IFEST, The first major celebration of Irish culture and food was held in Boston recently. It’s the brainchild of Rachael Kelly, the young entrepreneur who was behind the Taste of Dublin festival for many years. Her vision is to take IFEST to all the American cities where there is a strong Irish diaspora and not just to celebrate Ireland but to generate both business investment and tourism.
Rachael invited me to cook the Welcome Gala Dinner at the Seaport Hotel on the opening night with Boston chef Lydia Shire, we had lots of fun in the kitchen with a terrific supporting cast.
Brigitta Hedin Curtin had brought her Burren smoked wild Irish salmon all the way from Lisdoonvarna in Co Clare. We served that with pickled red onions and Arjard, and lots of freshly baked Ballymaloe brown bread and white soda bread slathered with Irish Kerrygold butter. It’s now widely available in the US and much sought after not only by the Irish Americans with a craving for a taste of home but by many top chefs simply for its quality and flavour.
Next there was pea and cilantro soup followed by delicious lamb with eggplant and rocket leaves, Lydia Shire’s son had cooked a beautiful fish plate of haddock and lobster in foaming Irish brown butter with cape gooseberries and sugar pumpkin soufflé.
My team at the Ballymaloe cookery school had make hundreds of homemade crackers to go with the Cashel Blue and Dubliner and Skellig cheeses and then came Lydia’s interpretation of Irish coffee meringue, a fluffy tender pavlova served with a Irish Jameson cream and a square of coffee jelly, a real ‘ta dah’ dessert that rounded off the meal in a delicious and memorable way.
After dinner, there was a live performance of Riverdance and Heartbeat of Home, brought to Boston by Moya Doherty, who has supported the IFEST concept from its inception. Paddy Moloney joined them on stage with a surprise appearance by astronaut Cady Coleman who had taken one of Paddy’s tin whistles into space in 2011. They played a magical duet together on the stage , it was a ‘goose prickle’ moment for sure.
The festival ran over three days with Jameson and Dingle gin well represented as well as numerous other Irish companies. I gave a couple of cookery demonstrations of Irish baking, barn brack, orange scones, Spotted dog and Auntie Florence’ s crumpets. You can’t imagine the response, after each demonstration the audience surrounded the podium and devoured every morsel, Kevin Dundon from Dunbrody House and Cathal Armstrong originally from Dublin also gave cookery demonstrations as well as many well-known Boston chefs including Barbara Lynch, Ana Sortun and renowned Sofra pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick.
As usual I whizzed around town to check out the food scene, I loved the food at Sofra, a Middle Eastern Bakery and café and picked up lots of goodies at unmissable Formaggio, a grocer and cheese shop. I also had a delicious dinner at Barbara Lynch’s Sportello, most memorable was a dish of pasta with rabbit and green olives. Row 34, close to the Seaport was also throbbing, we ate out on the street so we could try to hear each other. Sadly, super loud thumping music is a persistent trend in many US restaurants not sure if it helps to turn the tables faster but it’s totally exhausting if you actually want to try to catch up with your dinner companions unless you can lip read.
Loved the raw fish, briny sea urchin roes on a crostini, several different types of oysters including crispy fried oysters with pickled vegetables in lettuce cups and tuna sashimi with avocado and crispy onions.
I managed to take in two Farmers Markets on Saturday morning, one at Union Square and the other at Eccleston Place, close to Jamacia Square where there was a Fermentation Festival in full swing. Guess who I bumped into, Sandor Katz, the fermentation guru who has been one of the stars of the LitFest for the past two years. He thought he was hallucinating when he saw me….
The fermentation and pickling movement is huge and still growing.
I also loved a little shop called Farm and Fable owned by Abbey Ruettgers who too was astonished when I walked in to her premises. She had been to the cookery school for a week when she was 12, can’t imagine how she recognised me, I had brown hair and red glasses back then…
Finally on Sunday evening just before I dashed to the airport, I had a selection of small plates at Coppa, delicious food in a really cool neighbourhood restaurant, a must for your Boston list. Farm and Fable, Formaggio and Coppa are within a few steps of each other on Shawmut Avenue in Boston.
Chef Jamie Bissonette won a James Beard Award and has recently published a new book on Charcuterie, to make and serve at home.
Jamie Bissonnette’s Cauliflower Kimchi
Makes 1 Gallon (3.7l)
If you want to learn about fermenting meats, I recommend learning how to make kimchi, or fermented vegetables, first. This is good training because it shows patience! You can substitute any number of vegetables in this traditional Korean recipe, including cabbage, swede turnip, carrots, radishes or cucumbers.
1 head cauliflower
2 tbsp (30g) ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
1.5oz (80g) coarse Chilean chilli flakes
3 red radishes, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
3 sprigs scallion chopped rough
16 fl oz (450ml) fish sauce
2 ozs (60g) palm sugar
Juice of 2 limes
1 cup (225ml/8 fl oz) water
Chop the head of cauliflower to resemble large pieces of couscous. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add 1 cup (237ml) water, or enough water so that mixture is ¾ covered with water. Put in an airtight container and let it sit in a cool, dry place for 1 week. Check it every day and shake it up if any fuzz appears on the surface. After 1 week it’s ready to eat – and it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 30 days.
