ArchiveMay 2016

Post Litfest

Well, I’ve just put my feet up for the first time in several days – the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine is over for another year. It was quite an event with thousands of people converging on East Cork for the weekend. Over 30 nationalities that we know of and as one hassled visitor complained to me ‘there wasn’t a bed between here and Cork’. Fortunately we found her one but the event certainly created a huge buzz and generated a lot of excitement in the greater area.

There were many highlights…. the thought provoking 15 minute talks in the Grainstore on a whole range of topics. Food in a Warzone with Kamal Mouzuwak from the Lebanon, Seaweeds eat them, meet them with Prannie Rhatigan, Ella McSweeney chaired a panel on Farming the Soil, Prue Leith founder of Leiths Cookery School in London spoke about her life in food. Elizabeth Luard, Sacred Food was also riveting but one of the most thought provoking of all was Professor Ted Dinan of UCC’s talk on the relationship between our gut and our psychological wellbeing. Ari Weinzweig from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor in Michigan’s talk was entitled ‘A Lapsed Anarchist’, his subject, how to create a successful business and a happy workforce. Many of these presentations will be up on the Litfest website within the next couple of weeks.

The Big Shed where the Fringe takes place was rocking.  The food stalls were specially selected for their ‘great food’.  ‘My Goodness’s Heavy Nettle shot and an Irish take on pupusas made with potato, charlock and wild garlic was a  huge hit as were Ivan Whelan’s sausage, egg and chips. Ivan had three fryers on the go, Choose Your Fat….

Pat Whelan’s dripping, fresh pork lard or sunflower oil for the vegetarians. The homemade sausages, Frankfurters, Bratwurst, and Boorwurst were made by Fingal Ferguson of Gubeen who was doing a beautiful Gubeen plate with  a selection of his cured meats. Back to Ivan, the artisan mustard came from Graham Kearns, Co Meath, the ketchup, sauces and salsas were handmade

The Bloody Mary and Bloody Shame (non alcoholic) made from homemade tomato ketchup caused quite a sensation….

Arun Kapil of Green Saffron also had long queues for Spicy John Dory and salmon with peas and coconut flakes as did The Rocket Man’s falafel pockets. Lolo had his entire family serving crêpes and many other good things. Joe and Sandra Burns Farm Vegetable Chips and much much more…….

The Ballymaloe gang did a brilliant job of giving chefs, speakers and guests a taste of the very best of Ireland. Can you imagine the sun shone on both days with only two thunder showers to remind us of how it could have been….but this column is about food and as ever there were many highlights among the cookery dems at the Cookery School and here are just a few, I’ll share some more with you all in the next couple of weeks.

 

Hot Tips

We discovered lots of new artisan products over the weekend. Graham’s Wholegrain Mustards from Co Meath are quite a find; they are made from a carefully selected brown and yellow mustard seeds and aged for 2½ months to let the flavours develop, the end result is really worth seeking out.

http://www.grahams-condiments.com/wholegrain-mustard/

This is Seaweed

Paul O Connor’s little tins of dried seaweed also caught my eye, great to sprinkle over salads, soups, add to breads….check out his website for the story, www.thisisseaweed.com

Burren Slow Food Festival, 28th and 29th May at the Pavillion, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare

Many highlights include cookery demos with JP McMahon from Anair,  Oonagh O’ Dwyer, Evan Doyle will talk Wild and Slow,  Burren Slow Food Banquet, oyster, wine and stout tastings, whisky and chocolate, champagne and wild salmon and lots more….www.slowfoodclare.com #burrenfoodfest

 

 

Ottolenghi’s Burnt Spring Onion Dip with Kale

Serves 6

Spring Onion Cream

1 head of garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

150g (5oz) spring onions (about 12-14), ends trimmed then sliced in half lengthways leaving 110g(4oz) in weight

1 1/2 tablespoons sunflower oil

150g (5oz) cream cheese

110g (4oz) soured cream

coarse sea salt and black pepper

Kale

90ml olive oil (3 1/3fl oz)

6 garlic cloves, thinly slices

3 large red chillies, de-seeded and finely sliced

550g (20oz) curly kale, washed though stems removed, cut widthways into 3-4cm (1 1/4 – 1 1/2 inch) slices (450g/16oz)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

 

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7(200°C/400°F fan)

Slice the top quarter off the head of garlic, horizontally, and discard. Place the remaining garlic in the centre of a square of foil, with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Wrap up the garlic, place it on a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes until soft. Set aside and, when cool enough to touch, squeeze out the garlic cloves, discard the skin and, using the flat side of a sharp knife, crush to form a puree. Set aside until ready to use.

Place the spring onions in a bowl and brush with the sunflower oil. Sprinkle over 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Place a small griddle pan on a high heat and ventilate your kitchen. When the pan is smoking hot, add the spring onions and chargrill for 5-6 minutes, turning halfway through, until black and burnt all over. Set aside to cool, the finely chop. Transfer the spring onions to a bowl and add the cream cheese, soured cream, and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the roast garlic puree and the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Mix well and set aside until ready to use.

Put the oil for the kale into a large sauté pan and place on a medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chilli slices and fry for 4-6 minutes, stirring constantly, until crisp and golden-brown. Add the kale, along with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and a good grind of black pepper, and cook for 3 minutes – you might need to do this in two or three batches – stirring often, until the kale is cooked but still retains a bite. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and serve warm, on a large platter or individual starter plates, with dollops of the spring onions dip spooned on top.

 

Ottolenghi’s Garlic Spiced Farinata with Whipped Butterbeans

Serves 4

Farinata is a flatbread made from chickpea flour, which makes it gluten-free as well as delicious. The edges are dry and crisp, whilst the centre is more soft and squidgy, allowing you to scoop up the topping when you eat it. Start with either tinned or dried butterbeans here, which you then cook. Both work just as well.

200g (7oz) flour (aka chickpea flour)

60ml (2 1/2fl oz) olive oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon sumac

1 teaspoon nigella seeds

1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes

flaky sea salt

 

Whipped Butterbeans

1 x 400g (14oz) tin cooked butterbeans, drained and rinsed (240g/8 3/4oz drained weight)

100g (3 1/2oz) cream cheese

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons for drizzling

1 spring onion, thinly sliced

1 small preserved lemon (10g/1/2oz), flesh and skin finely chopped

Place the chickpea flour in a large bowl. Slowly add 450ml (16fl oz) of water, whisking constantly, until well combined. Set aside for 20 minutes and preheat the oven to 240°C/ 475°F.

