ArchiveOctober 13, 2007

A visit to Montreal

Its about ten years since I’d last visited Montreal, my experience was clouded by my memories of a segregated city where two communities were divided by culture and the language they spoke. The French-Canadians resolutely refused to speak English and seemed not even to suffer inarticulate visitors gladly. The Anglophones seemed equally entrenched – it is unlikely to have been so polarized but that was certainly my impression on a brief visit.
Last January I received an invitation from Dr. Michael Kenneally of Concordia University in Montreal, to give the second annual St Patrick Society Lecture in Canadian Irish Studies this fall. This lecture was inaugurated in September 2006 by Dr. Garret Fitzgerald and aims to bring speakers to talk on topics of interest to both the university and wider communities. The Centre for Canadian Irish Studies offers study programmes that focus on the history and culture of Ireland and the experiences of the Irish in Canada. My topic was the History of Irish Food and I also covered the current food scene in Ireland, the emergence of Farmers Markets and the artisan food sector. Michael Kenneally himself originally hails from Youghal where his brother Tom is a vet. I was delighted to accept the invitation and was promised a tour of some of the culinary delights of Montreal including the markets, at their best at this time of year.
On my return visit I was thrilled to discover that the city had completely transformed itself. Montreal is possibly the most bilingual city in the world. The majority of citizens seem equally at home in French or English so many of the barriers seem to have melted away, allowing the inhabitants to come together and embrace each other’s culture – the result is an absolutely extraordinary city which is ‘food mad’. It seems that all the best aspects of the French, English, Italian, West Indian , Greek and Jewish traditions have contributed to make an intriguing melting pot – no wonder the markets are so rich and multi-cultural and the restaurants and cafes so deliciously varied. 
There are two fantastic markets in Montreal, Marché Jean Talon and Marché Atwater.
On my first morning I woke early and took a cab to Marché Atwater the smaller of the two main markets. By 7.30am row upon row of vegetable and fruit stalls were already piled high. Locals were filling their bags and I spotted a couple of local chefs doing their rounds, I was particularly intrigued by the delicious homemade pickles, ketchups and chutneys made by Serge Bourcier. Quebec with its long cold winters has a strong living tradition of preserving summer bounty and the season was in full swing. Everywhere people were carrying huge crates of red peppers and tomatoes to make purees and pickles for their Winter store-cupboard. I also wandered into several of the shops around the periphery of the market. William J Walters freshly made sausages and bacon are legendary among locals and visitors alike, La Fromagerie du Deuxième with its impressive cheese selection is definitely worth a visit also.
Having done my rounds I popped into a Première Moisson for a double expresso and an almond croissant. This small chain of câfe bakeries, the brainchild of the Colpron-Fiset family, is well above average chain quality and having found them I breakfasted in one every morning. Every city should have a Premier-Moisson.
Later I went to the St Denis area to the chic Arthur Quentin (No 3960) kitchen shop – another magnet for the cook is Quincaillerie Dante a hardware shop that sells kitchen gadgets at one side and guns at the other, if you are lucky you may catch one of the owners Elena Faita-Venditelli’s Italian cooking classes. The charming shop and tea room called Au Festin de Babette and offbeat La Witcha which sells fairy dust and herbal tea potions are also worth popping into. I then headed off to Laurier Ave E. to check out an artisan bakery, La Fromentier. They make the best bread in Montreal in a large open bakery with wood burning oven, which shares a space with a charcuterie and cheese shop. (Cheese buffs will also want to visit Yannick Fromagerie d’Exception, 1218 Bernard Street W. to taste cow and goat milk cheeses.)
I also loved two cafes nearby, Byblos and Café des Entretiens, but there’s lots more for foodies on this cool street.
Visitors to Montreal shouldn’t miss Schwartz, a humble café opened as a steakhouse by Romanian immigrant Reuben Schwartz in 1928. You can either eat at one of the communal tables or at the counter. You may have to queue a long time for a famous smoked beef brisket sandwich with mustard on old style rye bread, but both the flavour and atmosphere will be worth it. Don’t ask for lean, it will be too dry, medium is okay, but a toppling sandwich of fat brisket is deliciously, insanely juicy and succulent. Another ‘must not miss’ experience is a Montreal bagel, quite a different animal from the standard bagel. Opinions vary as to which are best but the Fairmont and St Viateur 24 hour neighbouring bakeries are both institutions. The hoops of dough are first boiled, then baked in a wood-fired oven which adds a smoky note to the flavour of the dough – don’t miss the Fairmont onion bagel.
As ever I ran out of mealtimes but greatly enjoyed Alexandre Loiseau’s food at Cocagne on St-Denis Street. He served one of Montreal’s landmark puddings Pouding Chomeur (unemployed man’s pudding) with spice ice-cream and was kind enough to share the recipe with me. Toque! on the edge of Vieux Montreal is a tonier spot where charming Normand Laprise and his team weave their magic with local ingredients in season. I also enjoyed the marginally chaotic Au Pied de Cochon, which was packed and bustling by 6pm. Plum tomatoes were piled high along the counter.
No toques here, the team of young chefs cooked in jeans and baseball hats. Owner Martin Picard is by all accounts a charismatic passionate foodie who has built up an enviable network of local Quebec artisan producers who supply the restaurant with superb meat, vegetables and fruit. The food is robust and gutsy with strong flavours and huge portions. Picard does all his own preserving and pickling and customers can take home either the preserves or the equipment to do it themselves. 
Last but not least you mustn’t leave Montreal without ordering Poutine, a mound of greasy chips sprinkled with cheddar curds doused in thick gravy – doesn’t sound very appetizing but you can’t imagine how good it can taste. It is served in cafes all over town but we were recommended to go to a hip little spot called La Banquise in the Plateau Montreal neighbourhood. I sat at the formica topped tables surrounded by groovy students with dreadlocks, tattoos and many piercings tucking in to the classic poutine. I couldn’t believe I was eating this bizarre concotion, forkful after forkful – I couldn’t resist, it was sooooo good and so cheap, and though its still on my hips three weeks later I don’t regret a single bite!

