Saturday November 24th

S

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

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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