ArchiveMarch 2015

Marzipan Edirne

Still in Istanbul,  Burcu of Unison Turkey told me about a particularly delicious marzipan made in Edirne close to the Bulgarian and Greek border by a family who’d been in business since 1952. So despite the heavy snowfall and lots of advice to the contrary, I decided to seek them out. It developed into an endurance test….. a five hour journey along the snow clogged highway past abandoned cars, jack-knifed trucks and freezing hungry drivers many of whom had been stranded since the night before. When we eventually arrived at Keçecizade almost three hours late, we were warmly welcomed with hot black Turkish tea, cay and a plate of the famous marzipan and cookies. The founder Metin Bey’s office was crammed with awards and trophies garnered throughout the years for his delicious confections

Here again we encounter an example of the Turkish apprentice system and a passionate commitment to quality. Metin worked with both a candy master and halva master in Safranbolu, an area traditionally famous for candy and Turkish delight, Eventually he started to make marzipan and Keçecizade was established in 1961. Metin and his son source their almonds from Thrace where the climate and soil produce the finest nuts with the best aroma and oil content. The sugar too is carefully sourced.

Apparently, it takes 4 years to become a master marzipan maker as opposed to just three years for a master tailor or shoemaker.

To make the marzipan, the finest almonds money can buy are first ground with a special blade, then sieved. Meanwhile they are cooking the syrup from beet sugar at 120° Centigrade This is poured into a huge stainless steel mixing bowl, specially designed by Metin. The ground almonds are added and the marzipan is mixed slowly with some corn starch for an hour. It’s then poured out onto heavy unpolished marble tables to cool, formed into mounds, then rolled into 10″ batons, with a special corn starch and cut into individual pieces of silky marzipan.

Metin stressed the importance of consistent vigilance not only of each step of the process but also the quality of each element: the starch, the almonds, the sugar….. Apparently, many confectioners now use glucose syrup, which changes the taste and texture.  Food is being adulterated in ways we can’t even imagine according to Metin.

Keçacizade also make a delicious Turkish delight, not in the least like the sickly sweet, tooth wrenching jelly that is usually sold under that name.

There was a wonderful rose flavoured version, also one with mastic, and double pistachio to die for. There were rolls of walnut Turkish delight and a hazelnut version rolled in desiccated coconut. The hazelnuts come from the Black Sea area of Giresun, they cost 80 Turkish lira a kilo, Turkey, I discovered is the biggest producer of hazelnuts in the world.

Sultans Turkish Delight has chocolate sandwiched in the centre and another pistachio version is totally encrusted in chocolate. The marzipan too, came in many incarnations. In Ceviz Sarma, little cushions of marzipan were sandwiched between two beautiful fresh walnut halves. Kakaolu Bademezmesi, is for me the un-prouncable name for little rectangles of marzipan coated in dark coca and that’s not all- there was also a superb halva which came in many flavours.

Keçecizade has five shops in Edirne but despite that, marzipan is definitely not the only reason to make a pilgrimage to this remarkable city, which was the Ottoman capital of Turkey in the 14th century. Edirne is justifiably proud to have one of Turkey’s finest mosques – Selimiye Camii, designed by the famous architect Mimar Sinan. We visited the Eski Camii “Old Mosque” which is famous for its particularly striking calligraphy, and is the oldest mosque in the city. Selimiye is the one towering on the highest hill of the city with four minarets famous for its stunning architecture and included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The city’s food speciality is Tava Ciğeri (translation Fried Liver), thinly sliced deep fried calves liver served with crispy fried chillies and yogurt. We had a feast of ciğer in a superb little place called Çiçek Ciğer.  Formica tables and lots of locals popping in and out. The return journey to Istanbul in the evening took just a little over two hours, the highway had, by then been miraculously cleared of the huge build-up of cars, vans and lorries that had travelled with supplies for Istanbul from as far away as Russia, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Iran and Romania…..

I hadn’t expected to encounter heavy snowfalls in Turkey but it made the countryside even more beautiful and was welcomed by the farmers in a country where the spectre of drought is becoming even more of reality in recent years.

Turkish wines were another big surprise, I also visited a very interesting winery called Arda near Edirne where the wines were elegant and full of promise and produced without a ton of chemicals so were hoping to be able to source them over here before too long.  See www.ardasarap.com  and  https://www.facebook.com/ardabagcilik  for more details.

 

 

Edirne Fried Liver with Cacik and Crispy Chillis

 

Serves 4

 

350g (12oz) very fresh calves or lambs liver, cut into very thin slices, about an inch (2.5cm) square

 

Well-seasoned flour

 

beef fat or oil for deep frying

 

Cacik (see recipe).

 

crisp sun dried, deep fried chilli peppers.

 

ripe tomato wedges,

 

raw onion slices,

 

 

Wash the liver in cold water several times until the water runs clear, drain, cover and keep chilled.

 

Make the Cacik, and keep cool.

 

Just before serving, take a fist full of liver per person, dry and toss in well-seasoned flour. Drop gently into the hot beef fat or oil, stir with a metal spoon to separate the pieces, cook for 2-3 minutes or until the liver is crispy on the outside but still tender in the centre.

