The thinly pared outer rind of ½ medium orange

The thinly pared outer rind of ½ large lemon

The juice of 1 medium orange

The juice of 1 large lemon

6 fl.oz(175ml) dry sherry (or medium would do)

2 tablesp. rum

2 tablesp brandy

1 rounded dessertspoon plain flour and 3oz (75g) unsalted butter worked together into a paste.

 

Measure the water into a small saucepan, then cut the thinly pared orange and lemon rind into tiny shreds.  Add them to the water along with the sugar, then gently bring the mixture up to simmering point and simmer gently for 20 minutes.   Meanwhile, squeeze the orange and lemon juice into a bowl, and measure out the sherry, rum and brandy to join it.  As soon as the 20 minutes are up, whisk the butter and flour paste into the contents of the saucepan.  Bring back to simmering point, still whisking until the sauce has thickened.

Now, keeping the heat very low, add the alcohol and fruit juices and, stirring gently, allow everything to become very hot without coming to the boil.

Serve some sauce spooned over each portion of pudding and hand the rest around separately.

Christmas Dinner Part 3

I’m all for tradition and have a great respect for the classic recipes that have evolved over the years because they work brilliantly. Nonetheless there’s no reason why you should have to slavishly adhere to the same old routine if you feel stressed and less than thrilled at the prospect. It doesn’t have to be turkey or goose either and you certainly shouldn’t bother unless you can get a really well reared bird. Taste must have precedence over tradition.

Christmas food should be a little luxurious, festive and of course suitably seasonal.

For those feeling like something non traditional, I have cooked up a Christmas menu with a little twist. Those who are wedded to familiar flavours needn’t fret, we’ve still got the turkey and sprouts but not in the predictable way.

I’ve chosen some gorgeous Dublin Bay prawns as a starter – for me they are always a treat, one of nature’s great blessings. In fact every time I eat a beautiful prawn I offer up a silent thank you to the Good Lord of the Oceans. They can be cooked ahead and served in a myriad of ways but as ever I believe less is more, I like to cook them in the shells and serve them with a big bowl of unctuous homemade mayonnaise and some delicious crusty brown soda bread. I am also including a Parsley and Chilli Oil Dressing as an alternative for those who would like a lighter sauce with the Prawns, this too has the advantage that it can be made ahead and is also delicious on pasta, or a pangrilled chicken breast or squid.

The recipe for the Brussels Sprout Salad came from the lovely Skye Gyngell of Petersham Nurseries Café near Richmond in London, one of my all time favorite lunch time restaurants. She was guest chef at the school earlier this year and we loved her food.

For the main course I have chosen a Chinese cooking method to poach the crown of turkey. Make sure you choose a saucepan with a tight fitting lid. This gentle cooking method produces a tender succulent texture and can be served warm or at room temperature.

The little salad of crunchy leaves – cucumber ribbons and fresh herbs is deliciously fresh tasting and doubly welcome on Christmas day. Kale is in season now too and is the most nutritious of all brassicas, it also has cholesterol reducing qualities.

For pudding the boozy Rum and Raisin Ice Cream Plum Pudding is the hedonistic choice, but a less calorific and equally delicious option might be a Ruby Grapefruit and Mint Granita sprinkled with cholesterol busting pomegranate seeds.

You may not have room for some farmhouse cheese at this meal, but be sure to have some delicious handmade dark chocolate from the growing number of Irish artisan chocolatiers to nibble with a cup of coffee before you settle down in front of the fire to open presents. Spare a thought for those who are less fortunate this Christmas and reflect on how we can enhance their festive season.

Ballycotton Prawns with Dill Mayonnaise or Chilli and Flat Parsley relish.

We get the most wonderful juicy prawns straight from Ballycotton Seafood. – they are known as Dublin Bay prawns but the species is Nephrops norvegicus.

We eat them in several ways but they are best freshly cooked and served with homemade Mayonnaise and some crusty bread. If you don’t fancy or can’t get fresh dill, fennel would also be good, or leave it out.

Serves 4

24 large very fresh prawns

4 pints (2.3 L) water

2 tablespoons salt

Accompaniment

4-8 tablespoons home-made Mayonnaise (see recipe)

1 tablespoon freshly chopped dill

Chilli and flat parsley relish – (see recipe)

Garnish

Wild watercress leaves

4 segments lemon

First Cook the Prawns

Bring the water to the boil and add the salt. Put the prawns into the boiling salted water and as soon as the water returns to the boil, test a prawn to see if it is cooked. It should be firm and white, not opaque or mushy. If cooked, remove prawns immediately. Very large ones may take ½ to 1 minute more. Allow to cool in a single layer.

Note: Do not cook too many prawns together, otherwise they may overcook before the water even comes back to the boil.

Put 5 or 6 cooked whole prawns on each plate. Add the dill to the mayonnaise. Spoon a tablespoon or two of homemade Mayonnaise into a little bowl or oyster shell on the side of the plate. Pop a segment of lemon on the plate. Garnish with some fresh wild watercress. Serve with fresh crusty brown soda bread and Irish butter.

Mayonnaise

I know it is very tempting to reach for the jar of ‘well known brand’ but most people don’t seem to be aware that Mayonnaise can be made even with a hand whisk, in under five minutes, and if you use a food processor the technique is still the same but it is made in just a couple of minutes. The great secret is to have all your ingredients at room temperature and to drip the oil very slowly into the egg yolks at the beginning. The quality of your Mayonnaise will depend totally on the quality of your egg yolks, oil and vinegar and it’s perfectly possible to make a bland Mayonnaise if you use poor quality ingredients.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

¼ teaspoon salt

Pinch of English mustard or ¼ teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon White wine vinegar

8 fl ozs (250ml) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 6 fl ozs (175ml) arachide oil and 2 fl ozs (50ml) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

If the Mayonnaise curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled Mayonnaise, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

Chilli and Parsley Oil Relish

Serves 8

3 cloves garlic

8 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped

1 large red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

4 fl ozs (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the sauce, chop the garlic. Add the seeded and chopped chilli, (use a mezzaluna if you have one) and the flat parsley. Continue to chop until fine. Put into a bowl with the olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

(This sauce will keep a week in the fridge and is also good served with pasta or steak!).

Sichuan Poached Turkey Breast with a Perky Salad

Serves 8

1 x crown of organic turkey -2 ½ kilos/ 5lb10oz approximately (save the legs for another dish)

4 large spring onions

1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally

250 ml (9 fl oz) soy sauce

250 ml (9 fl oz) Chinese rice wine

1 head garlic

2 x 8 cm (2 ½ oz /7g) pieces of fresh ginger peeled and chopped

thinly peeled rind of 1 orange

2 sticks cinnamon

4 star anise

Homemade chicken stock to cover

Dressing

4 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tsp sesame oil

Salad

4 little gem lettuce, leaves washed and separated

4 spring onions sliced diagonally

2 – 3 mild red chillies, thinly sliced at an angle

leaves from a large bunch coriander

2-3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Put the coarsely chopped spring onion, soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, sliced ginger, orange rind, cinnamon, star anise into a deep sauce pan. Add the turkey crown and enough chicken stock to cover.

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a gentle heat for 15 minutes, remove from the heat and allow it to stand tightly covered for 20 minutes.

Take 10fl oz of the cooking liquid, skim the fat from the surface; add rice vinegar and sesame oil.

Just before serving combine the little gem leaves, with the spring onions cucumber ribbons, thinly slices red chilies. Season with Maldon Sea Salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Remove the turkey from the poaching liquid.

Slice the turkey into chunky slices, arrange overlapping slices on a large platter and pile the salad alongside, spoon some of the dressing over the turkey and the salad. Scatter with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Note: the poaching liquid may be used over and over again. Provided it is refrigerated. Bring to the boil before using.

Salad of Aged Parmesan, Raw Sprouts, Shaved Celery and Speck

Serves 8

12 large brussel sprouts – trimmed of outer leaves, washed and patted dry
240g (8½oz) parmesan cheese
6 x stalks of celery (sweet white hearts)
24 x slices of speck or parma ham
the zest of 2 lemons
the juice of 1 lemon
2 tablesp of very finely chopped parsley
6 tablesp of good quality new season extra virgin olive oil

Slice the brussel sprouts as finely as you can – they should fall apart so
that they are like finely sliced ribbon.

Wash and dry the celery and slice it into long shards (you can achieve this
by cutting it on the bias).

Slice the parmesan using a sharp knife – odd slices are nicest – some very,
very fine – some slightly thicker (in terms of taste and texture this is far
more interesting).

Place the sprouts, celery and parmesan in a bowl, season with a little salt
& pepper – add the lemon zest, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil – toss
well to combine!

Divide among 8 plates and lay the speck over the top.
Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve!

Skye Gyngell told us that this is one of her favourite winter starters – it gives a whole new dimension to the much abused sprout

Curly Kale with Bacon and Chestnuts

Serves 8

900g (2lb) curly kale or cavalo nero

salt

Extra virgin olive oil

250g (9oz) streaky bacon

200g (7oz) peeled chestnuts

Bring a (6litre) 10pt of water to the boil in a large saucepan add 2tbsp salt.

Destalk the kale; wash quickly in lots of cold water. Drain. Cook the kale at a fast rolling boil until tender 8 – 10 minutes, depending on how tough it is.

Meanwhile cut the bacon into 5mm(¼ in) lardons. Heat a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and cook until crisp and golden add roughly chopped chestnuts and cook for a minute or two.

Drain the kale well and add to the bacon and chestnuts, toss and drizzle generously with olive oil add a knob of butter taste and season with lots of freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately

Note: Omit bacon for a vegetarian version.

Ruby Grapefruit and Spearmint Granita

Serves 6-8

Ruby grapefruit sorbet is terrifically versatile; it can be served at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a meal.

1 litre (1¾ pint) ruby grapefruit juice (10 grapefruit approx.)

225g (8oz) castor sugar approx.

1 egg white (optional)

4 tbsp freshly chopped spearmint

Garnish

1 pomegranate

Fresh spearmint leaves

8 chilled white side plates

Put the freshly squeezed grapefruit into a bowl, add the sugar and the chopped mint and dissolve by stirring it into the juice. Taste. The juice should taste rather too sweet to drink, it will lose some of its sweetness in the freezing.

Make the sorbet in one of the following ways.

Method 1. Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed.

Method 2. Pour the juice into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezer. After about 4-5 hours when the sorbet is semi frozen remove and whisk until granular. Return to freezer. Repeat several times. Keep covered in the freezer until needed.

3. If you have a food processor, simply freeze the sorbet completely in a covered stainless steel or plastic bowl, then break into large pieces and whizz up in the food processor for a few seconds. Add one slightly beaten egg white, whizz again for another few seconds, then return to the bowl. Freeze again until needed.

Meanwhile remove the seeds from the pomegranate and keep chilled in the fridge.

To Serve:

Chill the plates in a refrigerator or freezer.

Put 1 or 2 scoops of sorbet on each chilled plate; sprinkle with a few pomegranate seeds. Decorate with fresh mint leaves and serve immediately.

Boozy Ice Cream with Raisins

A gorgeous rich ice cream with a scoopable texture, serve it in small helpings!.

