ArchiveMay 2011

Elderflowers

This week-end we are going to have elderflower party to celebrate the profusion of elderflowers in the hedges. You’ll find them in city gardens, along railways embankments as well as down country lanes. Just look out for the fluffy white umbelliferous blossoms with the distinctive musky aroma. The European variety is called Sambucus Nigra – its flowers are edible and of course so are the American version Sambucus Canadensis.

Elderflowers are only in season for four or five weeks in the year so if you want to make a batch of cordial get out there immediately and collect enough to make a decent quantity – it will keep perfectly until next year’s crop is ready.

We also have the first of the broad beans, I love them in so many ways and more than anything I love to see the grandchildren racing up and down the rows choosing the best pods and then picking out the beans and gobbling them up raw. They must be so good for them.
For a grown up version try New Season Baby Broad Beans with Olive Oil and Orla Sheep’s Milk Cheese with a little sea salt and olive oil or as a puree on grilled bread or par cook them and add them to risotto or pasta. If I’d been invited to cook for the Queen I’d have given her carrageen moss pudding with green gooseberry and elderflower compote, I bet she’d have loved it – it’s a marriage made in heaven – enjoy it while you can.

Grilled Bread with Broad Beans

Serves 2 as a first course
Serves 4 with an aperitif

One of my favourite ways to serve young broad beans, I sometimes serve this as a nibble with an aperitif but it also makes a wonderful first course.

4 slices of really good bread white bread cut 1/3 inch thick (we use Arbutus Biggie from Declan Ryan’s Artisan Bakery)
1 clove garlic peeled
extra virgin olive oil

1 peeled clove of garlic
4oz (110g) of really fresh small raw broad beans, weighed when shelled
sea salt
a squeeze of lemon juice
6 – 8 fresh mint leaves
6 – 8 fresh basil leaves
a generous tablespoon of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

A rough stone pestle and mortar

First make the topping. Pound the peeled clove of garlic with a little sea salt in the pestle and mortar. Add the broad beans and continue to pound to a coarse puree. Add the mint and basil leaves, continue until they are incorporated. Finally add the parmesan and extra virgin olive oil. Taste and correct the seasoning. Heat a pan grill on a high flame until very hot. Char grill the bread on both sides. Rub each side with a cut clove of garlic, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Spread some of the broad bean topping over the hot grilled bread and serve immediately.

New Season Baby Broad Beans with Olive Oil and Orla Sheep’s Milk Cheese

Serves 6

450g (1 lb) new season broad beans – about 1.8kg (4 lb) in the pods
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Orla Sheep’s Cheese or Pecorino
Crusty white bread – Ciabbatta

Bring the broad beans to the table, have a bottle of your best extra virgin olive oil, a bowl of sea salt and a piece of sharpish sheep’s milk cheese, we use Orla made from the milk of Friefland organic Sheep on Manch farm near Ballineen in West Cork.
Pecorino would of course be delicious or also a good Feta.

Let each person have the pleasure of removing the beans from the furry pods. When you’ve accumulated a little pile on your plate, dip one by one, first into olive oil then into sea salt. Enjoy with the tangy cheese and warm crusty Ciabatta.
Thin slices of Parma ham (prosciutto) or very good Italian Salami would make a more substantial feast.

Elderflower Fritters

These are very easy to make, very crispy and once you’ve tasted one, you won’t be able to stop!.

Serves 4

110g (4oz) plain flour
pinch of salt
1 organic egg
150ml (5fl oz) lukewarm water
8–12 elderflower heads
caster sugar
sunflower oil for frying

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Using a whisk, bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the water at the same time. Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 180°C/350°F. Hold the flowers by the stalks and dip into the batter. Fry until golden brown in the hot oil. Drain on kitchen paper, toss in caster sugar and serve immediately with gooseberry and elderflower compote.

Elderflower Champagne

This magical recipe transforms perfectly ordinary ingredients into a delicious sparkling drink. The children make it religiously every year and then share the bubbly with their friends.

