Oxford Food Symposium


The Oxford Food Symposium is a weekend long conference held as one would expect in Oxford. It brings together over 200 international scholars, journalists, chefs, scientists, sociologists, anthropologists and enthusiastic amateurs for serious discussions on food, its culture and its history. This year the theme was Food and Markets, papers presented were asked to examine “the historical, sociological and practical aspects of the economic exchange between producer and consumer through which food arrives on our tables. Not forgetting the pleasure of marketing: the excitement of discovering new ingredients, watching the skill of a market cook preparing a dish to order; the sheer enjoyment to be found in the peace, charm and sunshine of wandering around an open air market in an unfamiliar (or familiar) part of the world and learning how people live”.

The first Oxford Symposium  was held in 1981, the brainchild of Alan Davidson and Theodore Zeldin, chaired by food writer and journalist Paul Levy and Claudia Roden.

34 years later Paul and Claudia and many of the original symposiasts are still in the helm, I hadn’t been for many years because the dates clashed with exams here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School but this year, I was invited to give the Jane Grigson Memorial lecture – for me who so loved and admired Jane Grigson, a joyful honour. I spoke on the revival of the markets in Ireland from the original farmers market in the Cork Quay started in 1996 to the 160+ farmers markets around the country today.

The latest Farmers Market to open to queues on the first day is held at Wilton Shopping Centre in Cork on Tuesdays from 10am to 2.30pm.

The whole weekend was wonderfully convivial with a variety of intriguing presentations on markets and market related issues including a fascinating insight into the behind the scenes in food markets in Russia, by Anya von Bremzen, author of six books including her latest one “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing.

Other papers explored World Street market food in India and Mexico, San Francisco and Southern Vietnam.  Doug Duda, from the US explored Why markets are booming while cooking crashes.

At the market was Renee Martous subject What does ‘fresh’ mean at the market was Noehal Bursa painted a vivid picture of the powerful scents at The Egyptian Bazaar in Istabul, the pilgrimage to El Balour. Others explored left overs and waste from the markets while Janet Beizer gave a fascinating insight into The Emperors Plate: Marketing leftovers in 19th century Paris.

Sadly I missed Samantha Martin McAuliffe’s from Wicklow presentation on Feeding Dublin but this  paper and all the others will be up on the Oxford Food Symposium website (www.oxfordfoodsymposium.org.uk) for everyone to access before too long.

The weekend was hugely enjoyable, informative and convivial, the food completely delicious. Gastronomic dynamo, Allegra McEvedy cooked a Market Dinner on Friday – the starter was a celebration of the fresh produce from the market, peas and broad peas in the pod, radishes, sweet and delicious tomatoes,  cured black olives, sheep’s cheese, fresh herbs, dukkah and manaqush flatbreads. The main course was porchetta rolls with salsa verde with crispy pig ears and crackling and dessert was summer strawberry, nut and hibiscus jelly cups.

Karina Baldry and Katrina Kollegaeva, Russian Street Food,  was equally intriquing, they shared their cold beetroot soup recipe. On Saturday night Trine Hahnemann cooked a Nordic Summer Banquet of Danish home cooking yet another feast of Danish home cooking – loved the lamb stew with fennel and fennel seed, white wine and elderflower cordial.

I’ve already popped the dates for next years, July 3rd-5th 2015 Oxford Food Symposium in my diary.

Hope I’ve whetted your appetite. Had to rush to catch my plane so I sadly missed Joseph Pepe Patricio Market Leftovers Lunch on Sunday.


Katrina & Karina’s Cold beetroot Okroshka soup


Serves 8-10 portions


Soups to Russians is like a good Sunday roast to Brits – part of our cultural dna. We wither away without a daily helping of a soup of some kind.  Mothers tell their offspring that without the soup they won’t grow healthy and strong!


