Growing Good Things

If you are one of those people who started to grow vegetables for the first time this year, don’t be despondent. In Spring you would have embarked on this new adventure full of excitement and expectation clutching a few shiny seed packets and a pocket full of dreams of shelling peas, picking ripe juicy tomatoes and rummaging in the soil for potatoes.

Up to recently your hopes will have been well and truly dashed. Well, let me cheer you up – in all the years we’ve been growing tomatoes (over 50) we don’t remember a year where they ripened so late and were so lacking in flavour – like all of us they need the sun to sweeten up. At this stage we’ve removed most of the leaves so that the remainder of the crop can ripen.

The soft fruit and berries have also been a nightmare to harvest this year, days pass when we can’t get out to pick any fruit, if the berries are picked wet they simply don’t keep, the flavour is diluted and jam goes mouldy within a short time, but we’ll just eat it up quickly.

Don’t be tempted to give up it’s such a joy to have even a little home-grown produce – reckon to try again next year.

We’re fortunate to have a greenhouse that we use as a protected garden, so we have an abundance of produce for the cookery school, all be it much later than usual. The surplus is sold at the Farmers Market and at the Farm Shop on the farm.

A few weeks ago we had a Long Table Dinner in the midst of the tomatoes, scarlet runner beans and salad leaves in the greenhouse. We planted a lawn in one of the bays which provided a soft green carpet underfoot. It was so lovely to eat in the midst of the beautiful vegetables and herbs – the menu was a celebration of the work of the gardeners, farmers, local fishermen and artisan producers. Friends played music and the wine we enjoyed with every course was supplied by Mas de Daumas Gassac from Red Nose Wines. Altogether a memorable evening.

 

Pan Grilled Mackerel with Marsh Samphire and Sauce Vierge

 

Marsh samphire will still be in season for another few weeks.

 

Serves 4

 

4 fresh mackerel, filleted

seasoned flour

175g (6oz) marsh samphire

 

Sauce Vierge

sprigs of parsley

 

First make the sauce. Bring saucepan of water to the boil, cook the samphire for 3 – 5 minutes, depending on size, drain and toss in a little butter.

Heat a pan grill on a high heat. Dip the dry fillets one at a time into well-seasoned flour, pat off excess, spread a little soft butter over the flesh side of the fish as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly.

When the grill is hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets, butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes (time depends on the thickness of the fish). Turnover and cook on the other side until crisp and golden.

To serve put a little samphire on a hot plate, lay two fillets, one flesh, and one skin side at an angle on top. Sprinkle a little Sauce Vierge over the top or alternatively put three teaspoons around the side.

Garnish with a few sprigs of parsley.

 

Sauce Vierge

 

450g (1lb) ripe, firm tomatoes

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

pinch of sugar

1 tablespoon chervil, chopped

1 tablespoon tarragon chopped

1 dessertspoon torn basil leaves

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

60ml (2 1/4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

 

Peel the tomatoes, cut into quarters, remove the seeds and cut into neat 1cm (1/2 inch) dice.

 

Put the tomato into a bowl and season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar.  Add the herbs.  Drizzle over the wine vinegar, stir to combine, then pour over the olive oil.  The sauce is best served within 1-2 hours.

 

Italian Pork Stew with Tomatoes

 

A quick and easy nutritious stew which is a meal in itself. Serve with noodles, potatoes or rice and a good green salad.

 

Serves 4 – 6

 

90ml (6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil)

1 onions or 4 shallots, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

4 celery stalks, finely chopped

100gg (2 oz) pancetta or bacon, cut into lardons

1kg (2¼lb) stewing pork, cut into 5 – 6 cm (1 – 1 ½ inch)

seasoned flour

80ml (2 ½ fl oz) dry white wine

400g (14 oz) tinned tomatoes, chopped or 450g (1lb) ripe tomatoes peeled

150ml (5fl oz) chicken or vegetable stock

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks

125g (4 ½ oz) fresh or frozen peas

1 tablespoon annual marjoram chopped

2 tablespoons parsley coarsely chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Heat the olive oil in a large casserole. Add the shallots, carrot, celery and pancetta or bacon. Sweat on a medium heat for 4 – 5 minutes.

Meanwhile heat a little more extra virgin olive oil in wide frying pan on a high heat.

Dust the pieces of pork in seasoned flour, shaking off the excess, Add the meat. Seal on all sides, you may need to do this in batches – add a little more extra virgin olive oil to the casserole.

Add the white wine and allow to evaporate.

Stir in the tomatoes and half the stock and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat, add a sprig of thyme, and cover with a lid. Cook for 25 minutes on a gentle heat or transfer to a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Mark 4 until the meat is cooked through. If you find the stew dries up add a little more hot stock.

Add the potato chunks and cook for a further 15 minutes, add the peas and cook for a further 4 – 5 minutes on a low heat, stirring from time to time. Remove from the heat, taste and correct seasoning. Scatter with parsley and serve.