2 heads of elderflowers
560g (11/4lb) sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4.5L (8pints) water
1 lemon

Remove the peel from the lemon with a swivel top peeler.  Pick the elderflowers in full bloom.  Put into a bowl with the lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, vinegar and cold water.  Leave for 24 hours, then strain into strong screw top bottles.  Lay them on their sides in a cool place.  After 2 weeks it should be sparkling and ready to drink.  Despite the sparkle this drink is non-alcoholic.
Top Tip:
The bottles need to be strong and well sealed; otherwise the Elderflower champagne will pop its cork.

Elderflower and Green Gooseberry Jam

Makes 6 x 450g (1 lb) pots

In season: late spring

The gooseberries should be tart and green and hard as hail stones – as soon as the elderflowers are in bloom in the hedgerows search for the gooseberries under the prickly bushes or seek them out in your local greengrocer or farmers market.

1.6kg (3 ½ lb) green gooseberries
5-6 elderflower heads
600ml (1pint) water
1.57kg (3½ lb) sugar

Wash the gooseberries if necessary. Top and tail them and put into a wide stainless steel preserving pan with the water and elderflowers tied in muslin. Simmer until the gooseberries are soft and the contents of the pan are reduced by one third, approx ½  hour. Remove the elderflowers and add the warm sugar, stirring until it has completely dissolved. Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until setting point is reached (220F on a jam thermometer). Pour into hot clean jars, cover and store in a dry airy cupboard.

This jam should be a fresh colour, so be careful not to overcook it.

Hottips

West Cork Food and Drink Fair is on Saturday 18th June to Sunday 19th June  at Mannings Emporium, Ballylickey, Co Cork. Peter Ward of Country Choice in Nenagh is the Guest of Honour and will do a Back to Basics Bread Making demonstration and Carmel Somers of the Good Things Café will do a cookery demonstration on Sunday. Phone 02750456 www.manningsemporium.ie

The West Cork College of Sustainable Food Production is blasting off with a Five Day Summer School starting on Monday 13th to Friday 17th June. It will be based at Glebe Gardens in Baltimore, but will include many sessions at the farms and gardens of growers who make a living from growing. The course is aimed at people who want to produce significant amounts of food either for themselves and their families, or as a business and costs €300 including lunch. To book email westcorkcollege@gmail.com

There will be a tutored wine presentation and tasting by Anne-Claude Leflaive in the afternoon of Saturday 11th June, 3.30pm, in The Grain Store at Ballymaloe. Afternoon presentation and tasting – €35 per person Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co. Cork,
Tel: 021 4652531 –  res@ballymaloe.ie

Food for Thought

Everywhere I went this week people were discussing Philip Boucher- Hayes programme on RTE ‘What’s Ireland Eating?’ They seemed shocked by the statistics. Food imports have doubled in the last decade. Ninety per cent of the chicken is imported while our local chicken producers and processors can barely survive. Irish families still eat a phenomenal amount of potatoes but fifty percent less than ten years ago and a third of that is in the shape of chips.
We eat more sugary breakfast cereal than anywhere in the world, but the most shocking revelation was the research that processed meat is known to cause bowel cancer – now the second most prevalent cancer in Ireland.
Processed meat, usually ham is part of the standard school lunch for children – 5 out of 7 boxes that Philip peeped into contained it.  Interesting there was no comment about the squidgy white sliced pan in the virtually every lunch box which I have to say if I was Minister for Health, I would ban on day one for the sake of the health and digestion of the Irish nation. Although not everyone might agree with me.
Six out of ten Irish people are over-weight or obese which currently costs the Health Service (read tax payer) €4 million annually.
I was amazed that people were so amazed but I’m glad that it has stimulated a discussion not only about the shocking deterioration in the national diet but also the terrifying power in the hands of supermarkets and the knock on effect on the livelihood of the farmers and food producers. Half of Ireland’s independent retailers have disappeared over a 10 year period and other findings revealed that for every twenty jobs that are created when a new supermarket sets up thirty local jobs are lost.

