ArchiveJanuary 2010

Love is in the Air

Love is in the air and there are a few things more alluring than the smell of something delicious cooking in the oven. Doesn’t matter how sexy you are, they soon get fed up with burnt burgers and greasy chips.

So why not ask your cute friend round for lunch or dinner. Doesn’t have to be fancy – just comforting and gorgeous. Think about the menu carefully, listen out for clues in the conversation, would a chicken casserole hit the spot or will a tagine of lamb be more appealing? Both could be made ahead and served with ease and aplomb. The latter just needs some couscous, the former some fluffy mash or just a baked potato.

A bowl of delicious soup might be the perfect starter on these wintery days with some freshly made bread. Nothing brings on thoughts of romantic proposals faster that the smell of crusty bread – organise it so the bread is just coming out of the oven as they arrive. Suddenly they can see their whole life stretching out ahead of them – coming home every evening to the smell of something delicious bubbling on the stove – you may laugh – but try it and let me know how you get on.

If a delicious soup seems a little dreary or pedestrian why not try a twice baked soufflé, it sounds posh, but it can made ahead and just popped into the oven to reheat a few minutes before the meal. Alternatively a little goat cheese salad with crispy chorizo or pomegranate seeds is another easy option with a little twist.

For pudding there’s a vast choice, you might want to check out whether your friend does in fact have a sweet tooth, otherwise a delicious piece of Irish farmhouse cheese and some homemade crackers could round off the meal.

However most people are tempted by a bit of pudding. Is it to be an irresistible bread and butter pudding, a silky chocolate mousse with a few boudoir biscuits to dunk or a juicy apple tart even better mammy used to make. Here at the cookery school Rachel Allen and Rory O’Connell will be teaching a one day course ‘How to be a Culinary Cupid – the Art of Cooking for your Valentine’ on Saturday 6th February – you’ll have lots of fun and learn two or three menus and a myriad of tasty tips to tantalise your sweetheart’s taste buds. If you are going to Galway

don’t miss the terrific food at Sheridan’s on the Docks restaurant and pub. Sheridan’s Cheese Shop is also a must – it’s got the best selection of cheese in the West and lots of other goodies as well 091 5649905 sheridansonthedocksgalway@gmail.com

Chicken and Streaky Bacon Casserole

 

The casserole can be an entire meal in a pot by covering the top with whole peeled potatoes just before it goes into the oven. Use a really good chicken (see Hot Tips for sources)

 

Serves 4-6

 

1 x 3 1/2 lbs (1.57kg) chicken (free range if possible) or six chicken thighs

a little butter or oil for sautéing

12 ozs (340g) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty) look out for Gubeen or Woodside Farm bacon at Mahon Point or Midleton Farmers Markets.

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 – 1 1/4 pints (750ml) approx.

 

roux – optional – just melt ½ oz butter and stir 1oz white flour, cook on a gentle heat for 2 – 3 minutes.

 

mushroom a la créme (see recipe)

 

Garnish

2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

 

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4

 

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 sauté 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.

 

Mushroom a la Crème

Serves 4

1/2-1 oz (15-25g butter

3 ozs (75g) onion, finely chopped

1/2 lb (225g) mushrooms, sliced

4fl ozs (100ml) cream

freshly chopped parsley

1/2 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)

a squeeze of lemon juice

salt and freshly ground pepper

roux

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. Thicken with a little roux to a light coating consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning, and add parsley and chives if used.

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

 

 

 

 

Tagine of Lamb with Raisins and Honey

 

The great thing about this recipe is that you have all the ingredients in one pot and can prepare this ahead and the flavour improves with time.

 

Serves 6

 

1.35kg (3 lbs) boned shoulder of lamb

1/2 tablespoon) ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

generous pinch saffron

50g (2ozs) unsalted butter

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

salt

175g (6ozs) raisins, soaked in water and drained

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons chopped coriander

 

1 tablespoon oil

50g (2ozs) flaked almonds

 

fresh coriander leaves

natural yoghurt

 

Trim the lamb, discarding excess fat. Cut into 1 1/2 inch (4cm) cubes. Mix cinnamon, ginger, pepper and saffron with 4 tablespoons water. Toss the lamb in this mixture. If you have time, leave to marinade for up to 24 hours.

 

Melt the butter in a wide pan. Add the lamb, onions, garlic, salt and enough water to come half way up the meat. Bring up to the boil, cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about an hour, turning the lamb occasionally until the meat is meltingly tender. Add the drained raisins, honey and half the coriander. Continue simmering for a further 30 minutes or so, uncovered until the sauce is thick and unctuous. Taste and adjust seasoning.

 

While the tagine is cooking, scoop out the flesh out of a preserved lemon, chop up the peel. Fry the almonds in the oil until almost golden brown. Then add the diced lemon and toss 2 or 3 times. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle preserved lemon, almonds and remaining coriander over the lamb just before serving. Natural yoghurt makes a delicious accompaniment. Serve with couscous.

 

Salad of Ardsallagh Goats Cheese with Rocket Leaves, Pomegranate Seeds and Local Honey

Pomegranates are the symbol of fertility and also cut cholesterol brilliantly.

Serves 2

2 handfuls rocket leaves

soft Ardsallagh Goat’s cheese

1 tablespoon best quality local honey

Maldon sea salt

¼ pomegranate

coarsely ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon

Divide the rocket leaves between 4 large plates or 1 large flat serving plate. Slice or dice the goat’s cheese and sprinkle on rocket leaves. Remove the pomegranate seeds from the skin, sprinkle over the rocket leaves. With a teaspoon, drizzle the honey over the salad in a grid pattern then drizzle the salad with extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Finally, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve.

 

Homemade Cheese Crackers

 

 

‘Wow you make your own crackers’ is bound to be the response to these delicious little biscuits. They keep for several weeks in an air tight tin and also freeze well.

Makes 25-30 biscuits

110g (4 oz) brown wholemeal flour

110g (4 oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

25g (1 oz) butter

1 tablespoon cream

water as needed, 5 tablespoons approx.

Mix the brown and white flour together and add the salt and baking powder. Rub in the butter and moisten with cream and enough water to make a firm dough.

Roll out very thinly to one-sixteenth inch thick approx. Prick with a fork. Cut with 6.5-7.5cm (2 1/2-3 inches) round cutter. Bake at 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 for 45 minutes approx. or until lightly browned and quite crisp. Cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate Mousse with Boudoir Biscuits

Serves 6

110g (4ozs) good quality dark chocolate

110ml (4fl ozs) cream

1-2 tablespoons rum, brandy, or Grand Marnier,

or

1 teaspoon grated orange rind (optional)

2 eggs, separated

Boudoir biscuits

Chop the chocolate finely. Bring the cream up to the boil, turn off the heat, add the chocolate to the cream and stir it around until the chocolate melts in the cream. Add in the alcohol, if using, and whisk in the egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites until just stiff, then stir in a quarter of the egg white, fold in the rest, gently, being careful not to knock all the air out. Pour the mousse into a glass or cup and pop into the fridge for an hour or two to set. Serve with Boudoir biscuits for romantic dunking.

