ArchiveSeptember 2014

Back to School Lunches

Back to school, a busy and expensive time for so many families around the country and now there’s the challenge of school lunches. This week I’ll concentrate on packed lunches and in future columns I’ll have suggestions for college students. Meanwhile invest in a copy book or folder and gradually compile a collection of your kids favourite comforting recipes so they can leave home armed with a useful ‘survival kit’.

But back to school lunches, the bane of so many parents lives, yet phenomenally important not only to nourish our kids physically but to feed their brains and to help with concentration. Most school lunches seem to be bread based so if we agree with the fundamental fact that our food should be our medicine rather than doing us damage then we need to ditch the squishy sliced pan entirely out of our shopping basket. One of the very best things nowadays that one can do for our families is to make a daily loaf of bread. There are masses of easy ‘stir and pour’ recipes to make a grand little loaf that can be sliced easily and topped with many good things.  I know sandwiches are a relatively easy option but try to keep bread to the minimum. I did a quick whizz around my grandchildren to get an idea of what they like to find in their lunch boxes.

A flask of hot soup in chilly weather or a chilled smoothie in warm weather is definitely a favourite. One grandchild, loves to have a gluten free wrap with lots of salad leaves and some scraps of chicken, bacon or smoked fish with a creamy yoghurt dressing and maybe some slices of ripe tomato.  Chicken and cranberry sauce is also a favourite.  Several of our grandchildren love brown meat so roast drum sticks or chicken wings are easy to munch and are great with a little garlic mayo or Ballymaloe Country relish as a dip.  Raw batons of fresh cucumber or carrot (not those little pre-washed packs) with a little tub of hummus also got the thumbs up. Pickled carrot and pickled cucumber have also become favourites. Home-made potato crisps as an occasional treat score high on the ‘yum-yum’ scale.

Water, apple juice or fruit kefirs seem to be the drinks of choice, a piece of quiche or frittata also goes down well and some fruit is obligatory – banana, apple, peach, nectarines, a few cherries ….. whatever is in season. Dried fruit, peaches, figs, dates, prunes, cranberries or even a raisin, nut mixture, that’s if you school isn’t a nut free zone which many now are. A little tub of salad, lentils, cous cous, quinoa, chick peas, pearl barley or freekah, was surprisingly popular with dried cranberries, fresh herbs and maybe some diced cheese added. Understandably variety is important – cheese croquettes or cheddar chunks with whole cherry tomatoes, another favourite combo and half an avocado with a little sea salt to scatter over the top is an easy peasy option full of nourishment that will provide lots of energy.

Our grandchildren love Ballycotton shrimps in the shell with homemade mayo to dip but not having anything that your friends consider weird in your lunch box is also a consideration!

Keep the sweet things to a once or twice a week treat if at all possible. Here’s a recipes for Penny’s Coconut and Chocolate Bars      and lots of other simple wholesome suggestions.

 

  A little White Soda Bread Loaf

 

You can make it in the round traditional way or like this in a loaf tin which is more convenient for slicing or sandwiches

 

1 lb (450g/4 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon breadsoda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 15 fl ozs (425 ml) approx

oatmeal, sesame seeds or kibbled wheat (optional)

 

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8.

 

Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not too wet. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface.  Scoop it into the oiled tin, sprinkle with oatmeal and sesame or kibbled wheat seeds if you enjoy them. Place in the hot oven immediately turning down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/regulo 6 for 45 minutes. Remove from the tin and return the bread to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes or until fully cooked.  If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

 

Pickled Carrots

Raw carrots are of course brilliant but for a change – these carrots are deliciously tangy and crunchy. We also pickle fennel and beets so good – don’t automatically assume your kids won’t like these, remember they learn their eating habits and prejudices from our reaction!

 

Makes 1 quart

 

Pickled Carrots

2lbs (900g) baby carrots, well-scrubbed, peeled and trimmed or long batons.

 

Pickling Solution

16fl ozs (450ml/2 cup) hot water

8fl ozs (225ml/1 cup) rice vinegar

9 tablespoons (11 American tablespoons) sugar

4 1/2 teaspoons dairy salt

 

First make the pickling solution. Put all the ingredients into a bowl. Stir until the sugar and salt is dissolved.  To pickle vegetables: choose quart size pickling jars, with sealable lids, wash, dry and sterilize. Pack the whole carrots or batons into the jar tightly. Cover with the brine. Refrigerate and mature for 2-3 days before eating. They will keep for about a month.

 

 

Homemade Potato Crisps

 

Making crisps at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce

a ton of crisps and nothing you buy in any shop will be even half as delicious. A mandolin is well worth buying for making crisps – but mind your fingers!  Just in case of any misunderstanding these are very nutritious as well as delicious and can also be used with a dip.

 

 

Serves 4

 

450g (1lb) large, even-sized potatoes

extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying

salt

 

Wash and peel the potatoes. For even-sized crisps, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth. Slice them very finely, preferably with a mandolin. Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together). Drain off the water and dry well.

 

In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil or dripping to 180ºC/350ºF. Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until they are all cooked.

 

Hummus

 

Hummus has become a new basic – inexpensive to make and bursting with goodness. If you are pressed for time, it’s best to start with tinned dried chickpeas and cook them yourself. I often cook 2 or 3 times what I need ‘cos they freeze perfectly and can be used for salad or soups as well as a dip.

 

Serves 4-8 (depending on how it is served)

 

170g (6oz) chickpeas, cooked, save the cooking liquid or 1 x 14 oz can

freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons, or to taste

2-3 large or small cloves garlic, crushed

150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) tahini paste (available from health food shops and delicatessens)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

salt

 

Accompaniment

pitta bread or any crusty white bread

 

Drain the chickpeas, save the cooking liquid. Whizz up the remainder in a food processor with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little cooking water if necessary. Add the crushed garlic, tahini paste, cumin and salt to taste. Blend to a soft creamy paste. Taste and continue to add lemon juice and salt until you are happy with the flavour.

Willow’s Cous Cous Salad

 

 

Willow, loves to discover little cubes of diced cucumber, tomato and feta as well as freshly chopped herbs in her cous cous salad. The basic cooked cous cous can be kept in a sealed box in the fridge for several days.

 

Serves 8

 

12 ozs (340g) couscous

16 fl ozs (450ml/2 cups) homemade chicken stock or water

2 ozs (50g) dried apricots cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice (optional)

2 ozs (50g) pistachio nuts (or toasted almonds) halved, optional

 

Dressing

salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

 

 

Put the couscous, apricots and pistachio nuts into a Pyrex bowl.  Pour over the boiling water or stock, cover with clingfilm and allow to soak for 15 minutes. Stir with a fork and season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add some olive oil.