Coincidentally, I am re-reading Maura Laverty’s Kind Cooking which was published in 1946. She talks about the proportion of the family income which ought to be spent on food. “Personally I think the usual allowance for 40% inadequate for what is, after all, the most important factor of our material lives. Important spiritually, too, if one considers the depredations caused since the world began though diet errors and deficiencies. I doubt Eve would ever have touched that apple had she been getting her proper ration of Vitamin C”.

We are fanatical about calories I suggest that we need to be fanatical about nutrients instead. At present, we spend between 8-11% of our income on food in Ireland and close to 30% gets thrown in the bin for a variety of reasons. As a nation we are fanatical about ‘cheap food’ and have been brainwashed into thinking cheap food is our right at any cost. We need to concentrate on sourcing food that nourishes rather than just fills us and the pockets of the food manufacturers. I still contend that good food does not have to be expensive, some of the best food is least expensive, potatoes, cabbage, cheaper cuts of meat and offal, lesser known fish but you must be able to cook it and for that matter grow it.
One of the great beacons of hope in Irish life at present is the phenomenal growth of GIY movement (Grow It Yourself) – almost 10,000 members countrywide in less than two years. Ordinary people like you and I helping each other to grow food to nourish their family and friends. If you want better food a good place to start is in your back garden, yard or balcony. Link up with your local GIY Group – see – www.giyireland.com

Loin of Bacon or Oyster Cut of Bacon for Salads or Sandwiches

For those of you who voiced concerns about composition ham, cold bacon is a delicious alternative and it so easy to cook yourself. The oyster cut is between the loin and the ham and cooks and slices beautifully. Make sure to sharpen your knife so you can cut paper thin slices.

Serves 12-15

4-5 lbs (1.8-2.25 kg) loin of bacon, either smoked or unsmoked
14 ozs (400g) 1 small tin of pineapple -use 3-4 tablespoons approx. of the juice

Cover the bacon in cold water and bring slowly to the boil. If the bacon is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water, in this case it is preferable to discard this water. Finally cover with hot water and simmer in a covered saucepan until almost cooked, allow 20 minutes approx. to the lb.  The bacon may of course be eaten hot with any number of accompaniments or allowed to get cold,

Glazed Bacon

If you would like a caramelised sugary coating, try this, so yummy. Cabbage, parsley sauce and floury potatoes are the traditional accompaniments but Piperonata or Tomato and Chilli Fondue are also irresistible.

bacon (as above)
3/4 lb (340g) brown Demerara sugar (not soft brown sugar)
whole cloves 20-30 approx.

Cook the bacon as above. Remove the rind, cut the fat into a diamond pattern, and stud with cloves.  Blend brown sugar to a thick paste with a little pineapple juice, 3-4 tablespoons approx., be careful not to make it too liquid.  Spread this over the bacon.  Bake in a fully preheated hot oven 250°C/475°F/regulo 9 for 20-30 minutes approx. or until the top has caramelized.  Remove to a carving dish.  Carve in thick slices lengthwise so each slice includes some of the eye of the loin and the streaky end

A little White Soda Bread Loaf

Sliced pan is co convenient for many families, the idea of life without it is unimaginable, but why not try this really easy recipe, it’s made in minutes. You can bake it in a round in the traditional way or like this in a loaf tin which is more convenient for slicing or sandwiches

1 lb (450g) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon bread soda
sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 15 fl ozs (425 ml) approx.
oatmeal, sesame seeds or kibbled wheat (optional)

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

Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not too wet. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface.  Scoop it into the oiled tin, sprinkle with oatmeal and sesame or kibbled wheat seeds if you enjoy them.
Place the tin in the hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8, immediately turn down the temperature 200°C/400ºF/regulo 8 and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the tin and replace back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes or until fully cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.

White Soda Scones

Make the dough as above but flatten the dough into a round 1 inch (2.5cm) deep approx. Cut into scones. Cook for 20 minutes approx. in a hot oven (see above).