Serves 20 approximately

4 oz (110g) butter

8 oz (225g) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown sugar)

1 egg, free-range

62ml (2½fl oz) port

62ml (2½fl oz) medium sherry

2 ¼-2 ½ pints (1.3-1.4L) lightly whipped cream

4oz (110g) muscatel raisins

62ml (2½fl oz) sherry

62ml (2½fl oz) rum

2oz (50g) fresh walnuts, chopped

Holly Sprigs

Icing sugar

1½ pint (850ml) bowl or two 13x20cm (5x8inch) loaf tins or plastic box

Melt the butter, stir in the sugar and allow it to cool slightly. Whisk the egg and add to the butter and sugar with the sherry and port. Cool. Add the softly whipped cream. Put into a plastic bowl, cover and freeze*.

Meanwhile put the raisins into a bowl, cover with a mixture of warm rum and sherry and allow the fruit to plump up. Chop the walnuts coarsely and add to the raisins just before serving.

*Alternatively line two loaf tins with cling film, cover and freeze.

To Serve

Turn out the boozy ice-cream plum pud onto a chilled plate. Scatter the boozy raisins and some chopped walnuts over the top. Decorate with a sprig of holly and a sprinkling of icing sugar snow. Serve on chilled plates.

Hot Tips

Artisan Chocolates –

French chocolatier Gwen Lasserre makes exquisite chocolates in his shop on Main St. Schull, Co Cork, Tel 028-27853

Benoit Lorge also makes delicious chocolates at O’Connors Shop, Bonane, Co Kerry, Tel 087-9917172

O’Connaill Chocolates are available at Midleton, Mahon, Kinsale and Bandon farmers’ markets and the shop in Frenchchurch St. Tel 021-4373407

Eve Chocolates, another favourite, available at Flair, Magazine Road and some shops in the Cork area –Tel 021-4347781

Cocoa Bean Chocolate Co – Limerick, available at The Milk Market in Limerick and check out www.cocoabeanchocolates.com Tel 061-446615

Skelligs Chocolate Co. Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, www.skelligschocolate.com Tel 066-9479119

Ightermurragh Garden Allotments, Ladysbridge, Co Cork

Give a present of an allotment to someone who would love to grow their own vegetables, fruit and flowers – various sizes available, ready for planting, water on site, private parking – great family Christmas present or maybe for somebody about to retire.

Tel Liam at 021-4667330 or 086-3003810 – Gift vouchers available

New Addition to Cork Culinary Scene –

McCarthy’s Village Food Fare, Eden Hall, Model Farm Road, Cork – locally sourced products, deluxe Christmas Hampers, outside catering and cooking classes in the New Year.

Christmas Dinner Part 2

This week we have the remainder of the recipes for Christmas dinner, I’m hoping that you may have had time to take my advice and that by now the Plum Pudding is made and maturing.   Stuffing, bread sauce and Clementine granitas are in the freezer and the Cranberry Sauce and Muscovado Brandy Butter are sitting on a shelf like ‘good deeds’ in a cool pantry.

I have to tell you that I haven’t got around to doing any of that myself but I’m full of good resolutions to do it all next week.

A plate or large platter of locally smoked fish is an easy and delicious option as a starter for Christmas Day.  Don’t just get the first smoked salmon you see, the quality varies enormously. Because of the ban on drift netting, this year smoked wild Irish salmon is either non-existent or rare as ‘hens teeth’, so look out for Irish organic salmon smoked carefully by one of Ireland’s growing number of artisan fish smokers.  Smoked mackerel, eel, mussels, sprats, tuna can all be part of the selection.  There are also some good smoked oysters about also.  If you are feeling a tad lazy a few segments of lemon and some brown bread will be adequate, but cucumber pickle, horseradish sauce and dill mayonnaise and a few sprigs of fresh watercress make a wonderful accompaniment.

Frank Hederman sells plump whole mackerel but also a selection of fillets, some slathered with grainy mustard, others sprinkled with chives, harissa or freshly cracked pepper.  If you have some left over just remove the skin and bones and whizz it up in a food processor with some cream cheese, a little soft butter and some dill.

The cucumber pickle will keep for several days and is also delicious with cold meat or just about any snack.

On Christmas Day pop the fresh or defrosted stuffing (see last week’s article) into the turkey and roast as in the recipe.

Trim and halve or quarter the sprouts, depending on size, the night before.  Keep them cool in the fridge covered with damp kitchen paper.  Don’t soak them in water or you’ll lose a great deal of the flavour and most of the nutrients.

Potatoes for raggedy roasts may also be peeled and blanched on Christmas Eve, toss in extra virgin olive oil and keep in a plastic bag in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

Make sure to have a nice big bowl of green salad read to eat after the main course and you will have room for plum pudding.  Don’t believe me? Try it.  If you really can’t face plum pudding try the deliciously refreshing Clementine granita.  It will flit over your tongue and melt like a winter snowflake.

A Plate of Locally Smoked Fish with Horseradish Sauce and Sweet Dill Mayonnaise

 

Serves 4

 

We have fantastic smoked fish in Ireland – see Hot Tips last week for contact details.

 

The horseradish cream, dill mayonnaise and cucumber pickle will come in useful to serve with cold meats also.

 

A selection of smoked fish – smoked salmon, smoked mussels, smoked mackerel, smoked trout, smoked eel, smoked tuna, smoked hake and smoked sprats.

Horseradish cream (see recipe)

Sweet dill mayonnaise (see recipe)

Sweet cucumber pickle (see recipe)

Garnish

Segments of lemon

Sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves

 

First make the horseradish cream and sweet dill mayonnaise. 

Slice the smoked salmon into thin slices down onto the skin, allow 1 slice per person.  Cut the mackerel into diamond shaped pieces, divide the trout into large flakes.  Skin and slice the eel.  Thinly slice the tuna and hake. 

To serve

Choose four large white plates drizzle each plate with sweet dill mayonnaise, divide the smoked fish between the plates.  Arrange appetizingly, put a blob of horseradish sauce and cucumber pickle on each plate.  Garnish with a lemon wedge and sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves.

 

Occasionally we serve just three different types of smoked fish for example salmon, mussels and trout on tiny rounds of Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread, topped with a little frill of fresh Lollo Rosso.  A little blob of cucumber pickle goes with the smoked salmon, a blob of home made Mayonnaise is delicious with marinated smoked mussels and a blob of Horseradish Cream and a sprig of watercress complements the pink smoked trout – These three delicious morsels make a perfect light starter.  

 

 

 

Horseradish Cream

 

A nice big chunk of horseradish keeps for ages in the fridge or pantry.  I use it for lots and lots of dishes.

 

Serves 8 – 10

 

3-4 tablespoons grated horseradish

2 teaspoons wine vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon mustard

1/4teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

250 ml (8 fl ozs) whipping cream

 

Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate on a ‘slivery grater’.  Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Stir in the cream but do not overmix or the cream may curdle.  It will keep for 2-3 days: cover so that it doesn’t pick up flavours in the fridge.

 

This is a fairly mild horseradish sauce.  If you want to really ‘clear the sinuses’, increase the amount of horseradish!

 

Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel or eel, also great with pickled beetroot.

 

 

Sweet Cucumber Pickle

170 g (6 ozs) cucumber, thinly sliced

 55 g (2 ozs) onion, thinly sliced

 55 g (2 ozs) sugar

1 level teaspoon salt

35.5 ml (1¼ fl ozs) white wine vinegar

 

Combine the sliced cucumber and onion in a large bowl.  Mix sugar, salt and vinegar together and pour over the cucumber and onion.  Place in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator and leave for at least 1 hour.

 

Sweet Dill Mayonnaise

 

 

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range

2 tablespoons French mustard

1 tablespoon white sugar

150ml (¼ pint) ground nut or sunflower

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.

 

 

Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Crispy Bacon

 

Not surprisingly many people hate Brussels sprouts because invariably they are over cooked.

The traditional way to cook sprouts was to cut a cross in the stalk so that they would, hopefully, cook more evenly. Fortunately I discovered quite by accident when I was in a mad rush one day, that if you cut the sprouts in half lengthways they cook much faster and taste infinitely more delicious so with this recipe I’ve managed to convert many ardent brussels sprout haters!

 

Serves 4-6

 

1 lb (450g) Brussels sprouts, (cut lengthways top to bottom)

1 pint (600ml) water 

1½ teasp. salt

1-2 ozs (30-55g) butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 packet of peeled cooked chestnuts

2-4ozs (55-110g) crispy bacon lardoons

 

 

 

Choose even medium sized sprouts. Trim the outer leaves if necessary and cut them in half lengthways. Salt the water and bring to a fast rolling boil. Toss in the sprouts, cover the saucepan just for a minute until the water returns to the boil, then uncover and cook for 5 or 6 minutes or until the sprouts are cooked through but still have a slight bite. Pour off the water.*  Add the chestnuts for one minute before the end of cooking to heat through

Melt a little butter in a saucepan, roll the sprouts gently in the butter, season with lots of freshly ground pepper and salt. Taste and serve immediately in a hot serving dish scattered with hot crispy bacon.

 

Note * If the sprouts are not to be served immediately, refresh them under cold water just as soon as they are cooked. Just before serving, drop them into boiling salted water for a few seconds to heat through. Drain and toss in the butter, season and serve. This way they will taste almost as good as if they were freshly cooked: certainly much more delicious than sprouts kept warm for half an hour in an oven or a hostess trolley.

 

 

Old fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce

 

 

Serves 10-12

 

This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.

 

(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, turkey with neck and giblets, free-range and organic

 

Fresh Herb Stuffing – see last week’s article

 

Stock

neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

Bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns

 

For basting the turkey

225g (8oz) butter

large square of muslin (optional)

 

Cranberry Sauce – see last week

Bread Sauce – see last week

Couscous stuffing – see last week

Garnish

large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress

 

Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate).  Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.

Make the fresh herb stuffing as directed last week.  If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing.  Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end. 

Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt 2 dessertspoons of butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 3-3½ hours.  There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin.  The turkey browns beautifully, but if you like it even browner, remove the muslin 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.  Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with tin foil.  However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word. 

The turkey is cooked when the juices run clear.

To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices: they should be clear.  Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.   Cover loosely with greaseproof paper and roast in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 1-1½ hours.

The turkey is done when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De glaze the pan juices with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast

potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.

Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce and the Couscous stuffing if using.

 

Raggedy Roast Potatoes

 

Everybody loves roast potatoes, yet people ask over and over again for the secret of golden crispy roast potatoes.

Duck or goose fat adds delicious extra flavour to roast potatoes. Good quality pork fat or lard from free range pigs is also worth saving carefully for roast or sauté potatoes. All three fats will keep for months in a cold larder or fridge.

Well, first and foremost buy good quality ‘old’ potatoes eg. Golden Wonders, Kerrs Pinks or British Queens.  New potatoes are not suitable for roasting.

 

 

For perfection peel them just before roasting. Choose potatoes of even size and shape. Cut into quarters if large.

Do not leave them soaking in water or they will be soggy inside because of the water they absorb.  This always applies, no matter how you cook potatoes.  Unfortunately, many people have got into the habit of peeling and soaking potatoes even if they are just going to boil and mash them.

 

Blanch the potatoes by putting into boiling salted water, bring back to the boil.  Then strain off the water in a colander and rinse the potatoes under cold water to refresh.

 

Dry potatoes carefully, be really pernickety otherwise they will stick to the roasting tin, and when you turn them over you will lose the crispy bit underneath.