 

Drain on kitchen paper and serve on a hot plate with a bowl of thick yoghurt or Cacik and the other accompaniments. The chilli heats, the yoghurt cools and the vegetables provide a delicious freshness. Add some flat parsley too.

 

 

 

 

Cacik – Cucumber yoghurt dip.

 

This delicious version of Cacik comes from “Eat Istanbul – A journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine” by Andy Harris and David Loftus and published by Quadrille.

 

Serves 6

1 cucumber

3 garlic cloves, peeled

500g thick yoghurt

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried mint plus extra to serve

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to serve

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

To serve:

chopped cucumber

 

Grate, dice or shave the cucumber into ribbons and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and weigh down with a plate. Leave it to drain for at least 30 minutes. After that, put the cucumber in some muslin or a clean tea towel and squeeze out any excess juice.

Use a pestle and mortar to pound the garlic cloves and a little sea salt to a paste. Transfer to a large bowl with the cucumber, yoghurt, olive oil, dries and fresh mint and combine well. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use, then transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with a little more dried mint and garnish with some chopped cucumber and fresh mint.

 

 

Marzipan

 

175g (6oz) ground almonds

200g (7oz) sugar

110ml (4fl oz) water

1 egg white

natural almond extract to taste (beware, 1 drop only)

 

Put the sugar and water into a deep saucepan.  Stir over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar in the water.  Bring to the boil.  Cover the pan for 2 minutes to steam any sugar from saucepan sides.   Remove cover and boil rapidly just to thread stage -106-113°C (236°F).

Remove from the heat.  Stir the syrup for a second or two until cloudy.  Stir in almonds.  Set aside to cool briefly.

Lightly whisk egg white, add the almond extract and stir into the almond mixture.  Transfer the paste from the saucepan to Pyrex plate.  Cool.  The cool marzipan should feel like moulding clay

(Marzipan will keep for 2-3 months in a fridge).

 

 

Marzipan Dates

 

Makes 28

 

Use up scraps of marzipan to make these Marzipan Dates.

 

28 fresh dates depends on source

4ozs (110g) almond paste or marzipan (see recipe)

castor sugar

 

Split one side of the date and remove the stone.  Roll a little piece of marzipan into an oblong shape so that it will fit neatly into the opening.  Smooth the top and roll the stuffed date in castor sugar.  Repeat the procedure until all the dates and marzipan are used up.  Serve as a petit four or as part of a selection of homemade sweets.

 

 

Medjool Dates with Pistachio and Marzipan

 

Dip the top of the stuffed date in finely chopped unsalted pistachio nuts.

 

Serve as above

 

 

Medjool Dates with Walnuts

 

Stone the dates but keep attached, slip a walnut into each and press closed.

 

 

Medjool Dates with Candied Orange Peel

 

Stone the dates but keep attached, slip a sliver of candied orange peel into each and press closed.

 

 

 

Medjool Dates with Candied Pecan Nut

 

Stone the dates but keep attached, slip a candied pecan nut into each and press closed.

 

 

 

 

Turkish Snail.

 

Serves 10-15 people

 

1 packet best quality filo pastry

 

 

Filling

 

450g (1lb) ground almonds

 

325g (11oz) castor sugar

 

1 tablespoon cinnamon

75-110ml (3-4 floz) orange flower water

75-110g (3-4oz) melted butter

 

Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl to form a paste.

 

To Assemble

Lay one sheet of filo on the work top, brush with melted butter. Take a fist full of the paste and make into a snake about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick. Lay this along the long side of the sheet of filo, about 1 inch (2.5cm) in from the edge. Roll up and bend into an accordian shape and then roll up into a ‘snail’. Put a sheet of tin foil on a baking sheet and lay the snail on top, continue with the rest of the filo and paste. Press the ends together to seal the joining and continue to make the snake. Brush with egg wash and then with melted butter. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for approx. 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Dust with icing sugar and perhaps a little sweet cinnamon.

 

Hot Tips:

Seed Savers Easter Camps, 31st March to 3rd April at Capparoe, Scarriff, Co. Clare. A fun filled camp aimed at six to ten year olds with a combination of nature activities and arts and crafts. Activities include: Easter egg hunt, pizza making in a cob oven, camp fire building and cooking, drumming and singing, biscuit baking, nature walk and foraging, bug hunt, pond dipping, woodland activities, Spring activities, seed sowing, felt art, Easter egg painting and so much more. Price: €65 per child. Time: 10am-2pm each day. For more information & registration phone 061 921866/061921.

 

West Waterford Festival of Food,  9th to 12th April Celebrating Generations of Irish Food Stories, bringing together amazing food, drink and people in a wonderful weekend of demos, discussions and dining of all kinds. There’s something for everyone in the seaside town of Dungarvan. For more details of the jam-packed programme see www.westwaterfordfestivaloffood.com

 

Start your own Cafe or Teashop: Many of us dream of having a little café or tea shop, but it’s so easy to get carried away not realising the hard work and expertise required to run a successful business. This intensive one week at the Ballymaloe Cookery School runs from Monday 13th April to Friday 17th April and covers everything from setting up and running the business to practical advice and “hands-on” demonstrations with the school’s top chefs. For detailed description see www.cookingisfun.ie.