 

Additions & Variations

Instead of apricots and pistachio nuts stir in 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) of freshly chopped fresh herbs just before serving, eg. mint or coriander, parsley and chives, dried cherries, cranberries, raisins….

 

A little grated orange rind or lemon rind and freshly squeezed juice is also delicious.

 

 

Penny’s Coconut and Chocolate Health Bars

 

Makes 12 – 16 bars

 

8 ozs  (250g) dessicated coconut

1 heaped tablespoon tahini (optional)

5 ozs (150g) dried dates

2 ozs  (50g) butter or coconut oil

1 teaspoon good vanilla extract

2 rounded tablespoon cocoa powder

2 large free-range eggs

3 tablespoon water

 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.

8 inch (20.5cm) square tin, lined with parchment paper

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz until the mixture comes together. Put into the tin and smooth the top. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Leave to cool slightly and then cut into bars.

 

Hot Tips

Both the Midleton Food & Drink Festival and the Waterford Harvest Festival are on Saturday 13th September.

In Midleton there will be over 60 stalls this year in the open air food and drink market. Enjoy the carnival atmosphere with street performance artists, craft exhibitions, whiskey and wine tastings and a full programme of food and cookery demonstrations. www.midletonfoodfestival.ie/

Visit the Waterford Harvest Festival at www.waterfordharvestfestival.ie to see the incredible line up of events. Rory O’ Connell and I are both doing a cookery dem on the Saturday at Grow HQ in the Blackfriars Ruins in Waterford City Centre.

Game -the game season will open again in September, Premier Game Limited in Cahir, Co Tipperary have a pretty amazing selection of game from September to February. Tel: 052 67501/086 838 4700.

Wild Food – this is a fantastic year for damsons and sloes, go foraging in the countryside, then have fun making damson or sloe gin, jam, jellies or tarts. Check out Forgotten Skills of Cooking for lots of recipes.

MAD Food Symposium

 

I’m just back from the MAD Food Symposium in Copenhagen, one of the craziest and most influential food events on the planet. It’s held in a circus tent in a wild flower meadow in Refshaleoum close to the centre of Copenhagen.

The audience are a cosmopolitan mix, varying from chefs to scientists, social activists to food writers and journalists, farmers and food producers to foragers, brewers and baristas.The event was founded by Rene Redzepi from Noma and co-curated this year by Alex Atala of D.O.M. in San Poalo in Brazil.

The first MAD was held in 2011, the theme was VEGETATION , in 2012 the theme was APPETITE.  In 2013, it was GUTS which could be interpreted in a variety of ways, Guts as intestines, guts as in courage – speakers were invited to approach the subject from every angle, to explore it in all its forms and they did.

2013 was my first MAD experience and I was blown away. This year, we were invited as speakers to tell the story of Myrtle Allen, now in her 90th year, the farmer’s wife who in the early 1960s unwittingly started a food revolution in Ireland by opening a restaurant in her rambling old house deep in the countryside in East Cork. She wrote the menu every day depending on what was fresh and in season on the farm and in the gardens and local area which of course was unheard of then but for many is now the norm.

This year’s theme was another complex question, What’s Cooking? Gosh, how cooking and the perception of cooking have changed in my lifetime from the everyday norm of my Mum cheerfully cooking three meals a day from scratch at home to a fast food, ready meal culture where many of us unwittingly handed the power over our food choices to multi-national food companies who can scarcely be expected to have our best interests at heart.

Restaurant food too has changed and evolved from haute cuisine to nouvelle cuisine to molecular gastronomy and more recently swung back again to a much greater appreciation of vegetables, wild plants and foraged foods.

In many ways it’s a fantastic time to be a cook. The public in general are taking a much greater interest in what was traditionally a blue collar trade. Food festivals, carnivals, conferences are so numerous that one is forced to choose between various options almost every weekend.

Yet ironically, the more attention that’s focused on the industry from tv, film, newspapers, magazines and the internet, the fewer people are cooking and the less obvious it becomes what it means ‘to cook’.

For some people cooking is a path to fame and fortune but the last decade has given rise to a great many innovations that deep down we know cooking is certainly not.

There were a great many inspirational and thought provoking speakers at MAD. The symposium opened to the throbbing music of a Scandinavian rock band, then a dramatic hush as Japanese chef and soba noodle master Tatsuru Rai and his wife Midori took the stage. The owner of Sobatai in Hokkaido silently mixed, kneaded and cooked the buckwheat noodles from scratch. The audience was transfixed for the entire wordless, 15 minute demonstration. Midori served the bowls of prepared noodles to the front row with a gentle little bow. A beautiful humbling experience, a reminder of the artistry, craftsmanship and tradition of good cooking.

 

Three star Michelin chefs Alain Sendereno and Pierre Koffmann spoke and demonstrated their craft but for me the stand out talk came from guerilla gardener Ron Finley who spoke in punch lines about his experience transforming a food desert into veggie gardens in LA South Central. An area where you could buy any amount of drugs and booze but you couldn’t find a bite of fresh food for love nor money if your life depended on it and guess what, it certainly does!

 

He decided to take action – he and some of his gangland friends cleared all the old sofas, syringes and junk from a patch of ground outside his house and decided to plant some food. He was slapped with an arrest warrant for his efforts and was threatened with jail. Suddenly it was cool for the young gangsters to grow their own food – it was illegal after all!

 

So to cut a long and colourful story short, Ron is the hero who got the Land Use Laws changed and now all over America, people are transforming disused lots into vegetable gardens.

 

According to Ron his inspiration was the phenomenal rise in obesity, diabetes…

“the future is not a revolution, it’s an evolution back to a time when we grew our own food and cooked our own meals, We are what we eat,  we don’t need ‘meds’ we need food gardens. This s–t is being done to us by fast food companies,  more people are being killed by Drive-ins than Drive- by’s!”

Myrtle Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookbook was first published in 1977 . The revised edition was re published  by Gill and Macmillan, a beautiful hard back edition to celebrate Myrtle’s 90th year and 50 years of the restaurant at Ballymaloe House. Here are a few of my favourite recipes for you to recreate at home.

 

www.madfood.co

 

 

PERSIAN COCKTAIL

The effect of climate on food fascinates me. It isn’t just whether you have a

gooseberry bush or a banana tree in the back garden: it is the moisture, the

soil, herbs, winds and indigenous bacteria, which affect not only the kind but

also the quality of food in different places.

 

I loathed yoghurt until I bought a plastic bagful from a nomad in the

mountains north-west of Teheran. This was just something different again.

All the learned men and expensive laboratories of north-west Europe cannot

reproduce this type of yoghurt. No wonder. What it takes is a wild and tough

man, backed by a herd of goats, a tribe of relations, a few earthenware jars

and a vast area of barren mountainside, alternately roasting and freezing.