In summer cold soups make appearance on tables across the whole of Eastern Europe. Okroshka (from a Russian verb kroshyt’, or chop finely) can be made with kefir (fermented, yoghurt like, dairy drink) or kvass (non-alcoholic beverage made with rye) with addition of potatoes, peas, and even ham. But I prefer this version – impossibly pretty and zingy. And converts those who don’t like either kefir or beetroot in an instant.


Note on kefir – we use organic kefir made by Bio-tiful dairy in the west of the country.  But you can buy kefir in many Eastern-European shops or substitute for natural yoghurt and add a little bit of sourcream.


3 small beetroots, each about the size of a tennis ball (around 400 gr)
4 eggs

2 tsp of Dijon mustard

2 tbsp grated horseradish (if using creamed variety,  use more)
about 80 gr mayonnaise

1 tsp of sugar

a good pinch of salt

1 small cucumber


500 ml of kefir

about 200 ml of ice-cold water (optional)

2 chopped spring onions

2-3 tbs of dill/parsley

lemon, to taste

salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

optional sumac  for serving
1. Wash the beets, boil for about 45 minutes, until cooked through (test for doneness by piercing with a sharp knife). Cool completely, then peel and puree.
2. In the meantime hard-boil the eggs, then cool under cold water and peel.


3. Mash the yolks of one half of the eggs with mustard and horseradish, then add mayo, sugar and salt. Mix well.


4. Dine finely the remaining yolks and egg whites and put aside for decoration.


3. Wash the cucumbers, cut into small dice. Chop spring onions and herbs (keep some dill aside for decoration).


4. Take a large bowl, slowly add kefir to the egg and mustard mixture, whisking. If you prefer to soup to be less thick, then add water and whisk until frothy.


5. Throw in the beets. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for diced eggs. Mix well.


6. Taste again for seasoning – you may want to add more salt or pepper, or lemon juice.


7. Chill for at least two hours but best overnight. Serve very cold in chilled bowls. Sprinkle a line of chopped egg whites, another line of chopped yolks,  a line of chopped dill and sumac over the top of each soup.



Trine Hahnemann’s Lamb stew with fennel, fennel seeds, white wine and elderflower cordial



Serves 6


1 kg lamb cut in cubes from lamb shoulder or leg

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

3 leeks

2 fennels

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp fennel seeds

2 bay leaves

10 sprigs of tarragon

50 ml elderflower cordial

500 ml white wine

salt and freshly ground pepper


2 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves


Heat butter and olive oil in a big sauté-pan and brown the meat on all sides. Do in two batches if necessary. So you make sure to brown the meat and not boil it.

Chop the leeks into slices in 2 centimeter, cut the fennel to slices of 1 centimeter.

Add the garlic, fennel seeds, bay leaves and tarragon to the sauté-pan and mix well, now add 2/3 of the leeks and fennel, leave the rest for later. Mix into the meat, let it sauté for a few minutes, then pour over the elderflower cordial and white wine, sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir well together and bring to a boil and skim any froth that rises to the surface, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 45-55 minutes.

When the lamb is tender, add the rest of the leeks and fennel and let simmer for 5 minutes more, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Before serving sprinkle the fresh tarragon leaves over.

Serve with boiled pearl barley, boiled potatoes or mash.



Allegra’s Orange Blossom, cashew and semolina cake



I have to say this is my favourite: a truly stunning cake with the most incredible,

crumbly texture. All the ingredients bring something to the party – semolina

for colour and consistency, cashews for moistness and all their good oils, and

orange flower water to keep the whole thing fragrant and light. Really stunning

on its own, or makes a fab pud with a bit of fruit and a blob of crème fraîche.

Yellow cake like you’ve never had it before.


serves 6+


for the cake

200g butter (at room temperature)

250g golden demerara sugar

250g ground cashew nuts,

raw and unsalted

3 eggs

zest and juice of 2 oranges

110g fine semolina

1 level teaspoon baking powder

a good splash of orange

blossom water (about 2 tablespoons)


for the rosemary syrup

15g rosemary, in little sprigs

2 tablespoons caster sugar


Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F/gas 3.