London

It’s difficult to keep up with all the hot new openings in London – Over in “W1” everyone is loving Primeur, which I only just managed to book partly because they only accept “face to face” or Twitter bookings, consequently I was the only white haired woman in a room full of hipsters. The menu, on a blackboard, changes every day  with lots of  tempting seasonal choices, as does the wine list, carefully selected natural wines and a couple of excellent orange wines, including Sofia. It’s also jolly difficult to find, it’s out in Highbury, in the old Barnes Motors Building but it’s definitely worth the schlep.

Rawduck in Hackney is also back on form and our lunch there was some of the best food we ate in London on this research trip. They have also revived an old tradition and are making a range of shrubs – drinking vinegars and an intriguing range of pickles and fermented foods. There are lots of recipes for “shrubs” on the internet, we’re experimenting at the moment and I’ll keep you posted.

We loved their home made burger with sauerkraut slaw and hand-cut chips. The lamb on grilled bread with labneh, pomegranate and mint was also terrifically good as was the milk pudding with blood orange and pistachio nuts.

Rawduck is a sister restaurant of Ducksoup in Dean Street, Soho, definitely another contender for your London List. Delicious small plates – no desserts but you can nip across the road to Quo Vadis where the irrepressible Jeremy Lee makes some of the very best puds in London. I know you’re over sticky toffee pudding but you mustn’t miss Jeremy’s sublime version made with muscovado sugar and oh! the bread and butter pudding and home-made coffee ice-cream….

Honey & Co has been around for a couple of years now, another one of those tiny London restaurants run by passionate young people. This time it’s Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich who cook beautiful Middle Eastern inspired food. Don’t miss their cookery demonstration during the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine see: www.litfest.ie.

This time we stayed in the Marylebone Hotel in Welbeck Street just off Marylebone High Street, brilliantly central. The staff are exceptionally friendly and helpful and there is a nice Irish connection, it’s owned by the Doyle family and is run by Roddy McGrath.

If you happen to be in London over the weekend and markets are your thing, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Borough Market over the Thames is still humming but I prefer to head for Maltby Street and The Spa Terminus (where a lot of the best stall holders have decamped)

I also love the Broadway market in Hackney, particularly the newly established Netil market. Go hungry and order slow braised pork in a fluffy steamed boa bun or crispy wings with hot sauce from BAO in the corner to the left of the entrance. Several stalls sell excellent handmade work by local designers.

While you are waiting and you will have to queue if you don’t go early – treat yourself to an aperol spritz from Lucky Chip, the best I’ve ever tasted even though it comes in a plastic glass. Great coffee too at Terrone & Co.

On Sunday, morning check out the Farmer’s Market behind Waitrose on Marylebone High Street – lots of really good produce, organic vegetables, pork pies, farmhouse cheese and raw milk. The Fromagerie is just beside you there on Moxon Street with great produce, phenomenal cheese and other special foodie treats.  Ginger Pig butcher shop which specialises in well hung traditional breeds is just next door, the big fat chunky sausage rolls are the best you’ll ever taste and I also love the beef cheek terrine.

For a great brunch, The Providores is just around the corner on Marylebone High Street, you might want to try their Turkish poached eggs.

 

 

Brick Lane (in Bethnal Green)  also comes alive on Saturday when most London markets pack up their stalls. It’s part flea market, part food market, antique and vintage shops and unique kitchen and house wares.

 

The Sunday Colombia Road Flower Market is just a short walk away, one of the best places to go on a sunny Sunday morning and close to Spitalfields and trendy Shoreditch.

Rice pudding is definitely having its moment. In three of the hottest restaurants in London, rice pudding featured on the dessert menu.

We had a cracking good meal in the newly opened Portland Restaurant in Great Portland St. There too, Will Lander and Dan Morgenthau’s team served  warm rice pudding with a little honey ice-cream and some Jersey cream melting into the centre – divine.

Primeur served a similar combination. Also comforting and delicious was the Rawduck version – this time it was served with new season’s rhubarb which still had a slight crunch, this is just one of my favourite restaurants in the Hackney Shoreditch area. I’m also mad about Lyles and the cute little Violet Cake Cafe on Wilton Way.

The craze for offal continues unabated, duck hearts seem to be everywhere, the brilliant cafe and wine bar, Toast out in East Dulwich served them on grilled bread with a herb salsa while John Doe, another hot new restaurant, in Notting Hill where it is all about fire, poached the duck hearts first and then chargrilled them before putting them onto chargrilled sourdough.

Looks like the American hot chefs’ obsession of cooking over fire has hit London though not in the pure form of Etxebarri near Bilbao or Camino in Oakland where all the cooking is done on a bank of open fires at the end of the dining room. Finally, before I run out of space there are two other new hot spots that deserve a place on your London List, everyone I know is raving about Kitty Fishers in 10 Shepherds Market and The Smoking Goat in Denmark Street near Charing Cross serves a short Thai influenced menu, every morsel was delicious …enough for this week.

 

 

 

Chargrilled lamb with labneh, pomegranate and fresh mint leaves.

 

Serves 1

 

1 slice of sourdough bread

labneh seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper and freshly roasted cumin.

a 110g (4oz) slice of leg of lamb or a lamb chop

1 generous tablespoon of pomegranate seeds

fresh mint leaves, shredded

extra virgin olive oil

a few flakes of sea salt

 

Slice the lamb, Heat a frying pan or grill pan. Season the meat with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Cook until well seared on both sides.

