ArchiveOctober 2010

Halloween

Halloween was a spooky time when I was child, we heard all about the banshee. People told ghost stories and we ate barmbrack and colcannon. It was all about fortune telling and divination. There was lots of apple-bobbing and I also remember a game that involved three saucers, one held water, the second some soil, the third a ring. One after another we were blindfolded and there was lots of giggling. When one touched a saucer, fingers in the water meant you were going on a journey ‘over seas’, the ring meant you would be married within the year – even if you were only six – the clay was very bad news, it indicated that you would meet a sticky end before the year ‘was out’. The contents of the barmbrack also held similar clues to one’s fortunes good or otherwise. All good innocent fun and apart from the barmbrack pretty uncommercial. Almost every culture marks Halloween, the Day of the Dead or All Souls Day. Many visit grave yards and bring the favourite food of their loved ones to picnic and reminisce on the graves. Increasingly it is about witches and pumpkins in the American tradition. Shops and Farmers Market stalls are piled high with pumpkins. Kids have pumpkin carving parties and I’ve even seen a spectacular totem pole made from a variety of pumpkins and squash at an organic farm in the UK.

So what to do with all the pumpkin flesh? Pumpkin soup is an obvious solution or make a puree, sweeten it for pumpkin pie or add lots of seasoning, fresh herbs and spices to serve it with savoury dishes. In Dublin recently I had a delicious pizza at Juniors – Paulie’s Pizza on Grand Canal Street (the sister restaurant of Juniors on Bath Avenue in Ballsbridge). Both are cool restaurants doing good food at reasonable prices. The thin crust was topped with fresh tomato sauce, roasted butternut, mozzarella, diced pancetta, freshly cracked black pepper and chilli flakes with a fistful of rocket leaves on top – very good indeed. I can’t usually manage to eat a whole pizza. It was so good I couldn’t bear to leave some behind. When I was crossing the road a passing motorist honked his horn and yelled out through his window “Where’s Darina Allen going with a take out pizza!”

Juniors – Paulie’s Pizza, 58 Grand Canal Street, Dublin 4, + 353 (0) 1 6643658

Juniors Restaurant, Bath Avenue, Ballsbridge, Co. Dublin + 353 (0)1 6643648

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkins vary in intensity of flavour; some are much stronger than others so you may need to add some extra stock or milk. I sometimes add a can of coconut milk with delicious results.

900g (2 lb) peeled and seeded pumpkin or winter squash, cut into cubes

175g (6oz) onion, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

25g (1oz) butter

450g (l lb) very ripe tomatoes or 1 x 14oz (400g) tinned tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 sprig thyme

1.2 litres (2 pints) homemade chicken stock

salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg

Spice

40g (1 1/2 ozs) butter

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon white mustard seeds

2 inch (5cm) piece of cinnamon stick

Put the cubes of squash into a pan with the onion, garlic, butter and thyme. Cover and sweat over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the chopped tomatoes, (add 1/2-1 teaspoon sugar if using tinned tomatoes), puree and cook until they have dissolved to a thick sauce. Stir in the stock, salt, freshly ground pepper and a little freshly ground nutmeg and simmer until the squash is very tender. Discard the thyme stalk, then liquidise the soup in several batches and return to the pan. You may need to add a little more stock or milk if the soup is too thick for you liking. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Just before serving, gently reheat the soup and pour into a warm serving bowl. Heat the coriander, cumin and pepper, and crush coarsely. Melt the butter and, when foaming add the crushed spices, mustard seeds and cinnamon. Stir for a few seconds until the mustard seeds start to pop. Quickly pour over the soup and serve, mixing in the spice butter as you ladle it out, having removed the cinnamon stick.

Halloween Barmbrack

Everyone in Ireland loves a barmbrack, perhaps because it brings back lots of memories of excitement and games at Halloween. When the barmbrack was

cut, everyone waited in anticipation to see what they’d find in their slice: a

stick, a pea, a ring, and what it meant for their future. Now they’re available

in every Irish bakery, but here’s a great recipe you can use to make one at home. It keeps in a tin for up to a week. If this recipe feels like too much work, make the teabrack (Irish Barmbrack, see recipe), which, after you’ve plumped up the fruit,

takes mere minutes to mix.

450g (1lb) strong white bakers flour

1

2 level teaspoon ground cinnamon

Irish Tea Barmbrack

This is a more modern version of barmbrack, now commonly called a ‘tea brack’ because the dried fruit is soaked in tea overnight to plump it up (rather than boiled as in the recipe above). This little gem of a recipe is much easier to make at home than the Halloween Barmbrack.

Even though it is a very rich bread, in Ireland it is traditionally served sliced and buttered.

Yields about 12 slices (eat the crusts, too!)

110g (4oz) sultanas

110g (4oz) raisins

110g (4oz) currants

50g (2oz) natural glace cherries, halved or quartered

300ml (10fl oz) hot tea

1 organic egg, whisked

200g (7oz) soft brown sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon mixed spice

50g (2oz) homemade candied peel

450g (1lb) loaf tin – 12.5 x 20cm (5 x 8in) OR 3 small loaf tins 15 x 7.5cm (6 x 3in)

Put the dried fruit and cherries into a bowl. Cover with hot tea and leave to plump up overnight.

Next day

, line the loaf tin with silicone paper.

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

Add the whisked egg, soft brown sugar, flour and mixed spice to the fruit and tea mixture. Stir well. Put the mixture into the lined loaf tin.

Cook in for about 1 1/2hours or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Keeps very well in an airtight tin.

Gingerbread Witches

Makes approximately 40 witches

300g (11oz) butter

125g (4 1/2oz) caster sugar

125g (4 1/2oz) soft dark brown sugar

225g (8oz) golden syrup or treacle

725g (1lb 9oz) plain flour

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

3 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Icing for witches

175g (6oz) icing sugar

1 ½ tablespoon water

OR

1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice

Decoration for witches

Chocolate buttons (milk or white chocolate);

Piping bag and nozzles

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.

Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter together with the sugars and golden syrup or treacle. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add the melted butter and sugar and mix together.

Knead the mixture for a few seconds until it comes together, adding a teaspoon or so of water if necessary, but without allowing it to get too wet. Flatten the dough slightly into a round about 2cm (3/4 inch) thick, wrap with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

To make the gingerbread witches, remove the dough from the fridge, dust the work surface with flour and roll all of the dough to about 5mm (1/4 inch) thick. Cut out the witch shapes using a stencil, transfer onto the baking trays and cook in the preheated oven for 12 minutes, until they are slightly firm, a little darker at the edges and slightly drier on top. Allow the shapes to firm up for a few minutes, then place them on a wire rack to cool. When they have cooled, they can be iced, if you wish.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the water. Beat until the icing comes together, adding a little more water if necessary. (Be careful not to add too much or the icing will be too runny).

Using a small palette knife or the back of a spoon dipped into boiling water (to make the icing easier to spread), spread the icing over the gingerbread witches. If you wish to pipe on details, such as faces and hair, spoon the icing into a small piping bag with just the smallest corner cut off. While the icing is still slightly “unset” on the biscuits, arrange the decorations you are using, then set aside for the icing to set.