Tomato Tart

- from “Au Pied du Cochon – The Album”
Serves 6

Pie Dough
225g (8oz) cold butter
275g (10oz/1⅔ cups) all-purpose (plain) flour
70ml (⅓ cup) cold water
1 pinch fine salt


6 fresh ripe tomatoes
300ml (1¼ cups) béchamel sauce
300g (11oz) Gruyere cheese (grated)
5 sprigs fresh thyme (chopped)
Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper


First make the pastry. Cut the butter into 2cm (1 inch) cubes. Mix the flour, salt and butter together by hand or with a food processor.
Some small pieces of butter, about 3mm (⅛in), should remain in the flour mixture. They will help the pastry cook to perfection.
Add water and form a dough roll without working the pastry too much. Leave to rest in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.


Roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx. 3mm (⅛ in), Cut out 6 rounds of 15cm (6in) in diameter.
Spread 50ml (¼ cup) of cold béchamel sauce onto each pastry round, along with a few dashes of Dijon mustard. Then add 50g (approx. 2oz) of Gruyere cheese.
Cover the tarts with 6 or 7 thin slices of tomato about 3mm (⅛ in) thick. Top with some fresh thyme. Sprinkle with salt.
Cook the tarts in the oven at 200C (400F) for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Bechamel Sauce

1L (1¾ pint/4 cups) cold milk
70g (2¾ oz) butter
70g (2¾ oz) flour
1 pinch nutmeg (grated)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Mix in the flour. Cook over a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden.
Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the nutmeg and season to taste. Slowly bring to a boil and cook over low heat for approximately 1 minute. 