Place all the ingredients for the whipped butterbeans in a food processor with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Blitz for 1-2 minutes, until completely smooth and aerated and then spoon into a small bowl. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and set aside.

Add the oil for the farinata to a large iron skillet which will retain the heat well (if you don’t have one use a heavy-based, ovenproof frying pan). Place on a medium-high heat. Add the garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes, until it starts to sizzle but doesn’t take on any colour. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic out of the oil to a small bowl. Add the sumac, nigella seeds and chilli to the garlic; mix together and set aside.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil left in the pan into the chickpea flour batter along with 1 teaspoon salt. Whisk well and set aside. Tip 1 tablespoon of the garlic oil in the pan out into a separate bowl, leaving 1 tablespoon left in the pan.

Return the frying pan to a high heat and, once the oil starts to smoke, pour in half of the batter, swirling the pan to form an even layer. Heat for 30 seconds, until the batter starts to bubble and then sprinkle over half of the garlic mix. Transfer the pan to the oven for 10 minutes, until cooked through and golden-brown. Use a spatula to remove the farinata from the pan and rest on a large plate. Keep warm (or you can return it to the oven for the last two minutes of cooking time for the next farinata) whilst you cook the second farinata in the same way, using the last tablespoon of garlic oil to do so. Slice into wedges and serve warm, with the whipped butterbeans alongside for spreading over.

 

Claire Ptak’s Rhubarb Ice-Cream

Acidic fruits, such as rhubarb, make great ice-cream flavours, because they stand up to the richness of a creamy custard. If you are making this ice-cream when the trees are still in blossom, throw in a few handfuls of petals (preferably not from the gutter) in place of the vanilla for a heady, honey-like hint. For best results, this should be made in an ice-cream maker. If you don’t have one, freeze the mixture until solid.

For the custard
350g (12oz) whole milk
150g (5oz) caster sugar
4 egg yolks
600ml (1 pint) double cream (a large pot)
1 vanilla pod
a squeeze of lemon juice (if needed)

For the rhubarb
1kg (2 1/4 lbs) rhubarb
180g (6 1/4oz) caster sugar
1 vanilla pod

In a heavy-based pan, warm the milk, caster sugar and vanilla pod, seeds scraped, until just beginning to bubble. This won’t take long, so while it’s heating up, put your egg yolks into a bowl and whisk. Pour the double cream into a large bowl with a sieve resting on top of it and set aside.

When the milk is ready, temper the yolks by pouring a little of the milk into them, whisking as you go. Now pour the tempered yolks back into the remaining warm milk in the pan. Stirring continuously, heat until the mixture starts to thicken at the bottom of the pan. Strain the custard mixture into the cold cream and whisk well to prevent the custard from cooking any further. Cover and put in the fridge for at least 1 hour to cool.

Heat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

Cut the rhubarb into batons and lay in a baking dish. Coat with the 180g (6 1/4oz) caster sugar and add the vanilla pod, then cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the foil then roast for a further 20 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft and falling apart. Allow to cool.

Blitz the rhubarb in a food processor, then stir into the ice-cream custard base. Taste the mixture and add a squeeze of lemon juice or a pinch of sugar to adjust if needed. See tip about sweetness.

Pour into your ice-cream maker and churn for about 20 minutes, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze for 1 hour before serving.

 

Claire Ptak’s Roasted Squash Cobbler

Serves 6


1 large butternut squash or other delicious pumpkin, such as crown prince (about 1.2kg/2 3/4 lbs)
1 red onion
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
6 sprigs thyme
salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes, drained
200g (7oz) single cream
10-12 stalks Cavolo Nero, leaves stripped and stalks discarded

 

For the biscuits
140g (4 3/4oz) plain flour
2 tablespoons wholemeal spelt flour
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
150g (5oz) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes
4 tablespoons plain yoghurt
1 egg, beaten (for coating)

 

Peel the squash, slice it in half and scrape out the seeds and pulp. Lay the squash cut-side down and cut it into 1cm (1/2 inch) slices. Peel and cut the onion into eighths. Spread the squash and onion pieces out on a parchment-lined tray and drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the chilli flakes, sprigs of thyme, salt and pepper.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the squash is tender and the onions are starting to caramelise.

Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the crushed garlic. Once it sizzles but before it goes brown, add the drained tomatoes and crush them up a little in the pan. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes, turning the heat down if it bubbles too ferociously. Whisk in the cream. Cut the Cavolo Nero into ribbons and mix it into the tomato sauce. Toss the roasted squash and onions into the tomatoey cream sauce. Turn off the heat and tip the mixture into a large round baking dish. Set it aside while you make the biscuit topping.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425˚F/Gas Mark 7.

In a large bowl, whisk together the two flours, the baking powder and the salt. Use a fork or your fingertips to mix the butter into the flour mixture until it’s the size of peas. Stir in the yoghurt and pat the mixture into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle 1.5cm (3/4 inch) thick. Use a 6cm (2 1/2 inch) pastry cutter to cut out four or five biscuits and then gather the scraps to make one or two more biscuits so you have six in total. Place the biscuits on top of the cobbler and brush them with the egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the biscuits are puffed and golden and the cobbler is bubbling away. Serve with a little yoghurt if you wish and a green salad.

Inis Meain

Scoring a couple of nights in Inis Meáin Suites is as good as winning the Lotto as far as I’m concerned.  The rooms book out almost a year ahead and many of the guests are devoted ‘returnees’ so when the bookings open in September you need to be on your mark and ready to secure a booking. Ruairí and Marie-Thérèse de Blacam opened the restaurant in 2007 and suites were completed in 2011.

There are just five, simple and sophisticated each overlooking the dramatic landscape, a patchwork tiny fields surrounded by centuries old stone walls, each its own ancient Gaelic name and many that have never been turned in living memory. This is an Irish speaking community. Inis Meáin, Irish is rich and lyrical, it comes as quite a surprise to hear people speak in broken English just 45 minutes from the mainland.

We were met off the Ros a Mhil ferry by Ruairí, in the cool Inis Meáin ‘mobile’. Somehow we had managed to coincide with the first day of summer. The island was teaming with wild flowers. All along the roadside, there were alexanders, violets, stitchworth.  Between the rocks in the fields, yellow birds foot trefoil, purple cranes bill, pale pink thrift, primroses, orchids, daisies, dandelions and a sea of buttercups and deep blue gentians were peeping up between the crevices in the rocky fields and little meadows. Island cattle, a few sheep and an occasional horse and donkey graze here and there and amble through the narrow gaps in walls, bearna in Irish which are filled with stones to secure the field in the time honoured way.

