ArchiveFebruary 2008

Local Food

From San Diego to Stuttgart, Sydney to Wales, there seems to be a growing focus on using local produce. Local is no longer a derogatory term, it’s the coolest word in the foodie’s dictionary.
In California, top restaurants are vying with each other to source the freshest local produce for their menus. Some are proudly highlighting that the salad greens, vegetables or fruit were picked just 5-6-7 hours earlier. Dan Barber at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York, has a greenhouse beside the restaurant, he regularly serves tiny raw vegetables as s starter, miniscule carrots, beets, fennel… plucked from the soil in the minutes earlier, specially to thrill his guests.
On my last trip to the West Coast everyone seemed to be talking about sourcing the ‘food of their neighbourhood’. Farmers Markets are thriving and most have a very strict local food policy, the wonderful climate during the growing season ensures abundance and a wide variety of produce. Everyone seemed to be talking about food, not just the latest restaurant, but where to source the best heirloom tomatoes, beets, artichokes, free range chickens, rare breed pork, day boat fish. … Everywhere, restaurants, delis, food shops were highlighting local, seasonal produce and educating their customers about variety and breed. There seemed to be a hunger to learn more about how food was grown and produced and at last the farmers’ and food producers’ names are coming to the fore and they are getting the long overdue credit for producing quality. Restaurants are serving their local food proudly, a rare enough occurrence here in Ireland where we have plenty to be proud of.
As I travel around the country I despair that so few country hotels and restaurants highlight any local food or producers on their menus. On a recent trip to Kilkenny, I ate in a city centre hotel, the menu gave me no clue where I was, I could have been in Italy, Thailand or Sydney. There was certainly no indication that I was even in Ireland, where was the meat from the local farmers, is there any fish in the Nore any longer, or even Dunmore East? How about a little Irish soda bread instead of the ubiquitous par-baked bread and doughy rolls. When I asked about the provenance of the meat there seemed to be confusion, and the waiting staff didn’t seem to even recognize the word Lavistown when I asked if I might have a little piece of the farmhouse cheese made just a few miles outside the city by Roger and Olivia Goodwillie.
In the Farmer’s Diner in Vermont in the US, the menu says ‘Food from here’ – How wonderful it would be to travel around the country and taste the food of that place, the hinterland of Abbeyleix, Ballina, Enniscorthy, Tullamore … Most chefs now, virtually buy all their food from a central distribution system, most of it pre-packed and portioned, even vegetables come peeled and packed in a chemical solution. This is not only for economic reasons but also because it means less hassle with HACCP paperwork to satisfy the health inspectors.
Those of us who are in the hospitality business depend on our local customers to support us throughout the year, why should we expect them to support us if we don’t put at least some money back into our own community and buy the produce of our local farmers and food producers and support local butchers and bakers.
Time for all of us to become proactive and ask more questions about the menus. Each and every one of us can make a difference to the Irish economy, by how we choose to spend our euros.
Patrick Walsh 021-4646836, Bill Casey 021-4646955, Frank Hederman 021-4811089
James Veale 021-4661362, James Howard, Sunnyside Fruit 025-36253, Siobhan Barry, Midleton Farmers Market – 021-4883034, Ballycotton Seafood, 021-4646522, Cuthberts Bread widely stocked in East Cork – 021-4634181
Hot Tips
Nautilus Restaurant at the Inn by the Harbour, Ballycotton
Leo and Nessa Babin are serving delicious food on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6.30-9.00 and lunch on Sunday from 12.30-5pm – overlooking the harbour in Ballycotton – Steak and Chips, Boeuf Bourgignon, Fish and Chips, Butternut Squash Risotto, Indian Lamb Curry …. Crème Brulee, Chocolate Brownie, Apple Tart –
Booking recommended Tel 021-4646768, 087-6135897

Good Things Café, Durrus, Co Cork
Carmel Somers at Good Things in Durrus received great praise in the 2008 Bridgestone Guide for her delicious ham sandwich – made with local ham and crusty bread – one of the restaurants around the country that does highlight local. Congratulations also to Good Things for having been recognised with a Michelin Bib Gourmand Award for the third year in a row, only one of twelve restaurants in Ireland to receive the award which recognises ‘good food at moderate prices’. Tel: 027-61426 www.bridgestoneguides.com

Lafont Porcelain Enamelled Cast Iron Cookware available from URRU shops in Mallow and Bandon – Round French oven, Oval au Gratin , Buffet Casserole, Skillet, Pan Grill – in wonderful colours with hardwood knobs. Mallow – 022-53192, Bandon 023-54731 – nip in for a look and enjoy a delicious coffee and sweet bite or a light lunch.