Scrape the surface with a fork, roll in seasoned flour,(flour seasoned with salt and pepper).

Heat the olive oil or fat in a roasting pan, then toss the potatoes in the pan to make sure they are well coated in hot oil or fat.

Roast in a hot oven (230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8), basting occasionally, for 30-60 minutes depending on size. 

 

 

Hot Tips

Congratulations to Kinsale for winning ‘Ireland’s Best Fairtrade Town’ title –

Fairtrade guarantees a fair price for third world producers and enables the producers to reinvest their extra income into community projects.   Check out this month’s Cork Now Magazine for a report on how successful fair-trade has been in Kinsale.

 

Best kept secret in London –

Theo Randall at the Intercontinental Hotel, 1 Hamilton Place, London W1, Tel 0207-3188747

www.theorandall.com 

Set lunch £21 for 2 totally brilliant courses or £25 for three.

Daily changing menu, civilized place to have lunch and a great place to entertain a business colleague.

 

 

 

Limited Edition Avoca Cookbooks

Perfect stocking fillers for the discerning gourmand!

The new series of concise cook books from Avoca covers three of the most popular courses; soups, tea time (cakes and snacks) and salads.  The books will be available in limited quantities in Avoca Stores just in time for Christmas. See  www.avoca.ie for locations.   €8.95 each or €24.95 for pack of 3.

Christmas Dinner

Let’s make this the first Christmas where the cook doesn’t have to be resuscitated by the end of the day – we’ll take it nice and easy.  Plan the menu well ahead and, keep it simple. Divide up the workload and do everything you possibly can ahead.  How about  the following menu.

A plate of locally smoked fish with Horseradish Cream, Dill Mayonnaise and Sweet Cucumber Pickle.

Traditional Roast Stuffed Turkey with Herb Stuffing and Gravy or Couscous Stuffing.

Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts, Ragged Roast Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce.

Plum Pudding with Muscovado Brandy Butter.   Clementine Granita.

Make the plum pudding any day now, but first seek out really plump and delicious dried fruit, fat lexia raisins, juicy yellow sultanas and Turkish currants.  If you enjoy making preserves why not make your own candied peel from citrus peel, it tastes sensational and costs very little, but it does take time.   If you can’t see yourself candying orange peel, try to find chunky peel in your local deli and while you are there look out for some old fashioned crystallized cherries, they will look dark red in colour, unlike some of the bright red ones we buy nowadays which were never ‘next nor near’ a cherry tree in their lives.   If you are going to have time to make a plum pudding it might as well be lip-smackingly good.

Rachel’s Leek and Potato Soup can be made well ahead and frozen. Make 2 or 3 times the recipe but don’t add the blue cheese until just before serving.

Cranberry Sauce can also be made weeks ahead, a few extra pots make a natty little present for foodie pals or a kind neighbour.

The stuffing for the turkey can also be made ahead and frozen in a plastic box, for perfection you may want to add the fresh herbs when you are reheating.

Its also worth making some chicken stock to have ready for soups and gravy.

Muscovado brandy butter can also be whipped up ahead.

Save any stale bread to make breadcrumbs, they can be popped into the freezer in 4oz bags read to use for stuffings, bread sauce and crumbles.

I adore Bread Sauce, I know it definitely doesn’t press everyone’s buttons, but ever since I was a child, Mum’s bread sauce was a must with Christmas turkey – this too can be made ahead and frozen.   You may need to add a little more milk when you reheat it on Christmas Day.

If Plum Pudding isn’t your thing make a Clementine Granita or Sorbet, well ahead.  It tastes like superior ‘iced lolly’ and will cause a riot on Christmas Day, everyone will be fighting over the last refreshing spoonful – it’s so welcome after ‘Christmas dins’.

More next week.

Hot Tips

Make lists –  what to order ahead,  what you can buy now and have in the storecupboard, what can be bought or made ahead and put in the freezer,  what has to be bought at the last minute – when you need to collect things – tick off as you do and you will feel very organised!   Planning is half the work and you should enjoy the run up to Christmas and not end up frazzled!

 

 

 

 

Make Plum Pudding or buy from your favourite source

Make Christmas Cake or buy from somebody you know makes good cakes and uses butter

Order your turkey from a trusted supplier or your local butcher – seek out free-range and organic – your local Farmers Market might be a good source – don’t buy a bigger turkey than you need otherwise you will be eating it for several days.

Ham, Bacon and charcuterie – order a ham or piece of ham from your pork butcher – look out for Caherbeg –Avril and Willie Allshire -www.caherbegfreerangepork.ie  Fingal Ferguson-www.gubbeen.com    Frank Krawczyk- frankk@oceanfree.net  www.ummera.com On the Pig’s Back, Grand Parade Market, Cork.

Again don’t buy more than you need.  A nice piece of loin of bacon is delicious for a smaller number if glazed and very tasty for a salad or sandwich.

Smoked Fish – You can order this ahead also and pick up a week or so beforehand – or buy online – www.ummera.com, www.frankhederman.com, www.kinvarasmokedsalmon.com www.clarke’s.com  Bill Casey-smokiec@gofree.indigo.ie www.woodcocksmokery.com

 

 

More online shopping –

www.christmasmadeeasy.ie   www.Greatfood2buy.com

 

Christmas Courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School –

Christmas Cooking – December 10th, Christmas Party Food – December 11th, Wine Appreciation for the Festive Season – December 12th – 021-4646785 www.cookingisfun.ie

 

Christmas Fair at Good Things Café, Durrus, Co Cork tomorrow Sunday 2nd December 11-4 –Cakes, Puddings, cookbooks, kitchenware, pottery, vouchers ……

 

New Farmers Market starting in Ballincollig, Co Cork in the New Ballincollig Shopping Centre,on Friday 7th December from 9.30-2 – everything from food to plants.

 

 

Leek, Potato and Blue Cheese Soup

 

Serves 4-6

 

25g (1oz) butter

2 leeks (about 300g/12ozs), dark green tops removed, white bits thinly sliced

2 potatoes (about 175g/6ozs), peeled and chopped

2 bay leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 litre (1 ¾ pints) light vegetable or chicken stock

75ml (3fl ozs) single cream

100-150g (4-5ozs) blue cheese, such as Cashel Blue, Stilton, Gorgonzola or Roquefort crumbled plus 25g (1oz) for serving

 

Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan, add the leeks, potatoes and bay leaves.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cover.  Turn the heat down to low and let the vegetables sweat for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then to ensure they don’t burn.  After 10 minutes, add the stock, increase the heat and simmer for a further 8 – 10 minutes until the potatoes and leeks are soft.  Remove the bay leaves, add the cream and the crumbled blue cheese and transfer to a liquidiser.  Whiz the soup until it is smooth and velvety.  Return to the saucepan to re-heat, tasting and seasoning if necessary. 

 

To Serve

Pour the soup into warm bowls and sprinkle with the extra crumbled blue cheese.

 

Rachel’s Tips

·            If making this soup with a strong blue cheese like Roquefort or Gorgonzola, I only add 100g (4ozs), but if you are using a milder blue cheese like Cashel Blue, you might need 125-150g (4 ½ – 5ozs).

 

·            When sweating onions or other vegetables for a long time, I like to cover them with a butter wrapper or a piece of greaseproof paper as well as the saucepan lid.  This helps to retain the moisture and makes sure they don’t burn.

 

 

Fresh Herb Stuffing

170g (6oz) butter

340g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16oz) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non GM)

55g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

 

To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to get quite cold.  Freeze in plastic boxes.

 

 

Couscous Stuffing

Claudia Roden used this delicious stuffing with roast chicken when she taught a course here earlier this year, halve the amount for a chicken or if you feel you need more add on half the recipe again.

 

 

500g (18ozs) packet couscous

800ml (1¼ pint) chicken stock

Salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

8 tablespoons sunflower oil

225g (8ozs) blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

100g (4ozs) pistachios, coarsely chopped

100g (4ozs) pine nuts, toasted

100g (4ozs) raisins soaked in water for 30 minutes

 

 

Put the couscous in a bowl. Warm the stock, adding a little salt (take into account the saltiness of the stock) and the cinnamon. Pour 600ml (1 pint) of the stock – the same measured volume as the couscous – over the couscous, mix very well and leave for 20 minutes until the couscous has absorbed the stock. Then stir in the oil and break up any lumps with a fork. Rub the grain between your hands, to air it and make it light and fluffy. Stir in the chopped almonds and pistachios (you can chop them in the food processor), the pine nuts and raisins, and mix well. Cover the dish with foil. All you will need is to heat it through for 20 minutes in a 200ºC/400°F/Gas Mark 6 oven before serving. Pour the remaining stock on top.

 

 

Cranberry Sauce

 

 

Cranberry Sauce is delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. We enjoy this simple Cranberry Sauce best.  It will keep in your fridge for a week to 10 days or freeze if you want to make further ahead.

 

Serves 6 approx.

 

6 ozs (170 g) fresh cranberries

4 tablespoons (60 ml) water

3 ozs (85 g) granulated sugar

 

Put the fresh cranberries in a heavy-based stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan with the water – dont add the sugar yet as it tends to toughen the skins.  Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries pop and soften, about 7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.

Serve warm or cold.

 

 

Bread Sauce

 

 

I love Bread Sauce but if I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it – the recipe sounds so dull!

 

Serves

 

1 pint (600ml) milk

3-4 ozs (85-100g) soft white breadcrumbs

2 onions, each stuck with 6 cloves

2 ozs (55g) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

3-4 fl ozs (75-100ml) thick cream

2 good pinches of ground cloves or quatre epices

 

Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and simmer gently on a very low heat or cook in a low oven 160C/325F/regulo 3, for 30 minutes. Remove the onion and add the cream just before serving. Correct the seasoning and add a little more milk if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot.

 

Quatre Epices is a French spice product made of equal amounts of ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

 

 

 

Myrtle Allen’s Plum Pudding with Brandy Butter

 

Serves 8-10

 

Christmas puddings should be given at least 6 weeks to mature.  They will keep for a year.  They become richer and firmer with age, but one loses the lightness of the fruit flavour.  We always eat our last plum pudding at Easter.

If possible, prepare your own fresh beef suet – it is better than the pre-packed product. 

 

6ozs (170g) shredded beef suet

6 ozs (170g) sugar

7ozs (200g) soft breadcrumbs

8ozs (225g) currants

8 ozs (225g) raisins

4 ozs (110g) candied peel

1-2 teasp. mixed spice

a pinch of salt

2 tablesp. (8 teasp.) flour

2 fl ozs (60ml) flesh of a baked apple

3 eggs

2 fl ozs (60ml) Irish whiskey

 

1 x 3 pints (1.75 L) capacity pudding bowl

 

Mix the ingredients thoroughly.  Whisk the eggs and add them, with the apple and whiskey.  Stir very well indeed.  Fill into the greased pudding bowl.  Cover with a round of greaseproof paper or a butter-wrapped pressed down on top of the pudding.  Put a large round of greaseproof or brown paper over the top of the bowl, tying it firmly under the rim. 

Place in a saucepan one-third full of boiling water and simmer for 10 hours.  Do not allow the after to boil over the top and do not let it boil dry either.  Store in a cool place until needed.

 

Boil for 1½ – 2 hours before serving.  Left-over pudding may be fried in butter.