 

The Iranians know what they have got. They eat and drink it in every

conceivable way. The best I could do when I got home was to take a Persian

idea and adapt it to Irish materials.

 

The new concoction is not Persian and certainly not Irish. It is good in its

own right for starting a gentle summer dinner. Use within 24 hours.

 

SERVES 6–8

225g (8oz) tomatoes,

1 clove garlic,

1 level teaspoon salt,

350ml (12fl oz, 1½ cups) natural yoghurt,

1 teaspoon finely chopped mint.

Scald and peel the tomatoes. Peel the garlic and mash it to a paste with the salt. Purée the tomatoes, garlic and salt together in a blender. Sieve out the pips if you wish. Add the yoghurt. Stir in the mint.

Serve chilled.

 

 

PLAIC E IN HERB BUTTER

 

ALLOW PER PERSON:

 

1 fresh plaice,

salt and pepper,

15–30g (½–1oz, 1–2 tablespoons) butter,

1 teaspoon mixed

finely chopped parsley, chives, fennel, thyme leaves

 

Wash the fish and clean the slit thoroughly. With a very sharp knife, cut through the skin, right round the fish, 1cm (½in) from the edge. Be careful to cut right through and to join the side cuts at the tail or you will be in trouble later on. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and lay it in 5mm (¼in) water in a shallow baking tin. Bake in a moderately hot oven, 200°C/400°F/gas 6, for 20–30 minutes according to the size of the fish. The water should have just evaporated as the fish is cooked. Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the herbs. Just before serving, pull off the skin (it will tear badly if not properly cut) and spoon over the butter.

 

TRADITIONAL SALAD

The traditional salad was and still is standard fare for Sunday evening suppers. It accompanied cold meat, probably left over from the midday joint. No dressing goes better with it than Lydia Strangman’s, sister of my husband’s elderly farming partner, an unmarried Quaker lady of strict principles, who spent her life painting and making a beautiful garden.

 

Arrange lettuce leaves like a rose in a deep bowl – biggest leaves on the outside, small leaves in the centre. Scatter some or all of the following between the leaves: quartered hard-boiled eggs, quartered tomatoes, slices of cooked beetroot, slices of cucumber, cress, watercress, mustard leaves. Serve with Lydia’s cream dressing (page 33).

LYDIA’S CREAM DRESSING

Oil was not considered as a food in the average Irish household during the first half of the last century. There was always a small glass bottle of rancid olive oil in our house, but it was kept in the medicine cupboard and used for sunburn. Cream dressings were served with salads.

2 eggs,

1 tablespoon soft brown sugar,

1 level teaspoon dry mustard,

pinch of salt,

60–120ml (2–4fl oz, ¼–½ cup) cream,

1 tablespoon brown malt vinegar

 

Hard boil the eggs. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Gently slide in the eggs and boil for 10 minutes (12 if they are very fresh). Strain off the hot water and cover with cold water. Peel when cold.

Cut the eggs in half and sieve the yolks into a bowl. Add the sugar, the mustard and a pinch of salt. Blend the cream and the vinegar. Chop the egg whites and add some to the sauce. Keep the rest to scatter over the salad. Cover the dressing until needed.

 

POTTED SHRIMPS OR LOBSTER

A fish pâté or potted fish makes a wonderfully easy lunch or supper dish.

Packed into tiny individual pots, a selection of any three makes a stunning

dinner party starter. They are not suitable for picnics unless packed in a chilled

container, as the butter goes soft.

SERVES 4 AS A FIRST COURSE

½ clove garlic,

salt and pepper,

60–85g (2–3oz, 4–6 tablespoons) butter,

1 teaspoon thyme leaves,

110g (4oz) shelled shrimps or diced lobster meat,

1–2 teaspoons lemon juice

Crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt. Bring the butter to the boil with the thyme leaves and garlic. Add the shrimps or lobster and simmer together for 3–5 minutes. Season carefully with salt and pepper and 1 or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Pack into pots and run more melted butter over the top.

 

WALNUT MERINGUE

 

SERVES 4–6

 

2 egg whites, 110g (4oz, ½ cup) caster sugar,

12 chopped walnuts or brazil nuts

For the filling:

250ml (8fl oz, 1 cup) unsweetened whipped cream,

1–2 ripe dessert

pears, peeled and sliced

 

Make as for the meringue gâteau on page 212, folding in the nuts before dividing the mixture between the two circles. To assemble, pipe a layer of whipped cream onto one meringue disc. Carefully arrange slices of pear on top and cover with the second meringue disc.

 

BASIC BALLYMALOE MERINGU E

SERVES 4–6

2 egg whites, 110g (4oz, ½ cup) caster sugar

Beat the egg whites until stiff but not yet dry. Fold in half the sugar. Beat again until the mixture will stand in a firm, dry peak. Fold the remaining sugar in carefully. Pipe into the required shapes or spread onto non-stick baking paper or a silicone baking sheet as required. Bake in a very low oven, 100°C/200°F/gas ¼, for 4 hours approx.

 

Hot Tips

 

Edible Flower

Just discovered recently that dahlias are edible flowers, so I’ve been adding them to lots of salads, they are particularly beautiful sprinkled over a potato salad. The Mexicans apparently grew them originally for their tubers rather than flowers.

Collect Fennell Pollen:

Fancy chefs pay a fortune for fennel pollen but you can harvest your own from fennel flowers.  Allow to dry upside down on a sheet of parchment paper to collect the pollen. Store in a tiny screw top jar. Use to scatter over pangrilled fish or goat cheese.

 

Japonica are the hard green fruit of the Chaenomeles shrub, they are part of the quince family and make a delicious Japonica jelly to serve with game, particularly pheasant or guinea. Use 14ozs sugar with each pint of juice, the juice of a lemon and maybe a few mint or verbena leaves.

Apples, Apples everywhere

Apples apples everywhere, ripening faster than we can cook or eat them. So beautiful that we can’t bear to waste even the windfalls, so what to do?

After we’ve shared with our neighbours and friends (that’s if they’re not in the same situation as we are!), don’t forget St Vincent de Paul and Penny Dinners – they may also be happy to receive a basket or two of either cookers or eaters.

There’s the dilemma, not everyone knows what variety of apples they have in their garden. The original labels may have got lost or simply got blown away.

If you’re anxious to identify the variety, start with your local garden centre, alternatively, the heroic team at the Irish Seed Savers will identify the variety for a few euros per apple (pop them into the post). Contact www.irishseedsavers.ie.

Finally, order a copy of  Heritage Apples of Ireland by Michael Hennerty, which has brilliant illustrations of many Irish apples.