 

Chargrill the bread, spread a generous layer of well seasoned labneh on top. Cover with slices of the warm lamb and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

A little shredded mint, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a few flakes of sea salt complete the feast.

 

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Roast Cauliflower Florets, Freekeh, Pistachio and Pomegranate

 

Serves 6-8

 

450g (16oz) cooked freekeh,

 

1 small cauliflower divided into small florets

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons honey

110g (4ozs) pistachio, coarsely chopped

seeds from one small pomegranate

nigella seeds, optional

6-8 tablespoons labneh

1-2 tablespoon sumac

salt and freshly ground black pepper

lots of dill sprigs

 

Put the freekeh into a saucepan with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes – 1 hour, depending on your freekeh (some are broken grains, others whole). It should be soft but still slightly chewy. Drain, season with salt and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Divide the cauliflower into florets. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes or until slightly caramelised at the edges.

Meanwhile, whisk 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 2 teaspoons of honey in a bowl. Sprinkle over the warm freekeh and toss gently, mix with the cauliflower florets, and some of the pomegranate seeds, (save some for sprinkling). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and a few nigella seeds.  To serve put a couple of tablespoons of the freekah and cauliflower salad on a plate. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Put a dollop of labneh or greek yogurt on top. Scatter a few more pomegranate seeds, pistachio nuts, a pinch of sumac and a few sprigs of dill over the labneh and serve ASAP.

 

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Panna Cotta with Orange Blossom, Blood Oranges and Pistachio.

 

Serves 6-8

 

½ pint (300ml) cream

½ pint whole milk

2oz (50g) castor sugar

2 teaspoons gelatine

2 tablespoons orange blossom water

3 tablespoons water

5-6 blood oranges

110g (4ozs) chopped pistachio nuts

 

6-8 moulds (3-4fl ozs/90-120ml) lightly brushed with non-scented oil – sunflower or arachide.

Put the cream and milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the castor sugar.  Put on a low heat and bring to the shivery stage.  Meanwhile, sponge the gelatine in the water.

 

Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine is dissolved.  Add a little of the cream to the gelatine, then stir both mixtures together.  Add the orange blossom water to taste then pour into the moulds.  When cold, refrigerate (preferably overnight) until set.

 

To serve, unmould the panna cotta onto a cold plate.

Remove the orange peel with a sharp knife, cut into ¼ inch thick slices and arrange three overlapping alongside the panna cotta. Drizzle with a little blood orange juice (you may need to add a little honey if the blood orange juice is too tart.)

Sprinkle a line of chopped pistachios along the top between the orange and the panna cotta, serve.

 

 

 

Butterscotch pudding with pear, wet walnuts and apple oil.

 

Serves 8-10

 

225g (8oz) chopped dates (use block dates or Delget Noor)

300ml (10fl oz) tea

75g (3oz) muscovado sugar

110g (4oz) unsalted butter

3 eggs

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda or baking soda)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon espresso coffee powder

4-5 ripe pears, peeled cored and dices in ¼ pieces

100g-125g (4oz-5 oz) wet walnuts, roughly chopped

125ml (4fl oz) apple juice and 50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin oil whisked together.

 

 

 

Butterscotch sauce

 

110g (4oz) butter

175g (6oz) dark soft brown sugar muscovado sugar

225ml (8fl oz) cream

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 rectangular roasting tin, 35cm x 24cm x 6cm

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes. Line the bottom and sides of the cake tin with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour. Add the sieved bread soda, vanilla extract and coffee to the dates and tea, and then stir this into the mixture. Turn into the lined tin and cook for 1 to 1½ hours or until a skewer comes out clean.

 

To make the sauce:

Put the butter and sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.

 

To serve:

Arrange a square of pudding in a deep plate, spoon a little butterscotch sauce on top. Mix the pear and walnuts in a bowl, spoon a couple of tablespoons over top of the pudding. Whisk the apple juice with the oil and spoon around the edge. Serve ASAP!

 

HOT TIPS

 

Pub Food for a New Era: We’ve visited some of the most successful gastro pubs in the UK, Ireland and beyond, and have so many delicious recipes and ideas to tempt your customers, and help you to turn a profit. On this intensive 2.5 day course we will show you a selection of traditional and modern pub food that can be produced in a small kitchen and ready at all times of day for when customers are looking for food. One of the highlights of the course is a presentation from respected restaurant adviser, Blathnaid Bergin, examining the all-important finances of beginning to serve food in your pub, so that you can avoid the common pit-falls of starting out in the food business. Wednesday April 8th 2015 see www.cookingisfun.ie.

I just found two great new books on potatoes, The Irish Potato Recipe Book, written by Eleveen Coyle and published by Gill & Macmillan. This pocket guide has something for everyone with easy to follow recipes. Rich in vitamins, potassium and fibre, gluten-free and low in cholesterol, potatoes really are the perfect package. Eveleen includes tips on buying, storing and cooking perfect potatoes every time as well as a brief history of how Ireland’s synonymous relationship with the potato came about.

