For our May Slow Food East Cork event we returned to Sage Restaurant in Midleton to celebrate the local food of East Cork. Where better to choose than Kevin and RÃ©idÃn Aherneâ€™s restaurant which over just a few short years has become known for its 12 Mile Ethos..
Kevin has carefully created close links with local producers and their photographs take pride of place on the walls of the restaurant. The menu reflected their produce and 7 or 8 joined us for dinner and spoke about their enterprises.
Organic farmers Dan and Anne Aherne from Ballysimon who produce beef, chickens and eggs. James Stafford from Rocheâ€™s Point whose longhorn beef provided the main course for the Slow Food dinner. Local butcher Frank Murphy whom so many of us depend on to slaughter our heritage meat breeds.
Retired Derek Taylor, telephone â€“ 087 232 9554 who grows organic vegetables and herbs in quite a small way also near Roches Point in East Cork.
Derek Hannon from Greenfield Farm who grows radishes and salad leaves.
Fish Smoker Bill Casey, telephone 086 6611468 who smokes organic salmon in his smokehouse in Shanagarry.
Beekeeper Charlie Terry and his wife Bridie from Cloyne who have produced raw honey for 25 years on their land near Midleton.
Farmhouse cheesemaker Jane Murphy who produces the beautiful range of Ardsallagh goat cheeses on the family farm near Carrigtwohill.
They all spoke beautifully about their life style choice and their product.
Pat Van de Bake from Slow Food Holland joined us and spoke about the vibrant Slow Food Youth Movement in the Netherlands and the growing interest in growing your own food and food issues.
Martin and Noreen Conroy who rear pure bred Saddleback pigs on their small farm near Leamlara and process it all themselves and sell to an increasingly appreciative public at Midleton and Douglas Farmers Markets. Martin and Noreenâ€™s son has now come into the business with them after an apprenticeship with renowned Massimo Spigaroli near Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy â€“ so watch that space.
Note: Tom & Jacinta Clancy, rear free-range chickens and turkeys in their farm overlooking the sea in Ballycotton â€“ they too have a loyal following. Look out for them at Mahon Point on Thursdays and Douglas Farmers Market on Saturdays.
Kevin was recently awarded the Best Chef in Cork accolade from the Restaurant Association of Ireland.
Kevinâ€™s mission statement â€œOur menu is based on our 12 mile ethos. We endeavour to create dishes showcasing what is produced, reared or grown within a 12 mile radius of the restaurantâ€
Slow Food Producerâ€™s Dinner Menu
8th May, 2014
The menu included
12 Mile Sharing Board
Scottish Highland Plate Sirloin, Neck, Rib and Shin
Rhubarb, Jelly, Meringue & Jersey Cream Ice Cream
How fortunate is he to have so many excellent food producers close by and how fortunate are they to have this young talented chef to support them and champion their cause – others please follow.
The hedgerows are brimming with elderflower blossoms and the tart green gooseberries are ready to pick, a marriage made in heaven so here are a few suggestions to use the early summer bounty.
This magical recipe transforms perfectly ordinary ingredients into a delicious sparkling drink. The children make it religiously every year and then share the bubbly with their friends.
2 heads of elderflowers
560g (11/4lb) sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4.5L (8pints) water
Remove the peel from the lemon with a swivel top peeler. Pick the elderflowers in full bloom. Put into a bowl with the lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, vinegar and cold water. Leave for 24 hours, then strain into strong screw top bottles. Lay them on their sides in a cool place. After 2 weeks it should be sparkling and ready to drink. Despite the sparkle this drink is non-alcoholic.
The bottles need to be strong and well sealed, otherwise the Elderflower champagne will pop its cork.