So back to the dilemma of what to do and how to store your harvest.

Apples can last for a surprisingly long time in a cool, preferably north facing garage.

It’s important that they don’t touch each other, if one starts to deteriorate, the rot quickly spreads. The low sided, timber crates that some fruit comes in stack perfectly, so ask your greengrocer or supermarket to keep some for you. We also use the compressed cardboard or moulded polystyrene dividers that come in the boxes of apples.

You’ll need to check regularly and use the ripe eaters as soon as possible. Cookers like Bramley Seedling really do keep brilliantly if stored in a cool shed. We’ve managed to store them until February or March. However, they must be properly mature and blemish free before they’re picked,  use the windfalls first.

When I was a child in the midlands, winters were definitely colder.   Mummy, asked Pad (our brilliant gardener cum handyman) to make a pit to store the cookers in, I wish I could remember exactly how it was done.

I seem to recall the top soil being dug out from a rectangle in the vegetable garden, then a three or four inch layer of sand which was topped with straw. The apples, carefully sorted, were laid on top in layers. Was there straw in between?

The mount of apples, about 12 inches deep was covered in straw, then a layer of sand, then finally the whole pit was covered in soil.

The edges and top were smoothed off with a shovel and a few bits of old carpet or sacks were laid on top to protect from rain and the occasional shower of snow.

The pit was opened from the narrow end and the apples carefully extracted as needed and then the pit was meticulously closed again.

We seemed to have had apples for most of the winter.

Apples can also be frozen –  peel, core, quarter and dip in acidulated water (add lemon juice)  until you have a bag full. Drain, seal and pop straight into the freezer. Apple purée freezes brilliantly in tubs, great for apple sauce, crumbles, apple snow, apple charlotte…..

Fresh apple juice can be frozen in recycled litre milk containers – much fresher tasting than the pasteurised apple juice available.

And then of course there’s cider, great fun to make – dash off to a brewing or DIY shop and buy a little bit of kit. You’ll need a few demi johns, air locks, campden tablets, a syphon tube and a sense of adventure. Hygiene is crucial, every batch will be different depending on the mixture of apples, but it should all be drinkable!

There’s also a tonne of information on the internet about cider making. Here I give recipes for some my favourite chutneys, apple and ginger jam, Bramley apple sauce, apple jelly….

 

 Apple and Ginger Jam

 

Try to find home-grown Bramley Seedling. They have quite a different flavour and texture from commercial varieties that have now been adapted to keep their shape in cooking rather than endearingly dissolving into a fluff as Bramley’s always once did.

 

Makes 10 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars

 

1.8kg (4lb) Bramley’s Seedling or other tart cooking apples

2 organic lemons

25g (1oz) fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1.6kg (31⁄2lb) granulated sugar, warmed

 

Peel the apples and remove their cores. Put the peels and cores into a stainless-steel saucepan with 425ml (3⁄4 pint) of water. Cook over a medium heat until soft.

Meanwhile, chop the apples and put them into a wide, stainless-steel saucepan. Add the finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice from the 2 lemons, plus the ginger and 600ml (1 pint) of water. Bring to the boil and cook until the apples dissolve into a purée.

As soon as the apple peels and cores are soft, strain though a nylon sieve into the other saucepan. Bring the mixture back to the boil, add the hot sugar and stir to dissolve. Boil until the jam reaches a setting point. Pot into sterilised jars and cover while still hot. Store in a cool, dry place.

 

 

Bramley Apple Sauce 

 

The secret of really good apple sauce is to use a heavy-based saucepan and very little water. The apples should break down into a fluff during the cooking. Freeze in small tubs to accompany pork or duck, also brilliant for kids.

 

450g (1lb) Bramley cooking apples

2 teaspoons water

50g (2oz/1/4 cup) sugar, or more depending on tartness of the apples

 

Peel, quarter and core the apples, then cut the quarters in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast iron saucepan. Add the sugar and water, cover and cook over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, stir so it’s a uniform texture and taste for sweetness. Serve warm.

 

Variation

Bramley Apple and Rose Geranium Sauce

Add 3 or 4 rose geranium leaves to the apples in the saucepan. Cook as above. The sauce will have a delicious haunting flavour.

 

 

 

Crab Apple or Bramley Apple Jelly

 

Makes 2.7-3kg (6-7 lb)

 

2.7kg (6 lb) crab apples or wind fall cooking apples

2.7L (4 3/4 pints/11 3/4 cups) water

2 unwaxed lemons

sugar

 

Wash the apples and cut into quarters, do not remove either peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large saucepan with the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until reduced to a pulp, approx. 3/4 hour.

Turn the pulp into a jelly bag* and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight.  Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 450g (1lb/2 cups) sugar to each 600ml (1pint/2 1/2 cups) of juice.  Warm the sugar in a low oven.

 

Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Increase the heat and boil rapidly uncovered without stirring for about 8-10 minutes.  Skim, test and pot immediately.

Flavour with sweet geranium, mint or cloves as required (see below).

 

Apple and Sweet Geranium Jelly

Add 6-8 large leaves of sweet geranium while the apples are stewing and put a fresh leaf into each jar as you pot the jelly.

 

Apple and Clove Jelly

Add 3-6 cloves to the apples as they stew and put a clove in each pot.  Serve on bread or scones.

 

Apple and Mint Jelly

Add 4-6 large sprigs of fresh mint to the apples while they are stewing and add 4-8 tablespoons (4-8 American tablespoons + 4-8 teaspoons) of finely chopped fresh mint to the jelly just before it is potted.   Serve with lamb.

 

Apple and Rosemary Jelly

Add 2 sprigs of rosemary to the apples as they stew and put a tiny sprig into each pot.  Serve with lamb.

 

 

 

Apple and Elderberry Jelly

Add a fistful or two of elderberries to the apple and continue as above. Up to half the volume of elderberries can be used (1/2 pint of elderberries works very well although it’s not essential to measure – it’s a good starting point). A sprig or two of mint or rose geranium or a cinnamon stick further enhances the flavour.

 

Apple and Sloe Jelly

Substitute 2-3 cups of sloes for elderberries in the above recipe.

 

Apple and Marjoram Jelly

Add 4-6 large sprigs of fresh marjoram to the apples while they are stewing and add 3-4 tablespoons (3-4 American tablespoons + 3-4 teaspoons) of finely chopped fresh marjoram to the jelly just before it is potted.

 

Apple and Chilli Jelly (quantity of chilli may change)

Add 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) of chilli flakes to the apples and proceed as above.

 

Apple and Cranberry Jelly (quantity of cranberries may change)

Add 450-900g (1-2 lbs) cranberries to the apples and proceed as above.