Cream the butter and the sugar together with a mixer until light and pale. Mix in

the ground cashews. Add the eggs, one by one, waiting until each is fully incorporated

before adding the next. Stir in the orange zest and juice, followed by the semolina,

baking powder and a pinch of salt.

Grease a 25cm cake tin with a little butter, then dust lightly with flour. Shake the

flour all round the inside so that there is a fine dusting, and then tip out the excess.

Spoon the cake mix into the tin and then put into the oven on a tray to bake for

around 11/2 hours. (The reason for the tray is that when I did it some of the mixture

oozed out of the bottom of the tin – it could just be that my tin was broken, though it

didn’t look it, but it’s better to be safe than on your knees scrubbing the oven.)

When the time is up, do the skewer test to check it’s cooked through. If a little bit of

the cake mixture sticks to the skewer, pop the cake back in for another 10–15 minutes.

When it is done, cool in the tin while you get on with the rosemary syrup.

Put the rosemary sprigs in a small pan with the sugar and 5 tablespoons of water.

Cook over a very low flame for 5–10 minutes until the rosemary has softened and the

sugar has turned into a thick, clear syrup.

Now sprinkle the orange blossom water over the cake. Then loosen it around the

edges of the tin with a knife and transfer it to a wire rack. Wait 5 minutes and then brush the rosemary syrup over the cake and dot the candied rosemary sprigs across the top.

Shelf Life: Up to a week and, believe me, it just keeps on getting better.

Best Kept: Uncovered, at room temperature.


From Allegra Mc Evedy’s Colour Cookbook


Allegra’s strawberry VESUVIUS


A gorgeous summer drink.


To drink the right thing at the right time is just as important as the eating side

of things. Here are three tastes of summer, all swirling around together with

the express mission of making you feel lovely and drunk. Just a little

something to liven up your party – sunshine in a glass.


serves 6


300g strawberries, hulled

70g caster sugar

300ml Pimms N°1

1 bottle chilled Prosecco/


sparkling wine


Triple Sec (optional)


Put the strawberries, sugar and 300ml water in a saucepan and gently cook down to a compote for about 10–15 minutes.

Once the strawberries have cooled, pour into a blender, add the Pimms and blitz. Pour the thin purée into the bottom of your champagne flutes – about 60ml in each.

Gently top up with the fizz of whatever kind, going nice and slow to avoid a messy pink eruption, or fast if you want to see how this cocktail got it’s name. I recommend Prosecco, but of course Champagne is the winner, but a little redundant with all that other gear in it; Cava is fine too; and then there’s always good old sparkling wine to fall back on.

Serve with a swizzle stick.

Shelf Life: Purée in the fridge 5 days; freezer 1 month. Best Kept: Purée in

the fridge, or freeze in ice-cube trays…


From Allegra Mc Evedy’s Colour Cookbook


Hot Tips

Have fun in the kitchen – We’ve some brilliant short courses coming up at the Ballymaloe Cookery School  during the Summer, 1 day, 2 1/5 days, week-long … The afternoon cookery demonstrations are open to the public every day – check out a Weeks Worth of Menus, a super course from 28th – 30th July. www.cookingisfun.ie


Burrata, a beautifully tender Mozzarella infused with cream – used to be impossible to get it in Ireland but IAGO in Paul Street in Cork now imports it freshly every week. Sublime with some heirloom tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil leaves or baby broad beans and rocket leaves.


Taste of  Cavan – August 8 – 9th  in Cavan Town. Now, in its third year, the two-day festival of food has more than 60 exhibitors, from artisan cheesemakers to ice-cream producers. Visiting chefs include Neven Maguire and Richard Corrigan.   www.thisiscavan.ie


Date for your Diary:

East Cork Slow Food Event –  Have fun and learn how to Forage for Edible Wild Foods with Emer Fitzgerald at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday July 30th at 7pm.

Slow Food Members €6.00

Non Slow Food Members €8.00

Enquiries to 021 4646785 or email slowfoodeastcork@gmail.com

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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