The air is filled with birdsong and I hear the first cuckoo of the year in the second week of May, is this a record?

The bedrooms are minimally furnished, no frills or flounces just beautiful bed linen and towels and fine toiletries. The cupboards are intelligently equipped with everything you may need, the fridge has several bottles of good wine and apple juice, Dingle gin, Writers Tears whiskey, a bottle of fizz, a packet of fine salami, Oritz tuna, a bar of Bean and Goose artisan chocolate, a couple of Brú craft beer. There are deck chairs and bikes in the porch, an umbrella should it rain, a fishing rod already baited, a torch and several beautiful books on island life.

A totally delicious breakfast arrives into the porch of your suite in a teak box at 7.30am.  You can jump out of bed to watch the dawn or snooze until noon. The insulated Pandora’s box will keep the contents in perfect condition.

The freshly laid eggs will keep warm within their hand knitted Aran cosies. On the first morning, little WECK glass jars, full of diced gravlax, pork rillettes (from their own pigs), granola, natural yoghurt, a little compartment of white and brown soda and a couple of slices of a delicious light fruit cake, chunks of ripe melon, blueberries and fresh mint leaves from the herb garden,  a pot of rich unctuous chocolate. Can you imagine tucking into that breakfast with a fine pot of strong tea or freshly ground coffee. On the second day a whole new choice….

Inis Meáin is the quietest of the three Aran Islands, sandwiched between Inis Mór and Inis Oírr.

Its tranquillity is its charm no ‘hurdie gurdies’ or disco music, no burger and chips here. Hop on a bike and feel the wind in your hair or ramble through the little boreens with your lunch in the back pack which has been thoughtfully delivered at 10.30 of thick lentil soup and focaccia. Feel the pressure of everyday life slip away.

Ruairí de Blacam cooks the kind of food I love to eat, beautiful simple fresh ingredients straight from their little garden and tunnel. Fresh fish and shellfish from the sea, cooked from scratch, no faffing around with foams or gels or skid marks on the plate, just pure fresh flavours, simply cooked. The restaurant looks out towards the Atlantic – the Twelve Pins of Connemara silhouetted in the distance as the sun sets in the West.

A classic carpaccio from dry aged beef and a crab salad with slivers of radish from the garden and wild island flowers were particularly  memorable as was a salad of thinly sliced new seasons red and golden beetroot with crème fraîche, finely chopped chives, wild garlic and herb robert flowers, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Monkfish with ras en hanout and fennel and orange salad – very good with a bottle of unfiltered dry white wine from Georgia called Pheasants Tears.

It was two years since I’d been to Inis Meáin Suites, Marie-Thérèse and Ruairí have continued to reinvest in their business. Their eggs come from their own hens, the pork from their pigs, wild flowers from the island, flutter over the occasional dish. I particularly remember a hay smoked custard with new season rhubarb covered with primroses that were picked by Ruairí just minutes earlier – where would you get it?

Inis Meáin Suites is the sort of gem that one dreams about discovering but so rarely does.

So even if Ruairí and Marie-Thérèse and Inis Meáin Suites are booked out until the end of the 2016 season, it’s really worth going on a cancellation list which is how I secured my booking this time and if you can’t get into the Suites, there are several other B & B’s on the island and one can book dinner in the Inis Meáin Restaurant.

There are several ferries a day from either Doolin or Ros a Mhil. Aer Arann flies from Connemara Airport, just €49, worth every penny and they need our support. www.aerarannislands.ie

 

Inis Meáin Hay Smoked Custard and New Season’s Rhubarb

 

Serves 6

For the custard
Handful of clean hay
250ml cream
4 egg yolks
20g caster sugar

For the rhubarb (enough for 12)
1 kg forced rhubarb
Zest of 2 oranges
2 split vanilla pods
100g sugar
100ml water

Firstly toast off your hay in a hot oven for 1-2 minutes to enhance the flavours.
Put the hot hay in a bowl and pour the cream over it. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave to infuse for a minimum of 6 hours. When this time has elapsed, pass the liquid through a fine sieve making sure to squeeze as much cream out of the hay as you can.
Discard the hay. You should have about 220ml of cream. Heat this in a saucepan until it almost starts to boil but not quite.

While the cream is heating whisk the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl until smooth. Slowly pour all the hot cream over the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook it out over a very low heat continuously stirring with a wooden spoon. When the custard coats the back of the spoon you’re done.

Make a syrup with the water, sugar vanilla and orange zest in a large pot. Clean and cut the rhubarb into one inch dice. Add this to the syrup and cook it out for 4-5 minutes. There should be a little bite left in the rhubarb and I must add that only forced rhubarb will do.

To finish the dish cover the bottom of each bowl with custard. Spoon some of the rhubarb into it and garnish with mint and primroses….

 

Inis Meáin Carpaccio of Beef

Serves 6

 

This the simplest recipe ever.

1kg of prime sirloin(meticulously trimmed)

For the mayonnaise
2 egg yolks
3 teaspoons of strong Dijon mustard
Juice of half a lemon
200 ml sunflower oil
Drop of milk
Salt and ground white pepper
1 plastic bottle

Ask your butcher to cut a piece of sirloin approximately 20cm long. Trim off all the fat and cut in half lengthways with the grain. Wrap in cling film, roll into two sausages, tie the ends and freeze for 1.5 hours. This makes it easier to slice it as thinly as possible.

While your beef is in the freezer make your mayonnaise. Whisk your egg yolks and mustard together adding the oil gradually to make an emulsion. When all the oil is added thin it out the dressing with the lemon juice and milk. Season. The idea is that it will end up as white as possible and runny enough to squeeze from a bottle in a crosshatch pattern. (I normally hate squeezy bottles but this is the original Harry’s Bar recipe so I’ll make an exception!)

Remove the beef from the freezer and with a very sharp knife cut against the grain in very thin slices. Cover 6 plates with the thinly sliced beef. (If you have any beef left over you can grill it for your breakfast the following day). Zig zag the dressing over the meat and serve with some toasted sourdough.

