The Greens got trounced in the last elections for a variety of reasons; some, no fault of their own, others thoroughly justified. However, for those of us who are interested in food as its potential for our own health and the health of the nation, one person always stood out, former Minister for Food and Horticulture – Trevor Sargent. Fortunately many of his initiatives have continued including the country wide schools Agri Aware programme, called Incredible Edibles.
Well, as you can imagine, Trevor has not been idle since his enforced redundancy. Among other things he has been working hard in his small garden in Balbriggan in Co Dublin, determined to prove that given a small amount of time and a reasonable effort one can go a long way towards feeding oneself and one’s family and even have surplus from time to time to sell or share with neighbours and friends.
Trevor sells the surplus from his 20 x 40ft plot at the local Farmers Market. By trial and error he has become truly expert at growing in small space. His clever design, honed over the years, includes space for paths and a patio, a pond, roses, a garden shed, a wood store, various compost containers and a teeny weeny lawn. He’s been recording and sharing his 30 years growing experiences in his blog Trevor’s Kitchen Garden and his recently published book of the same name. Taking us week by week through the year, Trevor relates what tasks can be done in the garden, from sowing and harvesting to pruning and tidying. He shares nuggets of hard-earned wisdom about crop rotation, dealing with slugs and pests, enriching your soil with the best possible compost, building your garden shed and garden design.
More than a gardening book, Trevor’s Kitchen Garden is steeped in the history and heritage attached to our natural world and is an inspiration to those with an interest in growing their own food and becoming more self-sufficient.
As far as I’m concerned everyone and I mean everyone should learn the skills and have the joy of growing some food themselves, doesn’t matter whether you are in a high-rise apartment, in a house boat or a country village – as long as there is light, water and a seed tray and soil, you can grow – greens, radishes, cress, or if all else fails, bean sprouts and boy do they taste good because you grew them yourself. Even though we are fortunate enough have land and greenhouse to grow in, we also grow in everything from bean cans, old gutters, distressed baskets, vegetable crates, fish boxes, old Wellington boots…At this time of the year radishes will be ready to harvest in 12 – 14 days, get the children involved, they will eat them too. I adore early Summer, we’ve just been enjoying the first of our new potatoes and broad beans and fresh spring onions and we give thanks to the good Lord for the good earth and the seasons.
Radish Leaf Soup
When you grow radishes don’t throw away the fresh leaves they are delicious in salad and this yummy soup.
11/2 ozs (45g) butter
5 ozs (140g) peeled and chopped potatoes
4 ozs (110g) peeled and chopped onion
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pint (900ml) water or homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2 pint (300ml) creamy milk
5 ozs (150g) radish leaves, chopped
Melt the butter in heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes.
When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the stock and milk, bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the radish leaves and boil with the lid off for 4-5 minutes approx. until the radish leaves are cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or food processor. Taste and correct seasoning.
Radish, Cucumber and Mint Salad
This is a delicious little salad as well as a wonderful way to use up a glut of radishes. Serve it alone or with pan-grilled lamb chops or a crispy-skinned organic chicken thigh.
1 fresh cucumber
18–24 radishes, trimmed and quartered
18 yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
a handful of fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon honey
Slit the cucumber lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a melon baller or a pointed teaspoon (we feed them to the hens). Cut each side lengthways again, and then into 5mm (1⁄4in) slices at an angle. Add the radishes and tomatoes to the cucumber with the mint leaves. Whisk the oil and vinegar together with the honey and season with a few flakes of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle over the vegetables and toss gently.
Broad Beans on Grilled Bread
Serves 2 as a first course
Serves 4 with an aperitif
Gillian Hegarty who spent many years with Rose Gray at the River Café first made this for me, it’s now become 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
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 Potatoes in Seawater
If perchance you live close to the sea, use sea water gives a brilliant flavour to new potatoes and green vegetables – no need to use extra salt
2 lbs (900g) new potatoes eg, Home Guard, British Queens, Colleen
2 pints (1.2 litres) water
a sprig of mint
Bring the water to the boil. Scrub the potatoes. Add salt and a sprig of mint to the water, and then add the potatoes. Cover the saucepan, bring back to the boil and cook for 15-25 minutes depending on size.
Drain and serve immediately in a hot serving dish.
It’s vitally important for flavour to add salt to the water when cooking potatoes.
Stevie Parle’s Elderflower and Buttermilk Pudding with Loganberries
If you don’t have loganberries then raspberries will do.
4 sheets of leaf gelatine
350ml (12fl oz) buttermilk
50g (2oz) caster sugar, plus 4 tablespoons more
250ml (9fl oz)double cream
100ml (3 ½ fl oz)good-quality elderflower cordial
200g (7oz) loganberries or raspberries
100ml (3 ½ fl oz) eau de vie or grappa
Soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes until soft, then squeeze the excess water from the soft leaves. Bring 100ml (3 ½ floz) of the buttermilk to the boil with the 50g (2oz) sugar. When the sugar has dissolved , remove from the heart and stir in the gelatine until dissolved. Leave to cool, then whisk into the crea, with the rest of the buttermilk and the elderflower cordial. Pour into a ceramic tray or small moulds and leave to set in the fridge for two to three hours or overnight.
Stir the loganberries with the remaining 4 tablespoons sugar and the eau de vie, Spoon out the buttermilk pudding and serve with the boozy loganberries.
Darina’s Book of the Week
Virgin to Veteran: How to Get Cooking with Confidence – Sam Stern’s latest book is a contemporary master class with lots of nifty tips to help budding cooks develop their cooking technique and build a recipe repertoire. A lovely collection of tempting recipes for every budget, mood and lifestyle. Published by Quadrille Books.
Lots of new artisan foods coming on stream…
Woodside Farm’s growing fan base will be delighted to hear of Noreen and Martin Conroy’s latest accolade – “La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Goûte Boudin”, or “The Brotherhood of the Knights of the Blackpudding” has awarded Woodside Farm a Silver Medal for “le boudin a griller” or “cooked blood pudding” using fresh blood. Look out for it at the Midleton Farmers Market every Saturday Tel: 087 2767206.
New Artisan Food Products from Co Kilkenny – Mags and Gerard Kirwan from Goatsbridge Farm in Thomastown have added trout caviar to their fresh and smoked trout. It’s causing quite a stir among chefs both here in Ireland and in the UK – it’s seasonal so contact 086-8188340
Highbank Orchard Syrup – Julie Calder-Potts has not looked back since she won the title of Best Food Innovation of the year in 2010. It’s “Ireland’s answer to maple syrup” delicious drizzled over pannacotta, yoghurt, breakfast porridge, in salad dressing…Tel: 056 772 9918
Greenhouse: Eamon O’Reilly of No 1 Pico has teamed up with Finnish chef Michel Viljanen to open the Greenhouse Restaurant beside the Mansion House on Dawson Sreet in Dublin. It is flavour of the month at the moment and deservedly so – I had lunch there recently – €30.00 for two courses, €35.00 for three, fantastically good value for this standard of cooking but a friend asked why do they have lamb from the Pyrenees on the menu? Tel:+353 (0)1 676 7015