Claire Ptakâ€™s Elderflower Cupcakes
125g (4 1/2oz/generous 1 stick) butter, very soft
200g (7oz/scant 1 cup) caster sugar
3 organic, free-range eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
275g (9oz/generous 2 cups) self-raising flour
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) lemon zest
75ml (3fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) lemon juice
75ml (3fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) milk
190g (6 1/2oz/generous 1 3/4 sticks) soft butter
800-1.2kg (1lb 10oz â€“ 2lb 12oz/5 â€“ 9 cups) icing sugar
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) milk
75ml (3fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) elderflower cordial
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 muffin tray lined with 12 muffin cases.
Preheat the oven to 160Â°C325Â°F/Gas Mark 3.
Cream the very soft butter and sugar until almost white and fluffy. Add the eggs and salt and mix until fully incorporated. Add half the flour until just combined.
Add the zest, juice and milk and mix until combined. Finally add the remaining flour.
Scoop into paper lined muffin tins. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the tin and set on a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the icing.
To make the icing.
Cream the soft butter on a low speed in a Kenwood using a k beater, add some sugar and gradually add the milk, elderflower cordial and lemon juice. Then add the remaining sugar. The speed must be kept slow so as to not incorporate too much air into the buttercream.
Beat for about 3 minutes to get to the proper texture and to allow the sugar to dissolve. If necessary add more icing sugar if needed. This varies with the air temperature and the acidity of the juices, etc. Ice each cup cake and decorate with a few elderflower if available.
Note: omit the salt if using salted butter.
Â Elderflower Fritters
These are very easy to make, very crispy and once youâ€™ve tasted one, you wonâ€™t be able to stop! Serve them with the Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote, below. Serves 4
110g (4oz/1 cup) plain flour
pinch of salt
1 organic egg
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) lukewarm water
8â€“12 elderflower heads
sunflower oil for frying
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Using a whisk, bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the water at the same time. Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 180Â°C/350Â°F. Hold the flowers by the stalks and dip into the batter (add a little more water or milk if the batter is too thick). Fry until golden brown in the hot oil. Drain on kitchen paper, toss in caster sugar and serve immediately with gooseberry and elderflower compote.
Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote
When the elderflowers come into bloom, then I know itâ€™s time to pick green gooseberries. They feel as hard as hailstones, but for cooking itâ€™s the perfect time. Enlist the help of little ones to top and tail the elderflowers.
900g (2lb) green gooseberries
2 or 3 elderflower heads
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) cold water
450g (1lb/2 cups) sugar
First, top and tail the gooseberries.
Tie the elderflower heads in a little square of muslin, put the bag in a stainless-steel or enameled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the
boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts. Allow to get cold.
Serve in a pretty bowl and decorate with fresh elderflowers.
Another exciting date for your diary. A once off opportunity to hear Craig Sams of Carbon Gold speak about the importance of biochar as a soil improver and its importance to the environment and the many opportunities it creates for farmers and food producers. Thursday June 19th at 7pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Tel: 021 4646785 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . See the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3s-WnuEnN1s and website www.carbongold.com
Take a break – Drop in to Afternoon Tea at Harvey Nichols in Dublin on Tuesday June 17th 3.30-5.30pm. Darina Allen will host Afternoon Tea at Itsa showcasing some of her delicious recipes from 30 years at Ballymaloe Cookery School followed by a book signing. Tickets â‚¬45 â€“ please email HarveyNichols@Itsa.ie to book tickets.
Just heard about a great little place to eat on the end of the Beara Peninsula. Rhonwen Lowes has opened a Bistro in Eyeries serving local artisan foods and freshly made breads. The rosemary bread and three hummous dips are a great success and the buffalo burger from the local buffalo herd is also a winner. Check it out â€“ www.eyeriesbistro.ie or tel: 027 74884.
Where do I get green gooseberries? The English Market in Cork or Rose Cottage Fruit Farm in Co Laois â€“ they have a stall at the Midleton and Mahon Farmers Market. While you are there look out for beautiful fresh lobsters wrapped in seaweed from Michael Barrett 086 6000438, depending on the weather.