Spooky Ghosts

This meringue mixture can also be made into pumpkins, brooms, cats, moons, stars…

4 egg whites

250g (9oz approx.) icing sugar, sieved

Filling

1/2 pint (300ml) whipped cream

Cover 3 baking trays with a perfectly fitting sheet of silicone paper.

Mix all the icing sugar with the egg whites at once in a spotlessly clean bowl. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks – 10 to 15 minutes. Spoon into a clean piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe into spooky ghost shapes. Bake immediately in a low oven 150°C (fan) \300°F\regulo 2 for 30 minutes or until set crisp.

Pipe black eyes with melted chocolate on half of the ghosts.

Sandwich the meringues together with whipped cream.

Hottips

The RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet

will be performing a series of six concerts over Saturday 30th & Sunday 31st October in The Grain Store at Ballymaloe celebrating fine cuisine and the best of chamber classical music. For more information please visit www.ballymaloe.ie or call 083 3631468

Hickey’s Bakery in Clonmel’s

www.hickeysbakery.com +353 (0) 52 612 1587 info@hickeysbakery.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it A good news story – Stephen Pearce

is back in business and has re-opened at the Old Pottery in Shanagarry. Lots of beautiful dishes hot off the potters wheel to enhance your delicious food. The pottery is open Monday to Saturday 9am – 5 and Sunday 12 – 5pm. 021 4646807. www.stephenpearce.com

Wild Fruit Wines – at the Clare Harvest Festival

bingram@eircom.net

There are still places left on the one day Christmas Cooking Part 2 course which covers both traditional and modern recipes including many favourites. Monday 13th December 9:30am to 5:00pm €245.00. Booking essential 021 4646785

www.cokingisfun.ie

all the food came from within a 40 mile radius of the Falls Hotel in Ennistymon where the feast was held and very delicious it was too. We drank a local fruit wine made by Brian Ingram. I usually avoid that kind of thing but I was mightily impressed by both the quality and fresh clean flavour – really worth seeking out

makes seriously fruity Barmbrack which recently won Gold in The 2010 Blas na hEireann National Irish Food Awards

Making Sausages

The whole wide world it seems loves sausages. Here in Ireland we eat an estimated 15,200 tonnes of sausages every year but it’s not just the Irish and Brits who have a passion for sausages, what would the yanks do without their hotdogs, the French and Italian wouldn’t survive without their salami and salumi the Spanish have got all of us hooked on Chorizo and Germans boast over 1,200 varieties of sausages, the Chinese too have their favourites and of course we also love Moroccan merquez, Polish cabanossi and wiejska sausages have been made for at least 5,000 years when the earliest written recipe was etched on a Sumerian clay tablet. Romans were also sausage enthusiasts and brought the art of stuffing chopped meat into casings to every corner of their vast empire. Originally in the days before refrigeration sausage making would have been primarily about preservation. Salt and spices both flavoured and halted the growth of pathogenic bacteria, herbs like rosemary and sage also have anti bacterial qualities and of course drying and smoking help to further preserve.

Sausages would have been flavoured with the predominant herb or spice of that area such as wild fennel seeds in Italy, caraway in Germany and ground paprika (pimento) in Spain.

Refrigeration and mechanisation have transformed sausages, not always for the better, cheaper sausages can have mechanically recovered meat and little pork as we know it. However there has been a revival in real sausage making and many butchers and artisan producers now make superb sausages. Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland have for years encouraged innovation and awarded sought after prizes for creative ‘bangers’ If you would like to try your hand you don’t necessarily need to keep a pig but do need to somehow source terrific pork preferably from a traditional breed of pig that ranges freely outside – you’ll also need some nice pork fat because perversely if the meat is too lean the sausages will be dry and dull – a recently published book called ‘The Sausage Book’ published by Kyle Cathie and written by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton could be just the thing to get you started.

Nick is Creative chef for Pret a Manger and has tested a vast range of sausages all in the name of research. Johnny is a writer / journalist who has raised four Oxford Sandy cats so far. This is their fifth cook book – I loved the recipes for making sausages but if you’d rather buy them there are also over 80 delicious and well tested recipes to use them in.

Paysanne Sausages

Traditional fresh sausage recipes call for salt to form two per cent of the total weight. We have reduced this to one and a half per cent, as it’s healthier and doesn’t adversely affect the flavour.

Makes about 20 sausages

1.5kg pork shoulder, cut into chunks

500gm hard pork back fat, trimmed of all skin, cut into chunks (NB Instead of the 2 ingredients above you could use 2kg fatty pork belly, trimmed of skin and bone and cut into chunks)

15g fresh thyme, finely chopped

30g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

30g fine or flaky sea salt

10g freshly ground black pepper

20g garlic, chopped

approx 3m length of spooled hog casings, soaked in warm water prior to usage

Before you start, make sure your surfaces and equipment are scrupulously clean. You may also want to wear latex gloves.

The process begins with grinding the meat to the desired texture, which in this case is on the rough side (use a 5–7mm plate). Make sure you keep the meat cold throughout. This isn’t just a matter of hygiene – if you allow sausage meat to warm up, it turns into unmanageable glue.

The next stage is to chop up the herbs and add them to the mince with the requisite quantity of salt. You then mix the ingredients by hand until they are evenly distributed.

Now comes the slightly suggestive business of rolling the casing onto the nozzle. With any luck, one end of the casing will be wrapped around a telltale plastic ring. If it isn’t, you just have to scrabble around until you find an end. Once you have succeeded, slip the end over the tip of the nozzle and gradually roll the whole casing onto it, bar a couple of inches. Then tie a knot in the projecting portion.

At this point, you need to load your sausage stuffer with the meat-and-herb-mixture. Then screw the nozzle on and prepare to stuff. This will be much easier if you enlist the help of a friend. One of you turns the handle of the stuffer while the other controls the release of the casing. This is done by gripping the part of it nearest to the tip of the nozzle between two fingers, varying the pressure as the meat emerges to ensure that the casing slips off at a controlled rate. The idea is to fill it thoroughly and evenly.

All being well, you will end up with one very long sausage, but if the casing ruptures, perhaps due to some overzealous handle-turning, just tie a knot in it and start again.

When you run out of casings or meat, tie a knot in the back end as you did the front.

The final piece of the jigsaw is to twist the giant sausage into links. There are various pretty ways of doing this but the simplest is to ease the meat into segments of the desired length through the casing, then twist at the gaps. When it comes to cooking your freshly made sausages, do it slowly and thoroughly and do not prick the skins. If the heat isn’t too high, there is little danger of the sausages bursting and you don’t want them to lose their juiciness.

Cumberland

This is a version of the classic sausage from the North West of England.