 

Serve with Whiskey Cream or Brandy butter.

 

 

Muscovado Brandy Butter

3ozs (90g) butter

3ozs (90g) Muscovado brown sugar or icing sugar

2-6 tablesp. brandy

 

Cream the butter until very light, add the sugar and beat again.  Then beat in the brandy, drop by drop.  If you have a food processor, use it: you will get a wonderfully light and fluffy Brandy Butter.

 

 

 

Clementine Sorbet

 

The quantity of ice below is enough to fill 10-18 clementine shells. Tangerines, mandarins or satsumas may also be used in this recipe.

 

Serves 10-12, depending on whether people eat 1 or 2

 

Syrup

8 ozs (250g) sugar

Juice of ¼ lemon

¼ pint (150ml) water

 

20-28 clementines

Juice of ½ lemon

Icing sugar (optional)

 

Garnish

Vine leaves or bay leaves

 

First make the syrup. Heat the first three ingredients over a low heat, until they are dissolved together and clear. Bring to the boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes, Cool. Grate the zest from 10 of the tangerines, and squeeze the juice from them. Cut the remaining tangerines so that they each have a lid. Scoop out the sections with a small spoon and them press them through a nylon sieve, (alternatively, you could liquidise the pulp and then strain). You should end up with 1¼ pints (750ml) juice. Add the grated zest, the lemon juice and the syrup to taste. Taste and add icing sugar or extra lemon juice, if more sweetness or sharpness is required. Freeze until firm.

Chill the shells in the fridge or freezer, fill them with the frozen water ice. Replace the lids and store in the freezer. Cover with cling film if not serving on the same day. Serve on a white plate decorated with vine leaves or bay leaves.

 

 

Make the sorbet in one of the following ways.

1.         Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed.

2.         Pour the juice into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezing compartment of a refrigerator. After about 4-5 hours when the sorbet is semi-frozen, remove from the freezer and whisk until smooth, then return to the freezer. Whisk again when almost frozen and fold in one stiffly-beaten egg white. Keep in the freezer until needed.

3.         If you have a food processor simply freeze the sorbet completely in a stainless steel or plastic bowl, then break into large pieces and whizz up in the food processor for a few seconds. Add one slightly beaten egg white, whizz again for another few seconds, then return to the bowl and freeze again until needed.

 

 

Saturday November 24th

It’s a few years ago now since a chap called Paddy Daly from Dublin arrived to do a one week Introductory Course at the Cookery School. When he arrived into the car park in his camper van it took him all the courage he could muster to actually walk into the school. Paddy, a man in his 60’s was going through a harrowing time, he was nursing his much-loved wife through a long illness. He was bereft and had lost his will to live. She had been a wonderful cook – Paddy missed her delicious food so much and was becoming more and more despondent when he was unable to cook tasty delicious food to cheer her up as her health deteriorated.

In a concerted effort to provide new hope and enthusiasm in his life, his family had clubbed together to give him a present of a cooking course.

Paddy himself wasn’t at all keen but he was dispatched to Cork and felt he had to make the effort in response to their family’s generous gesture.

He eventually picked up courage to venture in to the school and somehow the experience changed his life. It renewed his zest for living and the skills he learned enabled him to brighten his wife’s last months and have given both him and his family and friends endless pleasure ever since. He has made several return visits over the years.

Paddy telephones us periodically and I was particularly touched by our most recent conversation, Paddy is now ‘seventy-five going on seventeen’. He noticed many other people who are alone in his neighbourhood so he and some friends have started something on the SOS – ‘share your skills principle’ that is quietly making a difference to many people’s lives. He invites and welcomes the person into his house and teaches them how to make a loaf of bread, a pot of stew, a soup ….. then they sit down and eat it together and chat.

The ‘student’ can then make it at home and pass on the skill to someone else. No money changes hands, Paddy says the reward is in sharing and the delight of the recipient. What a beautiful idea – those of us who have learned how to cook can make such a difference to people’s lives by passing on our skills to those less fortunate – Paddy you are a shining example to us all.

Simply Nutritious Brown Bread

This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldn’t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well-greased tin.

This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.

Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves

400g (14ozs) stone ground wholemeal flour

75g (3ozs) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)

1 egg, preferably free range

1 tablespoon arachide or sunflower oil, unscented

1 teaspoon honey

425ml (15fl ozs) buttermilk or sourmilk approx. (put all the milk in)

Sunflower or sesame seeds optional

Loaf tin 23×12.5x5cm (9x5x2in)

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

Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey most of the buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin or tins. Sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on the top. Bake for 60 minutes approx, or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Health Bread

Add 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds, 1 tablespoon of kibbled wheat to the dry ingredients. Keep a mixture to scatter over the top.

Shanagarry Chicken Casserole

A good chicken casserole even though it may sound ‘old hat’ always gets a hearty welcome from my family and friends, sometimes I make an entire meal in a pot by covering the top with whole peeled potatoes just before it goes into the oven.

Serves 4-6

1 x 3½ lbs (1.57kg) chicken (free range if possible)

A little butter or oil for sauteeing

12 ozs (340g) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)

12 ozs (340g) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced (if the carrots are small, leave whole. If large cut in chunks)

1 lb (450g) onions, (baby onions are nicest)

Sprig of thyme

Homemade chicken stock – 1¼ pints (750ml) approx.

Roux – optional (see below)

Mushroom a la créme (see recipe)

Garnish

2 tablesp. parsley, freshly chopped

Cut the rind off the bacon and cut into approx. 1 inch (2 cm) cubes, (blanch if salty). Dry in kitchen paper. Joint the chicken into 8 pieces. Season the chicken pieces well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon until crisp, remove and transfer to the casserole. Add chicken pieces a few at a time to the pan and sauté until golden, add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn’t burn yet it must be hot enough to saute the chicken. If it is too cool, the chicken pieces will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then toss the onion and carrot in the pan adding a little butter if necessary, add to the casserole. Degrease the pan and deglaze with stock, bring to the boil and pour over the chicken etc. Season well, add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, then put into the oven for 30-45 minutes, 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4.

Cooking time depends on how long the chicken pieces were sautéed for.

When the chicken is just cooked, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease, return the degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary (see below). Add the meat, carrots and onions back into the casserole and bring to the boil. Taste and correct the seasoning. The casserole is very good served at this point, but it’s even more delicious if some mushroom a la crème is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and bubbling hot.

Roux

4 ozs (110g) butter

4 ozs (110g) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep for at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

Lamb Stew with bacon, onions and garden herbs

Serves 4-6

The word stew is often associated in these islands with not very exciting mid week dinners. People tend to say almost apologetically, oh its only stew, no matter how delicious it is.

Well, let me tell you they smack their lips in France at the mere mention of a great big bubbling stew and now these gutsy, comforting pots are appearing on many of the smartest restaurant menus.

4 lb (1.8kg) shoulder of lamb or thick rack chops

12 ozs (340g) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)

seasoned white flour, preferably unbleached

a little butter or oil for sauteeing

1 lb (450g) onions, (baby ones are nicest)

12 ozs (340g) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced

13 pints (750ml) approx. lamb or chicken stock

8-12 ‘old’ potatoes (optional)

sprig of thyme

roux – optional, Mushroom a la Creme (optional)

Garnish

1 dessertsp. freshly chopped parsley

Cut the rind off bacon and cut into approx. 2 inch (1cm) cubes blanch if salty and dry in kitchen paper. Divide the lamb into 8 pieces and roll in seasoned flour. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sauté the bacon until crisp, remove and put in a casserole. Add the lamb to the pan and sauté until golden then add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn’t burn yet it must be hot enough to sauté the lamb. If it is cool the lamb will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then quickly sauté the onions and carrots, adding a little butter if necessary, and put them into the casserole. Degrease the sauté pan and deglaze with the stock, bring to the boil, pour over the lamb.

Cover the top of the stew with peeled potatoes (if using) and season well. Add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, cover the pot and then put into the oven for 45-60 minutes, 180C/350F/regulo 4. Cooking time depends on how long the lamb was sautéed for.

When the casserole is just cooked, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease and return degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary. Add back in the meat, carrots, onions and potatoes, bring back to the boil.

The casserole is very good served at this point, but it’s even more delicious if some Mushroom a la Crème is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve bubbling hot sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Variations

1. Add 2 lb (225g) of precooked haricot beans to the stew about two-thirds of the way through cooking, omit the potatoes.

Foolproof Food

Mushroom a la Crème

Serves 4

½-1 oz (15-30 g) butter

3 ozs (85 g) onion, finely chopped

½ lb (225g) mushrooms, sliced

4fl ozs (100ml) cream

freshly chopped parsley

½ tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)

A squeeze of lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured. Meanwhile cook the sliced mushrooms in a little butter, in a hot frying pan in batches if necessary. Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning, and add parsley and chives if used.

Note: Mushroom a la crème may be served as a vegetable, or as a filling for vol au vents, bouchees or pancakes or as a sauce for pasta. It may be used as an enrichment for casseroles and stews or, by adding a little more cream or stock, may be served as a sauce with beef, lamb, chicken or veal. A crushed clove of garlic may be added while the onions are sweating.

Mushroom a la Crème keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Potato and Leek Champ

Serves 4-6

6-8 unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

Cold water

4 medium sized leeks ( you could use scallions if you prefer)

40g (1½ozs) butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon water if necessary

300-350ml (10-12 fl ozs) milk

1 tablespoon chopped chives

55g (2ozs) approx. butter

Scrub the potatoes, cover with cold water and boil them in their jackets. Half way through cooking, pour off half the water, cover and steam until fully cooked.

Cut off the dark green leaves from the top of the leeks (wash and add to the stock pot or use for making green leek soup). Slit the leeks about half way down the centre and wash well under cold running water. Slice into ¼ inch (5mm) rounds. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan; when it foams add the sliced leeks and toss gently to coat with butter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add 1 tablespoon water if necessary. Cover with a paper lid and a close fitting saucepan lid. Reduce the heat and cook very gently for 10-15 minutes approx., or until soft, tender and juicy. Check and stir every now and then during cooking.

Bring the milk with the chives to the boil, simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse. Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and chives, add the drained leeks and beat in the butter. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. It should be soft and melting.

Leek champ may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4. Cover with tin foil while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin over the top.

Old Fashioned Rice Pudding

A creamy rice pudding is one of the greatest treats on a cold Winter’s day.

2 ozs (55g) pearl rice (short grain rice)

1 oz (30g) sugar

1 pint (600ml) milk

knob of butter

1 x 1 pint (600ml) capacity pie dish

Put the rice, sugar and a little knob of butter into a pie dish. Bring the milk to the boil and pour over. Bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 1-1½ hours. Its quite tricky to catch it at exactly the right stage. The skin on top should be golden, the rice underneath should be cooked through and have soaked up the milk but still be soft and creamy underneath. Time it, so that its ready just in time for dessert. Serve with cream and soft brown sugar. If it has to wait in the oven for ages it will be dry and dull and you’ll wonder why you bothered.

Apple Crumble

Serves 6-8

Crumbles are comfort food, vary the fruit according to the season.

