We had our annual Long Table Dinner in the glasshouses a couple of weeks ago. It was completely sold out with a waiting list of people eager to come if there was a cancellation, even at the last minute. Six nationalities travelled here for it: English, South African, American, French, Swiss… as well, of course, as a large Irish contingent.
It was heaven sitting at a long table in the midst of the tomatoes and runner beans.
This is always a wonderful time of the year here in the Cookery School gardens, with everything looking lush and luxuriant. But I love the excuse of an event to polish everything up an extra notch.
Preparation starts several months ahead. After the early potato crop has been harvested, we plant grass seed in a couple of bays of the greenhouses. This lush lawn creates a beautiful green carpet for the Long Table Dinner. The field kitchen in the neighbouring bay was beautifully screened off with fresh beech branches and willow lattice.
For the past couple of weeks there has been a frenzy of activity – with Rory O’ Connell testing and tasting dishes made with the seasonal summer produce. A few students from the summer Twelve Week Course had asked to stay on to help at the dinner. They loved the experience, and being able to see the behind the scenes preparation, cooking and serving of a summer feast for a hundred people.
The weather forecast was pretty grim, so we all held our breath but despite our apprehension, we were fortunate with the weather. About an hour before the guests arrived there was the sort of sudden downpour that we’ve become accustomed to this “summer”. But after that it was blue skies all the way.
Guests started to arrive at 4pm and Sommelier Colm McCann and his team had some cava with elderflower or rhubarb cordial and fresh mint lemonade ready for the guests. Emer and Pat grilled sourdough bread and topped it with heirloom tomatoes and basil, or scrambled organic eggs dotted with Ballycotton lobster.
We welcomed the guests and thanked them for supporting the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project – and explained we are saving up to convert a disused shipping container into a prototype teaching kitchen for local schools to teach their pupils how to cook the produce they grow in their school gardens.
After the aperitif and nibbles, the guests walked through the organic farm and gardens. We explained that the Cookery School and farm are completely integrated: the School is our indoor classroom, we use the farm and gardens as an outdoor classroom. We showed them the photovoltaic system that generate electricity for the School, even on dull days, and the student beds where local children learn how to sow seeds and grow vegetables and herbs. Many were also fascinated by the dairy, where our Jersey cows are milked and the butter, buttermilk and yoghurt are made.
We wandered down through the herb garden, the wild flower meadow, and the vegetable and fruit gardens, arriving at the glasshouse just minutes after 6pm.
At this time of the year it looks like the Garden of Eden with kiwi and passionfruit overhead, and a wonderful variety of aubergines, sweetcorn, chilis, salad leaves, peppers, beans, heirloom tomatoes, beets, zucchini … as well as peach, fig, nectarine, pomegranate and grapevines around the edges – so beautiful.
The Gardeners were playing trad music as we arrived to add to the magic.
People took their seats. It was all very convivial, as is the nature of Slow Food events. There was no seating plan, so people could mix and mingle and make new friends.
And then the feast began. Here’s the menu Rory eventually chose, illustrated by Lydia Hugh -Jones (www.lydiahughjones.com)
We started with a Garden Leaf and Herb Flower Bouquet with Almond and Marjoram, Grape and Elderflower Mist served in little glasses, which had been assembled minutes earlier from the freshly picked leaves.
There was lots of freshly baked Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread and Jersey butter from the farm. The flavour of homemade butter was a trip down memory lane for many guests.
The second course was served family-style, the guests helped themselves and each other to:
- Beef Carpaccio with Horseradish and Tarragon
- Sushi Rice with Smoked Ballycotton Pollock and Ruby Beetroot
- Hot Smoked Wild Blackwater Salmon in Oeufs Mimosa
- and Mustard Seed Pickled Cucumbers.
The main course was also sensational, in the words of the guests around me: Grilled Breast of Nora Ahern’s Duck with Stonewell Tawny Cider, Roast Nectarines and Mint.
Rory had also braised the duck legs and wings with Indian spices, Llewellyn’s balsamic vinegar and tomatoes. That dish too was enthusiastically received., here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it yourself.The Jersey butter and sea salt on the table embellished the floury new potatoes, a variety called Colleen, and the green beans which had been dug and picked not more than a half an hour before dinner.
Next the cheese course: Labne made with dripped natural yoghurt, served with Radishes, Savoury, Highbank Orchard Apple Syrup and Homemade Cheese Biscuits.
Then pudding, which was quite simply irresistible:
- Compote of Cherries with Kirsch
- An Iced Sandwich of Peach, Raspberry and Buttermilk
- And Crème Brulee peppered with Mark Kingston’s Single Estate Coffee
Needless to say, everyone had to have a taste, or rather several, of everything.
The music played on, and then there were JR’s raspberry marshmallows, candied chocolate orange peel, biscotti, and madeleines, still warm from the oven. Served with coffee and fresh herb tisanes. A real celebration of the food from the farm and gardens and local area and the blessings of Mother Nature.
