ArchiveFebruary 2010

Delicious Cheap Cuts

Will this chilly weather ever end? Anyhow let’s cheer ourselves up with a big pot of bubbling stew. These recipes certainly won’t break the bank and will provide a wonderful meal for family and friends. The trick is to seek out your local family butcher and start to ask questions. Get to know the joints of meat so you can buy wisely and chose the recommended cuts of meat for a particular dish. The good news is that the cheapest cuts are best for stewing and slow cooking and you will need lots of bone for flavour. A nice chunk of neck of lamb or scrag end make a delicious lamb stew. Bulk it out with lots of carrots, onions or maybe a parsnip. You could cover the entire pot with peeled whole potatoes and you will have the whole meal in one pot.

Lamb shanks are lovely and meaty and also a good buy. They take ages to cook to melting tenderness but when the meat is virtually falling off the bones everyone will be licking their lips. Serve them with fluffy mashed potatoes or if you prefer just beans or lentils.

How come so few people over here know about beef short ribs? These are 4 inch strips cut diagonally across the lower ribs. I first came across short ribs in Tom Colliccio’s Craft restaurant in New York on a cold winter’s day, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. However a lovely American friend Mary Jo Wendel gave me her recipe which has become a firm favourite. I’m also mad about a family dish we called Scalloped potato which also contains beef kidney and a tiny bit of flank of beef. Another truly economical dish and the most comforting thing to eat on a dreary winter day.

 

Mary Jo’s American Braised Short Ribs

From Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen

Beef short ribs are about 8–10cm (3–4in) strips of a cross section of rib bones and the meat that links them together. This is more of an American butcher’s cut, but now that we’ve discovered short ribs over here, we can’t get enough of them. This cut cooks out to melting tenderness when slow-cooked, which is why we’ve chosen braising as the method of cooking and the high percentage of bone adds lots of extra flavour. If at all possible, make this the day before it’s needed – the flavour will be even better and it’ll be much easier to remove every scrap of fat when it has solidified on top.

Serves 6

6 crosscut beef short ribs, trimmed

salt

225g (8oz) streaky bacon (in a single piece if possible)

1 tablespoon olive oil or duck fat

225g (8oz) carrots, diced

175g (6oz) celery, diced

8 garlic cloves, cut in half

1 chilli, sliced

1 red pepper, diced

1 yellow pepper, diced

3 large onions, 1 sliced – the other 2 chopped

1 tablespoon tomato purée

225ml (8fl oz) red wine

1 sprig of rosemary

2 bay leaves

small fistful thyme branches

1 cinnamon stick

3 spirals of orange zest

Beef Stock or chicken stock to come halfway up the pot

Roux (see below), optional

If possible, trim and sprinkle the beef with salt the night before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/ 300°F/gas mark 2. Remove the rind and dice the bacon. Save the rind to cook with the beef as it adds gelatine which gives the sauce extra body. Heat a little oil in a wide sauté pan and brown the diced bacon. Remove it to a plate.

Brown the beef in batches (do not overcrowd the sauté pan). Leave 2 tablespoons of fat in pan and use it to sweat the onions, carrots and celery, stirring to dissolve all the browned bits in the sauté pan. Add the garlic, chilli and peppers and sweat for 5–6 minutes or until limp.

Place the beef, bacon and vegetables in a casserole or heavy braising pot, preferably enameled cast iron.

Add the tomato purée to the hot sauté pan and cook briefly. Add the wine and bring to boil. Pour the over the beef and add the herbs, cinnamon stick and orange zest. Add enough stock to come halfway up the pot. Cover with a butter wrapper and tight-fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Braise in the oven until tender, 3–412 hours – the meat should be tender and almost falling off the bones.

Remove bay leaves, stalks and stems of the other herbs and the orange peel and cinnamon stick. Leave to cool overnight. Next day, skim off the solidified fat and discard. Bring the pot back to the boil, add more stock if needed and thicken with a little roux if desired. Taste and correct the seasoning.

 

Roux

Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred to thicken up a sauce.

110g (4oz) butter

110g (4oz) plain flour

Melt the butter in a pan and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. It will keep for a fortnight in a refrigerator.

 

 

Remove most of the fat from each shank and then scrape the meat away from the bone to loosen it. Make two deep incisions in each joint and insert a sprig of rosemary and a sliver of garlic wrapped in half an anchovy fillet into each incision. Season the meat with salt and black pepper.

Heat the duck fat or olive oil in a heavy sauté pan or casserole and sauté the lamb until it is well browned on all sides. Remove the lamb shanks from the pan.

Next add the bacon and cook until crisp, then add the carrots, celery, leek, onion and garlic and cook over a high heat until slightly browned. Add the red wine to the pan and bring to the boil, stirring for a minute or two. Add the stock, herbs and orange peel to the pan, then place the lamb shanks on top. Cover and cook in the oven for 214 hours.

Remove from the oven and add the tomato fondue, cannellini beans, herbs and enough stock to half-cover the beans. Cover and simmer for a further 34 –1 hour.

When the lamb has finished cooking it should be falling off the bone. Remove the thyme, bay leaves and orange peel. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Serve the lamb shanks in a hot, deep dish with the beans and vegetables poured over and around. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.

 

 

 

 

 

Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic, Rosemary and Cannellini Beans

From Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen

This is where the magic of slow cooking transforms something that, cooked on a high heat, would be very tough, into something soft and tender.

Serves 4

4 lamb shanks, about 1kg (214 lb)

8 small sprigs of rosemary

8 garlic slivers

4 anchovy fillets, halved

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Braising

30g (1oz) duck fat or olive oil

225g (8oz) streaky bacon

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

1 leek, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 garlic head, halved horizontally

225ml (8fl oz) bottle good red wine

300ml (12 pint) lamb stock or chicken stock

sprig of thyme

2 sprigs of rosemary

2 bay leaves

2 strips of dried orange peel

Accompaniment

1 x Tomato Fondue

1 x 400g (14oz) tin cannellini beans, drained or 200g (7oz) dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and then boiled rapidly for 30 minutes

600ml (1 pint) homemade chicken stock or lamb stock

2 sprigs of thyme

leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped

sprigs of rosemary, for garnish

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

 

Scalloped Potato with Steak and Kidney

From Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen

 

This is an economical and enormously comforting dish. We used to ask my mother to make it when we came home from college on winter weekends. You can do lots of variations on the theme; streaky bacon is particularly good and shoulder of lamb would also be delicious.

