This Has Been A Wonderful Week

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This has been a wonderful week, I found myself giving heartfelt thanks to the good Lord and Mother Nature several times over. We had the first new potatoes of the year, with butter made from the cream of our small Jersey herd and Achill sea salt, the first broad beans of the season, in their furry pods and a few days later the first peas, how exciting is that! We ate them freshly picked straight out of the pods, just like our greedy grandchildren and then to cap it all we had the first fresh mackerel of the year today all the way from Knockadoon. Beautiful, fresh food in season and not a ‘best-before’ date in sight – come to think of it most ‘real’ food doesn’t come wrapped in plastic with a sell-by date on it anyway.

This is a fantastically exciting time of the year for gardeners and any of us who grow a little of our own food, suddenly after the hungry gap between the end of winter  and the first of summer produce, gorgeous vegetables and herbs are bursting out of the ground. If you haven’t already started to grow something, dash off to your local garden centre and buy a few packets of seeds or seedlings all ready to grow – virtually every Farmers Market sell a variety of vegetable plugs ready to plant into the ground and you don’t have to have a farm or even a large garden. You’d be amazed how much you can grow in containers, tubs or on your balcony, a raised bed or otherwise. I recently saw three rows of beautiful lettuces, salad leaves and spring onion growing in an old drawer and a virtual garden in an old enamelled bathtub. In the US the Grow Food Not Lawns Movement continues to gather momentum – check out their website www.foodnotlawns.com that’s just one of a tonne of different initiatives worldwide, GIY Ireland continues to inspire. Their latest initiative launched at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine in conjunction with Cully and Sully to encourage people to grow food in their offices had an enthusiastic response.  A brilliantly simple concept that’s got hundreds of people growing peas for the first time.

Peas are a particularly brilliant crop to grow, you can eat them at every stage, pea shoots and flowers in salads, the tendrils called ‘wizards whiskers’ can garnish a plate, the young peas of course so sublime when eaten less than 5 hours after being picked after that the sugars turn to starch, another reason to grow your own , because it’s almost impossible to buy peas that fresh. The pea pods make a delicious soup and when the crop goes over the remaining  peas can be dried and kept for winter use.

Every guest chef who came to the Litfest salivated at the selection of vegetables, salad leaves and fresh herbs in the cookery school gardens (open to the public every day 11am-6pm). Here are some of the delicious ways they incorporated them into their dishes including April Bloomfield’s carrot leaf pesto, a brilliant new discovery for me.

 

Hot Tips

Don’t miss the brilliant little Cottage Market in Ladysbridge on Sunday mornings from 10.30am to 12 midday. Food stalls of course but also crafts, knitted animals and toys, handmade jewellery, vintage clothes, flowers and plants, local honey, home baking, a fun children’s play area, an exercise class to lively music…..and pop around the corner to see Ladysbridge GIY allotments, a brilliant community initiative, every village should have one.

While you are there swing by Carewswood Garden Centre, pick up some vegetable plants and don’t forget to check out the café, a big favourite in the area and justifiably so. www.facebook.com/pages/Carewswood-Garden-Centre-Cafe

 

Ballymaloe Cookery School Garden Workshop

People come from far and wide to see the formal herb garden at Ballymaloe Cookery School but don’t let that intimidate you.  Every cook should have a little herb patch preferably close to the kitchen door. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, herbs grow happily even in the smallest of spaces, in a variety of containers even in and out through your flowers in a herbaceous border. On Monday June 15th from 9am-2pm you can learn how to design a herb garden from our highly acclaimed head gardener Susan Turner who will illustrate the best way to design a herb garden. She’ll give lots of practical advice and suggestions on how to grow herbs year round, propagate from seed and cuttings and much more…lunch is included. Booking essential 021 4646785 or www.cookingisfun.ie.

Artisan Salami

The number of new food start-ups is astonishing, almost every week.  I hear of a new artisan product but it’s also terrific to celebrate the originals. At Fiona Burke’s Strawbale Cheese stall in Midleton Farmers Market alongside a choice selection of Irish and continental craft cheeses, I recently came across Olivier Beaujouan’s handmade garlic salami and chorizo from Castlegregory in Co Kerry, so good in natural casings with a wonderful artisan quality.  Tel: 066 713 9028

Fiona’s got a new project at the moment a Little Red range of creams made from natural organic ingredients including 90% carageen moss, cocoa butter and beeswax from West Cork.  www.littlered.ie


 

April Bloomfield’s  Crushed Spring Peas with Mint

 

April Bloomfield considered by many to be the best woman chef in New York was absolutely enchanting. She cooks beautiful fresh ingredients but with a charming twist. This recipe comes from her new book A Girl and her Greens.