 

Crab Apple and Rosehip Jelly

A few leaves of lemon verbena greatly enhance the flavour.

 

rosehips

crab or Brambly apples

water

sugar

lemon verbena (optional)

 

Follow the crab apple jelly recipe and add about 1/3 to 1/2 roughly chopped rose hips in proportion to your crab apples.

 

 

Apple and Tomato Chutney

There are a million recipes for tomato chutney. This is definitely one of the best and has the advantage of using up a glut of windfall apples as well.

 

Makes 12 x 450g (1lb) pots

 

3.6kg (8lb) ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

450g (1lb) onions, peeled and chopped

450g (1lb) eating apples, peeled and chopped

1.3kg (3lb) sugar

850ml (11⁄2 pints/3 3/4 cups) white malt vinegar

2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

3 teaspoons ground black pepper

3 teaspoons allspice

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper

350g (12oz) sultanas

 

Prepare all the ingredients and put into a large, wide stainless-steel saucepan. Bring to the boil. Simmer steadily, uncovered, for about 1 hour, until reduced by one-third and slightly thick. Pot in sterilised jars, cover with non-reactive lids and store in a cool, dry place.

 

 

 

 

Hot Tips

Tip from Noma in Copenhagen:

Snip off the flowers from your parsley plants and scatter over salads or smoked fish, delish.

 

Congratulations to Avril  and the Allshire family of Caherbeg Pork Products and Toby Simmonds and Johnny Lynch of Toonsbridge Mozzarella company, worthy winners of the Belling West Cork Artisan Food Awards, sponsored since 2011 by Sean and Rose O’Driscoll of Glen Dimplex/Belling Ltd, both natives of West Cork.

The awards were presented in Lis Ard Country House followed by a feast of West Cork artisan produce. Elma Nolan of Union Hall smoked salmon was also presented with a Hall of Fame award for her contribution to the artisan food sector .

Date for your diary

Bandon Engage Arts Festival 26 – 28th September

This year’s instalment of” The Art of Living” Series features the Ferguson Family of Gubbeen Farm, Schull, Co. Cork. This friendly & interactive event will include a hosted discussion by food writer Dianne Curtin with Giana & Fingal Ferguson about their life philosophy and how that has shaped their business and lifestyles. Giana will read from her up-coming new book “Gubbeen – The Story of a Working Farm and its Food” (due out on 16 October 2014). Audience participation is encouraged and taster plates of Gubbeen’s produce will be shared out.

There is no advance booking or charge however as space is limited to 30 seats early arrival is recommended.

 

For more information: Ruth Healy, Urru Culinary Store; 023 8854731 – 086 8372138

Dillisk Restaurant

 

The hottest restaurant ticket this summer wasn’t in Dublin, Cork or even Galway. It’s  a little pop-up restaurant in Aughrusbeg out in the wilds on Connemara.

 

It’s in an old stone cottage which was used as a boat house on a sand dune close to the waters edge. The bright young chefs behind the project are Jasper O’ Connor and Katie Sanderson, (past Ballymaloe Cookery School Students) who last Easter gathered some pals around and started to renovate the fisherman’s cottage from an advanced state of dereliction. They scrubbed and white washed merrily, planted the garden, foraged and pickled. The tables and benches were assembled from old pallets, the candle sticks from wooden banisters and recycled wood. Salt and pepper is served in mussel and cockle shells. The resulting upcycled look is chic and contemporary.

The restaurant opened on 26th June and is booked out till the end of August. Lucky guests pay €50 – €55 per head for the 5 course menu which in reality is about 7 courses and includes a welcome drink. Guests can bring their own wine or craft beer.

 

Getting there is part of the adventure,- an enchanting drive through breathtaking Connemara. As you wend your way through the narrow boreens towards Claddaghduff.  Montbresia, ragworth, loosestrife and fluffy meadow sweet are in full bloom in the hedgerows  – a profusion of orange, yellow, purple and cream.

You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for a tiny painted sign on drift wood for Dillisk. From the car park guests walk past Jasper and Katie’s raised vegetable and fresh herb beds. The little lean-to green house is brimming with ripe Sungold and ? tomatoes, then we wander on through the long grass to the stone cottage where the lovely Emily greeted us with a beetroot gin and tonic sprinkled with marigold petals. Katie and Jasper, who love to forage, pickle, cure and smoked change the menu almost daily. Outside the kitchen door Sam Gleeson was grilling sprouting broccoli spears over Jaspers homemade Tandoor oven before he went on to cook the tiny Naan breads for guests to nibble with the aperitif. These were topped with chopped home grown tomatoes and freshly snipped basil. Japser passed around another board with beetroot cured mackerel wrapped in slivers of cucumber. Already there was a palatable sense of excitement and anticipation among the 32 dinner guests all of whom felt they’d won the lotto to have secured a seat at the long table. The view across the white sandy beach to the Twelve Pins in the distance in the early evening light was truly magical – reminiscent of a Paul Henry landscape.

When the breeze became brisker we wandered in to take our places at the long upcycled candle lit table. Little night lights were tucked into tiny niches in the stone wall. The food began to arrive,  some served family style, other dishes were plated. First there was a smoked dillisk broth with Aitor’s garden greens, then bowls of freshly picked cockles with lovage, an extra treat that didn’t even appear on the hand written menu. Tandoori cooked fresh Pollack with fennel and sea beet from the boats at nearby Cleggan harbour came next with an oyster leaf (Maritima ) ? on the edge.

 

Cucumber snow with goat curd and Dingle Gin came next to flit across the tongue and clear our pallets. Main course was Achill Island lamb, both slow cooked shoulder and belly with sleabhac (seaweed) and bowls of roast new potatoes and aioli.

Honey carrageen moss, chocolate soil and wild sorrel, another inspired combination continued the foraging theme. But that wasn’t all there were two more surprises, a play on the American ‘pickle back’,  two little shot glasses arrived, one with pickle juice, the other with Teelings whiskey and last but not least home made marshmallows with flaked almonds, a wild strawberry and a sorrel leaf to pop into your mouth all in one go completed the feast.

 

The guests were a mix of locals, holiday makers artists, farmers, restauranteurs , teckies, sailors, golfers, lawyers and  musicians, among them sean-nos  singer  Norin Ui Riain and her equally gifted son Moley of (Owen & Moley) who jumped up spontaneously towards the end of the meal and sang an ode to Katie and Jasper and all their lovely friends who worked so hard and cheerfully to produce a feast from their tiny kitchen and a truly memorable evening and food experience for all of us.

 

Ireland surely needs more imaginative and talented young people like Jasper and Katie and their full loving imaginative friends to give our visitors a real taste of the local and foraged food of that place

 

Where did Katie and Jasper pop out of ?