Homemade Crisps

You can make a ton of crisps from a few potatoes. Many people are wary of having a deep fat fryer at home in case they eat too much fried food yet the statistics show that ⅓ of all the potatoes we buy and eat are oven chips or fried

450g (1lb) large, even-sized potatoes
olive oil for deep frying
salt

Wash and peel the potatoes.  For even-sized chips, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth.  Slice them very finely, preferably on a mandolin.  Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together).  Drain off the water and dry well.

Heat the olive oil to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp.  Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt.   Repeat until they are all cooked.

If they are not to be served immediately, they may be stored in a tin box and reheated in a low oven just before serving.

Apple Muesli

Serves 2

This recipe can be made in a few minutes and is so full of vitamins you’ll be jumping out of your skin all day! Its literally made in minutes and kids can make it themselves. Strawberries or raspberries can be substituted in season, mash them and fold into the oatmeal instead of the apple – you can imagine how delicious that would be.

4 tablespoons rolled oats (the quick cook type)
3 tablespoons water
2 large dessert apples eg. Golden Delicious or Worcester Permain or 4 small apples eg. Cox’s Orange Pippin
1 teaspoon honey approx.

To Serve
Soft brown sugar and maybe a little runny cream
Equipment
1 grater

Measure out the water into a bowl and sprinkle the oatmeal on top.  Let the oatmeal soak up the water while you grate the apple.  A stainless steel grater is best for this job, use the largest side and grate the apple coarsely, skin and all.  I grate through the core, but watch your fingers when you are coming close to the end, pick out the pips and discard.  Stir a tea spoonful of honey into the oatmeal and then stir in the grated apple, taste, if it needs a little more honey add it, this will depend on how much you heaped up the spoon earlier on. Divide it between two bowls. Have one yourself and give the other to your favourite person that morning. It should taste delicious just like that but will taste even scrummier if you sprinkle over a little soft dark brown Barbados sugar and a very little runny cream.

Hottips

Salmon Watch Ireland Limited are holding their 2011 AGM at Silver Springs Moran Hotel, Cork, on Saturday 21st May at 11:30am. Email Chairman Niall Greene at chairman@salmon.ie – www.salmon.ie

Future Food Symposium on the theory and practice of sustainable agriculture on Sunday 29th May at Chisolme House, Roberton, Hawick, Scottish Borders. Email secretary@beshara.org or + 0044 1450880215.

My discovery of the week – Blarney Castle Gardens – are they the best kept secret in the whole of Cork? I was enchanted – take a picnic and don’t miss the Poison Garden, the Witches Kitchen and the Fernery… Open 9:00am to 4:30am daily www.blarneycastle.ie

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group presents The potential Usefulness of Common Plants. Herbalist Nikki Darrell will explore the wealth of native plants and their uses for food, medicine, dyes, textiles…Crawford Art Gallery Café on Thursday 26th May at 7.30pm. Entrance 6 euro including tea & coffee.

Visit of Cesar Saldana, Consejo Regulador Sherry – Talk and tasting in the Grain Store at Ballymaloe House Wednesday 25th May 7pm – 021 4652531 www.ballymaloe.ie

Homage to Rose Gray of the River Cafe

The River Café on the edge of the Thames in Hammersmith was started as a staff canteen for architect Richard Rodgers and his team in 1985. His wife Ruthie and her friend Rose Gray loved to cook and had fun reproducing the Italian food they enjoyed on holiday in Tuscany and Florence.

The food was simple but always made with the freshest and most beautiful seasonal produce, gorgeous olive oils and wonderful cheese and cured meat.  The word spread like wildfire, an invitation to lunch was much sought after so in 1987 they decided to open to the public.

A friend from London sent me a postcard, “Come quickly there’s a brilliant little café on the Thames serving delicious simple food in the Elizabeth David style”.  When I eventually tasted the food I was so charmed by the simplicity and flavour that I invited Ruthie and Rose to come to the school to teach a 2 1/2 day cooking class.  I’ll never forget the flavour of the food.  They were like two excited children in the garden and the greenhouses, picking, smelling and tasting, choosing fresh produce, planning what they would cook on the spot – we had a feast.

