For vegetable gardeners this time of the year can be immensely frustrating as well as rewarding. At last the seeds and seedlings planted in Spring and early Summer have sprung forth and are ready to harvest and enjoy. Sometimes everything seems to come together and now it seems like there are almost not enough meal times to enjoy the fruits of all that weeding, digging and watering.
The gardens and greenhouses at the Ballymaloe Cookery School are a real joy at present, a tribute to the gardeners’ hard work; I want to freeze the images in my mind’s eye so I can conjure them up once again in the drearier months of the year.
Every meal at the moment is a celebration of nature’s bounty, when the vegetables and fruit are fresh it’s so easy to create the ‘wow’ factor, ‘faits simple’ as the French say, no need for bells and whistles and twiddles and bows.
Picking, harvesting and preparing the produce yourself really adds to the enjoyment of the meal. It takes time which may not always be possible but when you grow something yourself, it adds a whole other dimension to the food. It’s quite a different experience than just slitting the top of a packet. You handle it with so much more care and respect and certainly won’t boil ‘the hell out of it’ in the kitchen.
It’s been an amazing year for elderflower blossom and there are still some elderflowers around, so make elderflower syrup to lay down for poaching fruit – pears or apricots or drizzling over carrageen moss or panna cotta.
We planted a couple of apricot and peach trees in the greenhouse a couple of years ago, no fruit at first but this year there’s an abundant crop, I can hardly bear to cook them but I love to make at least one apricot tart in the Summer.
Enjoy this menu for this weekend.
Zucchini Fritters with Tsatziki
These little zucchini fritters are simply grated zucchini bound with a little egg and flour. They taste quintessentially Italian, especially if you add Parmigiano. Mature Coolea cheese is also packed with flavour. They make delicious picnic food and are perfect for a lunch box.
1.3 kgs (3lbs) small zucchini a mixture of green and yellow looks great
2 teaspoons salt
2 fresh eggs
½ teaspoon pepper
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
2 heaped tablespoons flour
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano or Mature Coolea
extra virgin olive oil for frying
Tsatziki (see recipe below)
Grate the zucchini on a box grater. Sprinkle with salt; allow to drain in colander for about 20 minutes. Squeeze out all the moisture in a clean tea towel. Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the scallions, flour and pepper then add the grated zucchini and cheese. Mix well.
Pour about ¼ in of extra virgin olive oil into a frying pan over a medium heat. Drop tablespoonfuls of the zucchini mixture into the pan and flatten them into approximately 2 inch rounds. Make three or four at a time, don’t overcrowd the pan. When golden on one side – 3 to 4 minutes – flip over and continue to cook on the other side. Watch them carefully, so they don’t overcook, drain on kitchen paper and serve with a bowl of tzatziki.
Serves 8 – 10 depending on how it is served.
This Greek speciality is a delicious cucumber and yoghurt mixture and can be served as an accompanying salad or as a sauce to serve with grilled fish or meat. Greek yoghurt is often made with sheep’s milk and is wonderfully thick and creamy.
1 crisp Irish cucumber, peeled and diced into 1/4-1/2 inch (1/2 – 1cm) dice approx.
salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaped tablespoon of freshly chopped mint
3/4 pint (450ml) Greek yoghurt or best quality natural yoghurt
4 tablespoons cream
Put the cucumber dice into a sieve and sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for about 30 minutes. Dry the cucumber on kitchen paper, put into a bowl and mix with garlic, a dash of wine vinegar or lemon juice and the yoghurt and cream. Stir in the mint and taste, it may need a little salt and freshly ground pepper, or even a pinch of sugar.
Roast Wild Salmon with Vietnamese Cucumbers
We’ve been so fortunate to get a few beautiful wild salmon from the Blackwater River, hurry the season is almost over.
a side of organic salmon (1.8kg/4lbs approximately)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
mint, coriander and basil sprigs
Vietnamese Cucumbers (see recipe)
Bring the salmon to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Put the fish on a baking sheet, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the salmon and rub it into the flesh.
Bake in the preheated oven for 5-8 minutes, just until juices appear on the surface. When probed with a fork at the thickest part, the salmon should be moist – cooked through, but barley. Transfer the fish to a warmed platter, and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Arrange the mint, coriander, basil sprigs and lemon wedges around the salmon. At the table, break the salmon into rough portions. Pass the cucumbers around so each individual can spoon over the fish.
This is also great with pan grilled mackerel should be lucky enough to catch or be given a present of some lovely fresh fish.
4 large cucumbers
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fish sauce (Nam pla)
2.5cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and cut into fine julienne
2 tablespoons palm sugar
Serrano or Jalapeno or fresh Thai chillies
2 or 3 limes
thinly sliced scallions or onion
Peel the cucumbers, cut them lengthwise in half, and remove the seeds with a spoon if they are large. Slice the cucumbers into thickish half-moons and put them in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle lightly with fish sauce, then add the ginger and palm sugar. Toss well, and let the cucumbers sit for 5 minutes or so.