Serves 4–6

1 beef kidney, about 450g (1lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper

450g (1lb) well-hung stewing beef (I use round, flank or even lean shin)

1.3kg (3lb) ‘old’ potatoes – Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks, thickly sliced

350g (12oz) onions, chopped

50g (2oz) butter, or more

370ml (13fl oz) beef stock or hot water

Garnish

freshly chopped parsley

large, oval casserole, 2.3 litre (4 pint) capacity

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

Remove the skin and white core from the kidney and discard. Cut the flesh of the kidneys into 1cm (12 in) cubes; put them into a bowl, cover with cold water and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt. Cut the beef into 5mm (14 in) cubes. Put a layer of potato slices at the base of the casserole. Drain the kidney cubes and mix them with the beef slices, then scatter some of the meat and chopped onions over the layer of potato.

Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, dot with butter, add another layer of potato, more meat, onions and seasoning and continue right up to the top of the casserole. Finish with an overlapping layer of potato. Pour in the hot stock or water. Bring to the boil, cover and transfer to the oven, and cook for 2–212 hours or until the meat and potatoes are cooked. Remove the lid of the saucepan about 15 minutes from end of the cooking time to brown the top slightly.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve in deep plates with lots of butter.

Epigrams

From Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen

 

A simple way to turn a very cheap piece of meat into something delicious.

Makes 12–16

900g (2lb) lap of lamb or trimmings from the streaky end of a rack of lamb

plain flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper

beaten organic egg

fresh white breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/ gas mark 4.

Cut the lamb into pieces about 7.5cm (3 inch) wide and 10cm (4 inch) long (size isn’t crucial here, but they shrink as they cook so don’t cut them too small). Dip each piece in well-seasoned flour, then in beaten egg and finally into breadcrumbs. Transfer to a roasting tin and cook in a single layer for 30–45 minutes, depending on size. They should be crisp and golden. Turn once or twice during cooking so they crisp up evenly on each side.

Serve with sauce paloise (like a béarnaise, but made with mint), onion sauce, mint and apple, or redcurrant jelly.

Mashed Potato

 

Cooking the potatoes in their jackets keeps in the flavours. They are also easier and less wasteful to peel.

 

Serves 4

 

2 lbs (900g) unpeeled potatoes, preferably Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

1/2 pint (300ml) creamy milk

1-2 ozs (25-50g) butter

 

Scrub the potatoes well. Put them into 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 on to a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked. Peel immediately by just pulling off the skins, so you have as little waste as possible, mash while hot.

 

While the potatoes are being peeled, bring about 1/2 pint (300ml) of milk to the boil. (Use a two pronged carving fork so they don’t break and gently pull off the skin so there is minimum waste – we feed the skins to the hens). Add enough boiling creamy milk to mix to a soft light consistency suitable for piping, and then beat in the butter, the amount depending on how rich you like your potatoes. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

 

Beef Stock

 

Makes about 3.5 litres (6 pints)

 

2.7kg (6 lb) beef bones or more if you have them, preferably with some scraps of meat on them, cut into small pieces

2 large onions, quartered

2 large carrots, quartered

2 celery stalks, cut into chunks

10 peppercorns

2 cloves

4 unpeeled garlic cloves

1 teaspoon concentrated tomato purée

large bouquet garni, including parsley stalks, bay leaf, sprigs of thyme and a sprig of tarragon

 

Preheat the oven to 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8.

 

Put the bones into a roasting tin and roast them for 30 minutes, until nicely browned. Add the onions, carrots and celery and return to the oven until the vegetables are coloured at the edges. Transfer the bones and vegetables to the stockpot with a metal spoon. Add the peppercorns, cloves, garlic, tomato purée and bouquet garni.

 

Degrease the roasting pan and deglaze with about 300ml (12 pint) of water. Bring to the boil and then pour over the bones and vegetables in the stockpot. Add enough additional water to cover the bones, about 4.6 litres (8 pints). Bring slowly to the boil. Skim the stock and simmer gently for 5 – 6 hours, topping up with water if necessary. Strain the stock, leave it to cool and skim off all the fat before use.

 

Fool Proof Food

Rustic Roast Potatoes

 

Serves 4-6

 

So quick and easy. Just scrub the spuds well. Don’t bother to peel.

 

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 230

 

°C/450°

F/regulo 8. Scrub the potatoes well, cut into quarters lengthways or cut into thick rounds 3/4 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.

 

 

Hottips

Meet two of France’s leading winemakers – Pascal Verhaege of Château du Cèdre, Cahors and Luc de Conti of Château Tour des Gendres, Bergerac at the Wines of Southwest France Dinner. Taste their critically acclaimed wines, matched with a menu inspired by the hearty, regional cooking of the French southwest. On Tuesday 16th March 2010 at 8 pm at the Exchequer Room Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2, tickets are available at €65 per person. To book phone David Gallagher 01 4721012 – wine@fallonandbyrne.com.

The Gracey family have been farming on Forthill Farm in Tandragee, Co Armagh since the 1700s. Kenny and Jennifer Gracey opened their farm shop towards the end of 2008. They sell their own meat from their Belted Galloway and Longhorn Cattle that produces beautiful marbled tender beef that is hung on the bone for a minimum of 21 days. Their pork sausages are delicious made with 80 percent meat from their prize winning herd of Saddleback and Gloucestshire Old Spot Pigs. Telephone 0044 (0) 28 38840818, email info@forthillfarm.co.uk.

Sarah Raven

During these recessionary times we’re racking our brains to come up with thrifty ways of having fun and improving our quality of life without breaking the bank. Every year when we plan our course schedule for Ballymaloe Cookery School we come up with some new ideas. One of my favourites this year is ‘Grow your own Party or Wedding with Sarah Raven’ – whom many of you will know from BBC Gardeners World and her columns in The Daily Telegraph, Gardens Illustrated, Gardeners’ World Magazine. The idea is to plan ahead so you can grow as much of the produce and as many of the flowers as possible for your own wedding or party. Sounds daunting, but you know, with a bit of forward planning its absolutely achievable even for those who don’t reckon to have green fingers. Can you imagine the delight and satisfaction of filling your home and church with beautiful bouquets of home-grown flowers? Apart from saving money, garden flowers are so beautiful and fragrant and even simple flowers like primroses, sweet pea and cornflowers can be utterly charming. You can even crystallize the flowers to decorate the wedding cake and then of course there’s the food. Sarah will give suggestions and recipes for several menus for Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter weddings, with lots of great images and ideas.