The Potato Year by Lucy Madden, published by Mercier Press. Having moved from London in the 1970’s Lucy Madden began growing vegetables in the large Victorian walled garden of her home, Hilton Park Estate. She fell in love with potato growing and has developed a huge repertoire of culinary options with home-grown spuds. The Potato Year contains over 300 recipes for any occasion from traditional potato dishes to wild potato desserts, the perfect companion for anyone interested in knowing more about the most versatile and nourishing vegetable in Ireland.

Get gardening, if you have not already done so it’s time to chit your potatoes (encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting). Start about six weeks before you plan to plant out the potatoes.

 

St. Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day celebrations continue to gather momentum around the world. This year the Colosseum in Rome and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville as well as Jumeirah Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi will be illuminated in green for the first time as part of the sixth annual Tourism Ireland Global Greening Initiative.

It is such a brilliant idea. They’ll join a long list of iconic sites from the Sydney Opera House to the Niagara Falls and are a source of tremendous pride to the millions of Irish diaspora scattered around the globe.

St. Patrick’s Day provides us with a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our heritage and focus the attention of people around the world on Ireland

Good Food Ireland also have an imaginative campaign going for St Patrick’s Day.  This year they have joined with Tourism Ireland to generate extra excitement for  #goinggreen4stpatricksday. What a fun concept.

So, let’s all ramp it up for St Patrick’s Day. The ‘greening’ can take many forms; decorate the house, the local school, your workspace, yourself. Pull out all our green bling and go for it, no need to be subtle and the more outrageous the better.

How about some fun competitions, prizes for scariest, chicest, most alarming and think of the fun we can have in the kitchen, both in our cafes and restaurants as well as at home. Lots of cooks and chefs have been going crazy with green food colouring with some alarming results. Tom O’Connell of O’Connell’s in Dublin is getting a brilliant reaction to his Grandma’s sweet white scones decorated with green cherries from Urru in Bandon. Country Choice in Nenagh also has a terrific choice of dried fruit and Peter and Mary Ward are always up for a fun challenge.

Good Food Ireland too is having a “Greening Photo Competition” for its members. Go to www.goodfoodireland.ie  to check out the entries and get some great ideas.

The Ballymaloe Cookery School students have been having a hilarious time experimenting and “green storming.” Don’t just think sweet dishes, wood sorrel with its clean fresh lemony flavour looks just like shamrock and tastes great. The flavour pairs brilliantly with fish, pork, scattered over salads or paired with labneh and a kumquat compote as in this recipe – which just happens to be green, white and gold – I know, I know, it sounds naff but it’s a delicious combination and a perfect starter for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Those who are a bit sniffy about fake food colouring should look out for the natural version or use spinach juice, it won’t be “Kelly green” but will be delicious. The Irish diaspora are celebrating all over the world so why don’t we join them, gather the pals around,  go green and celebrate the good times that are just around the corner.

Happy St Patrick’s Day.

 

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Pamela Black’s St Patrick’s Day Cake

Serves 6-8

 

6 ozs (170g) butter

6 ozs (170g) castor sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

3 eggs, preferably free range

6 ozs (170g) self-raising flour

¼ tsp green food gel colouring

Two 7 inch (18 cm) cake tins

½ pint cream, stiffly whipped

3 tablespoons kumquat compote

icing sugar

fresh marigolds to decorate

 

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4. Grease the tins with a little melted butter and put a round of greaseproof paper on the bottom of the tins.

Cream the butter, add sugar, green colouring and vanilla extract. Beat until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs one at a time, each time with a tablespoon of flour. Beat very well, and then fold in the remaining flour gently. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cakes are well risen, golden and feel spongy to the finger tips.

Allow the cakes to cool for a few minutes in the tins and then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Kumquat Compôte

 

235g (8 1/2 oz) kumquats

200ml (7fl oz) water

110g (4oz) sugar

 

Slice the kumquats into four or five round depending on size, remove the seeds.  Put the kumquats into a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender.

 

Note: This compote keeps for weeks in the fridge.

 

To Assemble

Spread the compôte a over the bottom of each sponge. Fill a piping bag, fitted with a plain éclair nozzle, with the whipped cream. Pipe the cream evenly over one base, starting at the outside edge of the sponge, working inwards. Place the remaining sponge on top and dust with icing sugar. Garnish with Marigold Flowers.

 

 

Tom O’Connell’s St. Patrick’s Day Scones

 

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

 

900g (2lb/8 cups) plain white flour

175g (6oz) butter

3 free-range eggs

pinch of salt

50g (2oz) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix

110g (4 oz) green cherries, chopped coarsely

 

Glaze

Egg wash (see below)

green granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

 

First preheat the oven to 250°C/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 and add the chopped cherries. 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.  Don’t knead but shape just enough to make a round.  Roll out to about 2½ cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones.* Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease.  Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack, and serve fresh with good Irish butter.

 

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.

 

* Top Tip – Stamp them out with as little waste as possible, the first scones will be lighter than the second rolling.

 

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St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

This is our favourite cupcake recipe – they can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion!

 

Makes 9-12 cupcakes or 16-18 buns (queen cakes)

 

150g (5ozs) butter (at room temperature)

150g (5ozs) caster sugar

150g (5ozs) self-raising flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

Icing

225g (8oz) icing sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

 

green cherries or wood sorrel and dried apricot

 

2 muffin tins lined with 18 muffin cases.