Pangrilled Ballycotton Herrings with Grainy Mustard Butter

Serves 6 as a starter
Herrings have been scarce this year but I keep hoping for a delicious feast.

6 fresh herrings, gutted, scaled and washed

Seasoned flour

Grainy Mustard Butter
1 teaspoon grainy mustard eg. Moutarde de Meaux
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
3 ozs (85g) melted butter
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

First make the Mustard Butter. Cream the butter in a bowl, add the mustards and the finely chopped parsley, a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and freshly ground pepper. Form into a roll in pure clingfilm or greaseproof paper and allow to harden or make into pats. Refrigerate until needed.
Preheat a cast iron pangrill over a medium heat until quite hot. Slash the herrings at an angle in three places on each side. Coat with well seasoned flour, spread a little soft butter over one side of each herring. Lay the herrings butter side down, not touching on the hot pan, they should sizzle. Reduce the heat immediately and cook for approximately 3 minutes on that side before turning over. Continue to cook until golden on both sides. Serve immediately on hot plates with two slices of Grainy Mustard Butter per fish. Garnish with a sprig of flat parsley and a segment of freshly cut lemon.

James Veale’s Roast Guinea Fowl with Potato and Parsnip Crisps and Sunnyside Farm Red Currant Sauce

Serves 4

1 Guinea fowl

Stuffing:
45g (1½oz) butter
85g (3oz) chopped onions
65 g (generous 2½oz) breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon freshly chopped herbs, e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram
salt and freshly-ground pepper

Potato and Parnsip Crisps
Redcurrant Sauce

Gut the Guinea fowl if necessary and remove the ‘crop’ which is at the neck end; wash and dry well.
To make the stuffing: Melt the butter and sweat the onions until soft but not coloured, then remove from the heat. Stir in the soft white breadcrumbs and fresh herbs, season with salt and freshly-ground pepper and taste. Unless you are about to cook the bird right away, allow the stuffing to get quite cold before putting it into the bird. Season the cavity with salt and freshly-ground pepper and stuff the guinea fowl loosely. Smear the breast and legs with soft or melted butter. Roast in a preheated moderate oven, 190C/375F/gas mark 5, for 1¼ hours approx. Test by pricking the leg at the thickest point: the juices should just run clear.
Meanwhile make the Redcurrant Sauce and the Potato and Parsnip Crisps.
Spoon off any surplus fat from the roasting pan (keep it for roasting or sautéeing potatoes). Deglaze the pan with game or chicken stock. Bring it to the boil, and use a whisk to dislodge the crusty caramelized juices so they can dissolve into the gravy. Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper, taste and boil until you are happy with the flavour. Pour into a hot gravy boat.
Carve the guinea fowl into four portions giving each person some brown and white meat. Spoon a little gravy over the meat. Pile some Potato and Parsnip Crisps over the top. Garnish with large sprigs of watercress and serve with Redcurrant Sauce .

John Howard’s Sunnyside Farm Redcurrant Sauce

Serves 4-6

A simple, delicious sauce which is unbelievably quick to make. It goes well with lamb, guinea fowl, ham and pate de campagne. Frozen redcurrants may be used.

150g (5½oz) sugar
125ml (4fl oz) water
140g (5oz) redcurrants

Remove the strings from the redcurrants if necessary.
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Toss in the redcurrants, bring back to the boil, cook uncovered for 4 or 5 minutes or until the redcurrants burst. Serve hot or cold.