Then you can choose your favourite menu and with Sarah’s advice you can grow the vegetables, salad, herbs and even berries and fruit. Can you imagine how much fun you’ll have and more importantly how much extra money you will have to spend on bubbles and fizz. Sarah’s ‘Grow your own Party or Wedding’ course is on Tuesday 30th March For those who are eager to learn more about vegetable gardening, Sarah will teach her brilliant ‘How to Grow Year Round Vegetables’ Monday 29th March, 2010. Meanwhile here is a suggestion for a Spring wedding menu. www.foodforliving.ie or contact Lucy on 086 8179964

Spinach and Rosemary Soup with Heart Shaped Croutons

Fish Mousse with Shrimp Beurre Blanc

Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with New Potatoes, Roast Beetroot and a Salad of Organic Greens and Flowers from your Garden

Goats Cheese with Honey and Rocket Leaves

Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote with Shortbread Sweethearts

 

 

Spinach and Rosemary Soup

 

Serves 6-8

 

The trick with these green soups is not to add the greens until the last minute, otherwise they will overcook and the soup will lose its fresh taste and bright green colour. For a simple spinach soup, omit the rosemary and add a little freshly grated nutmeg with the seasoning.

 

50g (2oz) butter

110g (4oz) onion, chopped

150g (5oz) potatoes, chopped

225-350g (8-12oz) spinach, destalked and chopped

600ml (1 pint) homemade chicken stock, vegetable stock or water

425-600ml (3/4-1 pint) creamy milk (1/4 cream and 3/4 milk)

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

 

Garnish

 

2 tablespoons whipped cream (optional)

sprig of rosemary or rosemary flowers

 

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it foams add the onions and potatoes and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the boiling stock and milk bring back to the boil and simmer until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the spinach and boil with the lid off for about 3-5 minutes, until the spinach is tender. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Add the chopped rosemary.

Liquidise and taste. Serve in warm bowls garnished with a blob of whipped cream and a sprig of rosemary. If you have a pretty rosemary bush in bloom, sprinkle a few flowers over the top for extra pizzazz or use your heart shaped croutons.

Heart Shaped Croutons

 

Serves 4

1 slice of slightly stale pan bread, 5mm (1/4 inch) thick

Sunflower or olive oil

With the help of a heart shaped pastry cutter, stamp out your shapes neatly.

Heat the sunflower or olive oil in a frying pan, it should be at least 2cm (3/4 inch) deep and quite hot..

Add the croutons to the hot oil. They will colour almost immediately, so turn quickly to achieve a golden colour on both sides. Immediately remove from the pan, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm. Allow the oil to cool, strain and save for another use later.

 

Note:

Croutons may be made several hours ahead or even a day. The oil may be flavoured with sprigs of rosemary, thyme or onion.

 

 

Fish Mousse with Shrimp Beurre Blanc

This recipe makes a large number of light fish mousses. It’s a favourite on our menu and can be served with many sauces. Even though the mousse is light it is also very rich, so it’s vital to cook it in small ramekins. They can be done in several batches as the raw mixture keeps perfectly overnight, covered in a cold fridge. Cooked crab meat, oysters, prawns, periwinkles or a tiny dice of cucumber could be added to a Beurre blanc sauce to serve with them.

Serves 16-20 as a starter

12 ozs (340 g) very fresh fillets of whiting or Pollock, skinned and totally free of bone or membrane

1 teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly ground white pepper

1 large egg, preferably free-range and 1 egg white or 2 whole eggs

Generous 1¼ pints (750 ml) cream, chilled

Beurre blanc sauce recipe x 2

4-8 ozs (110-225 g) peeled cooked shrimps

¼ oz (8 g) butter

Garnish

Sprigs of chervil

Whole cooked shrimps (optional)

Ramekins 2½ fl ozs (65 ml) capacity, 2 inches (5 cm) x 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep

Cut the whiting fillets into small dice, purée in the chilled bowl of a food processor, add the salt and freshly ground pepper and then add the egg and egg white and continue to purée until it is well incorporated. Rest and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, line the ramekins with pure Clingfilm or brush with melted butter. When the fish is well chilled and has rested for approx 30 minutes. Turn on the processor and pour the cream steadily down the tube of the food processor. Stop immediately when the cream is incorporated. Check seasoning. Fill the mousse into the moulds and put them in a bain Marie. Cover with a pricked sheet of tinfoil or greaseproof paper. Bring the water in the bain Marie just to boiling point, put it in the oven at 200C/400f/regulo 6 and bake for 20-30 minutes. The mousses should feel just firm in the centre and will keep perfectly for 20-30 minutes in a plate-warming oven.

Meanwhile make the Beurre blanc sauce and keep warm. When the mousses are cooked remove them to a warm place and leave to rest. Toss the shrimps in a very little foaming butter until hot through, add them to the sauce, taste and correct seasoning: the sauce should be very thin and light. Pour a little hot sauce on to each plate, unmold a mousse, place it in the centre and garnish with shrimps and sprigs of fresh chervil.

Note: It is vital to season the raw mixture well; otherwise the mousse will taste bland.

 

Beurre Blanc Sauce

Makes about 250ml (8fl oz)

Serve 2 -3 tablespoons per person

Beurre blanc should be served with poached fish, not pan-fried or pan-grilled fish.

3 tablespoons dry white wine

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots

pinch of ground white pepper

1 tablespoon cream

175g (6oz) unsalted butter, diced

salt, freshly ground pepper

freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the first four ingredients into a stainless steel saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and reduce down to about a tablespoon. Add 1 generous tablespoon of cream and reduce again until the cream begins to thicken. Whisk in the chilled butter a piece at the time, keeping the sauce just warm enough to absorb the butter. Season with salt, taste and add a little lemon juice if necessary. Transfer to a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot but not boiling water. Keep warm until needed.

Useful Tip

Keep warm in a flask until needed. Beurre blanc can curdle if the pan gets too hot. If this should happen put 1-2 tablespoons of cream into a clean saucepan, reduce to about half, then vigorously whisk in the curdled mixture, little by little. Serve as quickly as possible. The flavour will be a little ‘softer’ so a little more lemon juice may be needed to sharpen it up and cut the richness.

A re-emulsified sauce will not be as stable as an original. Leftover beurre blanc will

solidify as it cools. It may be used to enrich fish sauces or mashed potato.

Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb

 

Serves 8-10 approximately.

 

A shoulder of lamb is much trickier to carve than a leg, but the flavour is so wonderfully sweet and juicy, it’s certainly worth the struggle particularly at home where perfect slices of meat are not obligatory. I sometimes put this into the low oven of the Aga in the morning. By 7.30 pm in the evening, it is beautifully cooked – how easy is that!

 

1 shoulder of lamb 3.3-3.6kg (7-8lbs) on the bone

Extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Gravy

600ml (1 pint) homemade lamb or chicken stock

 

Roux, optional

 

Score the skin of the meat in a diamond pattern with a sharp knife. Sprinkle the meat with salt and freshly ground pepper and drizzle with olive oil, roast in a low oven 140°C/275°F/gas mark 1 in the usual way for 6-7 hours – this gives a delicious juicy succulent texture. Alternatively cook in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for 2 – 2 1/2 hours. Carve it into thick slices. Serve with light gravy.

 

To make the gravy

: Spoon the fat off the roasting tin. Add the stock into the remaining cooking juice. Boil for a few minutes, stirring and scraping the pan well, to dissolve the caramelised meat juices I find a small whisk ideal for this. Allow to thicken with a very little roux if you like.

 

Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper if necessary. Strain and serve the gravy separately in a gravy boat.

 

Serve with new potatoes and a garden salad with edible spring flowers.

 

 

 

New Potatoes with Mint

Serves 4-5

2 lbs (900g) new potatoes eg, Home Guard, British Queens

2 pints (1.2 litres) water

1 teaspoon salt

a sprig of mint

Bring the water to the boil. Scrub the potatoes. Add salt and a sprig of mint to the water, and then add the potatoes. Cover the saucepan, bring back to the boil and cook for 15-25 minutes depending on size.

Drain and serve immediately in a hot serving dish.

Note

It’s vitally important for flavour to add salt to the water when cooking potatoes.

 

 

Rhubarb Compote

When I had stewed rhubarb as a child, we just put the rhubarb into a pan with a little water and sugar, and stewed it to a mush, but now I’m frightfully fussy about keeping the pieces of rhubarb whole. This recipe is the way to do that, because the fruit is

just brought to the boil and then left to stew in the hot syrup. If it does turn to a mush though, just make it into a fool. Some people like orange with their rhubarb. I’ve never been tempted by that combination, but I can quite easily indulge in rhubarb and ginger.

Serves 4

450g (1lb) red rhubarb, e.g. Timperley early

450ml (16fl oz) stock syrup

Cut the rhubarb into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces. Put the cold syrup into a stainless steel saucepan, add the rhubarb, cover, bring to the boil and simmer for just 1 minute (no longer or it will dissolve). Turn off the heat and leave the rhubarb in the

covered saucepan to finish cooking, and then cool.

Variation

Rhubarb and Strawberry or Raspberry Compote

A truly gorgeous combination. Hull and halve lengthways 225–450g (12 –1lb) fresh strawberries – Cambridge Favourite or Cambridge Vigour are good. When the rhubarb compote is almost cool, add the strawberries and stir gently.

Alternatively, add 225g (12lb) whole raspberries at the same stage.

Shortbread Sweethearts

I am a big fan of this simple shortbread recipe. Measure the ingredients accurately and you will have no problems. The biscuits can be served with tea or coffee, with fruit fools and mousses or sandwiched with seasonal fruit and cream to make a more complicated confection. The biscuits will keep fresh in a tin for a couple of days.

Makes 20 biscuits

6oz (170g) plain white flour

4 oz (110g) butter

2 oz (50g) caster sugar

Put the flour in a bowl and rub in the butter and sugar until it resembles coarse bread crumbs. Keep going and it will come together into a mass. Knead lightly to form a smooth dough. Do not be tempted to add any liquid. If you have measured the ingredients accurately it will work. Chill at this point if you wish or roll out on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch (7mm). Cut out the shapes with a heart shaped pastry cutter and transfer to a baking tray. Gather up the trimmings, lightly shake off the excess flour and roll and shape again. Bake in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 until a pale golden colour. Immediately remove from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool. If you leave them on the oven tray they will stick and burn.

The biscuits can be simply served with a light dusting of caster or icing sugar.

For a more involved presentation, sandwich together with whipped cream and sugared seasonal fruit.

The dough can also be baked in tartlet tins of your choice and filled with seasonal fruit, jam and cream or whatever takes your fancy.

Fool Proof Food

Crystallized Flowers

Flowers and leaves crystallized with sugar will keep for months, although they may lose their initial vibrant colour. This is what we call a high-stool job – definitely a labour of love and not something suited to an impatient, type A personality. The end result is both beautiful and rewarding and many family and staff wedding cakes have been embellished with crystallized flowers over the years.

Flowers and leaves must be edible and are all worth doing.

Smaller flowers are more attractive when crystallized eg. primroses, violets, apple blossom, viola’s, rose petals….We crystallize lots of leaves as well as flowers so one can make attractive arrangements. Use fairly strong textured leaves – e.g. mint, lemon balm, sweet cicely, wild strawberry, salad burnet or marguerite daisy leaves.

The caster sugar must be absolutely dry; one could dry it in a low oven for about 30 minutes approx.

Break up the egg white slightly in a little bowl with a fork. Using a child’s paintbrush, paint the egg white very carefully over each petal and into every crevice. Pour the caster sugar over the flower with a teaspoon. Arrange the crystallized flowers carefully on silicone paper so that they retain a good shape. Leave to dry overnight in a warm, dry place such as close to an Aga, over a radiator or in an airing cupboard. When properly crystallized, these flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a pottery jar or a tin box.

Hottips

For those of you who were disappointed when cookery classes were cancelled at Brennan’s because of the floods in Cork city take heart Lucy Hyland teams up with chef Gary Masterson at Brennan’s Cookery School on the 4th, 11th and the 25th March, where they will cover the five principals of healthy living with delicious recipes. Cost €48. For further information see 

Irish Raw Milk Cheese Presidia ( IRMCP)

– Slow Food Taste Workshop- Friday 26th February 2010 at 7pm at Donnybrook Fair Cookery School. Taste Workshop, followed by informal cheesemaker tastings Places are limited, so please book in advance with Elisabeth Ryan eryan@sheridanscheesemongers.com – 086 394 9270

GIY Grow it Yourself

Close to a hundred people crammed into our local village hall recently for the inaugural meeting of GIY (Grow it Yourself) Shanagarry, East Cork.