1 1/2 lbs (675g) Bramley Seedling cooking apples

1 1/2-2 ozs (45-55g) sugar

2 tablesp. water

Crumble

4 ozs (110g) white flour, preferably unbleached

2 ozs (55g) butter

2 ozs (55g) castor sugar

2 pint (1.1L) capacity pie dish

Stew the apples gently with the sugar and water in a covered casserole or stainless steel saucepan until about half cooked.

Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Turn into a pie dish. Allow to cool slightly while you make the crumble.

Rub the butter into the flour just until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs, add the sugar. Sprinkle this mixture over the apple in the pie dish. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 30-45 minutes or until the topping is cooked and golden. Serve with whipped cream and soft brown sugar.

Hot Tips for November 24th

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group – Thursday 29th November, 7.30pm at the Crawford Gallery Café, Emmet Place, Cork

Fruit – the Best to buy – Alan Sloane, Organic fruit importer – will tell us about the best fresh and dried fruits available during the Christmas season and also throughout the year. €6 including tea, coffee and tastings.

Georgina Campbell’s Ireland – The Guide 2008

All the best places to eat, drink and stay – dubbed ‘the glovebox bible, this is the 10th annual edition of the indispensable guide for independent travelers. A truly comprehensive guide to the most delightful places for the discerning traveler in Ireland to eat, drink and stay – north and south. Provides the perfect reference for planning holidays and short breaks in Ireland in the most enchanting surroundings – an ideal gift for the discerning traveler.

Kingswood Country House

Just off the Naas Road and M50 and only 20 minutes from the city centre, this is one of Dublin’s hidden gems. Kingswood Country House Bar and Restaurant has re-opened. This large 300 year old Georgian house is beautifully located in a unique setting, surrounded by stunning landscaped gardens. It offers superb food throughout the day – lunch each day in the contemporary bar, afternoon tea in the lounge, more formal dining upstairs in Josef’s restaurant (the house was once the home of well known tenor Josef Locke). www.kingswoodhouse.ie info@kingswoodcountryhouse.ie Tel 01-4595250

Local Food

Local is now the sexiest word in food from California to Stuttgart, Matakana to Macroom. Attitudes have come a wonderful full circle from when I was a child growing up in a country village in Ireland. At that stage in the late fifties and early sixties, local was looked on as second rate. A few surplus fresh eggs sold by a farmer’s wife to the local shop would be sold for less than the battery equivalents which were just coming on stream, same with currant cake or an apple tart.

Even though it didn’t seem right it was the way it was. Not so in Italy as I discovered on my first trip to the Rialto Market in Venice in the early eighties. Many of the stalls had two lots of certain fruits and vegetables. In each case the one labelled nostrana or nostrale always seems to be more highly prized and expensive. My grasp of the language was non-existent. Eventually an impatient stallholder explained that nostrale was not a place (-twit!) it meant the produce had come from the lagoon area – it was local hence it was fresher and better, so of course it was more expensive. Oops – for me this was a eureka moment. I loved the Italians for valuing local, artisan and craft and it gave me the courage to follow my convictions.

And how the food scene in Ireland has changed within a few years. Recently I attended the launch of two splendid books both celebrating local producers – the farmers, fishermen and artisan producers of County Cork who have helped to change the dull and stodgy image of Irish food both at home and abroad. This group of producers who are passionate about quality (first and foremost) have created the raw materials that enable restaurants and cooks and chefs to produce real food. Both authors Denis Cotter and Dianne Curtin are Slow Food members and live the ethos in their everyday life. Denis has already established an international reputation for his earlier books The Café Paradiso Cookbook and Paradiso Seasons and for the vegetarian food at the now legendary Café Paradiso in Cork city.

At the packed launch of his new book ‘Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and me’, he spoke in evocative terms of his obsession with vegetables, his passionate pursuit of quality and his good fortune connecting with producers like Ultan Walsh the grower who provides much of the local produce for Café Paradiso. …. To finish this book which has been bubbling around in his head for some time now he locked himself away in Don and Joy Larkcom’s garden house for several peaceful weeks. The vegetables he chose to write about are not listed in alphabetical order nor arranged in a pattern that reflects the seasons of a year. Instead, they are grouped according to shared characteristics, whether that be their colouring, as in the opening chapter ‘It’s a green thing’, or their habitat as in both ‘Wild pickings’ and ‘Growing in the dark’.

No other book on vegetables in my library is so beautifully written or so connected to the good earth and so thought provoking. The recipes as ever are intriguing and original, but even if you never cook as single thing out of this book (which would be a crying shame), its worth buying for Denis’s beautiful prose – you’ll never think of vegetables in the same way again!

The book is movingly dedicated to his father whose guiding presence Denis said he felt very strongly as he went back to his roots as he wrote this book.

Dianne Curtin’s book ‘The Creators’ celebrates the work of farmers, fishermen, and artisan producers of County Cork who have helped secure Ireland’s reputation as a gourmet destination. Excellent quality fresh produce, fine artisan specialities, and traditional delicacies unique to Ireland are only achieved as a result of the dedication and patience of the passionate people who bring them to our tables. All share a passion to attain the best possible culinary results. Dianne’s book is divided into three main chapter: From Land and Field; From the Waters; Special Delicacies. Each chapter contains profiles of the food producers as well

Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and me’ by Denis Cotter, published by Collins.
The Creators – individuals of Irish food’ by Dianne Curin, published by Atrium.

Chard with Couscous, Raisins, Pine Nuts and Lemon Oil

From Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and me by Denis Cotter

This can be a side dish or a simple meal. Or make it the centre of a mezze or tapas-style meal with some marinated feta, olives, fresh tomato salad, roasted sweet potatoes and the like. A chilli kick from the Moroccan harissa sauce, served on the side, would be fun too.

Serves 4

85g (3oz) golden raisins

300g (10 ½ oz) couscous

280ml (9 ½ fl oz) warm vegetable stock

1kg (2 ¼ lb) chard, including stalks

olive oil

1 medium red onion halved and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly tossed

Salt and pepper

For The Lemon Oil

finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon

200ml (7fl oz) olive oil

Soak the raisins in just enough water to cover them for 10 minutes. Place the couscous in a large bowl, pour over the warm vegetable stock and stir once. Leave for 15 minutes before fluffing up the couscous with a fork. Separate the chard leaves and stalks. Slice the stalks across about 5mm ( ¼ in) thick. Cook the leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes, until soft, then drain, cool under the cold running water, drain again and chop coarsely.

Heat some olive oil in a large pan and cook the chard stalks, onion and garlic for 5 minutes over a medium heat. Add the spices and cook for a few minutes more, then stir in the chard leaves, pine nuts raisins with their soaking liquid. Add a little extra stock or water to keep the dish quite moist, then stir in the couscous and turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk or blend the lemon zest and juice and the olive oil together. Mix two tablespoons into the couscous, and then serve immediately. Divide the couscous between four warmed serving plates, sprinkle some more lemon oil over the top and put the rest of the oil on the table in a jug or bottle for people to help themselves.

Fresh Tagliolini with Shredded Brussels sprouts,

Sage and Pine Nuts

From Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and me by Denis Cotter

Serves 4

250g (9oz) Brussels sprouts

2 tbsp olive oil

150g (5 ½ oz) shallots thinly sliced

12 fresh sage leaves, sliced

4 canned tomatoes, finely chopped

finely grated zest of 1 orange

1 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted

salt and pepper

450g (1lb) fresh tagliolini or other pasta

50g (2oz) butter

50g (2oz) Desmond Parmesan or other hard cheese, finely grated

Quarter the sprouts, cut out the core and separate the leaves. In a wide pan, heat the olive oil and cook the sprouts, shallots, sage and garlic over a medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, orange zest and pine nuts and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 2 minutes more.

At the same time, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the tagliolini and cook for 2 – 3 minutes until just tender. Drain well.

Add the butter, cheese and cooked pasta to the sprouts and mix well. Serve immediately.

West Cork Cheese Fondue

From The Creators by Dianne Curtin

Best enjoyed with a handful of close friends who don’t mind getting the dribbles down their chins! Gabriel or Desmond cheeses, or a mixture of both, work well in this recipe.

Serves 4-6

1 clove garlic, peeled and halved

300ml (½ pint) dry white wine

450g (1lb) rinded weight of Desmond or Gabriel cheese, or half and half, grated

1 tablesp. cornflour

1-2 tablesp Kirsch (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper

Cubes of crusty bread, steamed asparagus tips, broccoli and cauliflower florets and sautéed whole button mushrooms to serve.

Rub fondue pot with cut sides of garlic. Add wine and heat gently to almost bubbling. Turn down heat. Gradually add cheese, with cornflour, stirring to melt. Continue like this until all cheese is added, stirring until smooth. Add Kirsch and season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve in the pot with a heap of crusty bread cubes, steamed asparagus tips, broccoli and cauliflower florets and sautéed mushrooms for each guest to dip in on the end of a fork. Get everyone to take a turn stirring the fondue while eating.

Fresh Mussels with Chilli and Coconut

From The Creators by Dianne Curtin

This recipe uses the Far Eastern flavourings of fresh chilli, Thai Green curry paste and coconut milk to give a fabulous kick of spice. Serve with some fragrant, boiled Jasmine rice, which you can stir into the bowls of spiced sauce after eating the mussels and slurp up from a spoon.

Serves 2

1kg fresh tightly closed mussels

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1 tbsp Thai green curry paste

150ml (¼ pt) fish stock

150ml (¼ pt) coconut milk

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Squeeze of lemon juice

1 tbsp coriander leaves, roughly torn

Prepare, clean and de-beard the mussels in the usual way. It is essential that they are all absolutely fresh and tightly closed.

Once the mussels are ready to cook, set to one side. Heat oil in a deep saucepan and add onion, garlic and chilli. Cook gently until softened. Stir in Thai green curry paste. Cook for another minute. Add fish stock and bring to bubbling. Simmer for a few minutes. Add cleaned mussels, cover with a lid and simmer until all shells have opened. Stir once or twice during cooking. Pick out and discard any mussels that do not open. Stir in coconut milk and bring back to bubbling for a minute. Season and add lemon juice and coriander. Ladle mussels and their sauce into warmed bowls and serve with Jasmine rice.

Hot Tips

The Chocolate Show –Dublin’s first ever Chocolate Show will take place at the RDS in Ballsbridge on 29th February, 1st and 2nd March 2008. This 3 day event will be the first annual celebration of the finest chocolate the country and the world has to offer. It will include the first Irish Chocolate Awards competition. The Show will be open to the public and will also have a dedicated trade only time. For further information or to book exhibition space contact Olivia O’Reilly on 01-2407203 or Olivia.oreilly@rds.ie or check out www.chocolateshow.ie

Transition Town Kinsale (TTK)

Is a voluntary, community based venture supported by the Town Council. It is actively working towards finding community solutions to climate change and diminishing energy supplies. Ireland currently imports a large proportion of its food, which will make it very vulnerable to increasing energy costs in the future, as food will become significantly more expensive unless sourced locally – food miles are just one of the issues considered by TTK – www.transitiontowns.org/Kinsale

Ireland’s Blue Book

2008 edition recently launched – Ireland’s Blue Book is an exclusive listing of luxury Irish accommodation in Irish Country House Hotels, Manor Houses, Castles and Gourmet Restaurants, whose qualities combine charm, style, character and individuality.