Makes about 15 sausages

1.2kg (2 ¾ lb) roughly minced thick belly pork

20g (¾ oz) salt

5g (¼ oz) freshly ground black pepper

2g freshly grated nutmeg

2g dried marjoram

2g dried sage

2m (200cm) hog casings

Make as per Paysanne Sausages, forming one giant coil. Don’t tie off into links.

Toulouse

The definitive fresh sausage of South West France.

Makes about 2 0 sausages

2kg roughly minced pork belly

30g relatively fine sea salt

2g freshly grated nutmeg

5g freshly ground black pepper

100ml red wine

20g garlic, chopped

20g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

4g fresh sage, chopped

4g fresh thyme, chopped

2.5m hog casings

Make as per Paysanne Sausages.

Toad in The hole

Depending on the quality of the sausages and the execution, this classic British dish can be depressingly stodgy or rather magnificent. Our ‘toads’ of choice are pork chipolatas wrapped in smoked streaky bacon, served with a flavoursome onion gravy made from rich chicken stock and a good glug of booze. For this recipe you need a standard-size 12-hole muffin tin (or, of course, two six-hole ones).

Serves 4

The Toads

12 chipolatas

12 rashers smoked streaky bacon

The Batter

100g plain flour

1 egg

300ml milk

The Gravy

300ml chicken or beef stock

250ml red wine

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons plain flour

2 sprigs thyme

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Wrap each chipolata in one rasher of bacon and bake for fifteen minutes, each in an individual muffin mould. While they are roasting, whisk the batter ingredients together in a bowl.

Remove the chipolatas from the oven and immediately ladle out the batter into the muffin moulds so there is a chipolata poking out of each one. Place the moulds in the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes until the batter is puffed up and golden brown.

While all this has been going on, you will have been making the gravy. To do this, heat up the stock and red wine in one pan while frying the onion in the butter over moderate heat in another. Continue for about ten minutes until nice and soft. Stir in the flour and slowly pour in the hot stock, whisking as you go.

Add the thyme and Worcestershire sauce and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the toads in the hole from the oven and serve with mashed root vegetables and lashings of gravy.

 

Toulouse Sausage & Bean Cassoulet

 

Serves 3

1kg Toulouse sausage (or other herby variety, such as paysanne)

olive oil

2 carrots, diced

2 sticks celery, diced

1 small onion, peeled and diced

50g pancetta, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

250ml passata

500ml chicken stock

600g cooked butter beans

2 fresh bay leaves

2 sprigs thyme

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs, mixed with a little olive oil and salt

Fry the sausages gently in a little olive oil until lightly browned, then allow them to cool. Slice thickly and set aside. Reserve all the fat and juices.

Fry the carrot, celery, onion and pancetta in the olive oil over medium heat for around ten minutes until soft. Add the passata and the stock.

Add the sausage and juices, beans, bay leaf and thyme. Simmer for half an hour, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

A few minutes before the end of the cooking time, preheat the grill to its highest setting.

Sprinkle the mixture with the breadcrumbs and finish off under the grill, removing when the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Huevos Rancheros with Chorizo

Serves 2

2 fresh (uncured) chorizo, sliced

1/2 onion, peeled and chopped

1/2 red chilli, sliced

1/2 red pepper, chopped

200g chopped tomatoes from a tin

1–2 sprigs oregano, chopped

salt

2 eggs

This classic Hispanic breakfast dish, which uses fresh chorizo and will set you up for the day nicely. You will need a small to medium frying pan with a lid.

Fry the sliced sausages for a few minutes over moderate heat, then add the onion, chilli and pepper and continue to fry for five minutes or so, until the fat has been released from the chorizo. Give the mixture an occasional stir.

Add the tomatoes, oregano and a little salt if you wish. Simmer for ten minutes. Make two indentations in the sauce and break in the eggs.

Place the lid on the pan and continue to cook over low to moderate heat for three to five minutes until the eggs are done to your liking.

Place the pan on the table and serve yourselves. Warm corn tortillas are an essential accompaniment.

 

Vienna Macaroni cheese

Serves 4

1 cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets

300g dry macaroni

200g cream cheese

6 Frankfurters, sliced

100ml cre`me frai^che

salt and white pepper

mature Cheddar cheese for grating on top

Boil the cauliflower for three or four minutes in a large saucepan.

Immediately cool under a cold tap, leaving the hot water in the pan.

Cook the macaroni in the cauliflower water until al dente, then drain it and return it to the saucepan. Add the cream cheese, Frankfurters, cauliflower, crème fraîche, salt and white pepper and stir over very low heat until the cream cheese has melted. This should take about a minute.

Preheat the grill to its highest setting.

Transfer the contents of the saucepan to an oven dish. Grate a generous layer of Cheddar cheese on top, then brown under the grill and serve.

Chorizo & Goat’s Cheese tart

Serves 3

The Pastry (enough for 1 tart)

120g plain flour

60g butter

25g grated Parmesan cheese

pinch of salt

a little grating of nutmeg

2 egg yolks from large eggs

1/2 the white from a large egg

The Filling

1 large red pepper

120g creme fraiche

1 large egg with 1 extra yolk

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

salt and freshly ground black pepper

150g goat’s cheese, crumbled

200g fresh or cured chorizo, sliced or diced

1/4 teaspoon ground pimento or any other good-quality paprika, smoked or unsmoked (according to taste)

Goat’s cheese goes particularly well with chorizo. You can roll out the pastry, make the filling and bake this tart in less than an hour. Use a shallow, non-stick pizza pan with a 1cm lip, approximately 1cm deep and 28cm across.

First make the pastry. Sieve the flour onto your kitchen work surface. Cut the butter into pieces and place on top of the flour along with the cheese, salt and nutmeg. Rub the ingredients together with the tips of your fingers until all the lumps of butter and cheese have melted into the mix. This will take a few minutes.

Make a well in the centre of the mix and fill it with the two yolks and the egg white. Work the egg in with your fingers, then gather the pastry into a ball and work it with the heel of your hand for 30 seconds. Use the pastry itself to mop up any loose bits of dough that adhere to your work surface. Work the pastry again for a minute, then shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and store in the fridge until you need it (you can make the pastry the day before you cook the tart).

When ready to make the tart, roll out the pastry to the approximate size of the pizza pan, lay it over it and press it down into the pan. Don’t worry about trimming it around the sides unless you feel the need strongly.

Preheat the oven to 240ºC. Bake the red pepper for 15 minutes until charred, then leave it to cool. Peel the skin away, remove the seeds and slice the pepper into thin strips. Reduce the oven temperature to 200ºC.

Mix the crème fraîche, egg, thyme and seasoning together with a fork or whisk. Spread the mixture onto the pastry, making sure it goes all the way to the sides. Sprinkle the goat’s cheese evenly on top, then lay over the roasted pepper strips in a haphazard manner, followed by the chorizo. Powder the surface with pimenton and bake for 15–20 minutes until the chorizo is nice and browned. Eat while still warm.