 

 

Bread and Butter Pudding

Don’t change anything in this recipe. I know its rich but it tastes divine and will definitely do the trick.

 

Serves 6-8

 

12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed

50g (2oz) butter, preferably unsalted

12 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon or mixed spice

200g (7oz) sultanas

450ml (16fl oz) cream

225ml (8fl oz) milk

4 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

175g (6oz) sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling

pinch of salt

 

1 x 20.5cm (8 inch) square pottery or china dish

 

Butter the bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle the bread with half the spice and half the sultanas, and then arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the raisins, and sprinkle the remaining nutmeg and sultanas on top. Cover the sultanas with the remaining bread, again, buttered side down.

In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and the pinch of salt. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread. Sprinkle the tablespoonful of sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, loosely covered, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

 

Place the pudding in a bain-marie and pour in enough water to come half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly whipped cream.

 

Irresistible Apple Pie

The pastry is a gem, it is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter. Rhubarb, plums, apricot, gooseberries in season all work brilliantly.

 

Serves 8-12

 

Pastry

8 ozs (225g) butter

2 ozs (50g) castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

12 ozs (300g) white flour, preferably unbleached

 

Filling

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

5 ozs (150g) sugar

2-3 cloves

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk

castor sugar for sprinkling

 

To Serve

 

softly whipped cream

Barbados sugar

 

tin, 7 inches (18cm) x 12 inches (30.5cm) x 1 inch (2.5cm) deep

 

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

 

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.

 

To make the tart

Roll out the pastry 1/8 inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Peel, quarter and dice the apples into the tart, sprinkle with sugar and add the cloves. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

 

Fool Proof Food and Thrifty Tip

 

Doune McKenzie’s Cheese Biscuits

 

A brilliant recipe for using up left over bits of cheese, add a little blue cheese if available.

 

Any bits of left over cheese eg. Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyere, Coolea, Cashel Blue … a little soft cheese may also be added but you will need some hard cheese to balance the flavour.

 

Weigh cheese then use equal amounts of butter and plain white flour.

Grate the cheese – rinds and all. Dice the butter. Cream the butter and stir in the flour and grated cheese, form into a roll like a long sausage, about 4cm (1 1/2 inches) thick. Alternatively whizz in a food processor until it forms a dough, shape using a little flour if necessary. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 -2 hours until solid.

 

Slice into rounds – about 7mm (1/3 inch) thick. Arrange on a baking tray, cook in a preheated oven 250ºC/475ºF/regulo 9 for approximately 5 minutes until golden brown.

 

Leave to cool for a couple of seconds then transfer to a wire rack. Best eaten on the day they are made as they soften quite quickly.

 

 

 

Hottips

All over the country people

are beginning to rear good chicken in a traditional way once again. They take much longer to mature so cost considerably more that the intensively produced birds – however the meat is like a forgotten flavour and the carcass makes a terrific pot of broth.

Dan Ahern, Dungourney Co Cork 021 4631058.

Nora Aherne: Elfordstown, Midleton, Co Cork 021 4632354

Tom Clancy: Ballycotton, 086 3089431

East Ferry Poultry: 021 4651916

New Cookery Books

Coming up to Christmas lots of newly published cookbooks arrived on my desk. There were so many that I simply couldn’t manage to mull over each one. Now that I’ve had a bit more time to digest the various tomes I’d like to pass on my thoughts. There were several treasures, including one I had been eagerly awaiting, The Irish Seaweed Kitchen by Dr. Prannie Rhatigan. Even though I was brought up in the midlands about as far away from the sea as one can be in Ireland I was always aware of the power-house of nutrition that grew around our coast. Unlike me, Prannie lived on the West Coast of Ireland where the rhythm of the tides and the love of the sea provided a back drop to every day life. As children their father took them harvesting seaweed and sea vegetables. Once the first frosts had sweetened the sleabhac (nori or sloke) which was usually after Christmas the cycle began. By St Patrick’s Day the egg wrack and black wrack had been put into large barrels to ferment with horse manure, and later on nettles and comfrey, to provide nutrient rich feeds for the organic vegetables and herb garden. The potatoes and peas had to be in by St. Patrick’s Day or were not on target in the garden. As the days lengthened, the first carragín and alaria were harvested for kitchen use and the winter supply dried and stored.

Summer days brought duileasc and the second flush of carragín came ready from harvest. Other delicacies like sea lettuce, pepper duileasc, bladderwrack and channeled wrack each came ready in their own time, sometime between spring and the end of autumn. So began a lifetime’s fascination with seaweed and their medical properties. Latterly Prannie’s medical training dictated that she work from a science base. Research originally based on anecdotal evidence is building fast; seaweed can lower blood pressure and lipids and is known to boost the immune system. Prannie’s minutely researched book will help even the novice to identify and harvest sustainability, as well as advice and recipes on how to incorporate ‘the most nutritious form of vegetable on the planet’ into your diet. The guide to the medicinal properties, culinary uses and health benefits is invaluable.

Simon Hopkinson is one of the finest and most highly respected UK food writers of our time. He has a large and loyal following. I too am a devoted fan. Known to food lovers for many years as founder chef of Bibendum’s in London, since he relinquished his post to concentrate on his writing in 1995 he has produced several gems including ‘Roast chicken and other stories’, ‘Second Helpings of Roast Chicken’ and ‘Week in, Week out’. In his latest book ‘The Vegetarian Option’- published by Quadrille – he focuses entirely on cooking mouth watering recipes without meat or fish. The net result is as inspiring as we have come to expect from Hoppy, as he is known to friends.

How many more books can possibly be written on Italian food? I’d hazard a guess that the body of work must run into several thousand by now. The fresh sunny flavours have enduring appeal whether you live in Kiltimagh or Santa Fè. Marcella Hazan and The River Café cookbooks are my most frequently thumbed volumes but a new voice emerged before Christmas with high praise on the back jacket from Georgio Locatelli, Matthew Fort and Anna Del Conte; herself a favourite of mine. The book is called ‘Easy Tasty Italian’ and is written by Laura Santtini, published by Quadrille who wants to ‘add some magic to your every day food’. It’s quite unlike other books on Italian cooking I’ve come across. It’s witty, quirky, yet earthy and practical with a scholarly undertone. Definitely worth considering adding to your cook book shelf.

Laura Santtini’s Roasted Lamb with Tomato and Pecorino

Serves 4-6

800g lean lamb shoulder on bone, cut into large 8cm pieces

3-4 large potatoes, cut into chunks for roasting

400g ripe tomatoes, deseeded and chopped

1 tbsp fennel seeds

2 red onions

1 celery stalk, sliced

3 garlic cloves

Handful of chopped fresh oregano

Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

60g pecorino cheese, finely grated

150ml olive oil

Juice and a piece of zest from 2 lemons

Handful of chopped fresh mint, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180° C/ gas mark 4. Place all ingredients, except the cheese, oil, lemons and mint, flat in a large roasting pan. Generously douse in olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and mix well together with your hands. Sprinkle with pecorino cheese and splash with oil. Bake in oven for about 1 hour 20 minutes. During cooking you can baste with a splash of wine (red or white) and or a splash of stock. If the meat looks as if it is burning at any time, cover with foil.Serve sprinkled with the mint. VARIATION 2 or 3 chopped anchovies and or a handful of black olives can be added for flavour.