 

Katie is already known to many through her previous creative projects – Living Dinners,  the Hare Café at IMMA in Dublin.

Jasper honed his skills at Town Bar and Grill, the Cake Cafe, Ard Bia and an exciting stint in the US.

 

www.dillisk.com

 

Beetroot Cured Mackerel with Courgette and Lemon Crème Fraiche

 

50 canapes, approx..

 

4 mackerel fillets

4ozs (100g) sugar

4 ozs (100g) salt

8 ozs (200g) raw beetroot, finely grated

3 small fresh courgettes

6 ozs (150g) crème fraiche

Grated zest of  2 lemons

Salt and freshly ground pepper

 

 

Gut, clean and fillet the fish making sure that all the bones have been removed.

 

Mix the salt and sugar together, sprinkle 1/3 on the base of a small shallow dish, choose one just wide enough to hold the fish fillets.

 

Smear both sides of the fish fillets with the grated beetroot,  then lay 2 fillets skin side down on the cure. Dust with more of the cure, then lay the other two fillets on top, skin side up, then cover with the remaining of the cure.

 

Cover the dish, refrigerate to allow the fish to cure for anywhere between 1 and 3 days depending on how strong you like it.

 

To serve:

Grate the lemon zest into the crème fraiche, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Slice the courgettes lengthwise into paper thin slices. Cut the mackerel into 1/2inch wedges. Dab with lemon crème fraiche and wrap in a thin slice of courgette. Serve as a simple canapé on some crackers or in a summery salad.

 

 

Ham Hock and Parsley Broth

 

Serves 10 -15

 

 

2 mild cure ham hocks

2 onions, quarterd

1 stick celery

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig rosemary

parsley stalks

 

2ltr well flavoured chicken stock

handful of Dillisk

 

1 kg parsley

 

Garnish

Broad beans

Crispy pig skin

Sea rocket flowers

 

 

 

Put all the vegetables, parsley stalks and the ham hocks into a large pot, cover with cold water, cover the pot and simmer for 6 hours or until the meat is almost falling from the bones. Strain the liquid, separate the meat, tear into small bite sized pieces and reserve some of the liquid.

 

Heat the chicken stock and pour over the dillisk and allow to cool. Season with black pepper and the ham hock cooking liquid.

Pick all of the parsley leaves off the stalks, blanch in boiling water for a few seconds then refresh in iced water. Blend in a high powered food processor until smooth.

To serve,

Mix the parsley purée with the chicken and dillisk stock, add the ham hock and warm through. Season.

Jasper and Katie garnish the broth with broad beans, crispy pig skin and sea rocket flowers or fried cabbage.

 

 

Honey Carrigeen Mousse with Wild Sorrel Juice

 

Serves 25 – 30 people

 

2 ozs (50g) dried carrageen

½ cup water

1 Jar of Locally sourced Honey ( we used Cleggan  Honey)

6 egg yolks

3 whites

18 fl ozs (500 ml) cream

3 1/2oz (100g) castor sugar

 

 

Wild Sorrel leaves

Spinach leaves

1 green apple

1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

 

 

In a small saucepan, heat the carrageen with 200ml  water, simmer gently for 25 minutes.

Pour the contents into a sieve and press the jelly like carrageen  into a bowl  with your fingers or a spoon. Warm the honey in a pot and on a low heat  for a minute or two to loosen.  Whisk the cream and half the sugar until stiff and keep aside.

Meanwhile,  whisk the egg yolks with the other half of the sugar and beat until pale and thick.

Mix the warm honey and carrageen  together and pour slowly into the egg yolk mixture.

Whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak, fold into the mixture with sweetened cream. Cover and put into the fridge to set for minimum of four hours.

 

To serve

Juice a handful each of wild sorrel  and spinach plus a green apple. Add some lemon juice if it needs more acidity. Blitz a 1/8 of a teaspoon of Xanthan gum into the juice (this will brighten and thicken juice). Serve the Honey Carrageen Mousse  with sorrel juice and edible flowers.

 

 

 

 

Hot Tips

The Autumn  12 Week Certificate  Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School is now over subscribed but check out the golden ticket raffle on the GIY website www.giyireland.com  for details of an opportunity to win a place on the January 12 Week course. Draw will take place at the GIY gathering in Waterford on September 13th, 2014.

 

 

Irish plums are now is season – contact Kristen Jameson at Tourin, Cappoquin, Co Waterford – phone: 087 2361984. They freeze brilliantly and make delicious jam, compotes, desserts and sauces.

Blackberries and Brambles

 

Wow, there’s going to be the hughest crop of blackberries this year so I am gearing myself up for lots of blackberry picking expeditions. We’re also planning a myriad of delicious ways to use them, not just the usual jams, jellies and cobblers but wine, liqueur and cordials. I’ll throw some fresh blackberries into smoothies and scones and scatter them over a layer of softly whipped cream to fill a feather light sponge.

A few juicy berries combined with chunks of ripe melon and shredded mint make a delicious starter and even a dessert.

I’ll also get to make that sublime blackberry trifle I tasted at Dock Kitchen, London last Autumn or even a simple blackberry and sweet geranium puff. I’m also planning to pop some in the freezer, they keep brilliantly particularly if one takes the time to tray freeze first before putting them into good strong plastic bags or boxes. Blackberries come from the Rubus Genus, the Rosacea family and there are lots of different strains, some are small, others fat and plump. Apart from being juicy and delicious, they are packed with vitamins, minerals and trace elements. They’ve got lots of fibre and antioxidants and are particularly rich in vitamin C  Vitamin – the healing vitamin.

However, they are low in pectin so jam and jelly makers will need to use jam sugar unless they combine the blackberries with tart cooking apples or crab apples to increase the acidity.

I am systematically reducing sugar by 20% in all my recipes because of my observation that the sugar we now have access to is more intensely sweet than the Irish sugar beet sugar that my original recipes were based on. However, sugar is the preservative in jams, jellies, cordials et al so be careful not to reduce too much or the preserves won’t keep.

Picking Tips

Blackberries should be selected at the peak of ripeness, unlike many other fruits they don’t continue to ripen after they are picked. Inspect each one as you pick them, the centre should be white and unblemished, if it appears stained or inky it usually indicates that the fruit has been infected by little worms.  Its worth togging yourself out with a pair of jeans and a long sleeve shirt and a leather glove to clasp the thorny brambles. When the berries are ripe they come away easily in your hands without any resistance.

 

Blackberry and Cinnamon Scones

 

Makes 18-20 scones using a 7 1/2 cm (3 inch) cutter

 

 

900g (2lb/4 cups) plain white flour

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

50g (2oz/1/4 cup) castor sugar

175g (6oz/1 1/2 cups) butter

110g (4oz) blackberries

3 free range eggs

450ml (15floz/scant 2 cups) approx. milk to mix

 

For glaze:

egg wash (see below)

55g (2ozs) granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

½ teaspoon cinnamon

 

First preheat the oven to 250ºC/475°F/gas mark 9.