 

Hottips

It’s worth looking out for Hodgins Craft Butchers

in Mitchelstown 025 24696, Woodside Farm in Midleton 0872767206 and Gubeen Farmhouse Products in West Cork 028 27824 – they all produce really good sausages.Matthew Dillon

, founding director of Organic Seed Alliance is the keynote speaker at the Organic Trust AGM at the Grain Store at Ballymaloe House on Sunday 7th November at 2pm. Organic Seed Alliance is– a public non-profit organisation that engages in education, research, advocacy with farmers to develop regenerative, farmer oriented and ethical seed systems. Not to be missed. 021 4652531.

The three Douglas Markets

have merged into one terrific market. There are over 40 stalls including Annie’s Roasts from East Ferry with her delicious free range chickens and ducks from her family farm freshly cooked on the rotisserie at the market. There’s fresh fish from West Cork, farmhouse cheese, freshly baked Arbutus Breads, lots of local fresh farm produce… Every Saturday outside the Douglas Court Shopping Centre from 10am – 2pm.Contact Rupert at rupert@rupertsfarm.com

Camelot – Somerset

This weekend I was in Camelot, bet you thought it was an imaginary place. In real life Camelot is in the beautiful verdant Somerset. I was in the area for a Literary Festival at Wyke Hall near Gillingham. Two other Irish authors Victoria Glendinning, Edna O’ Brien were there but now at last cook book writers are included in the literary scene!

The village pub (with rooms) at Corton Denham called the Queens Arms was heaving at lunch time. A little sign by the door assured us that “dogs and muddy boots are welcome”. A pile of warm pork pies were stacked on the counter with a selection of mustards to slather on top. A cute little twenty year-old was busy grating fresh horseradish onto Bloody Marys. Open fires blazed at both ends of the pub and there was a comfy convivial atmosphere. One party had driven up from Cornwall for lunch; others had come all the way from Bristol. There was no hope of a table but people seemed so eager to stay that they were prepared to sit outside on damp seats under umbrellas in the drizzle. Despite all that, the food, when it arrived, was not all that brilliant. Local heritage tomato and peach salad with toasted pine nut vinaigrette could have been delicious but it really is too late in the season, the peaches were actually crunchy and the tomatoes pale and insipid. The Corton Denham figs, crispy prosciutto rocket and Beenleigh Blue salad sounded great but the sadly the figs were also dull. Nonetheless I look forward to trying both of these combinations next year. My wild rabbit stew was heart warming but the warm pork pies were the best of all – I’ve never had a warm pork pie before and these were delicious. There was also a melt in the mouth Dorset apple pie cooked in a little iron frying pan. And then there was the cheese – this area – the West Country is home to two iconic English farmhouse Cheddars – Keens and Montgomery both of which are part of the Slow Food raw milk cheese presidia. I visited Keen’s farm on Saturday morning, where traditional farmhouse cheese has been made since 1899. Cheese buyers like Randolf Hodgson from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London come once a month to taste and choose. Each day’s cheese will taste different depending on the quality of the pasture, the richness of the milk and the skill of the cheese maker.

George Keane showed us around the cheese store. Timber shelves piled high with hundreds of beautiful mouldy truckles of Cheddar quietly maturing – the cheese is turned regularly at first but then allowed to gradually age to mellow fruitfulness. Sadly I couldn’t stay to see the whole process because I had to whizz off to give a cookery demonstration, but next day we visited Montgomery’s, another iconic Cheddar farm close by in North Cadbury – Jamie Montgomery is the third generation to make cheese from the milk of their Friesian Holstein cows that graze on the edge of Camelot. When we arrived Steve and Wayne had the process well underway. They had cut the curd into small granules and pitched it from one vat to another to drain out the whey. It looked like fine curdy scrambled egg. They use the same traditional culture from when the family started cheese making 70 years ago. A slightly different strain is used each day which means they only lose one days production if something goes awry.

The curd continued to tighten as we watched, it was cut it into blocks which were stacked and restacked on top of each other until Steve judged it was ready to mill. This is an essential part of the cheddaring process. Montgomery still use a traditional peg mill rather than the more modern chip mill. It gently tears the curd into shreds which are then dry salted and forked over to prevent it from clumping before being packed into moulds. It’ll be pressed overnight then turned and pressed again, dipped into almost boiling water (85 degrees). The labour of love continues, the naked cheese is carefully wrapped in soft cheese cloth and greased with lard in the time honoured way. Montgomery make some small truckles, about one and half kilograms in weight. They mature more quickly and are in huge demand for the Christmas market. Over the years we would occasionally order one of these smaller truckles which would arrive through the post in a brown paper and twine parcel. They also make two other cheeses, one called Danegeld and another called Ogleshield and were also experimenting with a Comté type while we were there. Their huge cheese store had over £1million worth of cheese. It is now well alarmed since the big ‘Break In’ just before the British Cheese Awards a few years ago. The irony was that the thieves couldn’t dispose of the cheese because it is so distinctive.

Both Keens and Montgomery win top awards every year and are the yard stick by which mature farmhouse cheddars are measured world wide.

The Queens Arms, Corton Denham, Somerset, DT9 4LR. Telephone / 01963 220317
relax@thequeensarms.com

James Montgomery, Montgomery’s Cheddar, Manor Farm, North Cadbury, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7DW T: 01963 440 243

George or Stephen Keen, Keen’s Cheddar Ltd, Moorhayes Farm, Verrington Lane, Wincanton, Somerset UK BA9 8JR
Tel: +44 (0)1963 32286
info@keenscheddar.co.uk

Gratin of Haddock with Keens or Montgomery Cheddar and Mustard with Piquant Beetroot

This is one of the simplest and most delicious fish dishes we know. If haddock is unavailable, cod, hake, pollock or grey sea mullet are also great. We use Imokilly mature Cheddar from our local creamery at Mogeely.

Serves 6 as a main course

175g (6 x 6oz) pieces of haddock

salt and freshly ground pepper

225g (8ozs) Keens or Montgomery Cheddar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoon cream

Piquant Beetroot

1 1/2 lbs (675g) beetroot cooked

1/2 oz (15g) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

a sprinkling of sugar

5-6 fl ozs (140-175ml) cream

Peel the beetroot, use rubber gloves for this operation if you are vain! Chop the beetroot flesh into cubes. Melt the butter in a sauté pan, add the beetroot toss, add the cream, allow to bubble for a few minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Taste and add a little more lemon juice if necessary. Serve immediately.

Ovenproof dish 8 1/2 x 10 inches (21.5 x 25.5cm)

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

Season the fish with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer in an ovenproof dish (it should be posh enough to bring to the table.) Mix the grated cheese with the mustard and cream and spread carefully over the fish. It can be prepared ahead and refrigerated at this point. Cook in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the top is golden and bubbly. Flash under the grill if necessary. Serve with hot Piquant Beetroot.

How to Cook Beetroot

Leave 2 inch (5cm) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 1-2 hours depending on size. Beetroot are usually cooked if the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger. If in doubt test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.

Pastry

We baked these in a tin but usually they are hand formed. I love Jane Grigson’s filling from her book ‘English Food’ published by Macmillan.