Prannie Rhatigan’s Duileasc Champ

Seaweed used: Duileasc

Serves 4

675g (1 ½ lb) baby potatoes, scrubbed and lightly peeled

salt, 1 teaspoon

45ml (1 ½ fl oz) double cream

4 tablespoons white wine

juice of ¼ lemons

2 tablespoons duileasc, finely chopped

In a large saucepan, cook the potatoes in well-salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain well and return to pan with double cream, white wine and lemon juice. Gently crush each potato against the side of the pan with the back of a fork. Add the duileasc and season to taste. For a quick and easy seaweed mash, add 1 ½ tablespoons of crushed duileasc to regular mashed potatoes; a great combination to any fish dish.

Prannie Rhatigan’s Prawns with Land and Sea Spaghetti

Seaweed used: Sea vegetables, sea spaghetti

Serves 4

20-30g dry weight spaghetti or approximately 250g if using fresh

250g (9oz) organic spaghetti

1-2 tablespoons grape seed oil

2 shallots or 1 small onion, peeled and chopped finely

1 red chili, deseeded and chopped

500g (1 lb 2 oz) jumbo peeled cooked prawns de-shelled, fully thawed if from frozen and very well dried

1 teaspoon Thai 7 spice for stir-fry

25g (1oz) flat leaf parsley

25g (1oz) coriander, leaves and stems, chopped

A dash of oyster sauce

Sea salt

1 handful mixed sea vegetables, soaked in hot water to barely cover for 2-3 minutes

Extra coriander and parsley to garnish

Cook the sea spaghetti in a pot with plenty seasoned water for 15 minutes or until al dente. Cook the spaghetti in a separate pot of seasoned water for 10-12 minutes or until al dente. Heat the oil in frying pan over moderate heat, and sweat off onions and garlic. Add chili and cook for 1 minute. Add the prawns, seasoning, herbs, oyster sauce and salt to taste. Stir until the ingredients are heated through and well mixed, about 2-3 minutes. Drain the spaghetti and sea spaghetti and place in a warmed serving dish. Add the contents of the frying pan, spices, seasoning, mixed sea vegetables and their hot soaking water. Stir gently to mix, check seasoning and serve on warm plates sprinkled with chopped coriander and parsley.

Cooks Tip: 600g (1lb 5 ½ oz) of prawns serves 5 adults and small garden peas can be added as an extra vegetable portion. Cut down/omit chili if cooking for children.

Simon Hopkinson’s Cheese-crusted fried Parsnip Strips with Romesco Sauce

Serves 2

350g parsnips, peeled

Oil for deep-or shallow-frying (a neutral-flavoured oil, such as sunflower or groundnut)

40g white breadcrumbs made from semi-stale bread

75g parmesan, freshly grated

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Salt

1 large egg, beaten

Flour for coating

For the Romesco sauce

40 g skinned almonds

4 tbsp olive oil

1 large garlic clove, peeled and chopped

1 small dried chili

75g oven-dried tomatoes from a jar, drained

75g piquillo peppers from a jar, drained

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

1 tbsp hot water

salt

For the romesco sauce, gently fry the almonds in 1 tsp of the olive oil until golden. Allow to cool, then tip them into a food processor and add the garlic, chili, tomatoes, peppers, vinegar and hot water. Grind to a nubbly puree and then add salt to taste. Adjust the quantity of vinegar if you wish for a sharper flavour.

Cut the parsnips into finger lengths, about 6cm long, and steam until only just tender, then set aside to cool on a plate.

Mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese, cayenne and salt in a shallow dish. Have the beaten egg ready in a similar dish, and the flour in another one. To coat the parsnips, first dip the strips in flour, then in the egg and finally turn them through the breadcrumb/cheese mixture.

To fry parsnips strips, either use a deep-fat fryer or a deep frying pan containing a 2cm depth of oil. Heat the oil to 170°C in the deep-fryer or, if using the frying pan method, until a small cube of bread turns golden in a minute or so.

Fry the parsnips in the hot oil in batches until crisp and golden, then briefly drain on kitchen paper. Serve at once, with the sauce alongside.

Simon Hopkinson’s Swede and Potato Cakes With Black Pepper and Cream Sauce

Serves 4

500g swede

300g potatoes

25g butter

1tsp Maldon salt

2 tsp agar flakes

1 large egg yolk

1 tbsp freshly grated parmesan

1 tsp chopped spring onion

Flour for coating

Olive oil for frying

For the sauce

250 ml double cream

2 tsp black peppercorns, cracked or coarsely crushed

Salt, to taste

30g butter

2 tsp smooth Dijon mustard

To garnish (optional)

Watercress sprigs

Preheat oven to 160º C/ gas mark 3. Peel the swede and potatoes and cut them into chunks. Melt the butter in a lidded, roomy pot over a low heat and add the swede, potatoes and salt. Stir together and gently cook for about 5 minutes; more then anything else, this is to coat the vegetables with butter and to get the pot hot. Put on the lid, transfer to oven and cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the vegetables are tender.

Now return the pot to a very low heat on top of the stove and stir the vegetables around to try and rid them of extra moisture; it does not matter if they colour very slightly, or if they break a little, either. Mash the vegetables coarsely (an old fashioned manual masher is best, here) and, if uncertain about wetness, now is the time to sprinkle over the agar flakes and mix them in. Tip into a bowl and allow to cool completely before mixing in the egg yolk, Parmesan and spring onion. Spread on a flat tray and put in the fridge to firm up.

Meanwhile make the simple sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together in a small pan and bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened and pour into a hot jug or sauceboat.

Form the swede and potato mash into 8 small cakes and roll in flour to coat all over. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the swede and potato cakes on both sides until golden; drain on kitchen paper.

Serve and garnish with sprightly sprigs of chilled watercress, if desired, handing the sauce around separately.

* The addition of agar flakes is an option here, to help firm up a mixture that can veer towards wetness. However, if you can achieve a thorough drying out of the cooked vegetables, agar flakes should not be necessary.

Fool Proof Food

Simon Hopkinson’s Onion and Blood Orange Salad with Olive Oil

Serves 2

4 blood oranges

1 or 2 small sweet white onions peeled

extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

Cut the tops and bottoms off the oranges ans using a small, very sharp knife, further slice off the skins of the oranges cutting close to the flesh and removing all traces of pith. Slice thinly (removing any pips) and arrange neatly, slightly overlapping on a beautiful plate.

Thinly slice the onions and lay on top of the oranges. Spoon enough olive oil onto the assembly to suit you, and then grind over some pepper. Eat it all on its own, and with someone you like very much.