If you’re not patient enough to wait a week, double the lime juice and let the kimchi sit overnight in the refrigerator. It will be ready to eat immediately.
From The New Charcuterie Cookbook by Jamie Bissonnette, published by Page Street Publishing.
Jamie Bissonnette’s Green Tomato Chutney
Makes 2 quarts (1.8l)
A lot of farmers come to us with green tomatoes, and you can only pickle or fry so many! I started making chutneys out of them, and this recipe is so popular we make it in 20-pound batches. The sour, tart flavour of the green tomatoes combined with the sugar yields sweet and sour flavoured chutney that can be served on anything from cheese to Foie Gras Torchon.
4 cloves garlic
1 piece mace
1 broken piece cassia bark
1lb (450g) green tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cups (480g) sugar
¼ cup (60g) yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp (15ml) molasses
2 tbsp (30ml) white wine vinegar
1 tbsp (15ml) mustard seed oil
Sachet in cheesecloth: 4 garlic cloves, 1 piece mace and 1 broken piece cassia bark.
Mix the tomatoes with the sugar and let sit overnight in the refrigerator, or at least 12 hours. Combine sugared tomatoes with all other ingredients in a pot. Cook over a medium heat for 45 minutes, adding ¼ cup (60ml) water if it’s too thick.
Alternatively, add 1 cup (240g) chopped Indian lime (right out of the jar) and use over steamed white rice.
The New Charcuterie Cookbook by Jamie Bissonnette, published by Page Street Publishing.
Strozzapreti with Rabbit and Green Olives
We loved this dish from Barbara Lynch, which is considered to be a classic at Sportello, one of her restaurants on Boston.
16fl oz (450ml) strained stock (recipe below)
1 cup chopped green olives – conversion pending from Teachers
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 whole rabbit, broken down (forearms, thighs, loins) and carcass reserved for stock
Fresh strozzapreti (recipe below)
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 rabbit carcass, chopped
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
8fl oz (225ml) white wine
10 oz (275g) semolina flour, divided
Pinch of salt
8fl oz (225ml) warm water
Place strained stock in a sauce pot, bring to a simmer and reduce over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add chopped olives, rosemary and rabbit meat and cook for another 20 minutes. Pierce meat with a fork — meat should pull away from the bone easily. Remove meat, chop into smaller pieces and add back to sauce, continuing to reduce for 10 minutes. Toss with cooked strozzapreti and season with salt and pepper to taste and a bit of grated Parmesan to pull it all together.
In a medium-size braiser, heat oil over medium heat. Add rabbit bones, and brown. Remove bones and set aside, then add forearms, thighs and loins and sauté until browned. Remove and set aside. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits then add the bones and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 hour. Reduce to a simmer and cook for an additional hour. Cool, strain, and reserve.
Place 7½ oz (210g) semolina with salt in a mixer with hook attachment (save the remaining 2½ oz (60g) for the sheet trays). Add water slowly, and mix until a nice smooth ball of dough is formed, about 7 minutes. Remove and rest under a damp cloth. Divide the dough into thirds, and shape one portion at a time, keeping the remaining dough covered. On a wooden board, form large pea-size pieces of dough. Using you index and middle fingers, roll a piece toward you, back and forth a few times until about 2 inches (5cm) long and thicker in the middle. If the board is too dry, wet it with a damp cloth (You will know if you need damp cloth if the pasta isn’t rolling easily!). After rolling, place shaped pasta on a sheet tray or flat plate sprinkled with semolina and freeze or refrigerate until you are ready to cook it.
- Gubbeen Cheese are doing a special Offer to celebrate the publication of their much anticipated new book: GUBBEEN, The Story of a Working Farm and its Foods.From 16th October for two weeks they are offering a copy of the Book plus a small Gubbeen Cheese and some of their Oatcakes for €35 plus p&p,see www.gubbeen.com for details.
- Head to the Marble City for the eighth annual Savour Kilkenny food festival from October 24 to 27 2014.
Chefs taking part in this year’s event include Rory O’Connell from Ballymaloe Cookery School, Kevin Dundon from Dunbrody House, Arun Kapil from Green Saffron and Stephen Gibson from Pichet.
Events include Can the Critics Cook?, which sees food writers swapping their pens for aprons, and Meet the Maker, where some of Kilkenny’s best food producers tell us the stories behind their ranges.
The festival wraps up on Sunday with a food market featuring 85 producers.
You can see the full programme at savourkilkenny.com
- Another Hot Tip for your London list, SPRING has definitely sprung with the opening of the most anticipated new restaurant for several years, Skye Gyngell’s restaurant in a green house at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond was a game changer on the London food scene. When she left a couple of years ago having been awarded a Michelin star for her decidedly un Michelin style food, her devotees of which I am most certainly one were bereft, now we’re happy again…
SPRING is in Somerset House on the Strand.
Telephone: 0044 203 011 0115 – Website: springrestaurant.co.uk