New entry this year is Ballyvolane House in Castlelyons, Co Cork, home to the Green family, Ballyvolane has been welcoming guests for over two decades. Visit www.irelandsbluebook.com – Blue book can be bought at major bookstores and tourist board offices and is free of charge through their head office and member properties

as inspirational and practical recipes and cookery tips to make the most of the featured products and ingredients.

Marcella Hazan

A few months ago we had a wonderful letter from Italian cook Marcella Hazan who had been guest chef at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in July 1992.

She and her husband Victor spent five or six days with us and among other things we took them to dinner at John and Elmary Desmond’s restaurant on Hare Island off Baltimore in West Cork. We all got drenched to the skin both on the open boat trip and as we walked up the lane to the restaurant. The normally beautifully coiffed and poised Marcella was reduced to the same disheveled state as the rest of us, but despite the fact that she is unlikely to have been subjected to this kind of experience in her entire life before or since then we all had great fun. She entered into the spirit and we of course had a delicious dinner. It transpired that this experience and several others on her trip to Ireland are forever etched in her memory and will be included in her autobiography to be published in October 2008.

Marcella and Victor lived for most of their married life in Italy, first in Bologna from where they ran a very successful cookery school and later in Venice. In March 1999 they moved to Florida to be closer to their son Giuliano and two little grand-daughters Gabriela and Michela.

They return to Italy from time to time but now Marcella is 83 and the purpose of this letter was to tell us that she and Victor were coming back to Italy probably for the last time. They planned to stay at the lovely Cipriani Hotel on the Guidecca in Venice for 3 weeks and so were inviting friends from all over the world who had been part of their lives at various stages to come and join them for a few days. Such a lovely idea and the perfect excuse to take a break.

The weather in Venice can be perfect in late September although nothing is predictable any longer (fortunately we missed the torrential rain and hailstones). Apart from all the perennial attractions, the Biannale continues until the end of November, Tracy Emin’s controversial pieces are this year’s talking point.

For lovers of art, music and culture, Venice is a feast for all the senses, food lovers however need to do some careful planning. Unless you are prepared to endure the worst kind of reheated pasta and tired salads, avoid the tourist spots like the plague. Easier said than done in a town where thousands of tourists pour in every day and several hundred others disgorge from cruise ships. Most people only visit Venice once so there is a feeling that some businesses are out for the main chance. Nonetheless there are lots of gems. Any guide book will steer you to the usual haunts where you will pay dearly to sip an espresso or a bellini (white peach purée and prosecco), but surely its worth the exorbitant price to sit at the Florian or Quadre Cafes in Piazza San Marco to listen to the strains of Vivaldi or Puccini being played by the orchestra.

A bellin or martini at Harry’s Bar is also a must do. Sip it slowly, enjoy the ambiance and watch the buzz at the bar where head waiter Claudio Ponzio has been mixing cocktails for over 30 years. Many of the old reliables feel tired and dull, but not so Da Fiore which rightly deserves its reputation as the finest restaurant in Venice. You’ll need to book well ahead to taste Maurizio and Mara Martin’s sublime food. No twiddles and bows and smarties on top here – just exquisite fresh fish simply cooked, a triumph of ingredients. Don’t miss the puds or artisan cheeses either. Superb wine list to complement the menu, a worthy recipient of a Michelin star which not everyone agrees can be said for the Met where chef Carado Fasolato serves an experimental cuisine with diverse influences from Gaultiero Marchesi to Ferran Adria.

For traditional Venetian food book a table at the deservedly hyped Osteria ? or Alla Testiere. The latter has just six tables and the menu changes daily depending on the market finds.

Some new hot spots worth checking out are La Naranzaria where Stefano Monti gives his Japanese chef carte blanche to create a fusion of sushi and Italian dishes, fun and fashionable with a sunny terrace overlooking the Grand Canal.

Alla Zucca (meaning pumpkin) has an exciting menu of Italian vegetarian dishes as well as some good meat and fish.

The best food in Venice is all about local and seasonal, don’t miss the bustling Rialto Market on the edge of the Grand Canal which has been the city commercial centre for centuries. What was once a bazaar for exotic spices, jewels and silks from the Orient is now a bountiful market teeming with fish and sea creatures from the lagoon and the Adriatic and gorgeous fresh vegetables, fruit and fungi from regions all over Italy, Artichokes and red radicchio from the island of Saint Erasmo, beetroot from Chioggia, zucchini blossoms, bunches of chillies, new season Muscat grapes ……

If you make an early start you can see the motopi (work barges) arriving with the day’s produce (no roads in Venice, everything arrives by boat).

At the fish market I watched the vendors prepare tiny little cuttlefish and save the ink sacs, skin eels, dole out tiny razor shells, soft shell crabs and sea snails and a myriad of the freshest fish I’ve seen in many a long day. Visit before you leave and buy a gorgeous piece of fruit, artisan cheeses and cured meat from the nearby shops to make a picnic for the plane.

Ristorante Da Fiore, San Polo, 2202/A – 30125 Venezia – Italy

Tel 0039 041 721308 www.dafiore.net ristorantedafiore@hotmail.ie

Butternut Squash Risotto Drizzled with Aged Balsamic Vinegar

From the da Fiore Cookbook by Damiano Martin

Risotto di Zucca e Parmigiano con Aceto Balsamico

Makes 6 first course servings

1 small butternut squash or 1 Kabocha squash (about 1 pound/450g)

¾ cup (6fl.oz) mild oil, preferably sunflower oil

¼ small onion, diced

Salt

1½lb(3 cups/700g) Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice

4 pints (2.4litres) hot Vegetable broth*

1 cup (4oz/110g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Aged balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Trim the ends from the butternut squash. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibres. Divide each squash half in quarters. Using a knife or mandoline on a fine slicing setting, cut the squash pieces into ⅛ inch thick slices.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the butternut squash, season with salt, and cover with water. Cook, simmering, until the squash easily breaks apart, about 20 minutes. Stir in the rice, then add a cup of the hot vegetable broth. Cook at an aggressive boil, stirring often, for 8 minutes, adding a cup of broth at a time, as necessary; the rice should almost completely absorb the broth between additions. Add the Parmigiano, stirring to incorporate, then continue cooking, adding broth as necessary, until the rice is al dente and the mixture moist but not watery, about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the butter and adjust the seasoning with salt if necessary. Divide the rice among serving plates and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.

*Vegetable Broth

2 celery stalks, halved

2 medium carrots, halved

1 small onion, halved

5 pints (3 litres) water

Combine all the ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain and discard the vegetables. Cool and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Scallops in their shells with thyme from the da Fiore Cookbook

Cappesante Gratinate al Timo

Serves 6

Coarse salt to line serving plates

18 fresh scallops in their shells

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Leaves from 2 thyme sprigs

3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

3 tablespoons finely ground fresh breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 475F/250C/gas9

Line the bottoms of 6 serving plates with ½ inch coarse salt. This will create an attractive presentation for the scallop shells and prevent them from sliding on the plate. Set aside.

Using an oyster knife or small, strong (but not sharp) knife, carefully pry open the shells. Run the knife under the bottom shell to detach the scallop. Scoop out the scallop, discarding the white muscles and the dark organs and keeping the orange coral in place. Keep the decorative shells to use as ‘serving dishes’. Thoroughly rinse the scallops of all sand and residue. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.

Wash and dry the shells. Place on 2 large baking pans. Return the scallops to the centres of the shells. Season the white part with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the scallops with the thyme leaves, lightly dust them with the cheese and breadcrumbs, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until the tops are lightly brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer three scallops in their shells to each serving plate, lightly pressing the shells into the salt to secure them. Serve immediately.

Pomegranate Sorbet – from Marcella’s Kitchen by Marcella Hazan

Sorbetto di Melagrana

Serves 6

4 large pomegranates, about 1.4kg (3lb)

Yielding about 1.5litres (2½ pints) of juice and seeds

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 or 7 medium-size fresh mint leaves, torn by hand into 2 or 3 pieces each

Remove the pomegranate rind to extract the seeds.

Mash the flesh coated seeds through a food mill fitted with the disc with the smallest holes, collecting the juice in a bowl.

To the bowl, add the sugar, lemon juice and torn mint leaves. Stir until the sugar has fully dissolved. Let the mixture rest for about 30 minutes.

Pour the mixture through a strainer with a fine mesh to separate from it the mint and any tiny pomegranate seeds that may have passed through the food mill.

Freeze in an ice-cream machine, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Foolproof Food

Apple Fritters

Funny how one sometimes forgets a recipe, we hadn’t had these for ages but I remembered them recently and they taste just as good as ever. When we were children we particularly loved fritters because they used to fry into funny shapes, which caused great hilarity.

1 lb (450g) cooking or eating apples

Batter:

4 ozs (110g) flour

pinch of salt

1 egg, preferably free range

¼ pint (150ml) milk

good quality oil for frying

castor sugar

To make the batter, sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg, using a whisk bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the milk at the same time. Leave the batter in a cool place for about an hour. Heat the oil in a deep fry to 180C/350F/regulo 4.

Peel and core the apples. Cut into rings not more than ½ inch (1cm) thick. Dip the apple rings into the batter, drain off excess and lift out with a skewer, allow any surplus batter to drain off, then drop into hot fat. Don’t put too many fritters into the fat at the same time. Fry until golden brown, drain well on kitchen paper. Toss each fritter in castor sugar. Serve immediately with softly whipped cream. * They can also be shallow-fried in a pan if that is more convenient.

Hot Tips

Slow Food Event – Festive Food for Christmas – Cookery Demonstration with Darina and Rachel Allen at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Co Cork on Wednesday 14th November at 7.00pm

€25 for Slow Food members and €45 for non members, booking essential – call Helen on 021-4646785 or email library@cookingisfun.ie

Boyle Rally Festival Plans are well under way for the Boyle Festival, a series of entertainments and exhibitions on Friday, November 16th in Boyle, Co Roscommon, to mark the World Rally Local Stages in this area. The Official Opening takes place at 6pm in The Pleasure Grounds when The Art of Sound, a spectacular Sound & Light Show, takes place. From 6pm-10pm in the Public Car Park, Shop Street, a Micro Cam state of the art 16x12ft Outdoor Screen will be showing rally footage and children’s films. From 5pm-9pm in the grounds of King House and along River Walk there will be a Christmas Market. This outdoor craft market (where the Saturday morning Farmers’ Market is usually held) should have something for everyone. Specialised hot food stalls with a large selection of hot foods made to eat alfresco, including roasted pig on a spit, crepes, wraps, home-made soups, home-made sausages and burgers and lots more, will be lined up along RiverWalk. www.unabhan.net unabhan@indigo.ie

Darina wins Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Award

Darina wins Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Award, seen here with her mother Elizabeth O'ConnellLast week brought an unexpected announcement, Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Awards honoured my “outstanding contribution to the Irish Culinary Sector”.
The citation read – “Darina Allen’s award was given in recognition of her exceptional work in providing an outstanding level of culinary education at Ballymaloe Cookery School, for her involvement in the Slowfood movement and her activities as a lobbyist for the artisan food industry, and for her commitment and passion in protecting and promoting traditional Irish and local food. Her contribution has been invaluable in creating the high standard of artisan food production and culinary expertise which exists in Ireland today.”

Was that not a lovely surprise on a Monday morning.

As a friend wryly remarked in her congratulatory note – great to get a pat on the back while you’re still alive, they (not Euro-toques) usually wait till you’re pushing up the daisies.