12 oz (340g) white flour

6 oz (170g) butter

4 fl oz (100ml) water

pinch of salt

1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze

2 tins, 6 inches (15cm) in diameter, 1 1/2 inches (4cm) high or 1 x 9 inch (23cm) tin

Pork Pie Filling

For 4 – 6

900g (2 lb) boned shoulder of pork or spareribs, with approximately ¼ fat to ¾ lean meat

225 g (½ lb) thinly cut un-smoked bacon

1 teaspoon chopped sage

½ teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1 teaspoon anchovy essence

salt, freshly ground black pepper

Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Dice the butter, put it into a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. Pour the liquid all at once into the flour and mix together quickly; beat until smooth. At first the pastry will be too soft to handle but as it cools it will become more workable. Roll out to 2.5mm/1/4 inch thick, to fit the tin or tins. (The pastry may be made into individual pies or one large pie.)

The characteristic note of pork pies from Melton Mowbray is the anchovy essence. It makes an excellent piquancy, rather as oysters do in a steak and kidney pudding.

Chop some of the best bits of pork in 5mm (¼ inch) dice. Mince the rest finely with 2 or 3 rashers of the bacon (the bacon cure improves the colour of the pie on account of the saltpetre: with it the filling would look rather grey when the pie is cut). Add the seasonings. Fry a small amount and taste to see if adjustments are needed. Mix in the diced meat. Line the base of the pastry with remaining bacon and fill with the pork mixture. You will always get a better texture if the meat is finely chopped rather than minced. Make lids from the remaining pastry, brush the edges of the base with water and egg wash and put on the pastry lids, pinching them tightly together. Roll out the trimmings to make pastry leaves or twirls to decorate the tops of the pies, make a hole in the centre and egg wash carefully.

Bake the pie or pies at 200C/400F/regulo 6 for 40 minutes approx. Serve hot or cold.

Jane Grigson’s Cheese and Oatmeal Biscuits

Use a hard, dried-out piece of cheese, Cheddar or a mixture of Cheddar and Parmesan in the proportion of 3:1. These biscuits are delicious with soups, or soft curd cheese.

75g (2 ½ oz) oatmeal

150g (5oz) white flour

100g (3 ½ oz) salted butter

125g (4oz) grated Cheddar cheese

Salt, pepper, cayenne

2 egg yolks

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6. Mix the oatmeal with the flour, rub in butter. Add grated cheese. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and cayenne, add the egg yolks and a very little iced water, just enough to mix to a dough. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Roll out in batches and cut into triangles or rectangles. Place on trays lined with parchment paper. Bake 10 minutes, or until nicely coloured. Cool on a wire rack.

Dorset Apple Cake

Serves 12

225 g (8oz) butter

450 – 500g (1lb to 18oz) Bramley Seedling apples

1 organic lemon finely grated zest and juice

3 organic eggs

225g (8oz) self raising flour

225g (8oz) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

2 teaspoons baking powder

25g (1oz) ground almonds

1 tbsp Demerara sugar

5 tbsp milk softly whipped cream to serve

1 x 23 – 24cm springform tin lined with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Peel and core the apples, cut them into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces, then toss them in the lemon juice. Cream together the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add a little flour with each egg to prevent the mixture from curdling. Sieve the remaining flour and the baking powder into the bowl and fold gently into the butter mixture with the ground almonds and milk. Stir in the apple pieces. Spoon the cake mix into the prepared tin. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the Demerara sugar. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until well risen and golden brown. Test the centre with a skewer, when inserted into the centre of the cake it should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with plenty of caster sugar. Serve with softly whipped cream.

Hot Tips

Can’t wait to meet the eventual finalists of Cully & Sully’s contest Cheffactor! Members of the public are invited to enter the contest on Cheffactor.ie to be in with a chance of winning a place on the coveted January’s Ballymaloe 12 week certificate cookery course. The top prize which includes accommodation can be redeemed in either 2011 or 2012 and will include two weeks with Colum O’ Sullivan (Sully) and Cullen Allen (Cully) to learn the ways of the food business.  It is open to everyone-whether you’re a whizz in the kitchen or just a novice. Visit cheffactor.ie!

Sustainable Clonakilty Energy Festival (18th – 23rd October ) the Local Food group are promoting a “50 mile meal” initiative. The aim is to showcase locally produced food through the menus of local restaurants and to increase awareness of food miles.

Restaurants in Clonakilty will provide a three course menu from local produce for the entire week – a super idea which hopefully other areas with be inspired to copy.

Alice Glendinning, (085) 143 9007 or email: aliceglendinning@yahoo.co.uk.

Lots of activity at grass roots level, lots of creative ideas and projects bubbling up as people explore alternative ways of earning a living. John and Olive Hallahan from Castlemary near Cloyne are making several delicious cheeses and yoghurt from their goat’s milk plus they have opened up a little farm shop to sell home reared lamb, pork and goat as well as other local produce from their farm. Open Saturdays 10am to 4pm – look out for a sign for Canine Country Club. Contact 0877977203

Slow Food Dinner – another convivial East Cork Slow Food dinner at Wisteria Restaurant in Cloyne on Thursday 28th October 2010 at 7:30pm. Darina Allen and Colm Falvey have chosen a delicious menu to showcase and celebrate the food of the local farmers, fishermen and cheese makers. There will be guest speakers and tastings. Numbers are limited and booking is essential 021 4646785.. Slow Food members €45.00 and non Slow Food members €50.00 www.slowfoodireland.com

Game for Deer


So many menus nowadays are utterly predictable, chicken, farmed salmon, steak and maybe lamb. Sometimes there is duck but it’s rare enough to be offered any wild food or game. The deer hunting season opened on September 1st  to February 28th depending on the type of deer (check the different dates with National Parks and Wildlife Service) so in response to a readers request I have decided to concentrate on venison in this week’s article.
In Ireland we have three main types of deer the native Red deer a large noble animal and Seka and Fallow which are similar in size to a lamb. The meat is dark, rich and virtually fat free so is apparently lower in cholesterol.
The haunch or back leg roasts beautifully and makes a terrific dinner party dish; lots of easy carving and depending on the breed will feed 20 to 30 people. It’s delicious served with a simple gratin dauphinois and some red cabbage.
Venison can be incredibly dry and dull if it gets over cooked, so aim to cook it rare – no more than ten minutes to the pound and remember it will go on cooking after you turn off the oven, so try to calculate the cooking time to allow for 30 minutes resting in a warm oven. The juices will redistribute themselves so the venison will be evenly pink and juicy. Well-done roast venison is not a gastronomic experience. Shoulder is best stewed or braised, it will benefit from a red wine marinade, use lots of root vegetables and maybe add a few chestnuts close to the end of cooking. Serve with a big bowl of champ or colcannon or better still, turn it into a pie dish and top with a lid of flaky puff pastry.
The loin can be roasted or cut into chops to be grilled or pan-fried. Better still just use the eye of the loin, cut into medallions and quickly pan fry.
Left over haunch can be made into a gamekeeper’s pie as opposed to shepherd’s pie and very delicious it is too.
The lap and indeed the shoulder can also be made into Venison chilli con carne or venison sausages or venison burgers. You will need to mix it with some good fatty streaky pork otherwise it will be dry and crumbly.
One of the best things of all is fresh venison liver so if you are fortunate enough to know someone who butchers their own venison – put in a special request, it must be very fresh, just slice thinly, toss in flour well seasoned with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, cook the liver in sizzling butter and eat immediately – delicious.