 

“As a girl in England, I always loved mushy peas, whether they were made the real way—from

a starchy variety of pea called marrowfat that’s dried, then soaked—or dumped into a pot straight from a tin. Nowadays I prefer this mash made from fresh, sweet shelling peas—a twist on the

British classic, which actually takes less work to make than its inspiration. It’s wonderful spread in a thick layer on warm bread or as a dip for raw veg, like radishes, carrots, and wedges of fennel.”

 

Makes about 2 cups

 

2 cups fresh peas (from about 2 pounds pods)

1 ounce aged pecorino, finely grated

1½ teaspoons Maldon or another flaky sea salt

1 small spring garlic clove or ½ small garlic clove, smashed, peeled, and roughly chopped

12 medium mint leaves (preferably black mint)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Scant 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more for finishing

 

Combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to a coar e puree, about 45 seconds. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and roughly stir and smoosh a bit so it’s a little creamy and a little chunky. Season to taste with more salt and lemon juice—you want it to taste sweet and bright but not acidic.

 

From A Girl and Her Greens by April Bloomfield. Copyright 2015 April Bloomfield. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

 

 

Allegra McEvedy’s Broad Beans Braised in their Pods

 

Allegra McEvedy witty self-depreciating style hides a true talent for cooking wonderfully tasty non intimidating food that you’ll enjoy eating with family and friends, here’s a brilliant way to enjoy the tiny season’s broad beans, pod and all. This recipe comes from her book  Bought, Borrowed and Stolen

 

“This is a fabulous standard in Morocco, though you need to do it with youngish broad beans at the beginning of the season (i.e. June/July) as the pods are too tough to stew down to the desirable softness with old ones.

It feels kind of like cheating (in a good way) to bypass first the podding, then all that shelling usually done with broadies.”

 

Serves 4-6 as a side dish. A 10 minute make, then half an hours cooking.

 

100 ml (3 ½ fl oz. / 11/25 cups) extra virgin olive oil

400g (14 oz) broad beans in their pods

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 whole chilli, dried or fresh

1 400g (14 oz.) tin tomatoes

small handful mint, finely chopped

squeeze of lemon

S & P

 

Rinse the beans, trim them and slice the pods diagonally into oblique oblongs about 5cm long.

Heat the oil in a wide pan.

Sauté the beans in the pan along with the garlic, onion and chilli for a few minutes, then cover and cook on a medium heat for about 5 minutes

Stir in the tomatoes, mix well and season enthusiastically.

Pour in 500 ml (18 fl oz / 2 ¼ cups.) water, turn up the heat, put on a lid and bring to the boil.

Once boiling, turn down and simmer for 15 minutes.

Take off the lid and let it continue bubbling down for another 15 minutes, allowing the liquid to reduce a bit.

Turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes before stirring in the mint and lemon juice and having a final taste for seasoning. Serve warm, not piping hot.

 

From Bought Borrowed & Stolen by Allegra McEvedy

 

 

 

April Bloomfield’s Pot-Roasted Artichokes with White Wine and Capers

Serves 4 to 6 as a side (accompaniment)

 

One of the reasons I go giddy about springtime is artichokes, particularly the small ones with tips closed tightly, like a flower at night. Some home cooks are reluctant to fill their totes with artichokes, they’ll need to be turned—the barbed leaves plucked off and the other inedible bits trimmed away. I quite like the process. It’s meditative and satisfying once you get the hang of it. In this dish, the fleshy artichokes get browned and crispy tops and look like strange, beautiful roses. The acidity in the white wine cuts through the rich, dense veg and, along with the salty pops from the capers, highlights the artichokes’ unique herbaceousness.

 

50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil

1.6kg (3 1/2lbs) baby artichokes (about 18)

2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon or other flaky sea salt

350ml (12fl oz /1 1/2 cups) dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

1 heaping tablespoon drained capers

a five-finger pinch of mint leaves (preferably black mint), torn at the last minute

 

Heat the oil in a heavy pot (wide enough to hold the artichokes with room to spare) over medium-high heat until it just begins to smoke.

Stand the artichokes cut sides down in the oil, wait a minute, then reduce the heat to medium-low, sprinkle in the garlic and salt, and cook, without stirring, just until the garlic turns golden and smells toasty, about 3 minutes.

 

Pour in the wine, cover the pot, and cook, without stirring, at a vigorous simmer until you can insert a sharp knife into the thick artichoke bottoms with barely any resistance, about 25 minutes. Five minutes or so before they’re fully tender, scatter on the capers and cover again.

 

Uncover, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring the liquid to a boil.

 

Cook until all the wine has evaporated (the bubbling sound will become a sizzle), about 3 minutes. Add the mint and keep cooking the artichokes in the oil (it’s OK if a few of them tip over), until the cut sides of the artichokes are deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the heat if necessary to prevent the artichokes from getting too dark.