The restaurant flourishes and thrills 26 years later but sadly Rose died in February 2010 after a long and courageous battle with cancer.  Her legacy lives on and this week we paid a special tribute to her at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.  Gillian Hegarty from Courtmacsherry now a teacher with us, worked with and alongside Rose at the River Café for 4½ years and loved and relished every moment.  She fully realises her good fortune in having the opportunity to learn from such a brilliant natural cook.  Gillian chose many of Rose’s favourite recipes to share with us over 2½ days – Rose would have been very proud of her prodigy.  Here are a few for you to try but there’s a multitude of other simply delicious recipes in the River Café Cookbooks by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers published by Ebury Press.

 

Penne con Zucchini e Ricotta

 

Take from the River Café Cookbook Two.

For 6 as a starter

1kg (2 1/4 lb) small young zucchini (courgette)

Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

400g (14oz) penne

350g (12 oz) ricotta cheese

1 bunch fresh basil, shredded

100g (4oz) Parmesan, freshly grated

Trim the zucchini, then blanch whole in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes. Drain, cool and slice at an angle, about 1cm (1/2 in) thick.

In a large heavy saucepan heat the olive oil and cook the garlic until very soft but not brown. Add the zucchini slices and toss over a low heat for 4 – 5 minutes.

Cook the penne in plenty of boiling salted water, then drain well. Add the zucchini, then crumble in the ricotta. Season, toss together and add the basil and Parmesan.

 

Chargrilled Monkfish with Inzimino and Anchovy and Rosemary Sauce

Serves 3

500 g (18 oz) monkfish tail, boned and skinned

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

2 lemons, cut into wedges

inzimino (recipe)

anchovy and rosemary sauce (see recipe)

Rub a little oil on the monkfish tails. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a chargrill or griddle pan. When very hot place the monkfish on the grill. Turn over after 3 minutes or when it no longer sticks but have sealed and are brown. Grill for a further few minutes.

Serve with inzimino and anchovy and rosemary sauce.

Inzimino di Ceci – Chickpeas with Swiss Chard

Serves 6-8

175 g (6 oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight

1 large garlic clove, peeled

6 tablespoons olive oil

900 g (2 lb) Swiss chard leaves, washed and large stems removed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces

2 dried chillies, crumbled

250 ml (8 fl oz) white wine

2 tablespoons tomato sauce

3 handfuls flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Extra virgin olive oil

Drain the chickpeas and place in a saucepan with water to cover, add the garlic, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. Keep in their liquid until ready to use. Blanch the chard and chop coarsely.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onion and carrot, cook slowly for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Season with salt, pepper and chilli. Pour in the wine and reduce almost completely. Add the tomato sauce and reduce until very thick. Add the chard and chickpeas and mix. Season and cook for 10 minutes. Chop two thirds of the parsley leaves, and add to the mixture with the lemon juice. Serve sprinkled with the whole parsley leaves and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Anchovy and Rosemary Salsa

Serves 4

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

12 salted anchovy fillets

juice of 2 lemons

150 ml (5 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

Crush the rosemary in a mortar, add the anchovies and pound to a paste. Slowly add the lemon juice, stirring to blend. Finally add the olive oil a drop at a time. When about half is added, pour in the remainder in a thin steady stream, stirring continuously. Alternatively, you can use a food processor although this method produces a thick sauce. Put the rosemary in and chop very finely, then add the anchovy and chop to a thick, fine paste. Pour the oil in slowly. Finally add the lemon juice.

Pan Fried Chicken Stuffed with Thyme, Prosciutto and Mascarpone

Serves 4

1 x 1½-2½ kg (2½-3 lb) free range chicken, boned

2 tablespoons rosemary leaves finely chopped

4 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

2 slices of prosciutto chopped into ½ inch pieces

2 tsp picked thyme leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

juice of 1½ lemons

¼ pint (150 ml) chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.