The organisers had hoped for 25 – maybe 30 people but by 8 o’clock the original meeting room was bulging at the seams so we had to decamp down the stairs to the Badminton Hall. It was just about large enough to fit the throng of people eager to hear more about the new initiative that is engaging people from Dingle to Drogheda to Dublin. A few positive things have emerged from this recession, many of us have come to realise just how vulnerable we have become and how little control we have over our lives. Suddenly we appreciate the value of a degree of self sufficiency, how lovely it is to sit down to a plate of food where even one or two items come from your own garden or back yard. Suddenly there is an unprecedented interest in producing your own food preferably organic or at least chemical free not only in back gardens but also allotments and community gardens. So no surprise to learn that in this new era vegetable seeds are outselling flower seeds for the third year in a row.

Unfortunately just when we badly need the know-how there is a deficit of practical expertise. As individuals and a society we have to a great extent lost the knowledge and skills that any of our grandfathers and great grandfathers would have taken for granted. Yet there is a deep craving to learn once more.

GIY Ireland was founded almost by accident by Michael Kelly – a well known author and journalist – Michael and his wife Eilish wanted to rear their family in the country so they moved to Dunmore East from Dublin five years ago. They bought a cottage on an acre of land and began to settle in. They had a vague notion that it would be nice to grow a few veggies, maybe keep a few chickens and in time maybe get a pig. They had bundles of enthusiasm but not a notion of how to go about starting. They scarcely knew what a digging fork looked like not to speak of how to sow a seed. But where could you find out? Michael thought that there must be an organisation that like the ICA (Irish Country Women’s Association) or the Flower Club who could help, but their emphasis was different. Neither was the IFA (Irish Farmers Association) interested in sowing a handful of spuds or a row of broad beans. Gardening books often assumed too much knowledge. Eventually Michael linked up with a couple of others who were desperately seeking out all of that. They helped to dig each others garden and swapped seedlings and plants and shared tips, triumphs and disasters.

Out of the experience was born an organisation that is sweeping across Ireland called Grow it Yourself. In less that a year almost 50 groups have started around the country. It’s very simple, a not-for-profit organisation which takes the ‘I’ out of Grow it Yourself. GIY membership and meetings are free and open to all amateur growers from all walks of life – urban and rural – young and old, novice and expert, back garden or allotment.

Each month groups meet nationwide in public venues to exchange tips, knowledge and war stories about vegetable growing.

The first National GIY week will be from Saturday 20th to Saturday 27th February, 2010. For details of events around the country check www.giyireland.com www.cookingisfun.ie

Spiced Lentil and Carrot Soup

This soup is really fast to make and has lots of flavour – perfect for a winter lunch or supper.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1/4-1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

600g (1lb 5oz) carrots peeled and grated

140g (5oz) red lentils

1.35 litres (2 1/4 pints) chicken or vegetable stock

125 ml (4 fl oz) milk

salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish

4 tablespoons approximately natural yoghurt

fresh coriander leaves

extra virgin olive oil

Pitta bread

Heat the oil in a stainless steel saucepan over a medium heat; add the cumin seeds and chilli flakes. Stir for a minute or so, add the grated carrot, lentils, stock and milk. Bring to the boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, then simmer for about 15 minutes or until the carrots and lentils are completely soft. Purée in a liquidiser until smooth, add a little more stock if it’s too thick. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Serve in hot bowls with a blob of natural yoghurt, some fresh coriander leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top. Pitta breads makes a good accompaniment.

Roast Jerusalem Artichokes (Slices)

This winter vegetable is particularly good with goose, duck or pheasant.

 

Serves 4 to 6

450g (1 lb) Jerusalem artichokes, well scrubbed.

2 tablespoons or olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

a few rosemary or thyme sprigs, optional

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/ gas mark 6.

Slice the well scrubbed artichokes into 7mm (1/3 inch) rounds. Toss the Jerusalem artichokes with the extra virgin olive oil. Season well with salt. Arrange in a single layer on silicone paper on a roasting tin. Roast for 10 minutes or until golden on 1 side then flip over and cook on the other side. Test with the tip of a knife – they should be tender. Sprinkle with thyme or rosemary. Season with pepper and serve.

Shin of Beef and Oxtail Stew

Another humble dish, which has recently been resurrected by trendy chefs capitalising on their customers’ nostalgic craving for Granny’s cooking. Oxtail, or the tail of a beef animal, makes an extraordinarily rich and flavoursome winter soup or stew. If you prefer, you can cover and cook this very gently on top of the stove rather than in an oven.

Serves 8

175g (6oz) streaky bacon

2 oxtails, about 450–600g (1–1 14lb) each, cut into segments

450g (1lb) stewing beef

25g (1oz) beef dripping or

2 tablespoons olive oil

225g (8oz) onions, finely chopped

225g (8oz) carrots cut into 2cm (34 in) cubes

50g (2oz) celery, chopped

150ml (14 pint) red wine and

425ml (34 pint) beef stock OR 600ml (1 pint) all beef stock

1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of thyme and parsley stalks

1 tablespoon concentrated tomato purée

salt and freshly ground pepper

175g (6oz) mushrooms, sliced

25g (1oz) butter

10g (12 oz) roux

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3.

Cut the bacon into 2.5cm (1in) cubes, cut the oxtail into joints and cut the beef into 4cm (112in cubes). Heat the dripping or olive oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and sauté for 1–2 minutes, then add the onions, carrots and celery and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the bacon and vegetables into a casserole. Now add the beef and oxtail pieces to the frying pan, a few at a time and continue to cook. When the meat begins to brown, add it to the casserole. Then add the wine and 150ml (14 pint) of the beef stock to the frying pan. Bring to the boil and use a whisk to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the pan. Add to the casserole with the herbs, the rest of the stock and the tomato purée. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook very gently for 3–4 hours, or until the oxtail is falling off the bones and the vegetables are very tender.

Meanwhile, cook the sliced mushrooms in a hot frying pan in a little butter for 2–3 minutes and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir into the oxtail stew and cook for about 5 minutes. Strain the liquid from the meat and vegetables, and keep them warm in a hot serving dish while you thicken the broth. Remove and discard the bay leaves, thyme and parsley stalks.