 

Inis Meáin Carpaccio of Mackerel with Ginger and Sesame Dressing

 

Make a note of this recipe to fish out when the first fresh mackerel are available – this is another example of Ruairí de Blacam’s superb, pure and simple dishes. This dressing makes a lot and keeps well.  It is also delicious with noodles or pan-grilled fish.  It is only worth doing this dish if the mackerel is super fresh, less than 5 hours out of the sea.

Super fresh mackerel filleted – 1 mackerel serves 2 as a starter

 

Ginger Sesame Dressing

1250ml (2 pints/5 cups) sesame oil

1250ml (2 pints/5 cups) sunflower oil

300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) soya sauce

150g (5oz) garlic, microplaned

200g (7oz) ginger, microplaned

250g (9oz) sesame seeds toasted

 

Optional

spring onions, thinly sliced at an angle

coriander leaves

 

Fillet the spanking fresh mackerel and remove all the bones.  Slice each fillet into 1/8 inch thick slices, arrange in a circle on a chilled plate.  Spoon a little dressing over each portion.  Sprinkle with thinly sliced spring onions and coriander seeds.

A little bowl of Periwinkles can be found all along the coast of Ireland yet we rarely find them on restaurant menus. Down on Shanagarry strand, when the tide is out and we turn over the stones we find a whole little clutch of these edible little sea snails clinging to them. I always take the students down to collect periwinkles, to pass on this skill. Make sure they’re a good size when you collect them – if you collect the tiny ones there won’t be any to collect at a later stage, and there’s very little in them anyway.

We find that there are two types of sea snail that grow side by side. The locals call one ‘horse perries’ and always say they’re not edible.

They’re flatter in shape and have mother-of-pearl inside. There are still quite a few people around the coast, particularly older people, who collect periwinkles and sell them to a dealer who exports them to Paris to become part of an assiette de fruits de mer served along the Champs-Elysées!

Take your children or grandchildren with you when you’re foraging for periwinkles. We sometimes light a fire in a little circle of stones so we can cook our foraged feast on the beach. Our grandchildren giggle with delight as they extract the little coiled periwinkles from their shells with pins that have little bobbles on top. There’s a little black disk at the mouth of the shell called the operculum; don’t eat it, just flick it off with your pin. Traditionally they were just winkled out of the shell with a pin, dipped in vinegar and eaten there and then. I also remember them being sold in little paper cornets on the pier in Lahinch, County Clare.

Our meal at Inis Meáin started with a little bowl of fresh periwinkles, cooked in seawater and still warm – they had been picked along the seashore only a few hours earlier – where would you get it….we had a happy interlude winkling them out of the shells with long pins.

 

How to clean periwinkles

Cover with cold fresh water and leave to soak for at least 1 hour, longer if possible. You’ll need to cover the bucket because they make a valiant and determined effort to

escape, which can be a bit unnerving. Discard the water and cook. They are best cooked in seawater.

 

Live periwinkles

Boiling salted water – 4 tablespoons to every 4 pints (2.3litres) water

 

Bring the water to the boil, add the salt and the periwinkles, bring the water back to the boil.   Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, strain off the water and allow the periwinkles to get cold.  Serve with homemade mayonnaise.  Some people love to dip them in vinegar.  Either way you will need to supply a large pin for each person to extract the winkles from the shells.

 

Homemade Mayonnaise

 

Most people don’t seem to be aware that mayonnaise can be made even with a hand whisk in less than five minutes, and if you use a food-processor the technique is still the same but it is made even faster. The great secret is to have all your ingredients at room temperature and to drip the oil very slowly into the egg yolks at the beginning. The quality of your mayonnaise will depend totally on the quality of the egg yolks, oil and vinegar and it’s perfectly possible to make a bland mayonnaise if you use poor-quality ingredients.

Mayonnaise is the ‘mother’ of all the cold emulsion sauces, so once you can make a mayonnaise you can make any of the ‘daughter’ sauces such as tartare, aioli, garlic mayo, dill mayo, wholegrain mustard mayo… Just add extra ingredients as required. Makes 300ml (1⁄2 pint)

 

2 organic egg yolks

pinch of English mustard or 1⁄4 teaspoon French mustard

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) oil (sunflower or olive oil or a mixture) – we use 175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil and 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil

 

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, salt and white wine vinegar. Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop, whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain rate. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

If the mayonnaise curdles, it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1–2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl and whisking in the curdled mayonnaise, a half-teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

 

Hot Tips

Tacos, Tostados, Quesadillas

We so love Mexican food in all its incarnations. But how irresistible are many of the street foods – tortillas packed full of flavour, served in a myriad of variations, the kind of food you want to share with family and friends at any time of the day.

Street food is an integral part of daily life in Mexico. There are tacquerias all over the country and now there’s a taco craze from San Francisco to Copenhagen. You’ll never be short of friends when you can whip up a few ace tacos, tostados and quesadillas.

But do you know your tacos from your quesadillas, or what makes a good tostado? Darina is on a permanent mission to find the world’s best taco. We’ll have corn and flour tortillas and share our passion for this versatile, universally appealing Mexican food. How about pulled pork or a spicy chicken taco.

Friday June 10th 2.30pm-5.00pm

www.cookingisfun.ie

LitFest ’16

After all the months of plotting and planning and the frenzy of excitement – today’s the day….Hope you are all heading to Shanagarry in East Cork for the fourth Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine or the Litfest as it is affectionately known – a mega two day celebration of food and drinks and food writing, participants and food lovers have been pouring in from all over the world to meet and hear their favourite cooks and chefs and authors. Others will want to meet icons of the beverage world – you can imagine the line-up. Check out www.litfest.ie.

If you’re not already on your way you’ll have missed Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis in London and Eric Werner, Mya Henry from Hartwood in Mexico and Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully but there’s still time to catch the riveting Food Symposium in the Grainstore. This year this venue will be transformed into an exciting auditorium staging a thought provoking and inspiring series of short talks and presentations, giving us the most up to the minute news of what’s happening in the world of food and drinks. By gathering an interesting and dynamic pool of writers, experts, authorities and interested parties from at home and abroad, the festival will focus our minds and thoughts on the questions “Our food – what’s the story?”

It’s still not too late to try for tickets for some of tomorrow’s events. Check out Elisabeth Luard, an iconic food writer from London. How about Ari Weinzweig all the way from Zingermans in Michigan, a totally inspirational speaker – his topic ‘A lapsed anarchist’s approach to building a great business and a happy workforce’.

