In the words of Lady Eve Balfour “Food is my subject so it concerns everyone”. Even those people who profess to have absolutely no interest in food have to eat. Food is the fuel that nourishes our bodies, gives us strength and keeps us well. So the quality of the food ought to be of interest to each and everyone of us. In an ideal world our food should be our medicine, providing the essential minerals and trace elements that our systems need for energy, vitality and the ability to concentrate.
For millions of people food is also their livelihood, over a third of the population are involved in primary or secondary food production, farmers, fishermen, restaurateurs, butchers, and marketers are all a vital part of the food chain.
At this point in history food production is at a cross-roads, the cost of fossil fuels is rising, there are food riots in over 30 countries world wide, the Word Trade Organisation policy has a major impact on how we proceed.
Despite our favourable growing conditions in Ireland, a small island off Europe can’t hope to compete on economies of scale with rising production costs. The future prosperity of our farmers and food producers lies in producing the finest quality food that can guarantee a premium price.
Food with a story, we need to identify the breed, the feed, the variety, the pasture, the whole provenance.
Irish food will need a USP (Unique Selling Point) to compete. In a country that exports over 80% of its beef we need to ask ourselves, why should a consumer pay more for Irish beef . The confident answer will need to be ‘because it tastes much, much better’, there will need to be a guaranteed ‘wow factor’ so we can justify a premium price.
I’m convinced we can do it but it may mean evaluating some of our present systems, flavour comes from breed and feed but that’s just part of the picture. The slaughter process, the method of hanging and ageing are crucial to the quality of the finished product.
It all costs money. I like the system used by Tim Wilson at the Ginger Pig butchers shop in Borough Market and Moxton St in London. All meat is dry aged and customers can choose whether they would like their rib of beef, for example, hung for 2,3,4 or 5 weeks and pay accordingly. The customer is being educated to realize that ageing enhances both flavour and texture, but the extra time involved costs the butcher money so they need to pay more. When the end result really delivers flavour Ginger Pig customers are more than happy to pay for the oomph.
Tim Wilson is just one of the many delegates who think outside the box and will be in Waterford contributing to a work shop at Terra Madre on Friday 5th September 2008 in Waterford.
Terra Madre, a ground breaking event, will explore the future of sustainable food production in Ireland. Terra Madre, hosted by Slow Food Ireland is predicted to be the most important food policy event in Ireland in 2008. It is a gathering of food producers, together with chefs, scientists, academics, medics, policy-makers, writers, manufacturers, food enthusiasts and the general public from the 32 counties and a variety of world-class keynote speakers.
Slow Food Ireland is part of the Slow Food international movement which was set up in 1989 to help local producers compete with the mass advertising of processed foods by the major multinationals. It promotes good, clean, fair, food, locally produced where possible. www.slowfoodireland.com Terra Madre is an event none of us can afford to miss, we all need to make our voices heard. Mark September 5th in your diary right away
Meanwhile visit the Terra Madre website and contribute your opinion to the blogs on over 50 food-related topics. www.terramadreireland.com
This is the time of year when Catherine and Vincent O’Donovan set up stall on the side of the main Cork to Innishannon road to sell juicy sweetcorn. They are open every day and hope to have sweetcorn for the next two months. Also available in Super-Valu in Bantry, Clonakilty, Carrigaline, Kinsale and Midleton, Superfruit in English Market and some farmers markets around Cork. Freezer orders also taken, contact 087-2486031
Castlefarm Cheese –
Congratulations to Peter and Jenny Young on the launch of the first Kildare Farmhouse Cheese – Castlefarm Cheese is Gouda type cheese – Castlefarm Natural is a plain milky cheese and Castlefarm Shamrock is a nutty flavoured cheese made with Fenugreek, both are covered in a distinctive green wax. Available at Castlefarm Shop and Jenny’s stall at Athy Farmers Market on Sundays – www.castlefarmshop Tel 059-8636948 email@example.com
Irish Seed Saver Association, Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare
Forthcoming courses – Making Herbal preparations – Saturday 6th September. Introduction to Beekeeping – Saturday 13 & Sunday 14th September, Commercial Orchards – Wed 17th September .For More Courses/Workshops 2008 click http://www.irishseedsavers.ie/course.php Tel 061-921866
2nd Annual Harvest Festival in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim 13 & 14th September
Pasta with Chanterelles, Tapenade and Flat Parsley
I just got a basket of freshly picked chanterelles – delicious
225g (1/2 lb) Penne, Conchiglie or Farfalle
4.5L (8 pints) water
1 tablespoon salt
25g (1oz) butter
225-450g (1/2 -1lb) chanterelles or a mixture of wild mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground pepper
120ml /4fl oz double cream
2-3 tablespoons Tapenade – see recipe
4 tablespoons snipped flat parsley
Bring a large saucepan of water to a fast rolling boil, add salt and pasta. Stir and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, gently wash the chanterelles under cold running water. Trim the base of the stalks and discard. Slice the mushrooms thickly.
Melt the butter in a frying pan on a high heat. When it foams add the mushrooms. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook on a high heat, the juice will exude at first, but continue to cook until the chanterelles reabsorb the juices. Add the cream and bubble for a few minutes. Stir in the Tapenade. Strain the penne and drain well, put back into the saucepan, add the sauce. Sprinkle on the flat parsley, toss gently, turn into a hot bowl and serve immediately.