Hottips

New Seniors Lunch at O’Connells in Ballsbridge – January 18th to March 18th – Monday to Thursday. Sit between noon and 1.00pm and select from a multi-choice Menu of The Day. One course €7.50; Two Courses € 9.50; Three Courses €11.50. All prices include a Pot of Tea or Coffee. Tel 01 66 55 940 Email info@oconnellsballsbridge.com
Website
www.oconnellsballsbridge.com

The Farmers Markets are back in full swing around the country after the Christmas break. Look out for the wonderful winter vegetables like Jerusalem artichokes and kale at Midleton Farmers Market. You can also buy game in season, home cured bacon and local cheese. Join the queue for a steaming cup of freshly ground coffees or hot chocolate from O’Connaill Chocolate stall.

www.midletonfarmersmarkets.com Make the most of the winter evenings by planning your vegetable and herb patch for the coming year. This is the time to order seeds and sprout a few potatoes on your windowsill to plant before St Patrick’s Day. Sounds exotic believe me its not, you’ll never taste a better spud. If you don’t know where to begin why not start a GIY (Grow it Yourself) Ireland Group in your area. This will take the ‘I’ out of Grow it Yourself when neighbours and friends help each other and share both knowledge, seedlings and produce. Check out http://www.giyireland.com/home.php where you can network with other growers. Get off to an easy start by getting Patrick Beausang to install a raised vegetable bed in your garden made from heavy larch beams – that are not chemically treated. He fills the beds with good quality top soil from Ladysbridge ready for planting. Telephone 0878372928.

Simply Delicious Soups

Simplicity, even in winter is everything and nothing hits the spot quite like a hearty bowl of thick, chunky vegetable soup. A well flavoured with a few fat lardons of bacon or generous cubes of chorizo to add extra oomph. How delicious does that sound?
I’ve got lots of recipes for winter bean and lentil soups. They are all easy as pie to make and full of inexpensive protein so they taste deeply satisfying. If you do decide to roll up your sleeves to make some, double or triple the recipe, it’ll take exactly the same length of time to cook but you’ll have a fine big pot of soup that will last for several days or can be frozen in batches for another time. The trick is to freeze it in small portions rather than huge icebergs which are a nightmare to defrost if you are in a hurry. I have lots of small containers that hold generous helpings for two people. This is always a good plan, it doesn’t matter what size your family or circle of friends because small containers can be defrosted quickly even in an emergency,  so you are never in a pickle when unexpected guests turn up or if you get caught up in a traffic jam on the way home.

There are also lots of inexpensive ways of making a bowl of soup into a pretty substantial meal. Buy a ham hock or a couple of lamb shanks, cook them long and slowly and when the meat is virtually falling off the bones cut it into shreds and add it to the soup. Noodles also add bulk and there are lots of bits that can be added as an edible garnish. Crunchy potato crisps or tortilla chips, grated cheese and lots of freshly chopped herbs add excitement and extra nutrients. Fish soups, although delicious are often less popular; we occasionally salt some fish, cod, haddock, hake, ling and pollock all work well.

Just scatter it lightly with high quality salt and allow it to sit for 8-12 hours then soak it overnight in cold water. Cook in fresh simmering water for just a couple of minutes until the flesh turns from translucent to opaque. Flake the flesh and add to a chunky soup─ also delicious.

Those who pop up and down to Belfast regularly will no doubt know Nick’s Warehouse on Hill Street in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. Nick Price follows the Slow Food philosophy of sourcing terrific, often local, ingredients and cooking them simply. He’s just published his first cook book—‘The Accidental Chef’ where he shares many favourite recipes from his menu. Try his recipe for Minestrone and if possible add a little ham hock as he suggests.

Nick Price’s Minestrone

Serves 10

Oil
100g bacon chopped (if using instead of ham hock, if veggie, ignore)
2 onions sliced
3 cloves garlic crushed
2 potatoes cubed
½ cauliflower in florets
¼ drumhead or hard cabbage sliced
2 tblsp tomato purée
2 courgettes sliced into sticks
2 carrots sliced
1 tblsp chopped fresh basil
2 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
3 celery sticks peeled to remove stringy bits and cut into baton
400g tin of white beans, cannellini are good
Basil and Parmesan to garnish
2 litres chicken or veg stock depending on your preference. If you want to be a real star you have to boil a ham hock and make a stock that way, i.e using the water you have cooked the hock in.
I add some ingredients after I have made the soup as they deteriorate in colour and texture if cooked in the soup-green beans trimmed and lightly cooked peas, fresh ideally, but frozen are fine.
Cooked pasta like farfalle or some other small attractive shape.

Put the oil in a deep saucepan and warm up over a moderate heat. Cook bacon, if using, then add onions and garlic until softened.
Next add the cabbage, cauliflower, celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook for 5 mins and then add the tomato purèe. Cook 2-3 mins.
Now add the tomatoes, the beans and stock. If you have a cooked ham hock it goes in now. Simmer for about 20-25 mins or until the potatoes are cooked. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Remove the ham hock and shred the meat, put it back into the pot to serve.
Add the peas, green beans and cooked pasta. Warm them through. Put a portion into a deep bowl and sprinkle with chopped basil. Serve with a side of parmesan. Just don’t expect your guests to eat anything else.

Tojo’s Lentil Soup

Serves 6

Tojo cooked in the Garden Café one summer, and his food was memorable. Tojo says that he uses no stock for his soups since many of his guests are vegetarian or vegan.  This is the simplest soup to make – very nutritious and delicious.  One could also add crispy bacon lardoons or shredded ham hock to make the soup− more substantial for carnivores.

120ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil
6 large onions, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
120ml (4fl oz) soya sauce
salt and pepper to taste
500g (18oz) Lentils du Puy
2.3L (4pints) water
Garnish
flat parsley or fresh coriander
extra virgin olive oil

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a medium size pot; add the chopped onions, garlic, soya sauce, salt and pepper.  Put on a fairly high flame for about 10 minutes, then lower the heat and let simmer until the onions are cooked and have a slightly sweet taste.  Add water and lentils and cook for 15-30 minutes. When the lentils are cooked, taste and correct the seasoning.  Be careful not to let the lentils get mushy, it’s nice if there is a slight bite to them.  Serve in wide soup bowls with some snipped flat parsley and a little extra virgin olive oil drizzled over the top.
Chunky Vegetable and Bean Soup with Spicy Sausage

We make huge pots of this in the Winter, I usually keep some in the freezer. Kabanossi is a thin sausage now widely available, it gives a gutsy slightly smoky flavour to the soup which although satisfying is by no means essential.