Tip: Keeps for several weeks in a covered jar in the fridge and may be reheated gently.
Redcurrants freeze brilliantly, just pop them into the freezer in the punnet or a plastic bag. If you shake the bag when frozen the berries will fall off the strings – much easier then painstakingly removing the stings when they are fresh. Discard the strings before using the berries.

Gratin of Patrick Walsh’s Potatoes with Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Smoked Salmon

Serves 4-6

There are really two recipes in one here, the basic recipe is a particularly good version of the classic French potato dish Gratin Dauphinoise which is delicious served with a simple roast or grill. Here we’ve added little strips of Bill Casey’s smoked salmon to make a favourite supper dish. Serve with a green salad.

2 lbs (900g) even sized ‘old’ potatoes, eg. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
salt and freshly ground pepper
9 fl ozs (275ml) milk
9 fl ozs (275ml) double cream
small clove garlic, peeled and crushed
freshly grated nutmeg
4-6 ozs (110-170g) Irish smoked salmon
1 tablesp. parsley, chopped
1 tablesp. chives, chopped

4 small ovenproof gratin dishes 4½ inch (11.5cm) bottom and 6 inch (15cm) top

Peel the potatoes with a potato peeler and slice them into very thin rounds (one-eight inch/3mm thick). Do not wash them but dab them dry with a cloth. Spread them out on the worktop and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, mixing it in with your hands. Pour milk into a saucepan, add the potatoes and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Add the cream, garlic and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg, continue to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the potatoes do not stick to the saucepan. Just as soon as the potatoes are cooked put a layer into 4 ovenproof gratin dishes, sprinkle each with some parsley and chives, add 1-1½ ozs (30-45g) smoked salmon cut into 3 inch (5mm) strips, cover with another layer of potato.
Reheat in a bain-marie in a preheated oven, 200C/400F/regulo 6, for 8-10 minutes or until they are bubbly and golden on top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and chives.
Note: You could substitute the smoked salmon for some of Frank Hederman’s Smoked Mackerel.

Siobhan Barry’s Kale Colcannon

Serves 8 approx.

Songs have been sung and poems have been written about Colcannon. It’s one of Ireland’s most famous traditional potato dishes. It’s comfort food at its very best and can be made with cabbage or kale. Terrific for a party.

450g (1lb) kale or Savoy or spring cabbage
1.35kg (3lb) ‘old’ potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
250ml (8fl oz) boiling milk approx.
30g (1oz) scallion or spring onion, optional
salt and freshly ground pepper
55g (2oz) butter approx.

Scrub the potatoes, put them in a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for ‘old’ potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put onto a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked.

Remove the dark outer leaves from the cabbage. Wash the rest and cut into quarters, remove the core and cut finely across the grain. Cook in a little boiling salted water or bacon cooking water until soft. Drain, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little butter. If using kale, remove the central rib. Cook the kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender. This may take 8-10 minutes, depending on the type and maturity of the kale. Curly kale is sweetest after it has been mellowed by a few night frosts.

When the potatoes are just cooked, put the milk, and the finely chopped scallions into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pull the skin off the potatoes and discard, mash quickly while they are still warm and beat in enough boiling milk to make a fluffy puree. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes in the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade.) Then stir in the cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. For perfection, serve immediately in a hot dish with a lump of butter melting in the centre.
Colcannon may be prepared ahead up to this point and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4, for 20-25 minutes approx. Cover while reheating so it doesn’t get too crusty on top.

Cuthbert’s Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 6-8

This is a variation on basic bread and butter pudding. If you like, leave out the marmalade and serve plain, or add chopped rhubarb, chopped chocolate, grated lemon or orange zest, raisins, sultanas, cinnamon, nutmeg etc. This is a great way to use up stale bread, and in fact is better if the bread is stale.