Euro-toques – The European Community of Cooks, was established in 1986 in Brussels as a guardian of European culinary heritage and as a lobby group addressing the concerns of Europe’s top chefs and cooks about food quality and the future of food.

Every year they honour artisans and food producers who produce real quality. Speaking on behalf of Euro-toques, Founder member Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House commented “We cannot do our job as cooks without top-quality ingredients and recognizing and promoting the people who provide these is central to what Euro-toques is all about. We are delighted to have here today, a group of people who have championed traditional and local products and production methods and have carried on and developed their businesses in the face of great challenges.

One of our grave concerns in recent years has been the shutting down of small abattoirs right across the country, so we are delighted to recognize a butcher who has continued to raise, slaughter and sell his own animals on his own premises – this is the true meaning of traceability. We also see the depletion of native fish stocks as one of the major food threats currently and are therefore awarding a fisherman who has taken a special interest in conservation. All these people contribute in a small, but vital way, to ensuring a viable and diverse food supply into the future.”

This year, a butcher, a baker, a fisherman, a miller and a dairy farmer were amongst those commended by top Irish chefs for their contribution to Irish food.

The annual event is sponsored by the Cavan Crystal Hotel and this year’s awards were presented by Cavan Euro-toques chef, cookbook author and TV personality Neven Maguire.

Awards were presented to five outstanding food producers/suppliers:

  • Glenilen Dairy, Drimoleague, West Cork
    Recognised for diversifying a traditional dairy farm into production of quality dairy-based products including traditional country butter, clotted cream and yoghurt, as well as a range of cheesecakes, mousses and desserts.
  • Michael McGrath Butcher, Lismore, Co Waterford
    A fourth generation butcher recognized for maintaining traditional methods, above all for retaining their on-premises abattoir and slaughtering their own cattle, as well as providing a slaughtering service for local farmers.
  • Flahavan Mills, Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford
    The well-known producer of Flahavan’s Oats, recognized for maintaining high production standards in keeping with traditional methods and environmental concerns.
  • Terry Butterly, Coastguard Seafoods, Annagassan, Co Louth
    A fisherman for 35 years, Terry Butterly now processes seafoods for supply to some of the top restaurants on the east coast. He was recognized for his special interest in conservation and the service he provides in informing chefs about the seasonality and availability of fish.
  • Ditty’s Home Bakery, Castledawson, Northern Ireland.
    A third generation bakery producing traditional Ulster breads, using ingredients from local artisan suppliers. Recognised for promoting regional diversity and developing new artisan products.

These awards are unique in that nominations are made by the Euro-toque members, and winners are then carefully selected by the Euro-toques Food Committee, made up of chefs from all over the country. Therefore, these awards give producers recognition from the top industry chefs and cooks in the country.

Each award winner was presented with a specially commissioned engraved piece by Cavan Crystal Design.

Glenilen Yoghurt and Cardamom Cream with Pomegranate Seeds perfumed with Rose Blossom Water
Serves 8-10

425ml (15 fl ozs) Glenilen natural yoghurt
230ml (8 fl ozs) milk
200ml (7 fl ozs) cream
175g (6 ozs) castor sugar (could be reduced to 5oz)
¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly ground – you’ll need about 8-10 green cardamom pods depending on size
3 rounded teaspoons powdered gelatine

Pomegranate Seeds with Rose Blossom Water
1-2 pomegranates depending on size
a little lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons castor sugar
Rose blossom water to taste

Garnish: Sweet geranium or mint leaves
Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Awards
Remove the seeds from 8-10 green cardamom pods, crush in a pestle and mortar.

Put the milk, sugar and cream into a stainless steel saucepan with the ground cardamom, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse while you dissolve the gelatine.

Put 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatine over the water, allow to ‘sponge’ for a few minutes. Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine has melted and is completely clear. Add a little of the cardamom infused milk mixture, stir well and then mix this into the rest. Whisk the yoghurt lightly until smooth and creamy, stir into the cardamom mixture.

Pour into a wide serving dish or a lightly oiled ring mould and allow to set for several hours, preferably overnight.

Meanwhile, cut the pomegranates in half around the Equator! Carefully separate the seeds from the membrane. Put the seeds into a bowl, sprinkle with just a little freshly squeezed lemon juice, add castor sugar and rose blossom water to taste. Chill.

If the cardamom cream has been set in a ring mould, turn out onto a chilled white plate. Fill the centre with chilled rose-scented pomegranate seeds. Garnish with sweet geranium or mint leaves or even prettier, garnish with crystallized rose petals. I’ve got a wonderful Irish rose called ‘Souvenir de St Anne’s” in Lydia’s garden. This rose has a bloom even in the depths of winter so I steal a few petals and crystallize to decorate this and other desserts.

Irish Stew made with Michael McGrath’s Lamb
Serves 4-6

2½ – 3 lbs (1.35kg) lamb chops (gigot or rack chops) not less than 1 inch (2.5cm) thick
8 medium or 12 baby carrots
8 medium or 12 baby onions
8 -12 potatoes, or more if you like
salt and freshly ground pepper
1½-1¾ pints stock (lamb stock if possible) or water
1 sprig of thyme
1 tablesp. roux, optional – see recipe

Garnish
1 tablesp. freshly chopped parsley
1 tablesp. freshly chopped chives

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

Cut the chops in half and trim off some of the excess fat. Set aside. Render down the fat on a gentle heat in a heavy pan (discard the rendered down pieces).

Peel the onions and scrape or thinly peel the carrots (if they are young you could leave some of the green stalk on the onion and carrot). Cut the carrots into large chunks, or if they are small leave them whole. If the onions are large, cut them into quarters through the root, if they are small they are best left whole.

Toss the meat in the hot fat on the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots and onions up in layers in the casserole, carefully season each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt. De-glaze the pan with lamb stock and pour into the casserole. Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme, bring to the boil on top of the stove, cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, 1-1½ hours approx, depending on whether the stew is being made with lamb or hogget.

When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid, de-grease and reheat in another saucepan. Slightly thicken by whisking in a little roux if you like. Check seasoning, then add chopped parsley and chives. Pour over the meat and vegetables. Bring the stew back up to boiling point and serve from the pot or in a large pottery dish.

Roux
4 ozs (110g) butter
4 ozs (110g) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

Irish Stew with Pearl Barley

Add 1-2 tablespoons pearl barley with the vegetables.
Increase the stock to 2 pints (1.2L) as the pearl barley soaks up lots of liquid.

Flahavan’s Oatmeal Biscuits
These nutritious biscuits keep very well in a tin. Children love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter, because the flavour is immeasurably better.

Makes 24-32

1 lb (450g) Flahavan’s rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)
12 ozs (340g) butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar

Swiss roll tin, 10 inches (25.5cm) x 15 inches (38cm)

Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and pure vanilla essence, stir in the castor sugar and oatmeal and mix well. Spread into a large Swiss roll tin and bake in a preheated moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, until golden and slightly caramelised – about 30 minutes. Cut into 24-32 squares while still warm.

Note: Make half the recipe if a 9 inch (23cm) x 13 inch (33cm) Swiss roll thin is used.

Gratin of Haddock with Imokilly Cheddar and Mustard with Piquant Beetroot
This is one of the simplest and most delicious fish dishes we know. If haddock is unavailable, cod, hake or grey sea mullet are also great. We use Imokilly mature Cheddar from our local creamery at Mogeely.

Serves 6 as a main course

175g (6 x 6oz) pieces of haddock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
225g (8ozs) Irish mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoon cream

Piquant Beetroot

1½ lbs (675 g) beetroot cooked
½ oz (15 g) butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
A sprinkling of sugar (if necessary)
5-6 fl ozs (140-175ml) cream
1-2 tsp finely chopped chives.

Peel the beetroot, use rubber gloves for this operation if you are vain!. Chop the beetroot flesh into cubes. Melt the butter in a saute pan, add the beetroot toss, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and cream, allow to bubble for a few minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Taste and add a little more lemon juice if necessary. Serve immediately.

Ovenproof dish 8½ x 10 inches (21.5 x 25.5cm)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Season the fish with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer in an ovenproof dish (it should be posh enough to bring to the table.) Mix the grated cheese with the mustard and cream and spread carefully over the fish. It can be prepared ahead and refrigerated at this point. Cook in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the top is golden and bubbly. Flash under the grill if necessary. Serve with hot Piquant Beetroot.

Irish Farmhouse Cheese with Ditty’s Oatcakes or Gubbeen Cheese Oatcakes

Choose a piece of perfect Irish farmhouse cheese made from cow, goat or ewe’s milk – Milleens, Gubbeen, Durrus, Cashel Blue, Baylough, Desmond, Croghan, Ardsallagh, Knockalara, Kerry, Cooleeney, Coolea, Abbey Blue, Killorglin, Chetwynd, Ardrahan, Lavistown, Ring, Boilie … there are over 80 to choose from and serve with Ditty’s Oatcakes.

Hot Tips
The winners

Glenilen Farm Artisan Foods www.glenilen.com glenilen@eircom.net
Flahavans www.flahavans.com oatmail@flahavans.com
Coastguard Seafoods, Annagassan, Co Louth – Tel 042-9372527
Michael McGrath Butcher, Main St. Lismore, Co Waterford –
Tel 058-54350

Ditty’s Home Bakery, www.dittysbakery.com dittysbakery@tiscali.co.uk

Ummera Smoked Products are now available in London at
Tom’s Deli, 226 Westbourne Grove, W11 2RH – Smoked Dry Cured Bacon/Rashers, Organic Salmon and if you’re lucky some Organic Gravlax – Call Sophie Taylor at Tom’s Deli – 0207 221 8818 to reserve a little taste of Ummera if you have a longing for a taste of West Cork.

LE CRUNCH HEALTH HEROES COMPETITION IS ON AGAIN!
One of the most popular Primary school campaigns, organised by Le Crunch French Apples, is back!

Schools around the country will focus on a healthy approach to eating and lifestyle when they return from the mid-term break as the students paint, draw, photograph or otherwise create posters depicting how they and their classmates get active and become health heroes.

Back to Top

Cornwall

A tempting invitation to a wedding in Cornwall gave us the excuse we needed to pop over to Newquay on the South West Airways connection from Cork – what a gem, this quick 45 minute hop gets you to Cornwall in almost less time than it takes to get to West Cork (notwithstanding the carbon footprint of course.)

Just five minutes from the airport is Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall which has just celebrated its first birthday.  The cool, funky restaurant with floor to ceiling windows, overlooks Watergate Bay, offers panoramic views over miles of sandy strand, surely one of the UK’s most beautiful beaches and a surfers paradise.

This is not merely another restaurant, Jamie Oliver is a chef with a mission and its not just PR guff, he really does want to use his many talents to make a difference. When he opened Fifteen Cornwall in a blaze of publicity in May 2006, it had an ambitious agenda, not only to serve terrific food made with the finest local ingredients, but also to transform the lives of its apprentices as well as supporting the food producers and community surrounding the restaurant.

Many of the disadvantaged young people had got themselves on to the wrong side of the law. In just twelve months they have been transformed from unemployed young people lacking in confidence and direction into highly skilled talented chefs.  The first batch graduated at an emotional ceremony in June and have now gone on to work in a variety of restaurants, some as far afield as New York.  Three of the original bunch remained at Fifteen Cornwall to mentor and train the second batch.  The atmosphere in the restaurant was young and energetic – the service skilled and knowledgeable and the food was fresh-tasting and delicious.