Serves 8-9

225g (8ozs) rindless streaky bacon, cut into ¼ inch (5mm) lardons
2 tablespoons olive oil
225g (8ozs) onions, chopped
300g (10½ozs) carrot, cut into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
215g (7½ozs) celery, chopped into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
125g (4½ozs) parsnips, chopped into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
200g (7ozs) white part of 1 leek, ¼ inch (5mm) slices thick approx.
1 Kabanossi sausage,* cut into one-eight inch (3mm) thin slices
400g (1 x 14ozs) tin of tomatoes
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
1.7L (3 pints) homemade chicken stock,
225g (8ozs) haricot beans, cooked * (see recipe)

Garnish
2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

Blanch the chunky bacon lardons, refresh and dry well. Prepare the vegetables. Put the olive oil in a saucepan, add bacon and sauté over a medium heat until it becomes crisp and golden, add the chopped onion, carrots and celery. Cover and sweat for five minutes next add the parsnip and finely sliced leeks. Cover and sweat for a further 5 minutes. Slice the Kabanossi sausage thinly, and add. Chop the tomatoes and add to the rest of the vegetables and the cooked beans. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar, add the chicken stock. Allow to cook until all the vegetables are tender, 20 minutes approx. Taste and correct the seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with lots of crusty brown bread.

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water.  Next day, strain the beans and cover with fresh cold water, add a bouquet garni, carrot and onion, cover and simmer until the beans are soft but not mushy – anything from 30-60 minutes.  Just before the end of cooking, add salt.  Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables and discard.


Winter Root Vegetable Soup

Serves 12 approx.

125g/ 4½oz celeriac
250g/84oz parsnips
250g/84 oz Jerusalem artichokes
or whatever combination of vegetables you fancy or have to hand.

1.1kg (2 1/2lb) carrots, preferably organic, chopped
90g (3oz) butter
225g (8oz) onion, chopped
275g (10oz) potatoes, chopped
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
sprig of spearmint
2.4L (4 pints) homemade light chicken or vegetable stock
124ml (5 fl ozs) creamy milk, (optional)
6 teaspoons freshly chopped spearmint
1 teaspoon thyme leaves

Garnish
a little lightly whipped cream or crème frâiche
sprigs of spearmint

Melt the butter and when it foams add the peeled and chopped vegetables, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add thyme leaves, cover with a butter paper (to retain the steam) and a place with a tight fitting lid. Leave to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes approx. Remove the lid, add the boiling stock and cook until the vegetables are soft, alternatively add 3 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little creamy milk if necessary.

Garnish with a swirl of lightly whipped cream or crème frâiche and some parsley sprigs.

Salt Cod, Tomato, Potato & Parsley Soup

Serves 10

30g/1oz butter
175g/6oz onion chopped
1 kg potatoes peeled and diced 1’’ cubes
1 ½ lbs sa1
pint fish stock or water
Salt cod (see recipe)
600ml/1 pint milk
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs fennel
1 bay leaf
75 ml/3 fl oz cream
Lots of dill and flat parsley springs
20 cherry tomatoes

Melt the butter in a heavy stainless steel saucepan, when foaming add the chopped onion and sweat gently until soft but not coloured, add the potatoes and toss. Cover and continue to cook for 4 or 5 minutes more. Add the fish stock. Season with freshly ground pepper, bring to the boil and continue to simmer for 10-15 mins until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, cut the salt cod into 2 or 3 pieces and put into a sauce pan. Cover with milk; add the thyme, fennel and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until the fish is opaque rather then translucent. Strain the milk into the soup, (discard the herbs). Add the cream and halved tomatoes. Bring back to the boil for 4-5 minutes, add the flaked salt cod. Taste and correct the seasoning. Ladle into hot bowls and garnish with sprigs of fennel and flat parsley.


Hottips

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group presents ‘Produce your own Fruit’. Learn how to grow all types of fruit with Con Traas from The Apple Farm in Cahir and John Howard from Sunnyside Fruit Farm. Thursday 28th January, 7:30pm. Crawford Art Gallery Café, Cork. The €6.00 entrance fee includes tea or coffee.

Salmon Watch Ireland
will be holding a seminar ‘What is the Future for our Spring Salmon?’ at Limerick Strand Hotel on the Ennis Road, Limerick on Saturday 30th January at 2:30pm. If you would like to attend this important event please contact Bob Wemyss at 087 2512562 or email wemyss.bob@gmail.com.

Kinsale Health Food Store – 129 Market Street Kinsale – stocks a good range of gluten free cereals, flours, biscuits, and sauces. Boost yourself against winter colds and flu and get some West Cork Echinacea grown in West Cork by Bandon Medicinal Herbs. They also do Ecover refills and eco-nappies. Telephone 021 4773521.

Learn how to cook delicious gluten free meals for coeliacs with Rosemary Kearney. Two one day courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School –  Friday 22nd  1:00pm to 5:00pm and Saturday 23rd  at 2:00pm to 5:00pm. Telephone 021 4646 785 or email susan@cookingisfun.ie

Ardrahan Lullaby Milk
– good news for the growing number of people who like to able to source non-homogenised milk. Lullaby Milk from Ardrahan in Kanturk is available in most branches of supermarkets around the country www.ardrahancheese.ie/lullaby.htm

Easy Pasta dishes with Giuliano Hazan

Food fads come and go but the craving for Italian food still continues to endure; a few really simple pasta recipes are a must in everyone’s repertoire and where better to seek them out than in Giuliano Hazan’s books. Giuliano’s first book ‘The Classic Pasta Cookbook’ sold over half a million copies world wide, so it obviously hit the spot for many people. He went onto write several others including ‘Every Night Italian’ and ‘How to Cook Italian’ but I found several more new gems in his last book ‘Thirty Minute Pasta: 100 Quick and Easy Recipes’
There are many types and shapes of pasta in Italy; some pasta is made with wheat flour others with buckwheat, chickpea, chestnut flour or farro, the latter is an ancient Etruscan grain similar to spelt which is gaining in popularity.
The most common however is made from flour and eggs or flour and water, the latter tends to be made from durum wheat, a harder flour which results in a firmer sturdier pasta best suited to oil based and more robustly flavoured sauces – e.g. those with anchovies, olives, capers or fiery red chillies.
Tender homemade egg pasta is wonderful but not necessarily better than good bought pasta, it is simply different. The Italians just use them for different recipes. Its not difficult to make a simple pasta sauce yourself it can be made in a fraction of the time it would take to you to go to the shops to buy it so why not snap up a few packets of good Italian or organic pasta from Noodle House Organics and whip up a little spontaneous meal for family and friends, after all, as Giuliano says
‘Cooking for someone is one of the most loving gifts you can bestow, because you are giving a little of yourself’ enjoy!

Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta: 100 Quick and Easy Recipes is published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

Giuliano Hazan’s Cannellini Bean and Pasta Soup
Minestra di Cannellini e Pas
ta

Minus the pasta, this soup spans at least three generations. My mother learned it from her father. Then it became one of my father’s favourites. He is particularly fond of beans, and this is a thick soup of all beans and very little else. The little else though, is garlic and parsley, which give cannellini beans an immensely satisfying flavor. I’ve added pasta to make the soup substantial enough for a meal.