12 slices of good –quality white bread, eg Cuthberts from Midleton, crusts removed
50g (1 3/4 oz) soft butter
3 tablespoons marmalade
450ml (16fl.oz) cream
225ml (8fl.oz) milk
4 eggs
150g (5 1/2 oz) caster sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

To Serve
softly whipped cream
marmalade sauce

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Butter the bread and spread marmalade on each slice. Arrange the bread in the gratin dish or in individual cups or bowls (cut the slices if you need to). I like to have overlapping triangles of bread on the top layer.
Place the cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to just under the boil. While it’s heating up, in a separate bowl whisk the eggs and the sugars, then pour the hot milk and cream in with the eggs and whisk to combine. Pour this custard over the bread and leave it to soak for 10 minutes. Place in a bain marie (water bath) and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour. The top should be golden and the centre should be just set. Serve with softly whipped cream and marmalade sauce (see below).

Note: If you want to make this a day ahead of time, don’t heat up the milk and cream, just pour it cold over the bread.

Marmalade Sauce

1 jar (400-450g/14ozs – 1lb) 3 fruit or homemade marmalade
60ml (2 1/2 fl ozs) water
juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon

Put the marmalade into a saucepan. Add the water and the juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon to taste. Heat all the ingredients gently. Place in a jug and serve with the bread and butter pudding.

Potatoes

When I was an eager little scholar at the village school in Cullohill, Co Laois,  in the mid 1950’s, we all learned a variety of life skills, Miss Carroll showed generations of girls how to knit and sew, turn the heels of socks, do meticulous buttonholes and delicate embroidery.  Where oh where is the little gingham apron I made and the dirndl skirt which was my pride and joy. 
When Spring came around we were brought out into the field behind the school which served as a playground to learn how to sow potatoes. While the boys helped to dig the ground, the girls learned how to cut the ‘scoláns’ (seed potatoes) so there was an eye or sprout on each piece.   We planted them into the ground and heaped up the drills, then got on with our school work.  We kept an eye out and they sprouted and grew.
Nowadays academic skills are valued much more than life skills, most adults, not to speak of children, have totally lost track of how food is produced and where it comes from.   How fortunate are the kids who go to schools that have a garden patch.  I dream that every school will have a vegetable patch so children can learn the excitement of sowing a seed and watching it grow.
This week, Minister for Food and Horticulture, Trevor Sargent, launched a terrific initiative to celebrate the ‘Year of the Potato’.   A potato growing kit has been sent (courtesy of An Post) to every national school in the country, a brilliant idea dreamed up by Agri-Aware.     It was a huge logistical operation.   Can you imagine delivering sixty tons of compost, two tons of seed potatoes, eight thousand growing bags and classroom wall charts to almost 4,000 primary schools across the country.

Pupils and their teachers all over the country have by now been challenged to sow the seed potatoes in February and are hoping to harvest their crop in June.  The pupils will create a class scrapbook and monitor the potato plant’s progress with diagrams, photographs and written observations. The harvested crop will then be washed and weighed and the scrapbook sent for assessment.  Participating schools have the chance to win over €10,000 to develop a school garden. 
The aim of the ‘Meet the Spuds’ initiative is to educate primary pupils on how potatoes grow and their nutritional, historical and cultural importance in Ireland.  Pupils from three Dublin schools, Gael Scoil Balbriggan, Pope John Paul’s School, Malahide and St. Brigid’s in the Coombe,  arrived at the Jeanie Johnston Famine ship on 5th February 2008 for a spud voyage to learn about the importance of the potato in Irish life over the last 150 years.  They were entertained by Darragh McCullough of ‘Ear to the Ground’, Paula Mee, Nutritionist and Michael Hennessey of Teagasc.     They got the kids all excited about the potato and the importance of this magic tuber in Irish life over the last 150 years. 
The potato is the fourth most important food crop in the world, the Irish consume more spuds per head than any other country in Europe.  ‘Meet the Spuds’ is an excellent opportunity for teachers to encourage healthy eating among their pupils and educate them about Irish farming in a practical and hands-on manner.  Agri-Aware Chairman, Mairead Lavery and Padraig Walsh, President of the IFA were also very excited about the project.
Let’s hope this sows the seeds for a love of gardening in our kids and young people – lets have cooking classes in all our schools next Minister!