Clever and delicious ways to preserve your glut……
Hans Wieland will teach a Home Preserving course at the Organic Centre in Co Leitrim on Saturday August 29th He will cover a wide range of methods to store and preserve your surplus garden crop from drying, fermenting, storing and freezing….
www.theorganiccentre.ie for more information
Date for your Diary:
A Taste of West Cork (4th-13th September).The 10 day festival will include an open air street food market, food demonstrations, tastings, interactive workshops, cookery competitions….
-SAVE OUR SMALL SHOPS, support them or loose them. The whole country seems to be gone discounter mad, seems like people can’t talk about anything else- BMW’s, Merc’s, Audi’s, Toyotas, MIni’s, all lined up outside filling the boot with the latest bargains, but remember as the ad says when there’re gone there’re gone and when there all gone there all gone…. Is this the kind of Ireland we want ? Remember we can all make a difference to our local town and community by how we CHOOSE to spend our euro….
Slow Food is an international organisation with members like you and I in over 150 countries world wide. If you are interested in food and food issues it’s really worth being a member to link into the global network. There are 15 Convivia (chapters) in Ireland. For further details on how to become a member check out www.slowfoodireland.com
Carpaccio with Rocket and Parmesan
Carpaccio is the ultimate recipe to make a little beef go a very long way. This sophisticated dish was invented in Harry’s Bar in Venice and named for Carpaccio, the great 15th century Venetian painter. There are many variations and this one is inspired by a version served at the Cipriani Hotel.
1 lb (450g) fillet of beef, preferably Aberdeen Angus (fresh not frozen)
fresh rocket or arugula leaves – about 5 per person depending on the size
6-7 very thin slivers Parmesan cheese per person (Parmigano Reggiano is best)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil or Mustard Sauce (see below)
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) sugar
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) wine vinegar
1/4 pint (150ml/generous 1/2 cup) light olive oil or sunflower oil
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) grated fresh horseradish
1 generous teaspoon chopped parsley
1 generous teaspoon chopped tarragon
If you are using Mustard Sauce, make it first. Put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the mustard, sugar and wine vinegar and mix well. Whisk in the oil gradually as though you were making Mayonnaise. Finally, add the grated horseradish, chopped parsley and tarragon. Taste and season if necessary.
Chill the meat. Slice the beef fillet with a very sharp knife, 1/3 of an inch thick. Place each slice on a piece of oiled cling film or parchment paper, cover with another piece of oiled cling film or parchment paper. Roll gently with a rolling pin until almost transparent and double in size. Peel the cling film or parchment paper off the top, invert the meat on to a plate, and gently peel away the other layer of clingfilm or parchment paper.
Arrange the rocket leaves on top of the beef and scatter with very thin slivers of Parmesan over the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with the Mustard Sauce or with very best extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.
Note: Rocket and Parmesan Salad served without the carpaccio but drizzled with extra virgin olive oil is a very fashionable starter and very addictive it is too.
Wine Suggestion A full bodied red eg. Sassicaia from Tuscany
24/06/2008 (JJ) 1876
450g (1lb) cherries
110g (4oz/1/2 cup) caster sugar
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) kirsch
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) lemon juice
Place the cherries, sugar, kirsch and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cover and place on the gentlest heat. The sugar needs to melt and the cherries need to cook and soften slightly. This takes about 20 minutes by which time you should have a lovely cherry compote with ruby coloured syrup.
Duck Legs Braised with Indian Spices and Llewellyn’s Balsamic Vinegar
Serves 4 – 6
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground cumin seeds
1 tablespoon bright red paprika (not smoked)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons sunflower oil
6 duck Legs and 6 duck wings.The thighs cut in half, wing bones and drumsticks trimmed of knuckles). Dry the prepared duck legs thoroughly. Yields 21 pieces
1 level teaspoon brown mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
15 curry leaves (optional)
2 medium onions thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
6 cloves of garlic crushed to a paste
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
80 – 100 ml cider vinegar (Irish Balsamic Vinegar)
1 teaspoon salt and more to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
Mix the turmeric, cumin, paprika, coriander, cayenne pepper and garam masala in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy casserole. Add the dry duck pieces skin side down and cook until hazelnut brown. Turn and repeat on the other side .Remove from the casserole.
Add the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds and allow the mustard to pop, a matter of seconds. Now immediately add the curry leaves and sliced onions and cook until the edges of the onions are lightly browned. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for 1 minute. Add the spices and cook over a gentle heat all the while stirring for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes to slightly soften. Scrape the bottom of the pan as you go. Add the browned duck pieces, vinegar, salt, sugar and enough water to barely cover the duck, sir all to gently mix. Bring the contents of the casserole to a simmer and cover. Cook at this gentle simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook at a simmer for a further 30 minutes occasionally stirring and scraping the casserole bottom.
By now the sauce should have reduced and thickened slightly.
Taste and correct seasoning. Serve with boiled rice or new potatoes. French beans or spinach are also a perfect accompaniment.