S e r v e s 4

1 large clove garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups (2 15-ounce cans) canned
Cannellini beans, drained
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3–4 springs flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 large beef bouillon cube
4 ounces dried egg noodles,
such as tagliatelle or pappardelle

Peel the garlic and finely chop it. Put it with the olive oil in a 4- to 6-
quart soup pot and place over medium-high heat. After the garlic begins to sizzle, add the cannellini beans and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. While the beans are cooking, finely chop enough parsley to measure 1 tablespoon. After the beans have cooked for 5 minutes, add 2 cups water and the
bouillon cube and cover the pot. Once the soup has come to a boil, break the egg noodles into approximately 1-inch pieces and add them to the soup. Lower the heat to medium, add the parsley, and cook, covered, until the pasta is al dente. Serve hot.
Minus the pasta, this soup spans at least three generations. My mother learned it from her father. Then it became one of my father’s favorites. He is particularly fond of beans, and this is a thick soup of all beans and very little else. The little else though, is garlic and parsley, which gives cannellini beans an immensely satisfying flavor. I’ve added pasta to make the soup substantial enough for a meal.

Giuliano Hazan’s Tagliatelle with Chickpeas
Tagliatelle coi Ceci

One of the restaurants we enjoy going to when we are in Valpolicella, the wine country outside of Verona, is Alla Rosa Alda, in the tiny hilltop town of San Giorgio. One of their specialties is a pasta dish they call “Tagliatelle Embogonè” in the local dialect. It is homemade egg noodles with a sauce of fresh cranberry beans. When I was growing up, my mother made a soup with chickpeas, tomatoes, and rosemary that I loved. I’ve adapted it here, taking inspiration from Alla Rosa Alda’s dish, into a pasta sauce that is now one of our favorites at home.

S e r v e s 4

½ medium yellow onion
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive
oil, plus a little extra for drizzling
at the end
1 medium clove garlic
1–2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 pound fresh tomatoes
Salt
1½ cups canned chickpeas,
drained
Freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces dried egg tagliatelle

Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat,
and bring to a boil. Peel the onion and finely chop it. Put it and the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet and place over medium-high heat. Sauté until the onion turns a
rich golden color, about 5 minutes. While the onion is sautéing, peel the garlic and finely chop it. Finely chop enough rosemary to measure 1 teaspoon. Peel the tomatoes and coarsely chop them. When the onion is ready, add the garlic and rosemary. Sauté for 10 to 15 seconds, then add the tomatoes. Season lightly with salt and cook until
most of the liquid the tomatoes release has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the chickpeas, season with pepper and again lightly with salt, and cook for 5 more minutes. Scoop out about half the chickpeas and puree them. A food mill will produce a smoother texture, but if you don’t have one you can use a food processor. Mix the pureed chickpeas into the sauce and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Once the pureed chickpeas are back in the pan, add about 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling pasta water, add the tagliatelle, and stir until all the strands are submerged. Cook until al dente.
After the pasta has cooked about 2 minutes, mix 2 tablespoons of the pasta water into the sauce. When the pasta is done, drain well and toss with the sauce. Drizzle a little olive oil and grind some black pepper over each portion and serve at once.

Giuliano Hazan’s Penne with Radicchio
Penne al Radicchio Rosso

S e r v e s  4

½ large sweet yellow onion
3 tablespoons butter
3 ounces pancetta, sliced
1⁄8 inch thick
1 pound radicchio
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3–4 sprigs flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 pound penne (fusilli is also good)
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup grated freshly grated
Parmigiano-Reggiano

Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Peel the onion and finely chop it. Put the butter in a 12-inch skillet, add the chopped onion, and place over medium-high heat. Sauté until the onion turns a rich golden color, about 5 minutes. While the onion is sautéing, cut the pancetta into narrow strips about 1 inch long. Remove any bruised leaves from the radicchio, cut it in half lengthwise, and cut off the bottom of the root. Finely shred the radicchio. When the onion is ready, add the pancetta and cook until it loses its raw color, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the radicchio and season with salt and pepper. Add about ½ cup water, lower the heat to medium, and cover the pan. Cook until the radicchio is very tender, about 20 minutes. Check it periodically and add more water if the liquid evaporates before the radicchio is tender. While the radicchio is cooking, finely chop enough parsley to measure about 1 tablespoon. After the radicchio has been cooking for at least 15 minutes, add about 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling pasta water, add the penne, and stir well. Cook until al dente. When the radicchio is tender, uncover the pan, raise the heat, and let any remaining moisture evaporate. Add the cream and parsley and cook until the cream has thickened and reduced by about one-third. When the pasta is done, drain well, toss with the sauce and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve at once.

Radicchio adds a refreshing, slightly bitter flavor to salads. When it is cooked, it loses some of its bitterness and makes a rich, luscious sauce. The Veneto region of Italy is known for the many varieties of radicchio grown there. The one from Treviso is the radicchio most often used in cooking. It is elongated and shaped a little like Romaine lettuce. The most prized is the one available in late fall called tardivo. It is distinguished by how the tops of its leaves curl in toward the center and by its rich, deep flavor.

Giuliano Hazan’s Tagliatelle with Peas
Tagliatelle ai Piselli

One of my favorite restaurants in Verona is Il Pompiere. They make a pasta dish when peas are in season that is thoroughly infused with their sweet flavor. Marco, the chef/owner, was kind enough to share his secret with me. It’s actually very simple. Once the peas are tender, half are pureed until creamy and mixed back into the sauce.
When the pasta is tossed with the sauce, it absorbs all that delicious pea flavor, which is why I like using the wider tagliatelle noodles. Although you could make this with premium frozen peas, the sweet flavor of fresh peas is worth the extra time it takes to shell them.

S e r v e s 4

½ medium yellow onion
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1¾ pounds fresh peas
(or 12 ounces frozen peas)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces dried egg tagliatelle or pappardelle

Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat,
and bring to a boil. Peel and finely chop the onion. Put the olive oil in a saucepan or deep 8-inch skillet, add the chopped onion, and place over medium heat. Sauté
until the onion turns a rich golden color, about 5 minutes. While the onion is sautéing, shell the fresh peas, if using. When the onion is ready, add the peas and season generously with salt and pepper. Stir the peas well, then add about ½ cup water. Cook over medium heat until the peas are tender, adding water if it evaporates completely before they are done. It should take 15 to 20 minutes for the peas to become tender. (If using frozen peas, add water only once and cook for 6 to 8 minutes). When the peas are tender, remove from the heat, take out about half the peas, and puree them. A food mill will make the smoothest puree, but
if you don’t have one you can use a food processor. Put the pureed peas back in the pan with the whole peas. Add about 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling pasta water, add the tagliatelle, and stir until all the strands are submerged. Cook until al dente. After the pasta has cooked for about 2 minutes, add ¾ cup of the pasta water to the pan with the peas and stir well. When the pasta is done, drain well, toss with the sauce, and serve at once.

Giuliano Hazan’s Tagliatelle with a Quick and Simple Meat Sauce
Tagliatelle al Ragù Veloc
e

I recommend using beef chuck, which is about 20 percent fat, to keep the sauce moist. If you will be using a leaner cut, add a tablespoon of butter.