To bone the chicken: place the chicken, breast side up, on a board. With a sharp boning knife, cut along the breast bone, then guide the knife, cutting between breast and carcass on one side, down to the leg joint. You have to cut the wishbone in half to divide the breast at its centre. Crack the leg bone at the joint away from the carcass so that it lies flat on the board. With the knife, carefully cut around the joint, separating the whole of one side from its carcass. Repeat with the other side.

Snip the wing tips from the wings, leaving the bone in the short part of the wing. To remove the bones from the legs, flatten out your chicken half skin side down. Using the leg bones as a guide, cut as close to them on either side as possible and then insert the top of the knife and prise up one bone, cutting as you do so. It is always difficult near the joint between thigh and drumstick, but you must try not to cut the skin which ultimately will hold your stuffing. Trim any flabby bits of skin and cut away any pieces of fat.

Mix the rosemary with the mascarpone, prosciutto, thyme, season with salt and pepper and place a large tablespoonful of this mixture in each pocket in the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan. Brown the chicken pieces quickly on both sides, put into the preheated oven and roast for about 15 minutes. Test for doneness by pulling a leg away from the body, if the juices run pink, cook a little longer. Remove the pan from the oven and over a medium heat, add the lemon juice and as much as stock as needed to make a thick sauce. It will immediately combine with the mascarpone and chicken juices.  Turn the chicken to coat it with the sauce and serve. Delicious served with Puy lentils

Pressed Chocolate Cake

Serves 10

400 g (14 oz) best quality bitter-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces

300 g (10 oz) unsalted butter

10 eggs, separated

225 g (8 oz) caster sugar

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350ºF/gas mark 4. Butter and flour a 30 x 7.5 cm (12 x 3) inch cake tin.

Melt the chocolate with the butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water – the water should not be allowed to touch the bowl. Remove the bowl from the pan, cool a little, and then whisk in the egg yolks. Add the sugar and cocoa powder and mix well. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold into the chocolate mixture, a third at a time.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes or until the cake has risen like a soufflé and is slightly set. Now place on top a plate that fits exactly inside the tin, press down firmly, and weight it. Leave to cool for 30 minutes, then turn out.

Hottips

Our Daily Bread: a history of Barron’s Bakery. The smell of crusty bread has been emanating from Barron’s Bakery in Cappoquin since 1887. Esther Barron now runs this business with her husband Joe and continues to supply the people of Cappoquin with bread baked in the original Scotch brick oven. Ros Crowley interviewed over a hundred family members, staff and customers in this beautifully produced book, charming stories, anecdotes and recipes available from Barron’s Bakery or online www.barronsbakery.ie

Robbie Fitzsimmons is a third generation poultry keeper from East Ferry. He rears wonderful free-range Aylesbury ducks for the table in the traditional way. He also rears plump chickens, geese and turkeys at Christmas. 086 2056020 / 021 4651916

Tom Clancy in Ballycotton is another name to add to your list for excellent farm reared poultry 086 3089431.

Apple Blossom Picnic

The apple blossom is in full bloom in the orchard this week with the promise of a bumper harvest provided we don’t get a random frost within the next few weeks.

Everyone should have at least one apple tree in their garden for the sheer joy of having a picnic under the apple tree at this time of the year as well as the anticipation of juicy apples and apple pies in the Autumn. The old fashioned Brambly Seedling is a brilliant cooker and keeps well. This year we’ve managed to save the last of last year’s crop until now – that’s definitely a record for us. When choosing an apple tree to plant seek out an old variety that you can’t find in the shops like Arthur Turner or Lane’s Prince Albert, which are delicious cookers and maybe Ergemont Russet or Cox’s Orange Pippin as a dessert apple.

There’s a tantalizing choice of ‘eaters’ as well. I particularly love Beauty of Bath, it’s an early variety that used to be in almost every Irish garden, the apple are mottled yellow and red, juicy and bitter sweet, the flavour brings back memories of robbing orchards! The Irish Seed Savers have an extensive range of old varieties that particularly suit the Irish climate (order now to plant in the Autumn). www.irishseedsavers.ie.

