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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
Woodside Farm, Oldcourt, Ballincurrig, Leamlara, Co Cork – 087 276 7206 email@example.com
Castlemary Farm Goat Cheese, Castlemary, Cloyne, Co Cork 087 7977203
Caherbeg Free Range Pork, Roscarbery, West Cork 086 822 44145
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com