 

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

 

Put all ingredients except milk into a food processer, whizz until smooth.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, then add milk and whizz again.

 

Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin.

 

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.

 

Meanwhile make the icing.

Put the sieved icing sugar into a bowl.  Add enough lemon juice and water to mix to a spreadable consistency.

 

Pop green cherries on top of each one and add some dried apricot if you want to have an even more patriotic cupcake

 

Labne with kumquat compote and wood sorrel

 

Serves 4-6

Wood sorrel is shamrock shaped with tiny yellow flowers which look pretty but also has a delicious sharp lemony flavour.

 

225g (8oz) labneh (drip natural yoghurt overnight)

kumquat compote (see recipe)

wood sorrel or fresh mint leaves

 

Drip the natural yoghurt in muslin overnight (500g (18oz) will yield between 225g or 250g (8oz or 9 oz) of labneh)

Make the kumquat compote and allow to get cold, (it will keep in the fridge for weeks).

To serve:

Put a good dollop of labneh on a cold plate. Drizzle some kumquat compote over the top and sides. Sprinkle a few wood sorrel leaves over the top for a St. Patrick’s day dessert with a fun twist.

 

Hot Tips

 

  • Slow Food Pop-up St Patrick’s Day Dinner. Get your green glad-rags on and let’s celebrate with a pop-up dinner at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Tuesday 17th March at 7pm. Aperitif, delicious nibbles and three course dinner with St. Patrick’s Day desserts. Price €40 for Slow Food Members, €45 for non-members. Places are limited so booking is essential phone 021 4646785 or email slowfoodeastcork@gmail.com.
  • Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2015 was launched in New York last week to great excitement. How about a gift voucher as a Mother’s Day present. Mum can chose from a whole range of events, but how about “Late Afternoon Sparkle”, a talk and tasting with Mary Dowey, or  a magical theatrical evening in the Drinks Theatre with Susan Boyle and her “Wine Goose Chase”, or a cookery demonstration with  Allegra McEvedy. See litfest.ie
  • The Business of Food with Blathnaid Bergin at Ballymaloe Cookery School. For the vital information needed to set up a viable, enjoyable Food Service Business this ten day course is run by The Restaurant Advisor, Blathnaid Bergin and is full of workshops, discussions, case studies, practical sessions and presentations. For more information see www.cookingisfun.ie

 

  • Want to buy yourself or someone else a little treat, trot along to Mahon Point Farmers Market to the Treat Petite stall and snap up a few of John and Sylvia McCormick’s new chocolate batons with pistachio nuts, sea salted caramel, or tahini and sesame – seriously good, in fact one of my best new finds. Yes, they are the “retired” couple who make the irresistible cake pops and macaroons, how fortunate are we that they got bored of being retired!

There’s a multitude of temptations at the market, but look out for the girls from “My Goodness” who are doing a new range of kefirs and kombucha.

 

  • Achill Island Sea Salt. How lovely is it to have several Irish sea salts to choose from, I’ve just discovered Achill Island Sea Salt although they have been in business since July 2013. I love the texture, easy to crumble in your fingers and the delicious clean fresh minerally flavour. It is hand harvested around Achill Island and has no additives or preservatives. See www. achillislandseasalt.ie or email salannmaraacla@gmail.com

 

Baklava: An Adventure in Turkey

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It was still snowing hard in Turkey – Istanbul on the Bosphorus was trying to come to terms with the unexpectedly heavy snowfall. Everyone seemed to be having fun except the traffic police, quirky snowmen were popping up all over the place, each reflecting the creativity of its high-spirited sculptor. Snowball fights round every corner and traffic at a crawl. We abandoned the car and eventually got to Karaköy Güllüoğlu, home to the Mecca of baklava and related confections, to try to learn the secrets of this most Turkish of sweetmeats.

We are warmly welcomed into a plush office lined with awards; glasses of Turkish tea and several types of baklava appear as if by magic. In the background a video on a loop plays segments from the many TV channels who have come from all over the world throughout the years to document the process. I’ve also come to watch how this flakiest of baklava has been perfected by six generations of the Güllü family and their loyal team of masters and apprentices.

This extraordinary operation starts at 4am. It’s fascinating to get a glimpse of an operation where every single element has been studied to the enth degree, even the method of dishwashing, which is where everyone including family members starts their apprenticeship.

The feather like phyllo pastry is made from a very specific variety of hard wheat flour, seasoned with salt, and then bound with egg, water and extra virgin olive oil. The texture of the dough varies according to the weather and humidity.  The dough master has been honing his skill over several decades. Each ball of dough is hand rolled on unpolished marble tables with 1.6 metre long pear wood rolling pins, into 10 paper thin silky sheets. Even perfecting the skill of dusting the dough with a puff of corn starch takes an average 18 months to achieve. It takes about fifteen minutes to roll and is quite mesmerising to watch. Suddenly everyone stops rolling, bows deeply and utters a loud greeting, the baklava master, Nadir Güllü has arrived, he’s been held up by the snow.