Baked Potatoes
 

Serves 8
 

Better not to wrap baked potatoes in tin foil as this softens the skins and spoils the flavour; it can even make them wet and soapy.
 

8 x 225g (8oz) old potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
sea salt and butter
 

Choose large potatoes. Scrub the skins of the potatoes very well. Prick each potato 3 or 4 times and bake in a preheated hot oven 2001C/4001F/gas mark 6 for 1 hour approx. depending on the size. When cooked, serve immediately while skins are still crisp and make sure to eat the skins with lots of butter and sea salt.
 

There are so many good things to eat with baked potatoes, here are just a few suggestions.
 

1.         Garlic mayonnaise with tuna fish
2.         Garlic butter with crispy rasher
3.         Creme Fraiche with smoked salmon and chives
4.         Creme Fraiche with roast pepper and a drizzle of pesto
5.         Creme Fraiche with hot crispy chorizo and chives
 

Potato and Fresh Herb Soup
 

Serves 6

 

Most people would have potatoes and onions in the house even if the cupboard was otherwise bare so one could make this simply delicious soup at a moment’s notice.

 

55g (2oz) butter

425g (15oz) peeled diced potatoes, one-third inch dice

110g (4oz) diced onions, one-third inch dice

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper

1-2 tablespoons in total of the following; parsley, thyme, lemon balm and chives

900ml (1½pints) home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock

120ml (4fl oz) creamy milk

 

freshly chopped herbs and some chive or thyme flowers in season

 

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes approx. Meanwhile bring the stock to the boil, when the vegetables are soft but not coloured add the freshly chopped herbs and stock and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk to the required consistency.

Serve sprinkled with a few freshly-chopped herbs and some chive or thyme flowers in season.

 

Potato and Roast Red Pepper Soup

 

Serves 6

 

Basic recipe as above, omit the herbs.

 

4 red peppers

sprigs of flat parsley

 

Roast or chargrill the pepper, peel and deseed, save the sweet juices carefully puree the flesh with the juices. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Make the soup as in the original recipe.

Just before serving swirl the red pepper puree through the soup or simply drizzle on top of each bowl. Top with some snipped flat parsley you might try adding one or two roast chilli to the pepper for a little extra buzz – Serrano or Jalapeno are good.

 

Potato and Parsley Soup

Omit herbs in the soup.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley to the soup just before blending.

 

Potato and Mint Soup
Omit herbs in the soup.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of spearmint or bowles mint to the soup just before blending. Sprinkle a little chopped mint and a swirl of soft cream over the soup before serving.

 

Potato and Tarragon Soup
Add 1½ tablespoons of tarragon to the soup with the stock. Puree and finish as in the master recipe. Sprinkle a little freshly snipped tarragon over the top of the soup before serving. A zig zag of soft cream is also delicious.

 

Potato, Chorizo and Parsley Soup
We love Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen chorizo, so much that we dream up all sorts of ways of using it. The strong hot spicy taste adds lots of oomph to the silky potato soup.

 

18 Slices of chorizo

snipped flat parsley sprigs

 

Omit the herbs in the original recipe. Just before serving cook the slices of chorizo for a minute or two on each side on a non stick pan, oil will render out of the chorizo.

Serve three slices of chorizo on top of each bowl, sprinkle a few flat parsley sprigs on top,  drizzle a little chorizo oil haphazardly over the soup and serve immediately.

 

Potato and Melted Leek Soup

Serve a spoonful of melted leeks on top of each helping of soup. Scatter with snipped chives and chive flowers in season.

 

Potato Soup with Parsley Pesto

One of Rory O’ Connell’s way to embellish potato soup. Drizzle a little parsley pesto  over the top of each bowl just as it goes to the table.

 

 

Ulster Champ

 

Serves 8
 

1.8kg (4 lbs) ‘old’ potatoes eg. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
450g (1 lb) young peas, shelled weight
8 tablespoons chopped parsley
600ml (1pint) milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
50-110g (2-4ozs) butter (traditionally, strong country butter would have been used)
 

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, drain well, dry over the heat in the pan for a few minutes, peel and mash with most of the butter while hot. Meanwhile bring the milk to the boil and simmer the peas until just cooked, 8-10 minutes approx. Add the parsley for the final 2 minutes of cooking. Add the hot milk mixture to the potatoes. Season well, beat until creamy and smooth and serve piping hot with a lump of butter melting in the centre.