If you miss Natalie Wheen explaining “What makes a virgin an extra virgin” at 12pm today in the Grainstore, you have a second chance to attend the tutored olive oil tasting and discussion on Sunday at 2pm in the Carrigaun Room at the Grainstore. Natalie was an arts commentator on BBC Radio 4 but now focuses on her organic olive farm in Greece – AVLAKI.

There are lots of exciting new Irish voices in food. On Sunday morning Katie Sanderson of the Dillisk Project in Galway will give her eagerly anticipated demo at the BCS and Louise Bannon will join a Panel Discussion ‘Irish Women in Food’ this evening at 5pm in The Carrigaun Room at the Grainstore.

Catch Kamal Mouzawak from the Lebanon talking about his Favourite Middle Eastern Ingredients and Food from a War Zone on Sunday at 3.30pm in the Cookery School.

The Irish Food Writers Guild are there plus many of the country’s most exciting bloggers all sharing their insights and expertise.

The Big Shed will be buzzing again this year with delicious food and drinks from some of our favourite Irish artisan producers and all to a background of lovely gentle sounds and vibrant chatter. The free Fringe programme is over flowing with activities and events for #Litfest16 and promises to be a fun filled weekend for all ages.

The Family Corner in The Big Shed will be run and creatively curated by our crafty fun friend, Camilla Houston, swing by the Kerrygold Corner where there will be baking, face painting and of course butter making.

Pregnant mums and dads shouldn’t miss Kathy Whyte ‘Change for Health’ on Saturday at 11.30am The Garden Tent.

I’m also intrigued to hear Professor Ted Dinan from UCC discuss the relationship between our gut and our psychological wellbeing. Dr Alessandro Demaio, another huge highlight, ‘The Crossroads, Where Next?’ together with Danielle Nierenberg, Founder of Food Tank and Dr William Burke, Agricultural Economist at Stanford University, USA will bring people from far and wide.

If you weren’t one of the lucky ones to bag a ticket for Frances Mallmann dem today (It sold out faster than a U2 concert), don’t worry there’s another opportunity to hear him discuss The Joy of Fire at 3 o’ clock in the Grain Store on Sunday.

Sounds mesmerizing well, let me tell you it’s only  the ‘tip of the iceberg’. There are over 100 events in the jam packed programme. It kicked off last night in the Grain Store with a Welcome Party.

Don’t miss what Condé Naste Traveller has described as one of the top 10 ‘Best Festivals in the World’.

 

Hot Tips

Irish Food Festival in Kells

Don’t miss Sheridan’s Cheesemongers Irish Food Festival. It is unquestionably one of the very best showcases for Irish food and great craic. Kids workshops, foraging, walks and talks, Boyne Valley Food Marquee, lots of music, traditional games and lots more…

Sunday May 29th from 10am-6pm, Kells, Co Meath. www.sheridans.ie

 

Sugar Campaign

Sweets Out for School campaign is attracting lots of attention at present. Concerned parents from a Kerry school are calling on the Minister of Education to remove vending sweet machines from secondary schools and call on teachers not to give sweets as rewards to primary school pupils.  I am 100% behind them, others please follow check out the Facebook campaign https://www.facebook.com/Sweets-Out-For-School-173793252996456/

Fermenters Alert…..

Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns from Bar Tartine in San Francisco are the reigning king and queen of funky fermentation. Don’t miss one and only opportunity here in Ireland to see them in action. Just a few places still available for their cookery demo tomorrow Sunday at 2pm. www.litfest.ie for more info.

 

Francis Mallmann’s Whole Boneless Rib Eye with Chimichurri

Serves 20

 

I usually cook roasts on the bone because I like the way bones gently conduct heat into the meat. But when you slather a coating of chimichurri on a boneless rib roast, the result is the most heavenly crust you can imagine. Just keep an eye on the cooking time and the internal temperature. Since all ovens vary, the timings given below are just guidelines that you may need to adjust in your own oven.

 

1 boneless rib-eye roast, 6-10 lbs

Coarse salt

2 cups chimichurri, or more if desired (see recipe)

6 bay leaves

 

Preheat the oven to 450F, with the rack positioned in the lower third of the oven.

 

Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with coarse salt and coat on all sides with half the chimichurri (reserve the rest for serving). Scatter the bay leaves over the meat. Place on a rack in  large roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes.  Lower the heat to 350F and roast for approximately 10 minutes more per pound for rare (120F). transfer to a carving board and let rest for at least 10 minutes.

Carve the beef and serve with the remaining chimichurri.

 

For the Salmuera

Makes about 2 cups

 

1 cup water

1 tablespoon coarse salt

1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled

1 cup packed flat leaf parsley leaves

1 cup fresh oregano leaves

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

 

To make the salmuera, bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the salt and stir until it dissolves. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Mince the garlic very fine and put in a medium bowl. Mince the parsley and oregano and add to the garlic, along with the red pepper flakes. Whisk in the red wine vinegar and then the olive oil. Whisk in the salmuera. Transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid, and keep in the refrigerator. Chimichurri is best prepared at least 1 day in advance, so that the flavours have a chance to blend. The chimichurri can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 to 3 weeks.

Francis Mallmann Seven Fires

 

NOPI’s Pearl Barley Risotto with Watercress, Asparagus and Pecorino

 

Serves 4

 

300 g pearl barley

2.4 litres vegetable stock

100 g baby spinach

200 g watercress

90 ml olive oil

120 g unsalted butter (80 g cut into 1 cm dice, 40 g left whole)

1 medium shallot, finely diced (70g)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

4 portobello mushrooms, stalk and cap thinly sliced (250g)

1 medium leek, green and white parts thinly sliced (180g)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Coarse sea salt and black pepper

 

Asparagus and Pecorino Salad

250g asparagus, woody stems trimmed

60 g pecorino

½ teaspoon olive oil

1½ teaspoons lemon juice

 

Place the barley in a medium saucepan and pour over 1.8 litres of stock. Bring to the boil on a high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30-35 minutes, uncovered, until cooked but still retaining a bite. Strain and set aside.

Wash out the saucepan and refill it with water. Bring to the boil, add the spinach and blanch for 30 seconds, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the leaves to a colander. Rinse well under cold water – this will prevent colour discolouration – then squeeze out the excess moisture and set aside. Keeping the pan of water on the boil, add the watercress and blanch for 30 seconds. Transfer to a colander, rinse under cold water and squeeze out the moisture. Add to the spinach leaves, roughly chop and set aside.