 

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the blackberries. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.  Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round.  Roll out to about a thickness of 2cm (1 inch) and cut or stamp into scones.  Transfer to a baking sheet – no need to grease.

Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one into cinnamon sugar.

 

Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with butter and serve.

 

Egg wash:

Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

 

 

 

Pan Grilled Duck Breast with Blackberry Colcannon

 

Serves 4

 

4 free-range duck breasts

sea salt

 

Blackberry Colcannon

 

450g (1lb) Savoy or spring cabbage

900g – 1.35kg (2-3lb) ‘old’ potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

250ml (8fl oz/1 cup) approx. boiling milk

25g (1oz) scallion or spring onion, optional

salt and freshly ground pepper

50g (2oz/1/2 stick) approx . butter

110g (4oz) blackberries

 

First make the colcannon.

Scrub the potatoes, put them in a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for ‘old’ potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put onto a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked.

 

Remove the dark outer leaves from the cabbage. Wash the rest and cut into quarters, remove the core and cut finely across the grain. Boil in a little boiling water or bacon cooking water until soft. Drain, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little butter. When the potatoes are just cooked, put the milk, and the finely chopped scallions into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pull the peel off the potatoes and discard, mash quickly while they are still warm and beat in enough boiling milk to make a fluffy puree. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes in the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade.) Then stir in the cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. For perfection, serve immediately in a hot dish with a lump of butter melting in the centre.

 

Colcannon may be prepared ahead up to this point and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4, for 20-25 minutes approx. Cover while reheating so it doesn’t get too crusty on top.

 

Meanwhile score the duck skin into a diamond pattern.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Put a pan grill on a low heat.  Cook the duck breasts very slowly and gently for 15-20 minutes on the fat side, by then the fat should be rendered out, (pour off the excess and save for duck confit), and the skin will be crisp and golden.  Season the flesh side with sea salt and turn over, continue to cook until to your taste.   I personally like duck breast medium to well done, not fashionably rare, which frequently results in the meat being tough and stringy.

 

Just before serving, fold the blackberry gently into the soft colcannon.   Put a dollop on each plate and top with a whole or sliced duck breast.

 

 

 

Blackberry Trifle

Recipe Stevie Parle, Dock Kitchen

 

The combination of port and blackberries with the custard and sponge seems to really work in this trifle

 


Cook time: chill in fridge for 2 hours

Ingredients:

200g/7oz sugar

275ml/½ pint cheap port

450g/1lb blackberries, plus a few extra to decorate

A squeeze of lemon juice

600ml/1 pint double cream

200ml/7fl oz whole milk

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped

1 egg, plus 3 egg yolks

200g/7oz stale sponge cake, Madeira cake or Savoiardi biscuits

A handful flaked almonds, toasted

 

 

Place half the sugar and half the port in a pan and simmer for a couple of minutes until the sugar dissolves. Drop in the blackberries, add a squeeze of lemon, stir gently once, then take off the heat. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the custard. Over a low heat, bring half the cream and all the milk to a simmer along with the vanilla pod. Whisk the egg and yolks with the remaining sugar for a couple of minutes until they begin to look paler. As soon as the milk is about to boil, slowly pour it over the eggs, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and stir slowly over a low heat with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon, about three minutes. Transfer to a chilled bowl and allow to cool.

Spoon the fruit into your trifle bowl and return the syrup to a low heat for two minutes to reduce; pour over the fruit and leave to cool. Slice the cake into 1cm-thick slices, or cut the Savoiardi biscuits in half.

 

Blackberry and Rose Geranium Cordial

 

Keep a bottle of this handy to serve over ice cream, carrageen moss pudding or panna cotta. Alternatively, dilute with hot or cold water or sparkling wine to make a delicious drink. Rose or sweet geranium (Peloganium Graveoleans)  and blackberries are a marriage made in Heaven.

 

Makes 1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints)

 

2.5kg (6lb) fresh blackberries

10–12 sweet geranium leaves (depending on size)

600ml (1 pint) water

sugar

juice of 1–2 unwaxed lemons (depending on size)

 

Put the blackberries, sweet geranium leaves and water into a stainless-steel saucepan.

Cook for 15–20 minutes or until the blackberries are completely soft and juicy. Crush with a potato masher. Strain through a jelly bag or tie in a square of muslin and allow to drip into a bowl. Measure the juice and allow 500g–700g (18oz – 1 1/2lb) sugar to every 600ml (1 pint) of juice. Add the lemon juice, stir to dissolve.

 

Hot Tips

A Week at Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm and Gardens,  1st – 5th September

–  Students on this course will – Sow a seed, learn the basics of organic growing and how to make compost  – Make a cheese right from the beginning starting with adding rennet to the milk, you will turn it yourself through the week. How to work with a glut, what to do when you’re growing is too successful! Learn many recipes to make with wonderful produce and lots,  lots more ………. For further information www.cookingisfun.ie

 

 

Iskeroon is enchantingly off the beaten track – a couple of miles down a steep meandering boreen not far from Caherdaniel in Co Kerry.  The views looking down over the sea and islands would quite simply take your breath away. David and Geraldine Hare’s chic  self-catering apartments are close to the oceans edge so you can fish, swim, sail or surf, its also a walkers paradise. If you’d just prefer to relax you could curl up on the sofa and read –  and for supper scramble some lovely fresh eggs from their happy lazy hens. – a rare and special find.  www.iskeroon.com

066 9475119

 

 

Date for your diary

Ballymaloe Garden Festival 30 & 31 August, another weekend full of garden workshops, walks and talks in the grounds of Ballymaloe House, specialist nursery stalls selling rare plants, seeds, garden equipment and much more. Entrance €5 per adult, children free, workshops and talks priced separately please see www.ballymaloe.ie for more details http://gardenfestival.ballymaloe.ie/

Gardening – Fruit and Veg in Abundance

For gardeners who grow vegetables and fruit, this is the time of abundance, a period of joy and frustration in equal measure. At last the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of all that digging and hoeing but often there are simply not enough meal times to use up every last scrap.

I feel horribly guilty if any gets wasted, although inevitably despite my best efforts some of the produce goes over the top. It cheers me up to know that at least it ends up on the compost heap and eventually goes back on to the earth to make the soil even more fertile  for next year’s crops.

I keep adding to my store of preserving recipes, jams, pickles, chutneys, jellies, cordials, alcohols, flavoured vinegars, fruit cheeses…..