Add a good spoonful of the chopped Serrano or Jalapeno chillies (seeds removed, if desired) or finely slivered Thai chillies. Squeeze over the juice of 2 limes and toss again, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serving.
Just before serving add a fistful of roughly chopped mint and basil leaves. Taste and adjust the seasoning with lime juice as well as salt and pepper. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions cut at an angle.
Honey and Lavender Ice-Cream
Honey and lavender is a particularly delicious marriage of flavours. We make this richly scented ice cream when the lavender flowers are in bloom in early Summer. Lavender is at its most aromatic just before the flowers burst open. Serve it totally alone on chilled plates and savour every mouthful.
250ml (9floz) milk
450ml (16floz) cream
40 sprigs of fresh lavender or less of dried (use the blossom end only)
6 organic egg yolks
175ml (6floz/3/4 cup) pure Irish honey, we use our own apple blossom honey, although Provencal lavender honey would also be wonderful
sprigs of lavender
Put the milk and cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the lavender sprigs, bring slowly to the boil and leave to infuse for 15-20 minutes. This will both flavour and perfume the cream deliciously. Whisk the egg yolks, add a little of the lavender flavoured liquid and then mix the two together. Cook over a low heat until the mixture barely thickens and lightly coats the back of a spoon (careful it doesn’t curdle). Melt the honey gently, just to liquefy, whisk into the custard. Strain out lavender heads.
Chill thoroughly and freeze, preferably in an ice-cream maker.
Serve garnished with sprigs of fresh or frozen lavender.
Rustic Apricot Tart
8 ozs (225g) plain white flour
1 tablespoon castor sugar
4 ozs (110 g) butter, cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) dice
cold water or cream to mix
3-4 ozs (75-110g) sugar
1 tablespoon corn flour
1lb (450g) ripe apricots, stoned and cut into quarters
caster sugar for sprinkling, about 1 tablespoon
1 x 9 inch (23cm) pie plate or tart tin.
First make the pastry, put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the cold butter. When the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, add just enough water or cream to bind. Knead lightly to get the mixture to come together. Cover with wax or silicone paper and rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
Roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 14 inch (35cm) round approximately. Sprinkle a little cornflour over the base leaving a 2 inch border around the edge. Transfer to a 23cm (9 inch) greased plate or baking sheet.
Just before filling the tart.
Arrange the apricot quarters skin side down in concentric circles until the entire centre is covered. Sprinkle with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Fold the overhanging edge to cover the outer portion of the filling, leaving a 6 inch opening of exposed fruit in the centre of the tart. Brush the pastry with cream, sprinkle with a little sugar.
Bake the tart in a preheated oven 220°C/427°F/Gas Mark 7 for 8-10 minutes, lower the temperature to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and bake for 30 to35 minutes longer or until the edges of the apricots are slightly caramelized. While still warm brush with a little apricot glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature with softly whipped cream.
Peaches in Moscato di Asti
Serves 6 – 8
In Italy fresh fruit is usually served after dinner in some form or another. A favourite ritual is to slice a perfect peach into your glass of white wine, leave it to macerate for a few minutes, eat the peach slices with your fingers and then drink the wine.
6 perfect ripe peaches
300ml (10fl oz/1/2 pint) sweet Italian Moscato di Asti.
Put the peaches into a deep bowl, pour boiling water over them, leave for 20-30 seconds, drain and drop into iced water. Pull off the peel, cut into 3 inch (5mm) slices. Cover with the Moscato di Asti. Chill in the refrigerator and allow to macerate for an hour.
Alternatively slice a ripe peach into a wine glass, cover with chilled Moscato di Asti and enjoy.
Janey Mac’s is housed in one of Kinsale’s beautiful Georgian buildings on Main Street. They serve really good coffee, homemade lemonade and delicious sausage and black pudding rolls. Cakes and biscuits are baked every day – they bake little and often to ensure freshness. In the early evening there is a tapas and wine menu – www.janeymackinsale.com
The Stuffed Olive in Bantry has recently reopened in their new premises in Bridge Street. Favourites like Stuffed Olive brown soda bread, savoury scones, sausage rolls, just like they used to serve in the previous shop. Owner, Trish’s daughter Sarah Messom spent 6 weeks at the Akademie Deutsches Bäckerhandwerk in Weinheim in Germany learning all about German breads, sourdoughs and desserts. They aim to use ingredients with a West Cork focus. The meat is from butcher Paddy O’Donoghue’s farm, fresh eggs from John O’Connor, vegetables from Michael Moore, savoury scones made with Durrus and Gubbeen cheeses, honey and jams from local Bantry suppliers. Heavenly Cakes of Bandon and River Lane of Ballineen will also supply cakes… 02755883 –the firstname.lastname@example.org
Guest Chef Antony Worrall Thompson will be back at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Monday 29th July 2013 to teach a one day cookery course. We love his food and fun way of teaching. 9:30am to 5:00pm – €265.00 – phone 021 4646785 or www.cookingisfun.ie