The baklava is baked in heavy rectangular trays that are first brushed with melted butter, then 10 layers of phyllo are spread evenly one by one over the base. A little sprinkle of melted butter on each from a special brush made from the male kamis bush. Then a generous layer of coarsely ground pistachio or walnuts followed by ten more feather-light layers. The walnuts, all best quality and pistachios come from Gaziantep, the home town of baklava in South East Turkey where according to Nadir, 90% of all baklava makers come from and 10% of the entire crop is used to make baklava.

The edges are tucked in and then the baklava is cut into strips with a special knife. Melted butter is poured from top to bottom, then it is cut again into the familiar sized rectangles. The special sheep’s butter comes from Urfa near the Syrian border. The baklava rests for a few minutes before being baked at 165 centigrade for 15 minutes.

Next the all-important syrup, for 35 years one of the syrup master has been in charge of making the syrup, it’s made from a particular type of cane sugar to a very specific density and is ladled evenly over the hot baklava. The exact amount will be soaked up by the 20 separate layers of phyllo.

Karaköy Güllüoğlu bakery has also been making a gluten free baklava with stevia syrup for over 10 years. Turkish people have an intensely sweet tooth, of the 70 million population a reported 10 million suffer from diabetes.

Around the bustling workshop, several other types of baklava were being made, a pistachio log rolled on a metal rod and then crinkled also looked irresistible, as did Nadirs burmas, little triangles filled with pistachio and semolina cream, there are also walnut versions which apparently are even more popular.

Nadir, the sixth generation master is an affable, hugely entertaining guide, totally passionate about his craft and the power of eating together to promote peace. We went back to his office so he could show me the correct way to enjoy baklava.

More glasses of fine Turkish tea arrived, freshly baked baklava on a plate.  First a sip of water, a deep breath then spike one end of a baklava with a fork, hear the crunch. Spread a layer of Kaymak (clotted buffalo cream) on the base, dip in chopped pistachio, then inhale the irresistible aroma. Bite off half, eat slowly noting the buttery flakiness, the delicious pistachio and Kaymak – now so that’s what baklava is meant to taste like……

Upstairs there were queues of people waiting patiently to buy the confections. Many shops are supplied from this busy bakery where each and everyone is so proud to have brought baklava to an art form.

 

Spanakopitta

Spinach and Cheese Pie

Serves 6-8

 

450g (1 lb) fresh spinach, stalks removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

110 g (4 oz) onion, finely chopped

2 scallions with greenery, finely sliced

salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg

2 tablespoons flat parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons dill, chopped

110 g (4 oz) Feta cheese, crumbled

or

75g (3 oz) feta and 30g (1 oz) Parmesan

or

50g (2 oz) Feta and 50g (2 oz) Gruyére

1-2 eggs, preferably free range

 

6-8 sheets of filo pastry

 

110g (4 oz) butter, melted

OR

150ml (¼ pint) olive oil

 

Wash and chop the spinach.  Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the finely chopped onion and scallions.  Cover and sweat on a low heat until soft but not coloured.  Increase the heat, add spinach, toss, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg.  Add the chopped parsley and dill and continue to cook for 4 or 5 minutes or until spinach is fully cooked.

 

Turn into a colander and drain and cool.  Mix the crumbled Feta and grated cheese with the beaten egg.  Add the well-drained spinach, taste and correct seasoning.  Purée in a food processor for a smooth texture, otherwise use immediately as a more robust filling.

 

To assemble lay one sheet of filo on the work top, brush with melted butter. Lay a strip of filling about 2.5 cm thick along the long side of the sheet of filo, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) in from the edge.  Roll up and bend into an accordion shape and then roll up into a ‘snail’. Put the ‘snail’ on the buttered baking sheet, continue to make more ‘snails’ with the rest of the filo and filling.  Brush each one with egg wash and then with melted butter.  Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for approx. 30 minutes or until crisp and golden.  Serve immediately.

 

 

Spinach and Feta Pie

This filling may also be used to fill a pie, double the quantity.  Use a 9 x 28 x 8 cm (15 x 11 x 3 inch) tin.  Use 6-7 layers of buttered filo to line the tin and another 6 or 7 sheets on top.  Egg wash, brush with melted butter and score the top of the pie into diamond or square pattern.

Cook in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 45 minutes approx.

Serve warm, cut into diamonds or squares.

 

 

Mary Jo’s Baklava

This is our friend Mary Jo McMillin’s version of baklava made with filo pastry, not quite as light as Nadir’s version but nonetheless delicious.

(Makes 48 pieces)

 

450g  (1lb) filo pastry

350g  (12oz) unsalted butter, clarified and melted

225g  (8oz) whole almonds, finely chopped

225g  (8oz) walnuts or pistachio, finely chopped

50g (2oz) castor sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

pinch of ground cloves

48 whole cloves (optional)

Syrup

400g (14oz) granulated sugar

350ml (12fl oz) water

long strips orange or lemon peel or both

5cm (2 inch) piece cinnamon stick

2-4 tablespoons honey

juice ½  lemon

 

To Prepare Syrup

Mix sugar and water over medium heat until dissolved.  Add orange peel, cinnamon stick and boil gently for 20 mins or until syrup coats the spoon.  Remove from heat, add honey and lemon juice. Set aside to cool.

 

Mix nuts with 2oz of castor sugar, ground cinnamon and cloves.