Wipe out the saucepan and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, along with the 40 g of un diced butter. Place on a medium heat, add the shallots and garlic and cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring often, until soft but taking on no colour. Add the thyme and bay leaf, pour over the 400 ml of stock and bring to the boil on a high heat. Cook for 10 minutes, for the stock to reduce down to a quarter, so that you have about 100 ml left in the pan. Add the spinach and watercress leaves and cook for a final 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, lift out and discard the bay leaf and thyme, then, while still hot, carefully transfer to a blender with ½ teaspoon of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Turn on the blender to blitz adding the diced butter a few cubes at a time, waiting until one batch has been incorporated before adding the next. Set aside.

Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large sauté pan and place on a high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Remove the mushrooms, along with any liquid in the pan and set aside. Return the large sauté pan to a medium high heat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the leek and cook for 3 minutes, until softened but having taken on no colour. Leave in the pan and set aside.

To make the salad, run a vegetable peeler from the base to the tip of each asparagus stem to make long thin ribbons. Place them in a mixing bowl, and then do the same with the cheese, running the vegetable peeler along it to create thin ribbons. Add these to the asparagus, along with the olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a crack of black pepper. Use your hands to gently mix and set aside. Don’t make this salad too far in advance before serving; it won’t improve for sitting around.

When ready to serve, add the barley and mushrooms to the pan of leeks and pour over the remaining 200 ml of stock. Mix well, then place on a medium high heat and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the watercress and spinach puree and stir through for a final minute or two, to warm through. Add the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and a grind of black pepper. Mix through and serve at once, with the asparagus and pecorino salad on top.

NOPI, Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully

 

 

NOPI’s Chilli Jam

Makes 1 medium jar

 

500 ml sunflower oil

30 (200 g) Thai shallots, thinly sliced

24 (80 g) garlic cloves, thinly sliced

20 g galangal, peeled and thinly sliced

10 g long red dried chillies, de-seeded

50 g dried shrimp, rinsed and patted dry

100 g palm sugar, coarsely grated if starting with a block

1½ tablespoons fish sauce

80 ml tamarind pulp water

 

Put the sunflower oil into a large saucepan and place on a medium high heat. Add the shallots and fry gently for 6-7 minutes, until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to remove the shallots and transfer them to a kitchen paper lined plate while you continue frying.

Add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a paper lined plate and add the galangal and chillies to the pan. Fry for just 1 minute, then remove.

Finish with the shrimps: these will need just 30 seconds in the oil before being removed.

Set everything aside to cool, then transfer to a food processor. Add 90ml of the frying oil and blitz well until a smooth paste is formed. Return the paste to a medium saucepan along with the sugar, fish sauce and tamarind water.

Place on a low heat and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until a jam-like consistency is formed.

Cool before storing in a jar in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 3 months.

NOPI, Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully

 

Courgette and Manouri Fritters

Makes 12 fritters, to serve 4, or 24 smaller fritters, to serve 8 as a snack

 

3 medium courgettes, trimmed and coarsely grated (580g)

2 small shallots, finely chopped (50g)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

finely grated zest of 2 limes

60g self-raising flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2½ tsp ground coriander

1½ tsp ground cardamom

150g manouri (or halloumi or feta), roughly broken into 1–2cm chunks

about 150ml sunflower oil, for frying

coarse sea salt and black pepper

 

Lime and cardamom soured cream

200ml soured cream

5g coriander, roughly chopped

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime

 

Mix together all the ingredients for the soured cream sauce in a small bowl, along with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a grind of black pepper. Set aside in the fridge until ready to serve.

Place the grated courgettes in a colander and sprinkle over 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside for 10minutes, then squeeze them to remove most of the liquid: you want the courgettes to keep a little bit of moisture, so don’t squeeze them completely dry. Transfer to a large bowl and add the shallots, garlic, lime zest, flour, eggs, ground coriander, cardamom and a grind of black pepper. Mix well to form a uniform batter, then fold in the manouri cheese gently so it doesn’t break up much.

Pour enough oil into a large frying pan so it rises 2–3mm up the sides and place on a medium heat. Once hot, add 4 separate heaped dessertspoons of mixture to the pan, spacing them well apart and flattening each fritter slightly with the flat side of a slotted spoon as they cook. Cook for 6 minutes turning once halfway through, until golden and crisp on both sides. Transfer to a kitchen paper-lined plate and keep somewhere warm while you continue with the remaining two batches.

Place 3 fritters on each plate and serve at once, with the sauce alongside or in a bowl on the side.

 

NOPI, Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully

 

 

NOPI’s Coffee and Pecan Financiers

 

Makes 20 cakes, to serve 10

 

Financiers

100 g pecans

150 g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm dice, plus extra for greasing the muffin trays

200 g icing sugar

100 g ground almonds

100 g plain flour

65 g malt powder (or Horlicks)

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground coffee beans

8 egg whites (300g)

2 shots of espresso (60ml)

Coarse sea salt

 

Pecan Coffee Cream

100 g pecans

3 shots of espresso (90 ml)

530 ml double cream

75 g light brown sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°F/gas mark 5.

 

Spread the pecans for both the financiers and the cream out on a parchment lined baking tray and place in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until they have taken on a bit of colour. Use the flat side of a large knife to lightly crush them. Set aside half of the pecans for the financiers and half for the cream.

To make the financiers, put the butter into a medium saucepan and place on a high heat. Once it starts to foam, cook for 3-4 minutes, until it turns golden brown and smells nutty. Strain through a muslin (or clean J-cloth) lined sieve and set aside for about 15 minutes, to cool slightly.

Place the icing sugar in a large bowl with the ground almonds, flour, malt powder, baking powder, ½ teaspoon of salt and ground coffee. Mix together and set aside. Place the egg whites in a separate bowl and whisk to form soft peaks: this should take about 3 minutes if you are whisking by hand and just 1 minute with an electric whisk. Fold the whites into the dry ingredients by hand, followed by the espresso. Next pour in half the browned butter, continuing to fold by hand as you pour in the remaining butter. Finally, fold in the pecans. Set aside in the fridge – with some cling film placed on the surface to prevent it forming a skin – for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Next make the pecan coffee cream. Place the espresso in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil and then cook for about 1½ minutes on a high heat, swirling the pan to reduce it by half. Add the pecans, cream and brown sugar and return to the boil. Cook for 4 minutes, for the cream to thicken, and then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool for at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge. If you leave it overnight, the cream will thicken in the fridge so you will need to return it to a low heat in the saucepan for 1½ minutes, to loosen it up. Pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl and set aside to cool. The nuts can be discarded at this stage (you can eat them if you like, but they don’t look attractive). Whisk the cream mixture for about 4 minutes with a hand held electric whisk, until thickened to soft peaks with the consistency of a soft mousse. It is very easy to over whip, so keep a close eye on it here. if you do over whip it, just add a little bit of milk to bring it back. Set aside in the fridge until ready to serve.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°F/gas mark 7.