 

Arrange the artichokes prettily on a plate, and scoop the capers, oil, and slightly crispy mint over top. Serve straightaway or at room temperature

 

From A Girl and Her Greens by April Bloomfield. Copyright 2015 April Bloomfield. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

 

 

April Bloomfield’s Roasted Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto and Burrata

 

If you can get your hands on burrata—a really special cheese, like delicate mozzarella with a creamy center—then you’re already most of the way toward a great dish. In the spring, I’ll serve burrata with Snap Pea Salad; in high summer, I’ll pair it with slices of ripe tomato, good olive oil, and flaky salt. When summer fades, I crave burrata with roasted carrots, a pairing that’s less common but no less worthy of your attention. The two are like good mates, each helping the other along: the sweetness of the carrots sets off the tanginess of the cheese; the cheese’s tanginess makes the carrots tastes even sweeter. Pesto made from the carrot tops adds color and salty, herbaceous wallops throughout the dish.

 

Serves 4 to 6 as a side (accompaniment)

 

20 small carrots (the size of pointer fingers), scrubbed well but not peeled, all but 1cm (1/2 inch) of the tops removed and reserved

3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon plus a few pinches of Maldon or another flaky sea salt

225g (8oz) room-temperature burrata, drained

about 2 1/2 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons) Carrot Top Pesto (see recipe)

a five-finger pinch of basil leaves, torn at the last minute if large

3/4 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon) lemon juice

 

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 500˚F/260°C/Gas Mark 10.

 

Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) of the oil into a heavy ovenproof pan big enough to hold the carrots in a single layer. Set the pan over high heat and bring the oil to a light smoke. Add the carrots, sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of the salt, and turn the carrots to coat them in the oil. Cook, turning over the carrots occasionally, until they’re browned in spots, 6 to 8 minutes. Pop the pan in the oven and roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the carrots are evenly tender, 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of your carrots. Let the carrots cool slightly. Halve the burrata and arrange the halves on a platter. Arrange the carrots on the platter so they’re pointing this way and that. Add the pesto here and there in little dollops.

 

Pluck enough 5-7.5cm (2-3 inch) delicate sprigs from the reserved carrot tops to make about 45g (1 3/4oz/1 1/2 lightly packed cups) and toss them in a bowl with the basil. Whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) of the oil with the lemon juice and a good pinch of salt in a small bowl until the mixture looks creamy. Use a little of the lemon dressing to lightly dress the carrot top–basil mixture, sprinkle on a little more salt, and toss well. Arrange the mixture on top of the carrots and burrata. Drizzle everything with the remaining lemon dressing and serve.

 

 

From A Girl and Her Greens by April Bloomfield. Copyright 2015 April Bloomfield. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


Pan-grilled Mackerel with Bretonne Sauce

 

This is a master recipe for pan grilling fish.

The simplest and possibly the most delicious way to cook really fresh mackerel.

 

Serves 6

 

12 fillets of very fresh mackerel (allow 6ozs (175g) fish for main course, 3ozs (75g) for a starter)

seasoned flour

small knob of butter

 

Bretonne Sauce

75g (3ozs/3/4 stick) butter, melted

1 eggs yolk, preferably free range

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (We use Maille Verte Aux Herbs)

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) parsley, chopped or a mixture of chervil, chives, tarragon and fennel, chopped (mixed)

 

First make the Bretonne Sauce. Melt the butter and allow to boil.  Put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the mustard and the herbs, mix well.  Whisk the hot melted butter into the egg yolk mixture little by little so that the sauce emulsifies.  Keep warm, by placing the Pyrex bowl in a saucepan of hot but not boiling water.

 

Just before serving, dip the dry fish fillets in flour which has been seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on that side before you turn them over. Continue to cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with some Bretonne sauce spooned over the top or serve in a little bowl on the side.

 


Sugared Strawberries with Mint

The Irish strawberry season is now in full swing. The early variety have been grown in a tunnel or greenhouse and irrigated hence their size. A little sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice, shredded mint adds an extra oomph to the berries.

 

Serves 12-16

 

450g (1lb) strawberries

freshly squeezed lemon juice

caster sugar

fresh mint leaves

 

To make the sugared strawberries.

Remove the calyx from the strawberries.  Slice lengthwise into a bowl.  Sprinkle with a little lemon juice and caster sugar to taste.  Add some shredded fresh mint leaves.  Taste and tweak if necessary.

Serve with vanilla bean ice cream. A little strawberry coulis would also be delicious with this.

 

Strawberry Coulis

450g (16oz) fresh strawberries

70g (2 1/2oz/1/2 cup) icing sugar

lemon juice

 

Clean and hull the strawberries, add to the blender with sugar and blend. Strain through a nylon sieve.  Taste and add lemon juice if necessary, it should taste deliciously bitter sweet.  Store in a fridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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