 

Potato Wedges with Sweet Chilli Sauce & Sour Cream

 

 

Serves 4
 

1½lbs (680g) rustic roast potatoes (see recipe below)
Sweet Chilli Sauce
Sour cream
 

To Serve
When the rustic roast potatoes are crisp and golden.  Drain on absorbent kitchen paper.  Season with salt.
Serve immediately in a deep bowl with a little bowl of sweet chilli sauce and sour cream on each plate.
 

Note: Deep-fried cooked potato may be used instead.
 

Rustic Roast Potatoes

Serves 4-6

6 large ‘old’ potatoes eg. Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pinks

Olive oil or beef dripping (unless for Vegetarians)-duck or goose fat are also delicious

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8.   Scrub the potatoes well, cut into quarters lengthways or cut into thick rounds ¾ inch (2cm) approx.   Put into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and toss so they are barely coated with olive oil.   Roast in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes depending on size.  Sprinkle with sea salt and serve in a hot terracotta dish.

Rustic Roast Potatoes with Rosemary

6 – 8 rosemary sprigs

Add a few sprigs of rosemary or some coarsely chopped rosemary with the olive oil and proceed as above.  Serve garnished with fresh sprig of rosemary.

Rustic Roast Potatoes with Garlic Cloves

18 garlic cloves

Proceed as above, add the garlic after the potatoes have been cooking for 10 – 15 minutes. Toss in the oil.  Keep an eye on the garlic cloves, they will probably be cooked before the potatoes, if so remove and keep warm in a serving dish.    

Press the soft sweet garlic out of the skins and eat with the crispy potatoes
 

Hot Tips
 

Samhlaíocht 2008 Easter Arts Festival, Tralee, Co Kerry
Samhlaiocht is actively involved in community based arts projects that involve working with individuals, groups and schools in the organization of cultural and artistic events.

This year’s theme is ‘Planet Earth’ – the festival will include a Multicultural Slow Food Event on Saturday 22/23 March at KDYS, Denny St. Tralee, Co Kerry.  They are seeking food vendors to take stands at the event – for more details contact June Carey or Karen Maunsell, Samhlaiocht, The Old Presbytery,

20 Lower Castle St.

, Tralee, Co Kerry, Tel. 066-7129934

 

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group
Anyone who would like to receive notice of forthcoming Cork Free Choice Consumer Group meetings please contact – Helen McGonigal at hcmg@eircom.net  – unfortunately the email addresses have all been lost due to a computer crash – so those who have been on the mailing list in the past also need to contact Helen.

 

Fairtrade Fortnight 25 February – 9th March 2008
Recent years have seen a huge growth in support for, and availability for FAIRTRADE Mark products. Much of this support is driven by the activities of volunteers and voluntary groups around Ireland. At the moment there are 61 Fairtrade Towns Committees in Ireland and 31 of them have met the criteria to become Fairtrade Towns.During  Fairtrade Fortnight 2008 many of these groups are organising events in their areas and welcoming producers from developing countries to their towns.  Look out for events in your local area – www.fairtrade.ie 
 

Valentine’s Dinner

Every restaurant in Ireland will be booked out for dinner on Thursday next, Valentines Day – everyone wants a romantic table for two.  Thousands of courting couples dining a deux, sipping elegant glasses of fizz and staring deeply into each other’s eyes. This causes considerable difficulties for many restaurateurs who have a variety of table sizes.  By the law of averages at least one of the couples will be hoping that the question is popped.   Recalcitrant chaps not eager to take the plunge, may well be dreading this evening’s close encounter, because remember girls this a Leap Year, so if he’s been happily chugging along ‘having his cake and eating it’, well this is your big chance to call his bluff.
Takes quite a bit of courage ‘to propose’, what if he says no, are you ready for the gnawing feelings of rejection?