We started with one of Fifteen’s ‘amazing antipasta’ sharing plates, an outstanding selection of beautifully dressed roast seasonal vegetable, artichokes, fennel, baby leeks. Mammoth green olives, paper thin slices of Toscano and Milanese salami, Mozzarella with really good homemade breads.  Then a couple of pasta dishes – pappardelle of wild Cornish rabbit, olives and marjoram, Taglieri of local squid from Looe, tomato, chilli and grated bottega di Muggine and the lightest potato gnocchi with lots of mixed wild mushrooms, rocket and mascarpone – all were exceptionally good.  As if that wasn’t enough, we tucked into Grampound duck breast, creamy borlotti beans, hipse cabbage and red onion jam, roast monkfish, piperonata and pickled samphire and even fought over Cornish fisherman’s stew (sea bass, razor clams, squid, halibut and cockles with crostini and aioli – fresh, flavourful and gorgeous.

We couldn’t manage much on the pudding front but shared a white chocolate tiramisu with balsamic strawberries.

(Cornish mackerel, golden beetroot, loads of herbs and horseradish, wild quail, saltimbocca, smashed celeriac and twelve year old balsamic).

Well worth making the trip for that alone and it has to be said that I’m not that easy to impress.   If you do decide to make the hop there’s lots more in a small area to entice.  St Ives is close by, art and architecture lovers mustn’t miss the Tate Modern, but there are lots of craft shops, galleries and restaurants.  I particularly love Portminster Café although I didn’t manage to make it this time.

We scooted down along the coast to the Gurnards Head outside Treen.  The drive is one of the most beautiful in Britain and as soon as you come to the yellow-washed guest house on the brow of the hill, you know it will be something special.  This pub with rooms, voted Cornwall’s best newcomer in 2007 is owned by Charles and Edmund Inkin who have brought their award-winning formula from the Griffin in Felin Fach in Wales to Cornwall – a cosy convivial pub with just seven simply furnished bedrooms and great food.  Its very close to some of the most spectacular coastline in the British Isles and there really is something about the light in Cornwall, every second person seems to be a painter or a wannabe painter.

Charles changes his menu every day depending on what’s available locally.  We loved the sardine escabeche on rocket leaves, the pork rillettes with salsa verde and the cucumber and pomegranate, feta, sunflower seed and flat parsley salad with tahina dressing.  The pork chop with kale and roast butternut squash and tarragon butter, and the sirloin of beef with celeriac puree, turnips and chard.   There was also a tempting local cheese selection but we could only manage a chocolate tart with stem ginger and clotted cream.   One of those rare chocolate puddings that one licks guiltily off the spoon, allowing it to melt slowly and deliciously as you savour every calorie laden moment.

I managed to persuade Matt to part with the recipe and the recipe for sardine escabeche which would probably work well with mackerel also if fresh sardines are not available.

Breakfast was also a simple feast, fresh orange juice squeezed minutes earlier, local yoghurts and some cereals, good homemade bread to pop into the toaster, homemade jams, lemon curd and honey and the fattest kippers I’ve ever eaten and darn good fry – not surprising the Gurnard’s Head was announced as the winner of the 2008 Good Pub Guide “County Dining Pub of the Year” for Cornwall last week. It had already gathered the 2007 Best Newcomer by Which Good Food Guide,  2008 Good Hotel Guide – one of the really good newcomers in the Budget Hotel category and a 2 Star Rosette rating by the AA.

About 50 minutes drive from the Airport at Newquay, put it on your list of secret getaways. 

Gurnard’s Head Hotel, Treen, Zennor, Cornwall, Tel 01736 796928, Fax 01736 795313,  enquiries@gurnardshead.co.uk   www.gurnardshead.co.uk

Meanwhile here are a few delicious recipes to try.

 

Chocolate Torte
 (to make 1 x 9inch tin)
 
375g (13oz) dark 70% coco solid Chocolate
225g (8oz) unsalted butter
5 whole eggs
210g (7½ oz) caster sugar
 Preheat the oven to 110 degreesC (225F/Gas ¼)
 Melt the chocolate and the butter in a bain marie ensuring not to let the water beneath it come to a boil. The gentler this mixture melts, the better.
 
Meanwhile roughly divide the sugar into 2 piles of 1/3 and 2/3. Using 1/3 of the sugar, in an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until pale and voluminous.
 Put the remaining 2/3 of sugar into a saucepan with a sprinkle of water. Enough to dampen the sugar. No more than 2 tablespoons. Bring this slowly to the boil and when you have a clear viscous looking liquid, remove the pan from the hob.
 

Pour the sugar syrup over the melted chocolate and gently fold the chocolate mixture in amongst the egg mixture.
  Pour the finished mixture into a 9 inch cake tin that will fit snugly into a roasting tray and top the roasting tray up with boiling water, ensuring not to let the water rise and topple into the tin.
 Bake uncovered in the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. The torte should have a gentle wobble when removed from the oven.
 
Feta, pomegranate and pumpkin seed salad. (serves 4)
 
More of a method than a recipe perhaps!
 1 head of very leafy celery
250g Good quality Greek / Cypriot feta
2 deep crimson coloured pomegranates
Large handful of toasted pumpkin seeds
Flat leaf parsley
Tahini
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Sumac
Honey
Toasted and ground cumin seeds
Boiling water
Salt and pepper.
 
To make the dressing, first toast and grind the cumin seeds (equalling about 1/3 of a teaspoon).  In a bowl, put 1 heaped tablespoon of Tahini. Using the boiling water, thin the Tahini with enough water to make it the consistency of Crème Fraîche.  Now mix in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Some lemon juice to taste. A teaspoon of honey to balance the bitterness of the Tahini, the ground cumin and 1/3 teaspoon of sumac.  Finally season the dressing with salt and pepper.
 In a dry pan put a large handful of pumpkin seeds with a good pinch of salt and roast in the oven until crunchy and golden.
 

Using the leafiest celery you can find, slice in ¼ cm thickness.
 Slice the pomegranates in half, and using a wooden spoon beat the skin side halves thereby releasing the seeds onto a plate and making sure to pick out any of the white pith that may come away with the seeds.
 
In a large serving bowl, put the sliced celery, the pomegranate seeds, crumble the feta into sizable chunks, and pick enough whole parsley leaves to have a favourable mix of white, green and pink. Gently toss the mix with the dressing and scatter the toasted seeds on top of the finished salad.
 Sardine Escabeche
 

4 sardines – scaled, gutted and washed
1 carrot – peeled and thinly sliced
2 shallots – peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic – peeled and thinly sliced
Peel of ¼ orange – cut into thin strips
1 bay leaf – cut into thin strips
10 coriander seeds
12 saffron strands
1 sprig thyme
120 ml olive oil
Juice ½ orange
100 ml red wine vinegar (or Verjuice)
75 ml fish stock (or water)
Salt and pepper
           lightly flour and season the sardines. Fry in 1/2 the olive oil till almost cooked – lay in ceramic dish
          add the rest of the oil to the pan, and when hot add the carrot, shallot and garlic. Gently fry until just soft
           add aromatics (orange, bay, coriander, saffron, thyme) stir to mix
          pour over the liquids, season – bring to the boil and pour the hot mixture over the fish
           leave to marinate 24 hours.
 
Toffee Apple Tart – from Jamie Oliver “Jamie’s Dinners the Essential Cookbook”This is a fantastic dessert that Jamie loves to make for his friends as they can’t get enough of it. The combination of toffee and apples is a fairground classic but feel free to try it with pears, bananas and even strawberries.

Serves 6 – 8
 
For the Shortcrust Pastry
 optional: 1 vanilla pod125g /4½oz butter

100g/3¾oz icing sugar

a small pinch of salt

255g/9oz flour

Zest of ½ a lemon

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons cold milk or water

For the Filling
 2 x 397g tins of condensed milk or 2 jars or Merchant Gourmet Dulce de Leche toffee

4 medium sized cooking apples

2 heaped tablespoons icing sugar

Put your un-opened tins of condensed milk in a high sided pan, covered with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer constantly for about 3 hours with a lid on top. It’s very important to remember to keep checking the pan, as you don’t want it to boil dry – otherwise the tins will explode. It will give you the most amazing toffee. Put the tins to one side and allow to cool.

First of all you need to make your pastry. Score down the length of the vanilla pod, if using, and remove the seeds by scraping a knife down the inside of each half (keep the pod for making vanilla sugar) Cream together the butter, icing sugar and salt and then run in the flour, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and egg yolks – you can do all this by hand or in a food processor. When the mixture looks like course breadcrumbs, add the cold milk or water. Pat gently and work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough, then flour it lightly and roll it into a large sausage shape – don’t work the pastry too much otherwise it will become too elastic and chewy, not flaky and short as you want it to be. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for at least an hour. Remove it from the fridge, slice it up and line a 28cm/11 inch tart mould with the slivers. Push them together, and then tidy up the sides by trimming off any excess. Place the tart mould into the freezer for an hour. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350°F?gas 4, then take the pastry case out of the freezer and bake for around 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and place to one side.

Peel and quarter the apples and remove the cores, the slice finely and toss in the icing sugar. Remove the pastry base from the freezer and smear the caramel from both tins of condensed milk over it. Place the apples on top and pour any remaining juices over. Cook at the bottom of the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, to give you a crispy base and bubbling toffee over the apples. Serve with vanilla ice-cream. Beautiful.

Hot Tips
Savour Kilkenny Food Festival this weekend –
Food trails, special menus, tasting workshops – cooking demonstrations in the Ormonde Hotel today, Farmers Market on Kieran Street tomorrow and Gospel Brunch at Rivercourt Hotel, Polish specialities at Café Sol and much much more – booking with individual outlets.

West Cork Slow Food’s Seasonal Gourmet Food Discovery Evening at Urru
Will take place on Tuesday October 30th at Urru Culinary Store, Bandon.  
One of Ireland’s best known shopkeepers, Peter Ward from Country Choice Delicatessen in Nenagh, will be enthusing about the spectacular array of dried and candied fruits that you will all need for making the most delicious Plum Puddings and Christmas cakes, along with all the many other uses of these fruits.
The evening will include the preparatory stages of the Christmas cake baking and the evening will be complemented by wines from our sponsors, Febvre & Co.

Time 7.30 for 8pm, €10 for Slow Food Members, €12.50 non-members, booking essential – numbers limited.

Spirit of Christmas Fair – a Foodies’ Paradise 7-11 November 2007 Olympia London.
One of the highlights of this year’s fair – the ultimate Christmas shopping experience, is the Spirit of Christmas Food Hall, a virtual seventh heaven for all those who love fine wine, delicious and unusual ingredients and want the very best products sourced from around the world. Visit www.spiritofchristmasfair.co.uk

Fifteen Corwall, On the Beach, Watergate Bay, Cornwall, TR8 4AA,
Tel 01637 861 000   www.fifteencornwall.co.uk
Rory O’Connell will teach a 1 day Winter/Christmas Cookery Course on 8th December at Snugboro, Ballycotton, Co Cork.
For details and bookings contact Rory on 086-8516917  www.rgoconnell.com

Letters

Past Letters