Grease the moulds of two small muffin trays with moulds 5cm in diameter and line the bases with rounds of baking parchment. You will have enough to mix to make 20 financiers, so if you have 12 moulds in each tray, you can leave 4 ungreased. Spoon in the mix until three quarters full and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown on top and only just cooked through: a knife inserted should come out with a tiny amount of mix on it. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for 5 minutes, before removing them from the tray. Serve warm or at room temperature with the pecan coffee cream alongside.

 

NOPI, Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully

 

 

Spring Foraging

At last the countryside is springing into life once again. Wild garlic is in full flush all along the roadside here in East Cork and in many other parts of the country. It looks like white bluebells but smells distinctly garlicky. This type is called Allium Triquetrum because of its three cornered stem but the other wild garlic which is sometimes called ramps or ransoms prefer the dappled shade of a woody area. The latter has broader leaves and a ‘pom pom’ flower which blooms a little later. The latter name is allium ursinum.

These are just two of the over 60 edible wild plants that we found on a recent Spring Forage. Pennyworth, little fleshy discs with a dimple in the centre were popping out of the stone walls asking to be picked and nibbled to quench the walker’s thirst or enliven salads.

Bitter cress, ground elder, dandelions, fat hen, good king henry, chickweed, sweet woodruff and several types of sorrel are all perfect at present to add to a forager’s soup or salad.

Fiddlehead ferns just ripe to be fiddled with and they are a fiddle to prepare…….

Comfrey can be made into fritters or added to a soup. Young nettles in profusion to be made into a predictable but delicious nettle soup or less predictable, nettle pesto or nettle champ. Emer Fitzgerald, in-house forager and fermenter here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School , made delicious nettle beer which nearly blew our socks off but so worth making.

Saturday Pizzas were also in a foraging mood; Philip Dennhardt made a delicious woodfired wild nettle, caramelised red onion, ricotta and pecorino pizza that had the punters begging for more. (Every Saturday 12.30-4pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School).

There was tansy growing on the ditch perfect to add to your drisheen should you have a notion to make some.  Lots of salad burnet, silver leaf and sweet cicily, a sweet perennial that we particularity love with rhubarb.

On two local beaches we found rock samphire, limpets, periwinkles, wild mussels and many types of seaweed including laver, pepper dillisk and kelp, sea beet, sea kale and sea purslane along the coast.

On the way back along the little boreen, there was gorse in full bloom, young tender white thorn leaves, so good for your cardiovascular system. No flowers yet but the blackthorn is already covered in white blossom, harbinger of a good crop of sloes in the Autumn.

So make a mental note of where you saw them so you can make sloe gin or vodka for Christmas presents.

The alexander’s, the tall pale yellow green umbelliferous plant that grows by the roadside which we have been enjoying since the end of January are almost over by now but the angelica is perfect for candying as is lovage. The new season’s lovage is about 6 inches tall; I’ve just tasted some angelica and lovage gin that Emer made last year, both were good but the lovage gin was particularly good and worth making again.

There was so much more nasturtiums, sedum leaves, alchemilla (our lady’s mantle), tucked into the flower border, all edible and nutritious and edible.

These wild foods and so many more provide us with vital minerals, vitamins and trace elements at a time when the mainstream processed foods is becoming more and more nutritionally deficient.

However, tread carefully, don’t overdo it.  Introduce a little at a time so your system becomes accustomed to new flavours and nutrients.

Do a foraging course, equip yourself with a good foragers handbook, nowadays there many. Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we do several foraging courses throughout the year , check out the website or enquire about a ‘bespoke course’ for a group of friends or colleagues. A walk in the countryside or on the seashore will never be the same again….

 

Hot Tips

Wow, it’s all happening in West Cork. Three different restaurants I ate in recently, Pilgrims in Roscarberry, the Glebe Café and The Mews in Baltimore, all had foraged foods interwoven through a variety of dishes on their menu. I particularly remember Macroom buffalo mozzarella beetroot, pickled fennel and hairy bitter cress and gorse ice cream at Pilgrims, John Dory on seabeet and wild cabbage served with mangalitsa pork from Nick Newham in Ballydehob. Loved the sound of potato and forest Kelp gratin as well as a spring foragers soup at Glebe as well. Both the Mews and Pilgrims had an interesting list of natural wines from Le Caveau in Kilkenny. Good Things Café recently moved into Skibbereen from Durrus is also making waves to add to the already exciting mix.

Cór Cois Farraige will hold their annual charity concert in aid of the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association at the Garryvoe Hotel tomorrow night Sunday May 15th at 8pm. Tickets are €10.00 and available at the door.

Food for the Future

Kinsale College is hosting a one day conference on Friday May 27th , from 9.30am-5pm, with keynote speakers focusing on issues like food security, food waste and redistribution, the power of consumer choices, community food projects……For bookings and further information tel 021 477 2275 or email foodforthefuture2016@gmail.com

Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine

This year, the flamboyant and fabulous Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis, London will be giving a cookery demonstration. I love Jeremy’s simple but utterly delicious food, the sort of dishes you’ll really want to rush home to cook for your family and friends – on Saturday 21 May 2016 at 10am.

 

 

Pennyworth Fritters with Aoili

 

Serves 6

 

200 g (7 oz) white rice flour

20 g (¾ oz) cornflour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon cayenne

230 ml (8 fl oz) cold sparkling water

200 g (7 oz) pennyworth leaves, chopped

 

Aoili (garlic mayonnaise)

 

Deep Fry at 190°C/375°F

First make the batter. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir in the sparkling water with a wooden spoon. Don’t over mix! Add in the chopped pennyworth leaves.

Spoon scant tablespoons of the mixture into the fryer. Turn half way and cook until lightly golden.

Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little salt.

Serve with aioli garlic mayonnaise or chilli sauce.