Bring the cooking liquid back to the boil, whisk in a little roux and cook until slightly thickened. Add back in the meat and vegetables. Add the chopped parsley and bring to the boil. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in the hot serving dish with lots of Champ or Colcannon

Swede Turnips with Caramelised Onions

Serves 6 approx.

900g (2lbs) Swede turnips

salt and lots of freshly ground pepper

50-110g (2-4 oz) butter

Garnish

finely chopped parsley

Peel the turnip thickly in order to remove the thick outside skin. Cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes approx. Put into a high sided saucepan. Cover with water. Add a good pinch of salt, bring to the boil and cook until soft – this can take between 45-60 minutes. Strain off the excess water, mash the turnips well and beat in the butter. Taste and season with lots of freshly ground pepper and more salt if necessary. Garnish with parsley and serve piping hot.

Caramelised Onions

450g (1lb) onions, thinly sliced

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Toss in the onions and cook over a low heat for whatever length of time it takes for them to soften and caramelize to a golden brown, 30-45 minutes approx.

 

Beetroot and Walnut Cake

Serves 10

3 free-range organic eggs

150ml (5 fl oz) sunflower oil

50g (2oz) soft brown sugar

150g (5oz) white or spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

100g (4oz) beetroot, grated

60g (2 1/4 oz) sultanas

60g (2 1/4 oz) walnuts, coarsely chopped

Icing

175g (6oz) icing sugar

3-4 tablespoons water to bind

To Decorate

deep-fried beetroot (see below)

pumpkin seeds

1 loaf tin 13 x 20cm (5 x 8inch)

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

Line a loaf tin with a butter paper or baking parchment.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and sugar until smooth. Sift in the flour and baking powder, add a pinch of salt and gently mix into the egg mixture. Stir in the grated beetroot, sultanas and walnuts. Pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Next make the icing.

Sieve the icing sugar, beat in the water gradually to a stiff consistency. Spread evenly over the cake, allow to drizzle down the sides, leave for 5 minutes and scatter with deep-fried beetroot (see below) and pumpkin seeds.

 

To Deep-fry Beetroot

Peel the outer skin off the beetroot. Using a peeler, slice thin rings of the beetroot. Allow to dry on kitchen paper for 20 minutes. Deep-fry until crispy.

 

Ottolenghi’s Carrot and Walnut Cake

We used two 8 inch cake tins and then sandwiched the two cakes with the icing as well as the top – it was light and delicious.

 

Serves 6-8

160g (5 1/2oz) plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon clove

1 organic egg yolk

1 large organic egg

200ml (7fl oz) sunflower oil

275g (10oz) castor sugar

50g (2oz) chopped walnuts

50g (2oz) desiccated coconut

135g (4 1/2oz) roughly grated carrot

2 organic egg whites 

pinch of salt

Icing

175g (6oz) cream cheese

75g (3oz) unsalted butter

35g (1 1/4oz) icing sugar

25g (1oz) honey

25g (1oz) chopped and lightly toasted walnuts

 

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350°/Gas Mark 3 1/2.

Grease 2 x 20cm (8 inch) loose-base cake tin and cover the bottom and sides with greaseproof paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices.

Lightly whisk together the 1 yolk with the 1 whole egg. Set the whites aside.

In a mixer bowl with the beater attachment beat together the oil and sugar for about a minute. On a low speed slowly add the yolk and egg mix. Add the nuts and carrot and then the sifted dry ingredients. Don’t over-mix. Remove from the mixer bowl into another large bowl.

Make sure the mixer bowl is totally clean before pouring in the eggs whites with a pinch of salt and whisking on high speed until firm peaks form.

Gently fold the egg whites into the carrot mix in 3 additions. Do not over mix. Streaks of whites in the mix are ok.

Pour the cake mix into the prepared tins and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 40 to 45 minutes. It could take longer. A skewer would come out totally dry when inserted in the middle of the cake.

If the cake starts going dark while the centre is not cooked cover with foil.

Once ready, let the cake cool down totally and remove from the tin.

To make the icing

, bring the cheese to room temperature and beat up in a mixer until light and smooth. Remove from mixer. Beat the butter, icing sugar and honey in the mixer until light and airy. Fold together the cheese and butter mixes.

Spread waves of icing on top of the cake and sprinkle with nuts.

 

Fool Proof Food

Refrigerator Cookies

Makes 50 approximately

225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) caster sugar

1 organic egg

1 tablespoon double cream

300g (10oz) plain flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

pure vanilla extract (or lemon juice or ground ginger)

Extra sugar

Cream the butter and caster sugar in a bowl, then add the beaten egg, cream, flour, salt, baking powder and vanilla extract. Shape the dough into a long roll or rolls, about 5cm (2 inches or smaller if you prefer) in diameter, and wrap in silicone paper or foil. Chill in the refrigerator until the next day.

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5.

Cut the dough into thin rounds. Arrange well apart on 1 baking tray. Sprinkle them with sugar and cook for about 10 – 12 minutes in the preheated oven; they should remain pale in colour. Transfer to a wire rack. There is no need to bake the dough all at once; cut off what you need and put it back in the refrigerator until you fancy another bicci.

If you would like different flavours, divide the dough into three, and flavour each mixture differently.

Thrifty Tip

Split the contents of your different vegetable and herb seed packets with friends.

Hottips

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group

presents Middle-Eastern Vegetarian Foods

Ann Crowley and contributors from Morocco and Egypt will discuss the culture of vegetarianism in their countries and describe their favourite traditional recipes at the Crawford Art Gallery Café on Thursday 25th February at 7.30pm. The €6.00 entrance fee includes tea or coffee, recipes and tastings.

John and Sally McKenna – publishers of The Bridgestone Guides

are teaching a one day Food Writing Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday 27th February, 2010.

If you think there is no more to food writing than the recipe ”n” restaurant concoctions of the weekend newspapers, then this course will be a revelation.

Whether your ambition is simply to write a blog, or to write your masterpiece, then knowing the work of great writers is one of the keys to understanding the artfulness and greatness that lies in writing about food. The course is also extremely practical, Sally McKenna will discuss how to create everything from the simplest blog to the mechanism behind lighting food for photography, or mastering page layout for your own book. To book phone 021 4646 785 or

Good Food Ireland

I’m continually surprised by how thrown waiting staff in many restaurants seem to be if one asks about the provenance of the food. They immediately seem to go on the defensive and it can take three or four attempts to find out the source of a piece of meat, fish or cheese.

