The Travel Classics International Writers conference has been held in Ireland several times over the past 19 years. Kenmare, Galway, Belfast, Dublin and this year it was held at Ballymaloe House and surrounding area. The delegates included some of the most prestigious food and travel editors and writers in the world. The weather was good, the country side looked beautiful and they really enjoyed the fresh food from the farm, gardens, local fishermen and artisan producers. They loved the freshly baked soda and brown yeast bread and the dark bitter marmalade and the lamb from Frank Murphy in Midleton and they loved the asparagus from the garden and Tim York in West Cork. They couldn’t get enough of the rhubarb with the thick Jersey cream, slathered with unctuous yoghurt, the Irish butter, the farmhouse cheese, homemade praline ice cream…The simpler the food the more they liked it. At one lunch at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, we served them a Good Food Ireland plate with accompaniments to give them a taste of the artisan producers and they were mightily impressed.
The plate included thinly sliced Ummera Smoked duck from Anthony Cresswell in Timoleague, West Cork, a little wedge of Jane Murphy’s Ardsallagh goat’s cheese from Carrigtwohill near Cork. Fifth generation family butchers Jack McCarthy, from Kanturk provided Guinness and cider spiced beef. They also loved Pat Mulcahy’s wild boar and venison salami from Ballinwillin House and Farm near Mitchelstown in Co Cork. Both Jane Murphy and Pat Mulcahy joined the writers for lunch and told their story. Wild boar had been extinct in Ireland since the 1600s until Pat reintroduced them onto his farm in 1990s. We also had air dried lamb from the innovative Oughterard butcher James McGeough.
Nora Egan also came all the way from Inch Country House in Co Tipperary; we served her old fashioned blood pudding with grainy mustard apple and cream.
Toonsbridge Mozzarella also held pride of place on the Good Food Ireland plate. We added some accompaniments, a devilled organic egg from our own free-range hens, and a beetroot relish from Janet Drew’s range from Co Wicklow. We added a blob of our homemade mayonnaise and some horseradish sauce and cucumber pickle to compliment the spiced beef. We piled the table in the centre of the dining room with fresh produce from the garden. New seasons carrots, radishes, spring onions, and a great big bowl of fresh salad leaves. There were lots of freshly baked yeast, soda and sough dough breads with freshly churned Jersey butter, the writers and editors loved it, then there was rhubarb tart made from my mother’s recipe, served with softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar. No bells or whistles, just simple food, a real taste of Ireland and they couldn’t get enough of it – reminded me once again that visitors to Ireland are craving real food – we have it in spades, let’s have the confidence to leave it alone and serve it proudly.
Inch Black Pudding with Grainy Mustard and Sweet Apple Sauce
Serves 12 for canapés, 4-6 as a starter
Butter or extra virgin olive oil
6 slices best quality black pudding approx. 1cm (1/2 inch) thick and 6 slices of white pudding
Sweet Apple Sauce:
1 lb (450g) golden delicious or Cox’s orange pippins
1-2 dessertspoon water
2 ozs (55g) sugar, depending on how tart the apples are
Grainy Mustard Sauce:
8 fl. oz (250ml) cream
2 tsp smooth mustard
2 tsp grainy mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flat parsley or watercress
Make the apple sauce – Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut the pieces into two and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan with sugar and water. Cover and put over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, beat into a puree, stir and taste for sweetness.
Make the mustard sauce – Put the cream and both mustards in a small pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally. Taste and season if necessary.
Melt a very little butter in a frying pan and fry the pudding on both sides on a medium heat until cooked through. Remove the skin from the pudding.
Make a bed of apple sauce on the serving plate or plates. Lay the pieces of hot pudding on top of the apple. Spoon a little Mustard Sauce carefully over the top.
Garnish with flat parsley and serve immediately or pile it on top of a white soda bread scone.
A Plate of Irish Charcuterie and Cured Meats
One of my favourite easy entertaining tricks is to serve a selection of Irish artisan charcuterie from inspired producers like Fingal Ferguson from Gubbeen, West Cork and James McGeough from Oughterard, Co. Galway. The quality is so wonderful that I’m always bursting with pride as I serve it.
A selection of cured meats:
air dried smoked Connemara lamb
wild boar and Venison Salami
West Cork chorizo
a selection of:
crusty country breads, sour dough, yeast and soda
tiny gherkins or cornichons
fresh radishes, just trimmed but with some green leaf attached
a good green salad of garden lettuce and salad leaves
Arrange the cured meats and salami on a large platter, Serve complementary accompaniments, eg. Horseradish, sauce, cucumber pickle, beetroot relish, homemade mayonnaise… Open a good bottle of red and tuck in!
Ardsallagh Goat Cheese Pots with Hot Beets and Croutes
Allow 60g (2 1/4oz) Ardsallagh goats cheese for each pot
scant 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
cooked beetroot (1-2 small beets per person) (see recipe)
Baguette Croutes (see recipe)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 x 75ml (3fl oz) ramekins
First cook the beetroot (see note below), when the skins will rub off easily and the beets are soft, cut into quarters – allow 6-8 quarters per person.
Mix the soft cheese with a spoonful of cream, some fresh thyme leaves. Season with Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F.
Pop into the preheated oven and cook for 6 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Meanwhile, cut the peeled hot beets into quarters, toss in extra virgin olive oil (if cold reheat in a saucepan or in the oven).
Serve a little pot of melted goat cheese with a bowl of beets and 3 or 4 baguette croutes (see recipe).
How to cook Beetroot
Leave 2 inch (5cm) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 1-2 hours depending on size. Beetroot are usually cooked if the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger. If in doubt test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.
Baguette or Focaccia Croutes
Serve with salads, soups, snacks or pates.
1 stalish baguette or focaccia
Cut 4 slices of very thin bread at an angle. Bake in a low oven 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 15-20 minutes or until crisp on both sides. Store in an airtight box.
N.B. Fan oven at 20°C less is even better.
Mummy’s Rhubarb Pie
The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.
8 ozs (225g) butter
2 ozs (50g) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
12 ozs (300g) white flour, preferably unbleached
2lbs (900g) sliced red rhubarb (about 1/2 inch thick)
13 ozs (370g) -14ozs (400g) sugar.
egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk
castor sugar for sprinkling
softly whipped cream
tin, 7 inches (18cm) x 12 inches (30.5cm) x 1 inch (2.5cm) deep
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.
First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.
To make the tart
Roll out the pastry 1/8 inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Place the sliced rhubarb into the tart, sprinkle with sugar and add the cloves. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.
Cooking for Baby – Natural and Wholesome Recipes Part 2, Friday 21st June, 2013 Ballymaloe Cookery School 2 – 5 pm. This invaluable half-day course covers everything to feed your baby – choosing the ingredients, recipes, preparation tips, menus, storage, health and nutrition – the lot. Not only will it save you a small fortune but also it will be infinitely better for your baby – phone 021 4646785 to book.
Dates for your Diary
The Westport Festival of Music and Food 29-30 June, 2013 – www.westportfestival.com
List of suppliers on Good Food Ireland Producer Plates.
Jack McCarthy’s of Kanturk Artisan Butchers – www.jackmccarthy.ie
Ummera Smoked Products Timoleague – www.ummera.com
Inch House Black Pudding – www.inchhouse.ie
Ardsallagh Goat Farm – www.ardsallaghgoats.com
McGeough’s Artisan Butcher – www.connemarafinefoods.ie
Toonsbridge Dairy – www.therealoliveco.com/toonsbridge
Ballinwillin House and Farm – www.ballinwillinhouse.com
Janet’s Country Fayre – www.irishfoodproducer.ie