Venison Stew with Chestnuts
When you buy venison, allow time for marinating, and remember that unsmoked streaky bacon or fatty salt pork is essential either for cooking in with the meat (stew) or for larding (roasting or braising), unless the meat has been well hung.

Serves 8

1.3kg (3lb) shoulder of venison, trimmed and diced into 4cm (1 1⁄2in) pieces

Marinade
350ml (12fl oz) red wine
225g (8oz) onion, sliced
3 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and lightly crushed black peppercorns
bouquet garni made with parsley stalks, 1 bay leaf and a fine sprig of thyme

seasoned flour

Sauce
225g (8oz) fat streaky bacon, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 large garlic clove, crushed
450ml (3⁄4 pint) beef or game stock
bouquet garni
24 small mushrooms, preferably wild ones
250g (9oz) cooked and halved chestnuts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice or redcurrant jelly, as required
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

3lb (1.3kg) mashed potatoes

Season the venison well and soak in the marinade overnight. Drain the meat well, pat it dry on kitchen paper and toss in seasoned flour.

Meanwhile, brown the bacon in the olive oil in a frying pan, cooking it slowly at first to persuade the fat to run, then raising the heat until crisp on the outside. Transfer to a casserole.

Brown first the venison in the fat, then the onion, carrot and garlic (do this in batches, transferring each ingredient to the casserole). Do not overheat or the fat will burn. Pour off any surplus fat, deglaze the pan with the strained marinade and pour over the venison. Heat enough stock to cover the venison and vegetables in the casserole and pour it over them. Add another bouquet garni, bring to a gentle simmer, either on top of the stove or transfer to a preheated oven at 150ºC/300ºF/ gas mark 2. Cover closely and continue to cook gently until the venison is tender.
Test after 1 1⁄2 hours, but you may need longer – up to 2 1⁄2 hours cooking time. For best results, it is wise to cook this kind of dish one day and then reheat it the next, which improves the flavour and gives you a chance to make sure that the venison is tender.

Sauté the sliced mushrooms in the extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and add to the stew with the cooked and halved chestnuts. Finally taste the sauce;
it may need seasoning or perhaps a little lemon juice. It also sometimes benefits from a pinch of sugar or some redcurrant jelly (be careful not to use too much.)

Serve with lots of mashed potatoes, champ or colcannon.

 


Roast Haunch of Venison with Quince and Rosemary Compote

A haunch of venison makes an excellent, easy, delicious and impressive dish. Venison tends to be very lean—an advantage for those who fear fat. However, some fat is needed to baste the joint while roasting to ensure succulence. The sweet pork caul fat will melt over the joint, basting as it roasts. It virtually disappears.

Serves 20 people approximately

1 haunch of venison – approx. 6-7 lbs (2.7-3.2kg) in weight

To lard venison
225g (8oz) back fat or very fat streaky pork. Alternatively, bard the whole joint in caul fat.

Marinade
2 tablespoons fresh herbs; I use a mix of thyme and marjoram
4 tablespoons olive oil
125ml (4fl oz) dry white wine

Gravy
900ml (1 1/2 pint) venison, game or beef stock

Roux 

Quince and rosemary compote

First lard the venison. Cut the pork back fat into 5mm (1/4 inch) wide strips. Insert a strip into a larding needle, draw a lardon through the meat to make a stitch; trim the end. Repeat the stitches at 2.5cm (1 inch) intervals to make horizontal rows, positioning each row about 1cm (1/2 inch) away from the previous row, repeat with the remainder of the fat.

Put the haunch into a shallow dish, stainless steel or cast iron, not tin or aluminium. Sprinkle it with the freshly chopped herbs. Pour the olive oil and wine over the meat. Cover the dish or tray and marinate the meat for about 4 hours at room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight, turning the meat occasionally. I use the marinade to baste the meat during cooking.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Weigh the venison and calculate 10 minutes to the pound. We like our venison slightly pink and still very juicy, so I usually turn off the oven then and allow the meat to relax for 20-30 minutes. Baste every 10 minutes during the cooking time with the oil and wine marinade and turn the joint over half way through.  Meanwhile make the quince and rosemary compote. When the venison is cooked, remove to a serving dish while you make the gravy.

Degrease the roasting pan, add about 300ml (1/2 pint) stock. Bring to the boil, scraping and dissolving the sediment and crusty bits from the roasting pan. Thicken very slightly with a little roux, taste and correct the seasoning, pour into a warm gravy boat. Serve a creamy gratin of wild mushrooms and potatoes.

Quince and Rosemary Compote

5-6 quinces
225g (8oz) sugar
60ml (2 1/2fl oz) water
1-2 teaspoons rosemary – chopped

Peel, core and chop the quince into 2cm (3/4 inch) dice. Immediately put in the saucepan with sugar and water, cover and cook on a medium heat until soft—about 20 minutes. Add chopped rosemary, taste and add a little more sugar and rosemary as needed.


Note: It is very easy to overcook venison mainly because it goes on cooking after the oven has been turned off and the need to avoid this happening cannot be overemphasized. It is better to allow the meat to cool quite considerably than to risk overcooking and for this reason it is served in thin slices on very, very hot plates, which has the effect of reheating it at the very last moment.


Venison Burgers

Another good way to use the stewing meat. Venison is so lean that it benefits from the addition of the fat streaky pork. Makes 6

25g (1oz) shallot or onion, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
450g (1lb) venison shoulder or flap, trimmed
175g (6oz) streaky pork, rind removed
1 teaspoon or more thyme leaves
1 teaspoon or more marjoram
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
salt and freshly ground pepper
caul fat if available

burger buns

Sweat the shallot or onion gently in the olive oil until soft. Allow to get cold. Meanwhile, cube the venison and pork. Chop or mince in batches in a food processor. Mix the meat, cold shallots, fresh herbs and chilli sauce together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a frying pan. Fry off a bit of meat to check the seasoning. Tweak if necessary. Divide the mixture into burgers. Wrap in pork caul, cover and chill until needed.
Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan. Cook burgers for about 5 minutes on each side.
Serve each on a toasted bun with the usual accompaniments. Wild Mushroom à la Crème and a watercress salad are delicious on the side.


Venison Chilli Con Carne

Serves 6

You can use tinned red kidney beans but it is far cheaper to buy them loose and uncooked at a good grocery or delicatessen. Another alternative is to omit the kidney beans from the stew and serve them separately in a salad, or as part of three bean salad.