A recent attempt to identify a cheese on a salad in a Cork restaurant came back first as Irish, secondly as West Cork and eventually after I’d decided not to venture any further I was presented with the name of a Co-op in Co Tipperary. I’m still none the wiser about the name of the cheese or the cheese maker. Sadly nowadays – despite the fact that local is the hottest word in ‘the gastro’ vocabulary –the source of supply is more likely to be a multinational catering company than a local supplier not to speak of a farmer or fisherman.

Why aren’t more restaurants serving local food proudly? Those of us in the hospitality business depend on local people to support our restaurants and hotels, yet few enough consider it a priority or obligation to put some money back into the local community by supporting local butchers, bakers, farmers, cheese makers or vegetable and fruit growers. Those who do, generate tremendous good will for their business and hugely enhance the experience for their guests by incorporating local food in season and identifying the producer on their menu. This is a win win situation for both the customer and the producer. The latter gets the credit for the product and extra sales when satisfied customers go in search of the original next time they go shopping. Cork has a history of being proud of its own so Good Food Ireland Cork Week – from Monday 8th to Friday 12th February – gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase the bounty of Cork city and county.www.goodfoodireland.ie has tons of info on little gems around the country.

 

 

Hottips

During the Good Food Ireland

Cork week (Monday 8th to Friday 12th February) Good Food Ireland Hotel and B&B members will offer three nights accommodation for the price of two.Fergus Henderson the owner of St John’s Restaurant

in London will give a cookery demonstration on ‘Nose to Tail’ eating at the Cookery School at Donnybrook Fair on Saturday 13th March from 10:30am to 1:30pm. The €100.00 fee includes tea/coffee on arrival, recipes, tastings and a glass of wine. Phone 01 6689674 or email cookeryschool@donnybrookfair.ie to book.

To mark the first Good Food Ireland Cork Week, restaurants and hotels, pubs and cafés all over Cork will serve a Good Food Ireland plate incorporating the food of the local Good Food Ireland members for €15.00 per plate including a glass of wine. There is an abundance of superb artisan produce in this area – free range chickens, ducks, geese, farmhouse cheeses, cured meats, honey and home cured hams and bacon, homemade sausages and even some day boat fish.

Good Food Ireland was founded by Margaret Jeffares in November 2006. It operates as a not-for-profit industry driven Irish food tourism organisation. It is the only industry group with an all island-food tourism strategy.

Good Food Ireland was founded to endorse and promote these places committed to local food and to link the food producer, farmer and fisherman with the hospitality sector. It’s brilliant for those of you who like to seek not only great places to eat but artisan produce and local Farmers Markets when they are travelling around the country. The Good Food Ireland food map pulls all the strands of the food jigsaw together The website

Kay Harte of the Farm Gate Restaurant in the English Market will offer her guests Millstreet Venison Casserole from Jack McCarthy Meats in Kanturk. Millstreet Country Park farmed venison is not as strong or gamey as the wild meat and is available fresh all year round.

Claire Nash of Nash 19 on Princes Street in Cork has had a Good Food Ireland plate on the menu since March 2009 with offers the produce of eight to ten artisan producers to a tremendous response from her customers.

The plates change daily and include Belly of Pork and Free Range Bacon from Crowes in Co Tipperary, Sliabh Luachra and Smoked Beef from Jack McCarthy Meats in Kanturk, a selection of smoked fish from the Burren Smoke House, charcuterie and cheese from Gubbeen in West Cork, Cooleeney Brie from Thurles, Co Tipperary, Inch Pudding from Thurles in Tipperary, Ardsallagh Goats Cheese from Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, Organic Millhouse Smoked Salmon from Geraldine Bass in Buttervant, Co Cork and Nash 19 chicken liver pate and Nash 19 organic brown bread made from Sowans Organic Flour.

Ballymaloe House will feature the produce of many local producers including Tom Clancy, Ballycotton Free-range Chicken, Noreen and Martin Conroy’s Woodside Farm Bacon and Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Smoked Salmon. So lets get out there and celebrate Good Food Ireland.

 

A Plate of Irish Charcuterie and Cured Meats

One of my favourite easy entertaining tricks is to serve a selection of Irish artisan charcuterie from inspired producers like Fingal Ferguson from West Cork, Jack and Tim McCarthy from Kanturk. The quality is so wonderful that I’m always bursting with pride as I serve it.

A selection of cured meats:

Air dried smoked Connemara lamb

Smoked venison

Prosciutto, Gubeen, Chorizo

Venison Salami

Smoked Beef

Sliabh Luachra Beef

A selection of:

Crusty country breads, sour dough, yeast and soda

Tiny gherkins or cornichons

Fresh radishes, just trimmed but with some green leaf attached

A good green salad of garden lettuce and salad leaves

Arrange the meats and potted meat on a large platter, open a good bottle of red and tuck in!

 

Chicken Liver Pâté

 

Nash 19 will serve their own chicken liver pate with their organic brown bread on their Good Food Ireland Plate.

A richly flavoured chicken liver pâté. Seek out organic livers.

Serves 4-6

75g (3oz) butter

100g (3 1/2oz) finely chopped shallot

1 clove garlic, crushed

225g (8oz) organic chicken livers

2 tablespoons brandy

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

pinch of mixed spice

salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt 25g (1oz) butter in a saucepan, add the finely chopped shallot and crushed garlic. Cook on a low heat until soft but not coloured, 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken livers, cook for 4-5 minutes turning once or twice, add the brandy, allow to flame. When the flames die down, add the mustard, a pinch of mixed spice, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the whole lot into a food processor. Allow to cool. Add 50g (2oz) butter and whizz until smooth. Fill into ramekins, cover with a layer of clarified butter and then refrigerate until needed. Serve with hot thin toast.

 

Tom Clancy’s Roast Ballycotton Free-range Chicken with Herb and Woodside Bacon Stuffing

Serves 6

Tom’s chickens take 12 weeks to reach maturity. They are fed on special feed and range freely on his farm in Ballycotton and the flavour and texture is mouth watering.. Woodside Farm traditional pork and bacon products have developed a loyal following in a short time, a little crispy bacon added to the stuffing makes it extra delicious.