Such a dilemma but the opportunity won’t come around again for another four years, so if you are desperate to know where you stand, grasp the opportunity, but make sure you enjoy your dinner first!.

For those who can’t swing a prime time restaurant booking there’s another option, if you really want to impress, why not invite your partner around for a simple supper.   Nothing will bring on a proposal faster than the prospect of coming home to a delicious supper every evening.   The aroma of freshly baked bread wafting towards you when you open the hall door is a darn sight more appealing than the smell of charred hamburgers.   Doesn’t matter how ‘drop dead gorgeous’ you are, the way to a man’s heart is through his tummy, as it always was and always will be.   The Africans have a saying that sums it up ‘kissin don’t last, cookin’ do!’.   Sounds a bit corny but there could be something in it.   So whatever about your career, your cool dress sense and make-up skills, allocate a little time to learn to lay a table and cook a few yummy delish comforting dishes.  They don’t have to be fancy and are better not to be too extravagant, otherwise he might decide you’ll be far too expensive to keep!.

Start a little folder and gradually add a few recipes for favourite starters, main courses and puds, easy bread, a few bikkies and one or two cakes.

Choose a reliable cookbook where the recipes are well tested and easy to follow.  Nothing more frustrating than trying a recipe that doesn’t work.

Here’s a nice easy menu that can be prepared ahead so that you can spend maximum time sitting at the table rather than sweating over the stove – after all it must appear effortless and taste sublime.

Bon courage and happy St Valentine’s Day.

 

Hot Tips

 

 

Slow Food and Slow Food Dating presented by Slow Food Limerick and Region

–         choice of two unique gourmet dining evenings.

Gourmet Slow Food Dinner Thursday 21st February and Slow Dating Gourmet Evening Friday 22nd February @ Aubars, Thomas St. Limerick, in partnership with Aubars, Limerick-SpeedDating.com,  Febvre Wines and Limerick now.  Book with Niall and Alex at Aubars 061-317799 or check out www.slowfoodireland.com – Limerick home page or email slowfoodlimerick@gmail.com

 

 

Farming for Conservation Conference – BurrenLIFE

Major International Conference will take place in the Falls Hotel, Ennistymon, Co Clare from 24-27 February 2008.  The Conference which is titled  ‘Farming for Conservation – Supporting the Future’ is the first ever farming for conservation conference in Ireland and will include speakers from Ireland and a number of other European countries.

Full details available on www.burrenlife.com  Limited number of heavily discounted places available to local farmers and 3rd level students.  Bookings through Conference Connections 065-6825200/6825201  info@conferenceconnections.ie

 

Mint Restaurant

Ireland’s best kept secret – Dylan McGrath Chef Patron of Mint Restaurant Awarded Prestigious Michelin Star in 2008 Michelin Guide

In just over one year, 30 year old Belfast born chef, Dylan McGrath of Mint restaurant has pushed all culinary boundaries and gained a reputation for his highly distinctive, signature approach.   Mint Restaurant, 46 Ranelagh, Dublin 6. Tel 01-4978655 info@mintrestaurant.ie

Foolproof Food

Ballymaloe Cheese Fondue

Myrtle Allen devised this Cheese Fondue recipe made from Irish Cheddar cheese. It’s a great favourite at Ballymaloe and even though it’s a meal in itself it may be made in minutes and is loved by adults and children alike. A fondue set is obviously an advantage but not essential.

Serves 2

2 tablesp. white wine

2 small cloves of garlic, crushed

2 teasp. Ballymaloe Tomato Relish or any tomato chutney

2 teasp. freshly chopped parsley

6 ozs (170g) grated mature Cheddar cheese

Crusty white bread

Put the white wine and the rest of the ingredients into a small saucepan or fondue pot and stir. Just before serving put over a low heat until the cheese melts and begins to bubble. Put the pot over the fondue stove and serve immediately with fresh crusty French bread or cubes of ordinary white bread crisped up in a hot oven.

Buttermilk Scones

These scones only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 20 minutes to bake.