1- 1 1/2 lbs (500-725g) shoulder of venison, well trimmed, cut into 1/2 – 3/4 inch (1-2cm) cubes
extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small green pepper, seeded, sliced
chilli sauce, see below
1 tablespoon tomato concentrate (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
8 ozs (250g) red kidney beans, cooked
salt and brown sugar

sour cream
cheddar cheese
fresh coriander
tacos
avocado sauce 
tomato salsa

Trim the meat where necessary and brown it in olive oil. Transfer to a casserole. Brown the onion and garlic lightly in the same oil, and scrape on to the meat. Add the pepper, sauce and just enough water to cover the ingredients. Cover tightly and leave to stew until cooked, keeping the heat low. Check the liquid occasionally. By the end of the cooking time it should have reduced to a brownish red thick sauce. If it reduces too soon
because the lid of the pan is not a tight fit, or you had the heat too high, top it up with water.

Last of all add the tomato if used, the cumin, the kidney beans if you are not serving them separately as a salad, with salt and brown sugar to taste. Simmer for a further 15 minutes, put a blob of sour cream on top of the chilli con carne, sprinkle with grated cheese.  Garnish with fresh coriander, and serve with Tacos and optional Avocado and Tomato Salsa.
 

Chilli Sauce

A delicious sauce to use when making chilli con carne, rather than the chilli powder sold in small bottles. It can also be used as a marinating mixture.

6-7 small dried chillis, or 4-5 large fresh ones
1 large red pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic
salt

If the chillis are dried, soak them in a little water for an hour, then slit them and wash out the seeds. Discard the stalks, do the same with the large pepper. Puree with the other ingredients, using the soaking water if necessary to moisten the vegetables. If you use chillis, you might need a tablespoon or two of cold water. Season with salt. You can keep this sauce in a covered container in the fridge for two days, or you can freeze it.

 

Fool Proof Food

Venison Liver with Bubble and Squeak

If ever you have the chance to taste fresh venison liver, do so. It’s a revelation, but it must be super fresh. It is best eaten on the same day but would still be worth trying the following day. Serves 4–6

fresh venison liver (about 450g/1lb) cut into 1cm (1⁄2in) slices
flour seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper
50g (2oz) clarified butter more if you need it
extra virgin olive oil
bubble and squeak
watercress or flat parsley, to serve

Dip the slices of liver in the seasoned flour. Heat some clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil in the pan over a high heat. Cook the liver for 30 seconds on each side. Serve immediately on hot plates with Champ or Colcannon and some watercress or sprigs of flat parsley – divine.

 

Hottips

Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate Marco Brouwers opened Pizzeria San Marco in August 2010. The theme of the restaurant is Venice and was fitted out by Venetian artisans – it has the atmosphere of a real Italian Pizzeria with talented chefs expertly spinning freshly made dough into circles in full view. The Italian built wood burning oven reaches temperatures of 450ºC for the perfect crispy pizza. Most of the produce for the pizzeria is locally sourced and if you order the day before Marco can make you a delicious gluten free pizza. They serve good coffee too. 9 Main St., Midleton. Tel 021 4633030

Savour Kilkenny – you might want to head for Kilkenny for the Savour Kilkenny Festival from Friday 22nd to Monday 25th October to see the tented Food Village show-casing local food. There will be cookery demonstrations, an innovative Food Camp, a young chefs competition, quirky cupcake icing and much more. The Smithwicks October Fest will feature the 50 mile meal. Think what a difference it would make to local farmers and fishermen if all restaurants incorporated even 20% local food into their menus. www.savourkilkenny.com

Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy

 The food world, particularly those of us who love spices are all a twitter on hearing the news that Indian cook and actress Madhur Jaffrey has just written another cook book. This one is especially for those who feel that Indian food takes a long time and a ton of ingredients to make. It is entitled Curry Easy and is published by Ebury Press.Madhur taught classes at Ballymaloe Cookery School several times during the 1980s and 1990s and we all loved her food. She has built up a devoted following all over the world. Her carefully chosen and finely tuned recipes have introduced several generations to spices and her meticulously tested recipes have given all of us the confidence to experiment. From my own part, Madhur’s cooking classes were the beginning of a love affair with India and Indian food which has endured for several decades.

Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we are also fortunate to have access to super fresh spices imported directly from India by Arun Kapil of Green Saffron Spices. These are particularly easy to access if you live in the Cork area because Arun and his wife Olive charm people at several Farmers Markets every week: Macroom on Tuesday, Mahon Point on Thursday, Midleton on Saturday, and Limerick Milk Market on Friday and Saturday. Otherwise Green Saffron spices and spice mixes are available from 62 different outlets in Ireland, visit

 

www.greeensaffron.com

to find out the shop closest to you.When purchasing spices, buy them in small quantities from either a shop or stall with a quick turn over. Try as far as possible to buy whole spices with the exception of turmeric, cayenne, paprika (mostly sold ground) and ground ginger which you may need for baking ginger bread. Whole spices are infinitely more flavourful than ground. If you want to use whole spices on a regular basis it’s worth investing in a good pestle and mortar or spice grinder. An electric coffee grinder works brilliantly but we also love our Mexican Mojacete made of coarse lava rock. It makes hand grinding so much easier than struggling with a smooth pestle and mortar. As soon as spices are ground the flavour starts to tick away and as they get older the flavour and aroma diminishes rapidly. Once you start to experiment with spices there is no going back, they add magic to your food. Having a few jars of spices in your kitchen is like having a wonderful Pandora’s Box to dip into. Depending on the combination of spices you use you can add the flavours of the Far East, Mexico and Morocco…

It may seem intimidating at first but you will soon be able to judge how much to use and what combinations work best. It’s good advice to start by using one spice at a time, say cumin or coriander, you will soon be able to judge the strength of the spice and then you can start to combine and add other spices to compliment the original one or two. Madhur Jaffrey’s essential spices are cumin, fennel, mustard seeds, turmeric, chillies, coriander, fenugreek, which Madhur Jaffrey says “smells like India in a jar” and asafoetida “which is essential for the deep flavour that comes with Indian food”

Here are a few of my favourite spicy recipes for you to experiment with.

 

 

 

Mild Madras Curry with Fresh Spices

 

 

Serves 8

2 lb (900g) boneless lamb (leg or shoulder is perfect)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nut milk

4 ozs (110g) almonds

16 fl ozs (475ml) light cream

 

1 tablespoon pounded fresh green ginger

salt

 

2 oz (50g) ghee or clarified butter

4 onions – sliced in rings

4 cloves of garlic – crushed

2 teaspoons coriander seed

2 teaspoons black pepper corns

1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, start with whole green cardamom pods if possible

8 whole cloves

 

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoons sugar

some freshly squeezed lime juice

 

segments of lime

 

Trim the meat of the majority of the fat. Blanch, peel and chop up the almonds (they should be the texture of nibbed almonds). Put into a small saucepan with the cream and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.

 

Meanwhile peel the ginger thinly with a vegetable peeler, pound into a paste in a pestle and mortar, or chop finely with a knife, or grate finely on a slivery grater.