MAPLE “PUDDING CHÔMEUR”

from Alexandre Loiseau of Cocagne Restaurant
This recipe was written in American measurements which we have converted
1 egg
2¼ tablesp.(3 American tablesp) maple syrup 
10g/½ oz (1 American tablesp) butter, melted
4oz (110g/1 cup) plain flour
Pinch salt
1 heaped dessertspoon (1 American tablesp.) baking powder
1 pinch nutmeg
4fl.oz (125ml/½ cup) milk
7oz (200g/1 cup) maple sugar (you could also use brown sugar here)
12fl.oz (350ml/1½ cups) heavy or whipping cream

Preheat oven to 375˚F. 

Lightly grease a porcelain baking dish (a lasagne type dish would be fine) 30x10x7cm or a square 24x24cm dish., approximately 

Beat together the egg and maple syrup, then blend in the butter. 
In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg, then mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture alternatively with the milk until you have a smooth batter. Spread evenly into the prepared the baking dish. Whisk together the maple sugar (or brown sugar) and cream, then pour over the batter. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake is firm and golden, and the syrup is thick and bubbly.

Off-to-Bed Butter Cookies

(from Gourmet Magazine)
Crumbly, delicate and glistening with golden sugar, these easy slice-and-bake cookies will quickly become one of your favourite standbys.

Makes about 4 dozen

6oz (175g/1½ cups) plain flour
¼ teasp. salt 
150g (5oz/¾ cup) unsalted butter, softened
100g (3½oz) granulated sugar 
2 teaspoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar

2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Stir together the flour and sugar in a bowl. Beat together butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing, and continue to mix until batter just comes together in clumps. Gather clumps to form a dough, then press dough with lightly floured hands into a smooth 1¼ in (3cm) thick log on a very lightly floured work surface. 
Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour.
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350F/180C/gas mark 5.
Cut chilled log crosswise into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices and arrange slices about ½ inch (1cm) apart on baking sheets. Brush tops of cookies lightly with cream, then sprinkle generously with Demerara sugar.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 12-15 minutes in total.
Cool on sheets on racks.

Note: Dough log can be chilled, wrapped well in plastic wrap, up to 3 days or frozen, wrapped in plastic and foil, 1 month (thaw in refrigerator just until dough can be sliced).
Cookies will keep for 4days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Hot Tips 

BIM Seafood Circle – from Tide to Table 
This initiative recognizes and rewards the many shops, supermarkets, pubs and restaurants that push the limits to deliver excellent seafood and service to their customers. When buying fish or eating out look for the Seafood Circle symbol – www.seafoodcircle.ie 

Q82 Restaurant, Dungarvan, Co Waterford
Celebrate their local producers with a Slow Food Dinner Menu designed around their spectacular produce on Wednesday October 17th at 6.30pm for 7pm
Enjoy the feast and meet the producers themselves. 
Booking essential – places limited – Tel Q82 on 058-244555 (quote Slow Food when booking) €55 for 6 courses (excluding wine) €48 for Slow Food members and students.

Cork City becomes a GM-free zone
Minister for Food and Horticulture backs move
Top chefs and restaurants welcome recipe to protect food quality and traditions
The City of Cork is now a GMO-free zone, following a recent motion by Cork City Council which declares the area off-limits to the release of genetically modified seeds and crops. The decision follows similar motions adopted by Bantry and Clonakilty last year.
The Minister of State for Food and Horticulture, Trevor Sargent, said the move will help to protect the economic interest of Ireland’s food and farming future as a clean green GM-free food island.

Darina wins Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Award

Recipes
Darina wins Euro-toque Cavan Crystal AwardLast 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.

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

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.

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.

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.


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.


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

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.

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

www.glenilen.com glenilen@eircom.net
www.flahavans.com oatmail@flahavans.com
, Annagassan, Co Louth – Tel 042-9372527
, Main St. Lismore, Co Waterford –
Tel 058-54350

www.dittysbakery.com dittysbakery@tiscali.co.uk

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.

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.

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