Last weekend we had a Slow Food picnic in the Ballymaloe apple orchard, everyone brought along a picnic and a rug and we had a little demonstration on how to crystallise the apple blossom and a talk on old varieties. Apple Blossom is so beautiful to bring into the house but don’t’ steal too much or you’ll diminish your crop of apples. We used it to decorate this delicious apple blossom sponge which was the centrepiece of our picnic.

Some other good things to have for your picnic Radishes, Goat Cheese and Cucumber Sandwiches, Homemade Lemonade, Sausage Rolls, Mini Frittata’s, Spicy Chicken Wings, Wee Buns, Apple Blossom Cake.

Apple Blossom Sponge

This feather-light sponge was the centre-piece of our apple blossom picnic.

Serves 8–10

3 organic eggs

225g (8oz) caster sugar

75ml (3fl oz) warm water

150g (5oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Bramley Apple Filling

450g (1lb) Bramley cooking apples

2 teaspoons water

50g (2oz) sugar or more depending on tartness of the apples

Peel, quarter and core the apples, then cut the quarters in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast iron saucepan. Add the sugar and water, cover and cook over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, stir so it’s a uniform texture and

taste for sweetness. Allow to get cold.

2 x 20cm (9inch) sandwich tins

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. In a food mixer, whisk the yolks with the caster sugar for 2 minutes and then add in the warm water. Whisk until light and fluffy, this will take about 20-30 minutes. The mixture will have greatly increased in volume and should hold a figure of eight for a few seconds.

Gently fold the sieved flour and baking powder into the mousse in batches. Then whisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Fold them in very gently.

Divide the mixture between two greased and floured sandwich tins and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

When cool, sandwich the two together with the Bramley Apple filling and whipped cream.

Sprinkle a little caster sugar or icing sugar over the top before serving. Decorate with fresh apple blossom.

Radish and Anchovy ‘Sandwich’

We’ve got lots and lots of lovely fresh radishes. This sandwich has become a favourite since Jean Pierre Moullé from Chez Panisse showed us this recipe.

fresh baguette

unsalted butter

radishes

anchovy fillets

freshly ground pepper

Choose a very fresh baguette. Cut in half lengthwise and spread liberally with unsalted butter. Wash and trim the radishes, leaving on their tender leaves. Cut the radishes in half lengthwise and place them on the buttered baguette. Garnish with anchovy fillets and ground black pepper.

Radish, Cream Cheese and Cucumber ‘Sandwich’

Another delicious combination. Instead of butter substitute cream cheese mixed with a little chopped mint and seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, pile radishes and batons of cucumber on top.

Homemade Sausage Rolls

Everyone’s favourites when made with really good sausages and buttery puff pastry.

Puff or Flaky Pastry

Good sausages – Woodside, PJ Crowe, Hodginsons, Caherbeg…….

Dijon mustard or Sweet chilli sauce (optional)

Egg wash

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

Roll the puff pastry into a thin sheet. Measure the sausages. Cut the pastry into slighter wider strips (the pastry will shrink slightly in the cooking). Lay a sausage across the pastry about 1 inch/2.5 cm from the edge. Slather with mustard or sweet chilli sauce. Fold the pastry over the sausage. Brush the edge with cold water, press to seal and cut. Transfer to a baking tray. Continue until all the sausages have been used up, then brush each one with egg wash. Prick or score the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the sausages are fully cooked and the pastry puffed and golden. Cool on a wire rack. Delicious freshly cooked or at room temperature. Serve with crispy lettuces and Ballymaloe Country Relish.

Mini Frittatas with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Chorizo and Castlemary Goat’s Cheese

Serves 6-8

You can of course make this frittata in a pan and slice it at the picnic but it’s really handy to cook individual frittatas in muffin tins.