 

4 1/2 – 5 lbs (1.5 – 2.3kg) free range chicken, preferably organic

 

Giblet Stock

Giblets (keep the liver for a chicken liver pate)

1 thickly sliced carrot

1 thickly sliced onion

1 stick celery, sliced

a few parsley stalks and a sprig of thyme

 

Stuffing

4oz (110g) Woodside Farm Streaky Bacon cut into small cubes

1 1/2 ozs (45g) butter

3 ozs (75g) chopped onion

3-3 1/2 ozs (75-95g) soft white breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives and annual marjoram

salt and freshly ground pepper

a little soft butter

 

Gravy

1 – 1 1/2 pints (600-900mls) of stock from giblets or chicken stock

 

Garnish

Sprigs of flat parsley

 

First remove the wish bone from the neck end of the chicken, this is easily done by lifting back the loose neck, skin and cutting around the wish bone with a small knife – tug to remove, this isn’t at all essential but it does make carving much easier later on. Tuck the wing tips underneath the chicken to make a neat shape. Put the wish bone, giblets, carrot, onions, celery and herbs into a saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, skin and simmer gently while the chicken is roasting. This is the basis of the gravy.

 

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil or sunflower oil in a frying pan, add the lardons of bacon, and cook until crisp and golden.

 

Next make the stuffing,

sweat the onions gently in the butter in a covered saucepan until soft, 10 minutes approx. then stir in the white bread crumbs, the freshly chopped herbs, a little salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold unless you are going to cook the chicken immediately. If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half fill with stuffing. Season the breast and legs, smear with a little soft butter.

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo4. Weight the chicken and allow about 20 minutes to the lb and 20 minutes over – put on middle shelf in oven. Baste a couple of times during the cooking with the buttery juices. The chicken is done when the juices are running clear.

 

To test prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh, hold a spoon underneath to collect the liquid, examine the juices – they should be clear.

 

Remove the chicken to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow to rest while you make the gravy.

 

To make the gravy

, tilt the roasting tin to one corner and spoon off the surplus fat from the juices and return the roasting pan to the stove. De glaze the pan juices with the fat free stock from the giblets and bones (you will need 1 1/2 pints depending on the size of the chicken). Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelized meat juices in the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like (the gravy should not be thick). Taste and correct seasoning, serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible serve the chicken on a nice carving dish surrounded by crispy roast potatoes and some sprigs of flat parsley then arm yourself with a sharp knife and bring it to the table. Carve as best you can and try to organise it so that each person gets some brown and some white meat. Serve with gravy and bread sauce.

 

Use the cooked carcass for stock.

 

East Ferry Free Range Duck with Orange

 

Robbie and his wife Yvonne are third generation of the family to run traditional poultry at Easy Ferry, Midleton, Co Cork.

 

Serves 4

1 free range duck – 4 lb (1.8kg) in weight

3 brightly coloured oranges

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 1/2 fl ozs (63ml) red wine vinegar

2 1/2 fl ozs (63ml) red wine

1/2 pint (300ml) duck or chicken stock

4 fl ozs (110ml) Port

1/2 -1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice

Garnish

sprigs of parsley or watercress

Scrub the oranges. Peel the zest from two with a swivel top peeler and cut two thirds into fine julienne strips, blanch and refresh. Season the duck cavity and the skin with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the remaining one third of the orange peel into the cavity and transfer the duck to a hot oven, preheated to 220°C/425°F/regulo 7. Reduce the temperature to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, after 30 minutes. Continue to roast for a further 30-45 minutes.

While the duck is roasting make a sweet and sour caramel.

Boil the sugar and vinegar over moderately high heat for several minutes until the mixture has turned a chestnut brown coloured syrup. Remove from the heat immediately and pour in 1/4 pint (150ml) of the stock. Simmer for a minute, stirring to dissolve the caramel. Then add the rest of the stock, port, wine and juice of one orange. Simmer until the sauce is clear and lightly thickened; add the orange liqueur little by little. Add the remainder of the orange julienne. Taste, correct the seasoning and sharpen with lemon juice if necessary, leave aside. The sauce may be prepared to this point several hours in advance. Cut the remaining 2 oranges into neat skinless segments and reserve for garnishing the duck.

When the duck is cooked, allow to rest in a warm oven for at least 10 minutes before carving. Carve neatly and arrange on a serving dish or individual plates. Garnish with the orange segments. Spoon some of the sauce over the duck and serve the rest separately in a sauce boat.

Garnish with sprigs of parsley or watercress.

 

Shrove Tuesday Pancakes with Orange Butter

 

Every Shrove Tuesday we make pancakes at the School, the students queue up to eat them hot from the pan, with much swapping of stories about how mothers made them – this year one was heard to remark ruefully – ‘my mother’s pancakes never tasted like these- these are delicious! In fact these are very nearly as good as Crepes Suzette but half the bother.

 

Serves 6 – makes 12 approx.

 

Pancake Batter

175g (6oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

A good pinch of salt

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range

425ml (scant ¾ pint) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed

2 tablespoons melted butter

 

Orange Butter

175g (6oz) butter

3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind

200g (7oz) icing sugar

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (optional)

 

Freshly squeezed juice of 5 oranges

 

8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crepe pan

 

First make the batter. Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour from the sides. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of castor sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).

Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so – longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the pancakes stir in 2 tablespoons melted butter. This will make all

the difference to the flavour and texture of the pancakes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.

Next make the Orange butter.

Cream the butter with the finely grated orange rind. Then add the sifted icing sugar and beat until fluffy, add the orange liqueur if using.

Make the pancakes in the usual way.

Heat a non stick pan until very hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base when you tilt and swirl the pan. Put the pan back on the heat; loosen the pancake around the edge with a non metal slice. Flip over, cook for a few seconds on the reverse side. Slide over onto a plate. Repeat until all the batter has been used up.

Pancakes and orange butter can be make ahead and finished later. The pancakes will keep overnight covered in a fridge. They will peel apart easily – no need to interleaf them with greaseproof paper.

 

To Serve:

Melt a large blob of the Orange butter in the pan, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and toss the pancakes in the foaming butter, fold in half and then in quarters (fan shapes). Serve 2 per person on warm plates. Repeat until all the pancakes and butter have been used.

 

 

Fool Proof Food

Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Smoked Salmon Pâte

 

This is a delicious way to use up smoked salmon if you have any trimmings left over.

 

Smoked salmon trimmings

Softened butter, unsalted

 

Remove any skin or bones from the fish. Weigh the flesh. Add three quarters the weight in butter. Blend to a smooth puree. Fill into pots and run clarified butter over the top. Alternatively, mould in a loaf tin. Turn out and cut in slices when set.

Letters

Past Letters