2 ozs (55g) anchovy fillets
3½ ozs (100g) stoned black olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons (37ml) olive oil
Whizz up the anchovy fillets (preferably in a food processor) with the stoned black olives, capers, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper.
Alternatively, use a pestle and mortar. Add the olive oil as you whisk and process to a course or smooth puree as you prefer.
Serve with: Cruditees or Bruschetta or Crostini with Lamb, Pasta..
Shanagarry Beef Stew
A good gutsy stew which can be made in large quantities – it reheats and freezes brilliantly.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1.35kg (3 lb) well hung stewing beef or lean flank
2 large carrots cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) slices
285g (10 oz) sliced onions
1 heaped tablespoon flour
150ml (5fl oz) red wine
150ml (5fl oz) brown beef stock
250ml (8fl oz) homemade Tomato Purée, otherwise use best quality tinned tomato -pureed and sieved
175g (6 oz) sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
Trim the meat of any excess fat, then prepare the vegetables. Cut the meat into 4cm
(1 1/2 inch) cubes. Heat the olive oil in a casserole; sweat the sliced onions and carrots on a gentle heat with a lid on for 10 minutes. Heat a little more olive oil in a frying pan until almost smoking. Sear the pieces of meat on all sides, reduce the heat, stir in flour, cook for 1 minutes, mix the wine, stock and tomato puree together and add gradually to the casserole. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook gently. Cook gently for 2 1/2-3 hours in a low oven, depending on the cut of meat, 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Meanwhile sauté the mushrooms and add with the parsley to the casserole, 30 minutes approx. before the end of cooking. Serve with Polenta, mashed potatoes or noodles and a good green salad.
We make lots of homemade tomato puree at the end of the Summer when the tomatoes are really ripe – it’s brilliant to have in the freezer for tomato soup, stews, casseroles etc.
900g (2 lb) very ripe tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
a good pinch of salt and a few twists of black pepper
Cut the tomatoes into quarters, put into a stainless steel saucepan with the onion, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cook on a gentle heat until the tomatoes are soft (no water needed). Put through the fine blade of the Mouli-legume or a nylon sieve. Allow to get cold then refrigerate or freeze.
Note: Tomato Purée is one of the very best ways of preserving the flavour of ripe, summer tomatoes for winter. Use for soups, stews, casseroles etc.
Fresh Sweetcorn with Marjoram
Fresh sweetcorn just quickly cooked and served with butter and sea salt is hard to beat, or try this delicious variation with marjoram.
6 ears of corn, preferable freshly picked!
salt and freshly ground pepper
30-50g (1-2oz) butter
1-2 tablespoons annual marjoram freshly chopped
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add salt.
Peel the ears of corn, trim both ends, drop into the water. Cover the saucepan and bring back to the boil, cook for just three minutes. You can just eat if straight off the cob with butter and sea salt at this stage if you prefer – children love it this way
Drain, allow to cool, then slice the kernels off the cob, melt a little butter in a saucepan, add the corn. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the marjoram, stir once or twice. Taste, correct the seasoning. Serve immediately.
Apple and Cinnamon Fritters
Apple Fritters have been one of my absolutely favourite puddings since I was a child – nothing changed, I still love them. Try them with the new season’s Grenadier cooking apples.
4 cooking apples, Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
4 ozs (110g) plain white flour
pinch of salt
1 egg, free range if possible
5fl.oz (150ml) milk
sunflower or peanut oil for frying
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar
1 teasp. cinnamon
Sieve the flour into a bowl, add a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre, whisk the egg slightly, pour into the centre slowly add the milk whisking in a full circle, gradually bring in the flour from the outside. Continue to whisk until the batter is light and bubbly. Peel and core the apples, cut into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices. Heat about 1½ inches (4cm) of oil in a frying pan. Dip a few slices of apple into the batter one by one. Fry on both sides until crisp and golden, drain well. Add cinnamon to the castor sugar, toss each fritter in and serve immediately with softly whipped cream.
Bananas also make great fritters. Split in half lengthways and then in half again if you would like shorter pieces. Omit the cinnamon from the castor sugar if you want them unadulterated.
Blackberry and Apple Sponge Pudding
The blackberries seem to be late ripening this year due to the lack of sunshine, but feast on them when they do appear in pies, puddings, jam or just as they are.
1½lbs (675g) new season’s cooking apples
4-6ozs (110-175g) blackberries
1 tablesp. water
3-4ozs (85-110g) approx. sugar
2 sweet geranium leaves
For the topping:
2ozs (55g) butter
2ozs (55g) sugar
1 beaten egg, preferably free range
3ozs (85g) self raising flour, sieved
1-2 tablesp. milk
1 pie dish 1½ pint (900ml) capacity
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.
Peel, core and slice the apples and put them in a heavy saucepan with the water, sugar and sweet geranium leaves. Cover and stew them gently until just half-cooked, then add the blackberries at the last minute. Allow to cool a little, then tip into a buttered pie dish.
Cream the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg by degrees and beat well until completely incorporated. Sieve the flour and fold into the butter and egg mixture. Add about 1 tablespoon of milk or enough to bring the mixture to dropping consistency. Spread this mixture gently over the fruit.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponge mixture is firm to the touch in the centre. Sprinkle with castor sugar. Serve warm with home made custard or lightly whipped cream