1 lb (450g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon  breadsoda

Sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-14 fl ozs (350-412 ml) approx.

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS.  Tidy it up and flip over gently.  Pat the dough into a round about 1½ inches (2.5cm) deep and cut into scones.  Bake in a hot oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 20 minutes approx. 

If you prefer you can leave it whole to make a loaf of white soda bread,  pat it into a round as before and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/regulo 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

French Peasant Soup

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

Serves 6

6 ozs (170g) unsmoked streaky bacon (in the piece)

Olive or sunflower oil

5 ozs (140g) potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼ inch (5mm) dice

2 ozs (55g) onions, finely chopped

1 small clove garlic (optional)

1 lb (450g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1 x 14 oz (400g) tin of tomatoes and their juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

½-1 teasp. sugar

1¼ pints (750ml) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

2 ozs (55g) cabbage (Savoy is best), finely chopped

Garnish 

Chopped parsley

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

Mediterranean Peasant Soup

Add ½ Kabanossi sausage thinly sliced to the soup with the potato.  ¼ lb (110g) cooked haricot beans may also be added with the cabbage at the end for a more robust soup.

Spiced Chicken with Almonds

Serves 6-8

2 lbs (900g) boned chicken, cut into finger-sized pieces (use brown meat)

1 tablesp. coriander seeds

1 tablesp. cumin seeds

2 teasp. ground turmeric

Good pinch cayenne pepper

2 teasp. salt

1 teasp. sugar

4 ozs (110g) onions, roughly chopped

1 inch (2.5cm) piece of fresh ginger root, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 oz (30g) blanched almonds

12 ozs (340g) red pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

5 tablesp. sunflower oil

5 fl ozs (140ml) water

2 tablesp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

First prepare the chicken.  (Remove the skin).

Warm the coriander and cumin seeds separately in a dry pan careful, not to burn (cumin burns more easily)

Grind  in a pestle and mortar. Mix with turmeric, cayenne, salt, sugar, onions, ginger, garlic, almonds and peppers. Whizz in a food processor until smooth. Heat the oil in a saute pan and cook the paste for about 10 minutes until reduced, add the chicken, water and lemon juice. Cover and cook gently for 15 – 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender*.  Serve with pilaff rice.

Note: If you would like a hotter curry, increase the amount of cayenne to 2 teaspoonful.

Brown meat takes longer to cook then white meat. 

Orzo with Fresh Herbs

Orzo looks like fat grains of rice but is in fact made from semolina.   Serve as an accompaniment to a main course or as a base for a pasta salad.

Serves 4

7 ozs (200g) orzo

4 pints (2.3 L) water

1½ teaspoons salt

½ – 1 oz (15-30g) butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)

Bring the water to a fast rolling boil and add the salt. Sprinkle in the orzo, cook for 8-10 minutes* or until just cooked. Drain, rinse under hot water, toss with a little butter. Season with freshly ground pepper and garnish with some chopped parsley.

*Time depends on the type of Orzo.

Green Salad with Honey and Mustard Dressing

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.

Green Salad

You will need a mild lettuce (eg. the common Butterhead) as the basis of the salad and as many of the following as you care to or can put in:

finely chopped Parsley, Mint or any herbs of your fancy, spring onions, dice of cucumber, Mustard and Cress, Watercress, the white tips of cauliflower, tips of purple sprouting broccoli, Iceberg lettuce, Cos, Raddichio, Oakleaf, Chinese leaves, Rocket, Salad burnet, and any other interesting lettuces available.

Wash and dry the lettuces and other leaves very carefully. 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 French 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.

Passionfruit and Mango Fool with Boudoir Biscuits

1 medium ripe mango (about 11oz/300g flesh after peeling)

4 passion fruit

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1-2 tablespoons castor sugar

½ pint (300ml) softly whipped cream

Peel the mango, chop the flesh and puree in a food processor.  Put into a bowl, add the passion fruit seeds and juice, add freshly squeezed lime juice and sugar to taste.  Fold in some softly whipped cream to taste.

Serve in a pretty white bowl or martini glass with Boudoir biscuits to dunk.

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