450g (1lb) ripe or sun-blushed tomatoes, preferably cherry tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 large eggs, preferably free range and organic

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

4 teaspoons thyme leaves

2 tablespoons basil, mint or marjoram

110-175g (4-6oz) chorizo, thickly sliced, cut into four

40g (1 1/2ozs) Parmesan cheese, grated

25g (1oz) butter

110g (4oz) Castlemary soft goat’s cheese (We also use Ardsallagh or St Tola goat cheese)

Extra virgin olive oil

Non-stick pan 10cm (7½ inch) bottom, 23cm (9in) top rim or 1 muffin tray lined with 5 inch (12.5 cm) squares of parchment paper.

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

Cut the tomatoes in half around the equator season with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Arrange in a single layer in a non-stick roasting tin. Roast for 10-15 or until almost soft and slightly crinkly. Remove from the heat and cool. Alternatively use sun-blushed tomatoes.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, chorizo and grated cheese into the eggs. Add the tomatoes, stir gently. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs. Turn down the heat, as low as it will go. Divide the cheese into walnut sized pieces and drop gently into the frittata at regular intervals. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 15 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.

Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set and barely brown the surface.

Slide the frittata onto a warm plate.

Serve cut in wedges with a good green salad and perhaps a few olives.

Alternatively put the pan into a preheated oven 170°C/325°F/gas 3. Alternatively cook mini frittata in lined muffin tins (for approximately 15 minutes). Serve with a good green salad.

Variation: For a yummy vegetarian alternative omit the chorizo and add 110g (4oz) grated Gruyère cheese to add extra pzazz.

Top Tip

The size of the pan is very important; the frittata should be at least 3 cm (1 1/4 inches) thick. It the only pan available is larger, adjust the number of eggs, etc.

Serve warm with a good Green Salad and perhaps a Tomato and Basil Salad.

Wee Buns

Makes 24

8 ozs (225g) soft butter, chopped

8 ozs (225g) castor sugar

10 ozs (285g) white flour

4 eggs, preferably free range

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.

Chop up the butter into small dice, it should be reasonably soft. Put all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz for about 30 seconds. Alternatively mix well all in one bowl (butter must be soft). Clear the sides down with a spatula and whizz again until the consistency is nice and creamy, 30 seconds approx. Put into greased and floured bun trays or paper cases and bake in the hot oven. Reduce the temperature to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 as soon as they begin to rise. Bake for 20 minutes approx. in total. Cool on a wire rack. When cold decorate with chocolate, coffee or vanilla icing.

Suppliers:

Woodside Farm, Oldcourt, Ballincurrig, Leamlara, Co Cork – 087 276 7206 info@woodsidefarm.ie

Castlemary Farm Goat Cheese, Castlemary, Cloyne, Co Cork 087 7977203

Caherbeg Free Range Pork, Roscarbery, West Cork 086 822 44145

Hot Tips

East Cork Slow Food Events

Celebration Cakes and Cake Decorating with Pamela Black – join Pamela for an evening demonstration and see many exciting ways in which to decorate cakes for all occasions. Wednesday 11th May – 7.00pm at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Slow Food Member – €15.00/Non-Slow Food Members – €20.00

Catherine Stanton a senior research officer at Moorepark Dairy Research Centre, Fermoy will give a talk on the ‘Health Benefits and Risks of Raw Milk Consumption’ on Monday 16th May – 7.00pm Ballymaloe Cookery School. Admission: Donation to East Cork Slow Food Educational Project Booking Essential – (021) 4646785 slowfoodeastcork@gmail.com

Food Festivals are now so numerous that it’s a major dilemma to know which one to head for

Carlow Food Hero Festival, Step House Hotel, Borris, Co Carlow is on Sunday May 15th. www.stephousehotel.ie for further information

Wexford Food Festival May 20th – 22nd. Visit wexfordfoodfare.ie for the details

Burren Slow Food Festival May 20th-22nd in Lisdoonvarna – great weekend with tastings and talks, cookery demonstrations and farmers market showcasing the best of the Burren. www.slowfoodclare.com or birgitta@burrensmokehouse.ie

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