 

Summer Green Bean, Tomato and Lemon Basil Salad

 

Serves 4

 

300g (10 ½ oz) fresh beans cooked until al dente (see recipe for Perfect

4 ripe tomatoes, sliced

700g (1½ lb) baby new potatoes, unpeeled and cooked until tender

200g (7oz) hard mozzarella, cubed

8 – 10 green olives, pitted

a few fresh basil leaves – lemon basil is super delicious here

 

Dressing

 

8ml/2 ½ fl oz extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 garlic clove crushed

1 tablespoon marjoram chopped

 

salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Put the al dente green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, mozzarella and olives into a wide bowl. Whisk all the ingredients together for a dressing. Pour over the vegetables, toss gently and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Scatter a few basil leaves on top – lemon basil is delicious.

Toss well, leave to rest for a few minutes and serve.

 

Perfect French Beans

 

The proportion of salt to water is vitally important for the flavour of the beans and all green vegetables – it sounds a lot but try it.

 

Serves

 

900g (2 lb) French beans

1.1 litres (2 pints) water

3 teaspoons sea salt

30-50g (1-2 oz) butter or extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Choose beans of a similar size.  Top and tail the beans. If they are small and thin leave them whole, if they are larger cut them into 2.5-4cm (1-1 1/2 inch) pieces at a long angle.

 

Bring the water to a fast rolling boil, add 3 teaspoons of salt then toss in the beans. Continue to boil very fast for 5-6 minutes or until just cooked (they should still retain a little bite). Drain immediately.* Melt the butter or extra virgin olive oil in the saucepan, toss the beans in it, taste, season with freshly ground pepper and a little sea salt if necessary.

 

* The beans may be refreshed under cold water at this point and kept aside for several hours.

 

To reheat precooked Beans: Just before serving, plunge into boiling salted water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, drain and toss in butter. Season and serve immediately.

 

Beauty of Bath Tart

 

Despite the inclement weather we have a fantastic crop of Beauty of Bath Apples. They are one of the earliest to ripen and for many people of a certain age bring back memories of robbing orchards in their childhood. We’ve been enjoying them in a myriad of ways; just as they are, in apple muesli for breakfast and we are loving the bittersweet pressed juice that we make in our brand new centrifuge. Try this caramelised apple tart, it is another of our favourites.

 

Makes approx. 12 tartlets or two open tarts 8 inch (20cm) diameter

 

1/2 lb (225g) Flaky, Puff, or Shortcrust pastry

4-6  dessert or cooking apples preferably Beauty of Bath

4-6 tablespoons granulated sugar, approx. (Allow a well heaped teaspoon per tartlet)

 

2 x 8 inch (20.5cm) pie plates or 12 patty tins

 

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Line the tins with thinly rolled pastry, the pastry should be about as thick as a coin for tartlets slightly thicker for tarts.

 

Thinly peel and quarter apples, then cut them into slices 1/8 inch (3mm) thick. Arrange them on the pastry in overlapping slices. Sprinkle liberally with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes approx. in the hot oven 220C/425F/gas mark 7. The juice of the apples will caramelise with the sugar. Serve with softly whipped cream or better still Glenilen Crème Fraiche.

 

NOTE: It is essential to put enough sugar on these tarts or tartlets; otherwise they will not caramelise properly.

 

Ballymaloe 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! If you want to score ‘brownie points’ make some for your Mama and Dada and bring it to them on a tray in bed.

 

4 tablespoons rolled oats (the Speedicook type, we use Kilbeggan or Flahavans )

3 tablespoons water

2 large dessert apples eg. Beauty of Bath 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 brown Barbados sugar and a very little runny cream.

Hottips

I have just eaten a finger of the most divine confection, which I spied in the window of Gwen’s French Café in the courtyard in Schull, three luscious layers – a genoise base, a layer of superb dark chocolate ganashe with crispy croccante, topped with a milk chocolate mousse dredged with unsweetened cocoa – believe me it’s worth driving to Schull especially, one bite and you won’t care how long it stays on your hips. There is also the bonus of the café and the opportunity to pick up some of Gwen’s handmade chocolates. http://www.schullcourtyard.com/gwens-chocolates.html

 

Tea to Think About – Teabags don’t do it for me I’m a loose tea girl myself and I’ve never understood their appeal particularly as most seem to be full of ‘tea dust’. The two lads Sean Moran and Jonathan Wilson from Nood Teas had a similar dilemma, they found it difficult to get real tea at a decent price and impossible to get real tea in handy tea bags, so in 2011 they set about sourcing great tea and bleach free, glue free, staple free, hundred per cent biodegradable teabags, the end result is individually wrapped teabags filled with superb quality leaf tea. The company is called Nood and their teas are now widely available – 012542257 – hello@nood-world.com  – www.nood-world.com