So many exciting options, our repertoire of basic recipes are fine but the fun begins when one starts to experiment by adding spices, fresh herbs and chillies and playing around with flavour combinations.

I recently across came across Diana Henry’s book Salt, Sugar, Smoke – it’s really good, fab photos and lots of irresistible recipes using salt, sugar and smoke. So as the title promises there are lots of salted cured and potted dishes, jellies and jams of course but there are also cordials, fruit and chilli alcohols, lemonades and sherbets as well as chutneys, relishes and pickles and simple smoked foods.

Diana has a growing fan base from her earlier books, Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons, Cook Simple and Food From Plenty. She was named cookery writer of the year by the UK Guild of Food Writers on two occasions for her column in the Sunday Telegraph Stella Magazine.

Try the Moroccan spiced chutney or the Apple and Lavender Jelly with the first of the windfall apples.  Anyone who grows gorgeous white peaches in a green house or tunnel knows how difficult it is to pick them without bruising. It’s usually a feast or a famine but if you have a surplus you can discard the bruised bits and try the white peach and raspberry jam recipe. I loved it and added some fresh mint but it’s delicious on its own.

 

White peach and raspberry jam

Lovely to look at as it’s being made and, of course, fragrant as the scent of raspberries and white peaches blend. You can make it with yellow peaches, but it’s not as good. This jam has less sugar than is traditional, so is fresh, fruity and tart. You can add a sprig of lavender or lemon thyme.

 

Fills 9 x 225g (8oz) jars

 

900g (2lb) white peaches

600g (1lb 5oz) raspberries]

1kg (2lb 4oz) granulated sugar with pectin

(‘jam sugar’)

juice of 2 lemons

 

Plunge the peaches, in batches, into a pan of boiling water for one minute. Quickly remove them, run cold water over and peel off the skins. Halve, stone and cut each half into slices.

 

Put the peaches into a preserving pan with the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice. Gently heat, stirring to help the sugar dissolve. Once it has dissolved, whack the heat up and bring to a boil. Boil steadily until the setting point is reached (check on a sugar thermometer and do the wrinkle test as

well, skimming off any scum that rises.

 

Leave to cool for about 10 minutes, so the seeds end up well distributed, then pot in warm, dry sterilized jars, cover with waxed paper discs and seal. This keeps for a year; refrigerate once opened.

 

 

Apple and lavender jelly

Apple acts as the basis for many flavoured jellies, both sweet and savoury. They are so high in pectin that they produce a jelly that is easy to set, and their flavour doesn’t dominate when you mix it with other things. You can make plain apple jelly, but herbs and spices mean you have a whole array of flavours to use with different meats: lavender and rosemary for lamb, sage for

pork, for example. I prefer savoury apple jellies made with cider vinegar (so they have a sweet acid tang) but some people prefer them sweet. Properly sweet ones to be served with muffins and scones (like the Fireside Apple Jelly below and the Rose Jelly, see page 54) are made with water (add enough just to cover the apples) rather than vinegar.

 

Fills 7 x 500g (1lb 2oz) jars

 

2.5kg (5lb 8oz) cooking apples

3 sprigs of fresh lavender, plus small sprigs

for each pot

1.3 litres (2¼ pints) cider vinegar

about 1.3kg (3lb) granulated sugar

1 Cut the apples into chunks – no need to peel or core them, though remove any bruised bits – and cover with 1.5 litres (2 pints 13fl oz) of water. Add the lavender. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the apples are completely soft (about 45 minutes).

 

2 Add the vinegar and cook for another five minutes. Pour the mixture into a jelly bag suspended over a large bowl, and leave overnight. Do not press the apples or you’ll get a cloudy jelly.

 

3 Measure the liquid. For every 600ml (1 pint), you will need 450g (1lb) of sugar. Put the liquid into a preserving pan with the sugar and heat gently, stirring to help the sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil and boil until the setting point is reached on a thermometer (and do the wrinkle test, see page 11).

Skim off any scum.

 

4 Ladle into warm, dry sterilized jars. Put a sprig of lavender in each. Cover with waxed paper discs and seal. While it is setting, shake it so the lavender doesn’t stay at the top. This keeps for a year; refrigerate once opened.

 

Moroccan-spiced apricot chutney

For years I’ve made a chicken dish with apricots, honey and orange flower water. This is that sauce as a chutney. You can omit the flower water, but it lends a touch of the voluptuous east…

 

Fills 2 x 500g (1lb 2oz) jars

 

500g (1lb 2oz) dried apricots, chopped

500g (1lb 2oz) cooking apples, peeled,

cored and finely chopped

250g (9oz) tomatoes, chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

300ml (½ pint) white wine vinegar

100g (3½oz) sultanas

juice of 1 lemon

juice of 1 orange

3 tsp ground ginger

1 cinnamon stick, halved

3/4 tbsp cayenne pepper

250g (9oz) golden granulated sugar

7 tbsp runny honey (preferably orange blossom)

1 tsp orange flower water, or to taste

1 Put everything except the honey and flower water into a pan and bring to a boil, stirring to help the sugar dissolve. Reduce the heat and cook gently for one and a half hours, stirring so it does not catch.

 

2 Stir in the honey and cook gently for 15 minutes. Add the flower water, then taste. You might want more but don’t go mad, it should be just a fragrant whiff. Pot in warm, sterilized jars, cover with waxed paper discs and seal with vinegar-proof lids. This keeps for a year.

 

Loganberry or Raspberry Cordial

 

 

1½lb (700g) loganberries or raspberries

10oz (300g) castor sugar

Juice of ½ lemon

1¾ pints (1litre) water

 

Put the fruit, sugar and water into a stainless steel saucepan over a medium heat, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes or until the loganberries soften and disintegrate.   Remove from the heat, cool.

Pour through a nylon sieve.   Rub the pulp through and discard the pips.   Pour into sterilized bottles.   Seal and store in the fridge.

 

 

Hot Tip

Revelation of the Week

Guess what I discovered this week – dahlias are edible.

At Glebe restaurant in Baltimore, my green salad was scattered with bright orange and wine coloured flower petals. The lovely waitress confided that they were dahlias and Jean Perry – gardener extraordinaire shared a further nugget of information – apparently the Mexicans grew them originally for their tubers – can’t wait to taste some when my dahlias stop flowering.

 

The Holistic Gardener:

This book is a little gem with tons of tips on how to stay safe and deal with accidents in the garden. It is published by Mercier Press and comes from the knowledgeable and witty co-presenter of Dermot’s Secret Garden on RTE 1, Fiann O’ Nuallain,  Watch out for Fiann O Nuallain speaking at the Ballymaloe Garden Festival, August 30th  – http://gardenfestival.ballymaloe.ie/

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