Cooking is the very best way to show special love to your family and friends’ – Jacob Kenedy’s sentiments as he cooked one beautiful dish after another at the Ballymaloe Cookery School recently. Jacob, whose mother came from Rome, owns one of my favourite restaurants in London, Bocca di Lupo. He feels that there is something particularly alluring about Italian food; it nourishes not only the body, but also the soul, mind and heart.
Jacob has been cooking with his Italian mama since he was very little. When he graduated from Saint Johns in Cambridge, he was already a chef at Moro in London and he continued to flit between the kitchens there and Boulevard in San Francisco before taking a year out to travel around Italy.
He opened Bocca di Lupo in a hidden back street in Soho in 2008 and it has since been named Best Restaurant of the Year twice. In 2010 he opened Gelupo just across the road selling possibly the very best homemade ice cream in London.
As soon as I ate there, I loved the food and wanted to entice Jacob over to the Ballymaloe Cookery School to teach a guest chef course – difficult enough because Jacob is on the stove at Bocca di Lupo almost every day.
The restaurant has received all sorts of accolades and awards for its stripped down, honest regional Italian cuisine. Everything is made from scratch with superb ingredients much of which comes directly from Italy. Jacob and his chefs make all their own pasta, breads, sausages, salami, pickles, mostardo and sublime gelato and granitas.
If you are planning a trip to London, book ahead. Bocca di Lupo is also brilliant for pre-theatre or after theatre bites.
Here are some of the dishes Jacob cooked for us but this is just a taste of what’s in the Bocca Cookbook published by Bloomsbury Publishing.
Bocca di Lupo’s Shaved Radish Salad
Serves 4 as a starter
1 bunch, or about 8 radishes breakfast radishes
1/2 a black radish (approximately 150g/5oz) (available from Turkish shops), or 5cm (2 inches) green mooli (Chinese greengrocers) or mooli
a chunk of celeriac (approximately 50-50g/2 – 2 1/4oz) – about 1/4 of a very small bulb – peeled
a little chunk of pecorino Romano – about 50g (2oz)
1/4 pomegranate, picked – or 6 tablespoons picked seeds
a few sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
juice of 1/4 lemon (or 2 more teaspoons white balsamic)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make a dressing with the oils, vinegar, lemon, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning.
Do the following just before you serve as radishes dry out, and celeriac blackens with time. Wash the radishes (both red and black, don’t peel either), and shave thinly – best on a mandolin. Use a potato peeler to shave the celeriac and pecorino. Toss the lot with the pomegranate seeds and parsley, and dress lightly.
Serve in haphazard but tall piles on individual plates, or in a bowl to share from.
Jacob Kenedy’s Fagioli all’uccelletto – Cannellini Beans cooked ‘like little birds’ with Tomato and Sage
Serves 4 as a side
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 sage leaves, roughly chopped
a tiny pinch of crushed dried chilli flakes
800g cooked cannellini beans, plus a little of their liquor
100ml (3 1/2fl oz) light tomato sauce or passata
Fry the garlic in the oil until it looks like it’s thinking of colouring, but hasn’t quite started to. Add the sage and chilli, then quickly follow with the beans, a small ladleful of their liquor, and the tomato sauce. Season to taste and boil for a few minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the beans.
Jacob Kenedy’s Honey-Grilled Pork Chops
4 good pork chops (preferably from the shoulder, or neck end of the loin) – 200-250g (7-9oz) each and 1.5-2cm (1/3 – 3/4 inch) thick
4 tablespoons runny honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a couple of sprigs of rosemary
6 hours to 2 days before you cook, smear the pork chops with half the honey, and about half the salt and pepper you’d use to season them if you were cooking them now. Pick the leaves off one sprig rosemary and sprinkle over the chops. Wrap them up with cling film and refrigerate. This is a kind of quick brine, to partly cure the meat and keep it super-juicy when cooked.
An hour before you’re ready to eat, take the meat from the fridge to come to room temperature. Have ready, blazing hot, a griddle pan or barbecue. Season the chops with a touch more salt and pepper and grill them until gloriously charred on the outside, using the remaining rosemary branch as a brush to anoint them with extra honey as you go. They should be served still a little pink inside, and be given a minute or two to rest and release their honey-sweet juices before serving with braised greens and perhaps some cannellini beans.
Jacob Kenedy’s Escarole Salad
Serves 4–8 as a side, or after a main
1 head escarole
1 1⁄2 tablespoons lemon juice
1⁄2 garlic clove (optional)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
The escarole is best washed whole, by immersing it upside-down in a sink-full of water and moving it around a little, then shaking dry. Remove any damaged outer leaves, then separate all the rest from the stem and tear into generous pieces.
My grandmother rubs a wooden salad bowl with the garlic, then discards the clove. My mum makes the dressing in advance, and leaves the garlic to steep in it for half an hour or more before discarding it. I sometimes make the salad without any garlic at all. In any case, dress the escarole moments before you serve, seasoning with salt and pepper. The sodden bits of salad left at the bottom are best eaten with a crust of bread, also used to mop the bowl.
Jacob Kenedy’s Caramelised Blood Oranges
This used to be Jacob’s mum’s signature dessert, which he has adopted as his own now!
6 blood oranges
50g (2oz) caster sugar
Pare the skin and pith from the blood oranges, and slice across into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick pinwheel discs. Arrange these on a serving dish.
Cook the sugar to a dark caramel. There’s no need to add any water – just put the sugar in a small, heavy pan and cook over a high heat until it’s a dark brown, volcanically hot liquid. Drizzle this over the oranges and refrigerate for 6-24 hours. Most of the caramel will dissolve into a ridiculously tasty sauce, leaving just a few crunchy nuggets for variety.
Hake is one the most delicious white fish in our waters and is far superior to cod in my opinion – the Spanish love them yet many Irish people have never tasted Hake. Bord Bia have recently published some great recipes to try – www.bordbia.ie/aboutfood/recipes/fish/
The Good Things Café Cookery School brochure makes me want to jump into the car and head for Durrus in West Cork right away – check it out! www.thegoodthingscafe.com
In one simple afternoon practical cookery session at Ballymaloe Cookery School get stuck in and Just Cook It! In this short class you will get some practical experience on preparing and cooking a delicious three course meal. Just Cook It – Friday 17th May 2013 – 2:00pm to 5:30pm Price: €165.00 – www.cookingisfun.ie
Dublin Bay Prawn Festival – Howth, County Dublin from 25th – 28th April 2013. Savour the taste of the sea with local fresh seafood on offer and enjoy an interesting mix of local food, music and entertainment with plenty of walks, talks and Dublin Bay seaside fun. http://www.fingaldublin.ie/interior-pages/about-fingal/culture/cultural-events/dublin-bay-prawn-festival
The IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) EU Group is organising “Sustainable Rural Development Training Days” between the 23th and 25th April in Dublin. The event is targeted at organic farming organisation other interested civil society groups and will focus on new rural development and innovation policy. They are also interested in getting ARC members involved in our event particularly those who have an interest and expertise in the implementation of EU rural development programmes. IFOAM EU brings together more than 160 organisations, associations and enterprises from all EU-27 and EFTA countries. IFOAM´s goal is the worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems that are based on the principles of Organic Agriculture.
For more information and a link to registration can be found at Sustainable Rural Development Training Days http://www.ifoam-eu.org/events/CAP/RD-Training-Days.php.