 

In a swiss roll tin, first brush the bottom with clarified butter.  Layer in filo sheets brushing each with butter and folding in the over hang.  Lay next sheet at the edge of the folded over hang and continue layering – brushing with the butter until you have built a base using 3 sheets. Sprinkle a generous handful of the nut mixture over the buttered filo.  Top with 2 sheets of filo buttering each layer.  Sprinkle over more of the nuts and continue in the same way using the nut mixture.

 

Continue to use all remaining filo, brushing each one with butter. Make sure top layer has no seam. Chill for 20 minutes.

 

Using a very sharp blade, cut the pastry all the way to the bottom into 24 squares and then into 48 triangles, if desired. Spear each piece with a whole clove, if using. Spray mist with water before baking, to prevent top layer from curling.

 

Bake Baklava in a pre-heated oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4-190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5 for 20 mins. Reduce heat to 150°C/300°/Gas Mark 2 and bake for 45-60 mins longer or until golden.

 

Immediately upon removing from the oven, pour over the prepared syrup cooled to room temperature.

 

 

Ottolenghi’s M’tabbaq

 

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi demonstrated this delicious confection at last year’s Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine

 

Serves 6

 

14 sheets of filo pastry, 31cm x 39cm (12½  x 15½  inch)

150g (5oz) unsalted butter, melted

500g (18oz) ricotta

250g (9oz) soft goat’s cheese, such as Rosary

crushed pistachios for garnish (optional)

 

Syrup

120g (4 ½ oz) water

360g (12 ¼ oz) caster sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

 

Heat the oven to 210°C/410°F/Gas Mark 6 1/2.

Brush a low edged baking tray, roughly 28cm x 37cm (11 x 15 inch), with some of the melted butter. Spread a filo sheet on top tucking it into the corners and allowing the edges to hang over. Brush all over with butter, top with another sheet and brush with butter again. Repeat the process until you have seven sheets evenly stacked, each brushed with butter.

Place the ricotta and goat’s cheese in a bowl and mash them using a fork mixing them up well. Spread over the top filo sheet, clearing 2cm (3/4 inch) border around the edge. Brush the surface of the cheese with butter and top with the remaining seven sheets, brushing each in turn with butter.

Use a scissors to trim about 2cm (3/4 inch) off the edge but without reaching the cheese so it stays well sealed within the pastry. Use your fingers to gently tuck the filo edges underneath the kellaj so you get a clear and neat edge. Brush with more butter all over. Use a sharp knife to cut the surface into squares, about 7x7cm (3 x 3 inch), allowing the knife to almost reach the bottom but not quite. Place in the oven and bake for 25-27 minutes, or until golden and crisp.

Prepare the syrup while the kellaj is in the oven. Put the water and sugar in a small saucepan and mix it well with a wooden spoon. Heat up and once it boils, add the lemon juice and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Slowly pour the syrup all over the Kellaj the minute you take it out of the oven, making sure is soaks in evenly. Leave to cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the crushed pistachios on, if using, and cut into portions. Serve warm.

 

 

Scrunchy Apple Tart

Serves 6-8

 

1 packet of filo pastry (you may not need it all)

50g (2 oz) butter, melted

4-6 dessert apples, e.g. Cox’s Pippins

110g (4 oz) castor sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon or mixed spice (optional)

 

icing sugar

 

23-25.5cm (1 x 9-10 inch) round tart tin, preferably with pop-up base.

 

Brush the tin with melted butter, cut 3 sheets of filo in half widthways, brush with melted butter, fold in half and arrange overlapping in the tin.   Peel and cut the apples into chunks, sprinkle with plenty of sugar and cinnamon or mixed spice if using, the tin should be generously filled with fruit.  Fold the edges of the filo back into the tart.

Divide another 3 sheets of filo into 4 pieces each.  Brush with melted butter.  Scrunch up each piece and arrange on top.  Bake in a pre-heated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour approx. or until the apple is cooked and the pastry crisp and golden.

Dredge with icing sugar, serve warm with softly whipped cream.

 

Hot Tips:

Get Buzzing! Beekeeping for Beginners on Saturday 21st  March 10am to 4.30pm, price €70 – the Irish Seed Savers Association in Capparoe, Scarriff, Co Clare, will hold a one day workshop. Topics include: Introduction to Honey Bees and their behaviour, how to get started, equipment needed and where source it. Local Bees and the importance of our Native Irish Black bees, what to expect during the beekeeping year (which will include managing some diseases.) To book and more information on year round workshops www.irishseedsavers.ie or phone 061 921866.

2015 is the International Year of Soils.  Klaus Laitenberg will talk about Caring for Our Soil, at the GIY monthly meeting in Skibbereen on Monday 9th March at 8pm in the West Cork Hotel. All are welcome and donations are appreciated. For more information phone Marian 087 9972899 or see www.giyinternational.org.

TRADEIT, who support small to medium sized traditional food producers, working within the dairy, meat or bakery sectors are running a face to face networking event, in collaboration with Enterprise Europe Network, alongside the ANUGA FoodTec trade fair in Cologne 26th to 27th March 2015. This event is for small food producers and the companies, get the latest information about keeping food businesses sustainable, for more details see www.b2match.eu/tradeitfoodsustainability.

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