 

Cut the meat into 4 cm (1 1/2in) cubes and mix it with the ginger and a sprinkling of salt.

Melt the butter and cook the onion rings and crushed garlic over a gentle for 5 minutes. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and measure 1 teaspoon. Discard the pods.

Grind the fresh spices, coriander, pepper, cardamom and cloves in a clean spice or coffee grinder. Add the spices to the onions and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove the onions and then add the meat to the saucepan. Stir over a high heat until the meat browns. Return the onion and spices to the pot. Add the nut milk, turmeric and sugar. Stir well. Cover and simmer gently on top of the stove or better still in a low oven 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3, until the meat is cooked (1 hour approx.)

 

Finish by adding a few drops of lemon or lime juice to taste.

Serve with plain boiled rice, lime segments and other curry accompaniments which might include – bowls of chopped mango, Tomato chutney, Mint chutney, Raita, sliced bananas, chopped apples and poppodums.

A hot chilli sauce is also good and of course some Indian breads, Naan, Paratha …..

 

Note:

 

 

 

1 biggish leg of lamb or mutton will yield approx. 3 lbs (1.35kg) of meat.

 

 

Rachel’s Coriander Rice

This is basically plain boiled rice, but with added chopped coriander. This way of cooking rice is great – you can keep it warm really well for about half an hour, or of course you can reheat it.

Serves 4-6 people

1 teaspoon salt

300g (10 1/2ozs) basmati rice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or 25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons chopped coriander (or mint)

Bring a big saucepan of water to the boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the rice, stir, and let boil for 5 minutes – by this stage, the grains should be three-quarters cooked. Strain through a sieve, and place the rice in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil or butter, and season to taste. Leave in a low oven, 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1, for 10-15 minutes, by which time it should be lovely and fluffy. If you want to prepare it half an hour in advance, put it into an oven at 110ºC/225°F/Gas Mark 1/4. Sprinkle with lots of fresh coriander and serve.

Rachel’s Roasted Vegetable Coconut Curry

The creamy coconut milk and myriad spices grant these vegetables both elegance and luxury. Roasting the vegetables in the paste really brings out their sweetness. Making your own curry paste takes minutes and the complex depth of flavour means it’s always worth doing.

Serves 8–10

Vegetarian

2 x 400ml tins of coconut milk

600ml (1 pint) vegetable stock

400ml (14fl oz) natural yoghurt

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes

6 parsnips, peeled, cores removed and flesh cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes

700g (11/2lb) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes

4 onions, peeled and cut into eighths

150g spinach (any large stalks removed before weighing), chopped

For the paste

1 tbsp coriander seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp chana masala

50g (2oz) root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

12 cloves of garlic, peeled

4 red chillis, deseeded

200g (7oz) onions, peeled and quartered

50ml (2fl oz) vegetable oil

1 tbsp ground turmeric

2 tsp caster sugar

2 tsp salt

To serve

Large bunch of coriander, chopped

100g (31/2oz) cashew nuts, toasted and chopped

200ml (7fl oz) natural yoghurt or crème fraîche

Large casserole dish or saucepan

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas mark 3.

First make the paste. Place a small frying pan on a medium heat and add the coriander, cumin and chana masala. Cook, tossing frequently, for about 1 minute or until they start to pop, then crush.

3 Place the ginger, garlic, chilli, onions and vegetable oil in a food processor and whiz for 2–3 minutes or until smooth. Pour this mixture into a large saucepan or casserole dish and stir in the freshly ground spices, along with the turmeric, sugar and salt, then place on a medium–low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has reduced slightly.

Remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture into a large bowl. Pour the coconut milk and stock into the remaining half in the saucepan or casserole dish, stirring to combine.

Stir the yoghurt into the spice paste in the bowl, then add the root vegetables and onions and stir in the mixture to thoroughly coat. Tip into 1–2 roasting tins or baking trays and cook in the oven for about 1 hour or until lightly browned.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and add to the saucepan or casserole dish. Place on a medium heat for a few minutes to warm through, and then stir in the spinach and spoon into bowls with a sprinkling of fresh coriander, a scattering of the toasted nuts and a spoonful of yoghurt or crème fraîche.

 

 

Beena’s Fish Curry

Serves 4

1 1/4 lb (570g) Mahi Mahi (or any other firm fish, eg monkfish) cut into 2 inch (5cm) pieces

16 fl ozs (450ml) coconut milk (preferably fresh) or 400ml (1 x 14oz) can coconut milk (brand: Chaokoh)

1 1/2 fl ozs (40ml) coconut oil

2 tablespoons chopped shallot

1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated

2 green chillies, split lengthwise

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander

1 oz (25g) dry tamarind and 2 fl. ozs (50ml) hot water

salt to taste

For tempering:

1/2 fl oz (12ml) coconut oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seed

1 tablespoon fresh curry leaves

To Serve

Rice and poppodums

Heat 12ml (1 ½ fl oz) coconut oil in a sauté pan. Add the shallots, ginger and green chillies. Stir and sauté for about 5 minutes or until they start to turn brown.

Add the turmeric, sugar, chilli powder and coriander. Stir and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and the tamarind water. Season with salt and add the fish. Cover and poach the fish over a medium heat until just cooked – monkfish will take 5-6 minutes.

To prepare the tempering.

Heat 1/2 fl oz coconut oil in small saucepan, when the oil is smoking hot, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds finish crackling, pour the tempering over the curry.

If possible leave the curry overnight in a cool place.

To serve, bring to boil in the same pot and serve with rice and poppodums.

How to prepare tamarind.

Soak the tamarind for 30 mins to 1 hour in 50ml (2fl oz) hot water in a small non-metallic bowl. (The water should cover the tamarind.) Strain through a sieve, discard the pulp – the strained liquid is your tamarind water.

WildFood

Damsons are in season now and still grow wild in Ireland in ditches along farm boundaries; they usually ripen towards the end of September so find out where you can gather them to make into damson sauce – delicious with duck breast or wild duck.

Damson or Plum Sauce

Serves 6–8

450g (1lb) damsons or blood plums

225g (8oz) sugar

2 cloves

2.5cm (1in) piece cinnamon stick

25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons red currant jelly

110ml (4fl oz) port

Put the plums into a stainless-steel saucepan with the sugar, cloves, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon water and the butter. Cook slowly until reduced to a pulp. Push the fruit through a fine sieve and return the purée to a clean saucepan. Add the redcurrant jelly and port, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. The sauce may be served either hot or cold. It keeps well.

 

Hottips

Irish apples are now in season

The new edition of the Seilide

 

the Slow Food magazine has just gone online – its packed with articles on food and food issues and is well worth a browse., there are so few Irish apple growers left so let’s support the valiant growers who remain. Seek out Keanes of Crinnaghtaun Fruit Farm in Cappoquin (058) 54258, Con Tras Apple Farm (052) 7441459 and Philip Little – Little Apple Company, Piltown, Co Kilkenny (051) 567872.

 

www.slowfoodireland.com

 

 

www.cookingisfun.iadhur e

.

 

 

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