S e r v e s 4

½ medium yellow onion
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound fresh tomatoes
¾ pound ground beef chuck
Salt
10 ounces dried egg tagliatelle
or pappardelle (or 1 pound rigatoni or shells)
1⁄3 cup freshly grated
Parmigiano-Reggiano

Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat,
and bring to a boil. Peel the onion and finely chop it. Put the olive oil and butter in a 12-inch skillet, add the chopped onion, and place over medium-high heat. Sauté until the onion turns a rich golden color, about 5 minutes. While the onion is sautéing, peel the tomatoes and coarsely chop them. When the onion is ready, add the ground beef, season with salt, and cook, stirring, until it has lost its raw color and just begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, season them with salt, and cook over medium heat until the liquid the tomatoes release has almost completely evaporated,
10 to 12 minutes. Add about 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling pasta water, add the tagliatelle, and stir until all the strands are submerged. Cook until al dente. When the pasta is done, drain well, toss with the sauce and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve at once.

Text copyright © 2009 Giuliano Hazan. Photographs copyright © 2009 by Joseph De Leo

Fool Proof Food

Pesto

Homemade Pesto takes minutes to make and tastes a million times better than most of what you buy.  The problem is getting enough basil.  If you have difficulty, use parsley, a mixture of parsley and mint or parsley and coriander – different but still delicious.

Serve with pasta, goat cheese, tomato and mozzarella.

4ozs (115g) fresh basil leaves
6 – 8 fl ozs (175 – 250ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 oz (25g) fresh pine kernels (taste when you buy to make sure they are not rancid)
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 ozs (50g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiana Reggiano is best) salt to taste

Whizz the basil with the olive oil, pine kernels and garlic in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar.  Remove to a bowl and fold in the finely grated Parmesan cheese. Taste and season.

Pesto keeps for weeks, covered with a layer of olive oil in a jar in the fridge. It also freezes well but for best results don’t add the grated Parmesan until it has defrosted. Freeze in small jars for convenience.


Thrifty Tip

Pick up a couple of those growing pots of basil in the supermarket, pick off the leaves and whisk up a little pesto – add to a bowl of pasta and maybe some chopped crispy bacon or ham for a taste of summer in dreary January!

Hot Tips

Great Italian Food at Dunne & Crescenzi at the Arnotts Project in Dublin’s Jervis Centre  Stroll down Henry Street for a bit of sales shopping, delicious pit stop at Dunne & Crescenzi – brunch, lunch, coffee or a Prosecco with the girls while browsing for the bargains!    Take home some pasta, olive oil, coffee, chocolate …….and other goodies.

The Noodle House Organic Pasta was established by Ingrid and Alois Basler in 1998 in Curry, Co. Sligo. To find out where you can purchase their organic pasta, sauces and jams Tel: 071 91 85589, email: nhorganicpasta@eircom.net or visit www.noodlehouseorganics.ie

Darina Allen’s new book ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’ has been shortlisted for the André Simon Food and Drink book awards. The winners will be announced in the spring.

Learn how to cook the perfect romantic meal for Valentine’s Day on the one day Culinary Cupid Course on Saturday 6th February 2010 at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Phone 021 4646785 to book.

Women’s Christmas Nollaig na Mban

On the sixth of January, the feast of the Epiphany, the French enjoy 50 million Galette des Rois to celebrate the Festival of Kings. The flaky pastry cake has a soft filling of delicious frangipane – inside is hidden a Feve, originally it was a broad bean but nowadays it is more likely to be a tiny porcelain or hard plastic figure.
The ‘Kings’ being celebrated to are Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchior who came on the Epiphany- to the manger to shower baby Jesus with gifts. But what is the significance of the broad bean – well apparently this legume is similar in shape to the human embryo and is the first to emerge from the ground after winter. It represents the gift of the earth, fertility and new life.
The ceremony of the Galette des Rois dates back to the middle ages but I first came across the tradition when I au-paired in France in the 1960s. Madame asked me to pop around to the local Boulangerie to collect a special galette. It resembled a gateau pithivier but was accompanied by a gold paper crown.
The children couldn’t wait for dinner to be over that evening. The flaky pastry cake was cut into neat slices. Then right on cue the youngest child climbed under the table and hid beneath the tablecloth. Madame then pointed at a portion and asked ‘Who is this piece for?’ The child called out the name of each in turn. The lucky person who finds the Feve in his or her slice is the king and has the crown ceremoniously placed on his or her head. Then a consort is chosen and as the king puts the glass to ‘his’ lips, everyone choruses ‘the king drinks, the king drinks’
Galette des Rois is one of my favourite cakes of the year, it’s easy to make at home and I’m sure some of the children can produce a golden crown.
In Ireland On 6th January – the 12th day of Christmas – we celebrate Women’s Christmas or Nollaig na Mban. This was the day when women made ‘little dainties’ and enjoyed some time off after pampering the men during the busy festive season. The tradition still lives on but nowadays many get together with friends to go out for dinner or kick up their heels in a club. If that’s not an option how about a gorgeous afternoon tea? Here are a few of my favourites.


Galette des Rois

Serves 8

1 lb Puff Pastry

Filling

3ozs (75g) ground hazelnuts toasted, freshly ground
1oz (25g) ground almonds
4 ozs (110g) castor sugar
1½ ozs (45g) melted butter
2 egg yolks, preferably free range
2 tablesp.  double cream
1 dessertsp. rum (optional)
egg wash made with 1 beaten egg and a tiny pinch of salt
glaze
icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/regulo 6.
Put the hazelnuts onto a baking tray.  Bake until the skins loosen.
Remove nuts from oven and place in a tea towel.  Rub off the loose papery skins.  Let cool.  Grind the nuts in a nut grinder or chop in a food processor.

Increase oven temperature to 230°C/450°F/regulo 8.

Divide the pastry in half, roll out just less than ¼ inch thick, and cut into 2 circles approx. 10 inch (25.5cm) in diameter.  Put one onto a damp baking sheet, chill and chill the other piece also.
Mix all the ingredients for the filling together in a bowl until smooth. Put the filling onto the pastry base, leaving a rim of about 1 inch (2.5mm) free around the edge. Wrap a broad bean in a piece of silicone paper and tuck into the filling. Brush the rim with beaten egg or water and put on the lid of puff pastry, press it down well around the edges.
Make a small hole in the centre brush with egg wash and leave for 5 minutes in the refrigerator. With the back of a knife, nick the edge of the pastry 12 times at regular intervals to form a scalloped edge with a rose petal effect. Mark long curving lines from the central hole outwards to designate formal petals. Be careful not to cut through the pastry just score it.

Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, then lower the heat to 200C/400F/regulo 6 and bake for 30 minutes approx. While still hot dredge heavily with icing sugar and return to a very hot oven or pop under a grill (Do Not Leave the Grill) – the sugar will melt and caramelize to a dark brown glaze. Serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.
Note: Galette des Rois is best eaten warm, but it also keeps well and may be reheated

Little Pecan Puffs

Makes 48

110g (4oz) pecan nuts
110g (4oz) butter, softened
50g (2oz) castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
110g (4oz) plain flour
25g (1oz) icing sugar sifted onto shallow bowl or plate

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/gas mark 2.

Place the pecan nuts in a food processor and grind until quite fine.

In a bowl cream the butter, then add the sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the ground pecan nuts and flour and bring together to form a dough.  Roll into small marble size balls of dough between the palms of your hands, then flatten slightly using the palm of your hand and place on a baking tray.  Bake for 40 minutes.
Allow to cool for 2 minutes, then carefully remove from the tray and while they are still hot roll them in the sifted icing sugar.  Cool on a wire rack, and when cooled sift with icing sugar again.

Coconut Macaroons

Makes 30 approx

2 egg whites
4 1/2ozs (125g) vanilla castor sugar
3ozs (75g) desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/regulo 2.

Cover 2 or 3 baking sheets with silicone paper.  Whisk the egg whites with the vanilla sugar until very stiff and fold in the desiccated coconut gently.  Drop teaspoons of the mixture onto the baking sheets and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes approx.

Cool on a wire rack.

These biscuits may be stored in an airtight tin for 3-4 weeks.

This mixture also makes two 7inches (18cm) meringue discs which can be sandwiched together with chunks of fresh pineapple and cream.

Moroccan Orange and Almond Cake

Serves 8

Claudia Roden gave us this recipe when she taught at the school in October 1985.

2 large organic oranges
6 free range eggs
250g (8oz) ground almonds
250g (8oz) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

9 ” springform tin round tin, buttered and floured

Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F /Gas Mark 5.

Wash and boil the oranges (unpeeled) in a little water for nearly 2 hours (or 1/2 hour in a pressure cooker).  Let them cool, then cut them open and remove the pips.  Turn the oranges into a pulp by putting them in a food processor or an electric blender.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl.  Add all the other ingredients, mix thoroughly and pour into a buttered and floured cake tin with a removable base if possible.  Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5 for about 1 hour.  If it is still very wet, leave it in the oven for a little longer.  Cool in the tin before turning out. Dredge with icing sugar.

This is a very moist cake that may be served as a dessert.

Almond, Hazelnut or Praline Cake

Serves 10 approx.

6 ozs (175g) flour
6 ozs (175g) sugar
3 eggs
5 ozs (150g) butter
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons praline powder (see below)

Praline
6 ozs (175g) sugar
6 ozs (175g) skinned hazelnuts or unskinned almonds

Praline Butter Icing

7 tablespoons water
9 tablespoons sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 lb (225g) unsalted butter (softened and creamed)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 tablespoons praline powder (sieved praline)

2 x 7 (18cm) inch cake tins

First make the praline.
Combine the sugar and nuts in a heavy saucepan. Put over a low heat until the sugar turns caramel colour. Do not stir, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are covered with caramel. When the nuts go “pop” pour the mixture on to an oiled marble slab, cool. Crush to a gritty powder.

Brush the cake tins with melted butter and line the base of each with a round of greaseproof paper. Brush the paper with melted butter also and dust the base and edges with flour.

Cream the sugar and butter and add in the eggs one by one.  Beat well between each addition.  Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in gradually. Add two tablespoons of praline powder. Mix lightly adding milk to moisten if the mixture is a little stiff.

Divide equally between two prepared tins.  Bake for 25 minutes at 190°C/350°F/regulo 5. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out and cooling on a wire rack. Reinvert after a few moments so as not to mark the top of the cake.

Meanwhile make the butter cream.
Bring the water and sugar to the boil stirring only until the sugar dissolves. Let the syrup boil to the thread stage (115°C/238°F). Beat the yolks for one minute with an electric beater, add hot syrup very gradually. Continue beating until the syrup has all been added and the mixture is cool.  The mousse should be stiff and hold a “figure of 8”.  Still whisking, add butter in small batches. Add pure vanilla extract. Stir in 4 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons + 4 teaspoons) powdered praline.

To Assemble
Split each cake in half. Spread with praline butter icing. Sandwich together.
Ice the top and sides with the remaining icing. Sprinkle crushed praline all over the top surface of the cake.

Coffee Cake

This is a splendid recipe for an old-fashioned coffee cake – the sort Mummy made – and we still make it regularly. Everyone loves it. I’m a real purist about using extract rather than essence in the case of vanilla, but in this cake, I prefer coffee essence (which is actually mostly chicory) to real coffee.

Serves 10–12

225g (8oz) soft butter
225g (8oz) caster sugar
4 organic eggs
225g (8oz) plain white flour, preferably unbleached
1 teaspoon baking powder
scant 2 tablespoons Irel or Camp coffee essence

Coffee Butter Cream
50g (2oz) butter
110g (4oz) icing sugar, sieved
1–2 teaspoons Irel or Camp coffee essence

Coffee Icing

450g (1lb) icing sugar
scant 2 tablespoons Irel or Camp coffee essence
about 4 tablespoons boiling water

To Decorate

toasted hazelnuts or chocolate-covered coffee beans

2 x 20cm (8in) round sandwich tins

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

Line the base of the tins with circles of greaseproof or silicone paper. Brush the bottom and sides with melted butter and dust lightly with flour.

Beat the soft butter with a wooden spoon, add the caster sugar and whisk until pale in colour and light in texture. Whisk the eggs. Add to the mixture, bit by bit, whisking well between each addition.

Sieve the flour with the baking powder and stir gently into the cake mixture. Finally, add in the coffee essence and mix thoroughly.

Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared sandwich tins and bake for 30 minutes. When the cakes are cooked, the centre will be firm and springy and the edges will have shrunk from the sides of the tins. Leave to rest in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Remove the greaseproof paper from the base, then flip over so the top of the cakes don’t get marked by the wire rack. Leave the cakes to cool on the wire rack.

To make the coffee butter cream, whisk the butter with the sieved icing sugar and add the coffee essence. Continue to whisk until light and fluffy.

To make the coffee icing, sieve the icing sugar and put into a bowl. Add coffee essence and enough boiling water to make it the consistency of a thick cream.

When cold, sandwich together the bases of the cakes with the coffee butter cream and ice the top with the coffee icing. Decorate with the toasted hazelnuts or chocolate-covered coffee beans.

Thrifty Tip

Make lots of comforting soups which are economical and filling for this time of year with store cupboard ingredients, potatoes, leeks, carrots, onions…

Hot Tips


Resolve to start growing your own by subscribing to Irish Seed Savers
. When you pay for a year’s subscription you get five free packets of organic heritage vegetable seeds, including three varieties of heritage potatoes (when available) and a 10% discount on organic heritage apple trees and workshops that run almost every weekend. Creating a Native Fruiting Hedge is on Saturday 6th February. Contact Irish Seed Savers on 061 921866 or email info@irishseedsavers.ie or www.irishseedsavers.ie

Allclad and Demeyere stainless steel saucepans last a life time and are on sale at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop with a 20% reduction on the price. 021 4646785.

Sassy’s on Northmain Street in Youghal East Cork
, sell old fashioned boiled sweets displayed in big glass jars, weighed out into stripy paper bags for a taste of the past. Telephone 024 91643.

Letters

Past Letters