Alternatively, dip the whole pennyworth leaves in the batter and cook as above.

 

Lovage or Angelica Gin

We have so much fun infusing all kinds of aromatics in gin and vodka, try this – so light and herbaceous.  The lovage gin is particularly good, really, really worth making….

 

Makes 1L

1L gin

200g lovage or angelica stalks, with leaves

150g granulated sugar

 

Roughly chop the lovage or angelica.  Place in a large Kilner jar. Cover with sugar and gin.   Shake well. Leave in a cool place for six weeks, shaking regularly. Strain out the lovage or angelica.  Bottle. It will keep for a year or more, but why not enjoy earlier.


Foragers Soup

Throughout the seasons one can gather wild greens on a walk in the countryside – foraging soon becomes addictive.  Many greens are edible and some are immensely nutritious.  Arm yourself with a good well-illustrated guide and be sure to identify carefully and if in doubt – don’t risk it until you are quite confident.  Don’t overdo the very bitter herbs like dandelion.

 

Serves 6

 

50g (2ozs/1/2 stick) butter

110g (4ozs) diced onion

150g (5 ozs) diced potatoes

250g (9ozs) chopped greens – alexanders, nettles, wild sorrel, a few young dandelions, wild garlic, borage leaves, wild rocket, ground elder, beech leaves, chickweed, watercress

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) creamy milk

75g (3ozs) chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon

extra virgin olive oil

wild garlic flowers if available

 

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the hot stock and boiling milk.  Bring back to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the greens and boil with the lid off for 2-3 minutes approx. until the greens are just cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Purée the soup in a liquidiser. Taste and correct seasoning.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan.  Add the diced chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon, cook over a medium heat until the fat starts to run and the bacon is crisp.  Drain on kitchen paper.  Sprinkle over the soup as you serve.  Use the chorizo oil to drizzle over the soup also and scatter a few wild garlic flowers over the top if available.

 

Roger’s Nettle Beer

 

This recipe comes from Roger Phillips’ excellent book, Wild Food. It makes delicious beer – sweet, fizzy, perfect for summertime.

Makes 12 litres

 

100 nettle stalks, with leaves

11 litres (3 gallons) water

1.3kg (3lb) granulated sugar

50g (2oz) cream of tartar

10g (1⁄2 oz) live yeast

 

Boil the nettles in the water for 10 minutes. Strain, and add the sugar and the cream of tartar. Heat and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and leave until tepid, then add the yeast and stir well. Cover with muslin and leave for several days.

Remove the scum and decant without disturbing the sediment. Bottle in secure ‘clip top’ bottles and drink.  This will be ready to drink in 2 days and will keep refrigerated for up to 3 months.  If too much gas builds up the bottles can explode so be careful. The bottles may need ‘burping’ every few days to release build-up of gas. Drink sooner rather than later.

 

Tansy Omelette

A little bit of tansy really wakes up an omelette and might be just the thing to cure a Sunday morning hangover!

 

Serves 1

 

2 eggs, preferably free range organic

1 dessertspoon water or milk

1 teaspoon tansy, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 dessertspoon clarified butter or olive oil

 

omelette pan, preferably non-stick, 23cm (9-inch) diameter

 

Heat the omelette pan over a high heat.

Warm a plate in a low oven.  Whisk the eggs with the water or milk in a bowl with a fork or whisk, until thoroughly mixed but not too fluffy.  Add the finely chopped tansy. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Put the warm plate beside the cooker.  Have the filling also to hand, hot if necessary with a spoon at the ready.

Add the clarified butter to the hot pan, it should sizzle immediately.  Pour in the egg mixture.  It will start to cook instantly so quickly pull the edges of the omelette towards the centre with an egg slice or plastic spatula, tilting the pan so that the uncooked egg runs to the sides 4 maybe 5 times.  Continue until most of the egg is set and will not run any more, the centre will still be soft and uncooked at this point but will continue to cook on the plate.  If you are using a filling, spoon the hot mixture in a line across the centre at this point.

To fold the omelette.

Flip the edge just below the handle of the pan into the centre, change your grip on the handle so you can hold the pan almost perpendicular over the plate so that the omelette will flip over again. Finally, half roll, half slide the omelette onto the plate so that it lands folded in three.  (It should not take more than 30 seconds in all to make the omelette, perhaps 45 if you are adding a filling).  Serve immediately.

 

Rhubarb and Angelica Tart

 

Pluck some leaves from the angelica plant to decorate the serving plate for this creamy custard tart.

Serves 10-12

 

Pastry

8 ozs (225g) plain flour

6 ozs (175g) butter

pinch of salt

1 dessertsp icing sugar

a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind

 

Filling

450g (1lb) rhubarb cut into 1cm (½in) pieces

1/2 pint (300ml) cream

2 large or 3 small eggs

4 tablesp castor sugar

110g (4oz) finely chopped, candied angelica

 

1 x 30.5cm (12in) tart tin or 2 x 18cm (7 in) tart tins

 

Make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way (see recipe) and leave to relax in a fridge for 1 hour. Line a tart tin (or tins), with a removable base and chill for 10 minutes. Line with paper and fill with dried beans and bake blind in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, paint the tart with a little egg wash and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes.  Allow to cool.

Place the sliced rhubarb evenly in the cooked pastry base, sprinkle with the finely chopped angelica.

Whisk the eggs well, with the sugar and vanilla extract, add the cream. Strain this mixture over the rhubarb, and bake at 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, for 35 minutes, until the custard is set.

Serve with a bowl of whipped cream, best while still slightly warm.

Food Producers

Asparagus with romesco sauce

We are in the midst of a real crisis in food production. Increasingly farmers and food producers are being paid well below an economic level for their produce and the general public seem totally unaware. Dairy farmers, encourage to increase their herd sizes and milk production are now getting 22 cents a litre from the farm – last time I checked it cost between 0.75c and 1.29 cents a litre in the supermarket. Where’s the fairness in that and what gives the rest of us the right to assume that cheap food at any cost is our right. The farmers and fishermen are caught in a helpless stranglehold in the battle between the multiples often having over borrowed to meet a promised demand. There are indeed many who cannot afford to spend any more than they do on their weekly food shopping but there are also many who knowing the situation would happily pay a little more if they were sure the money was going back to the food producer. I don’t know the answer – I wish I did but an answer we must find soon…….

I’m also amazed at the number of people who do not understand that ‘buy one get one free’ does not mean that the supermarket is providing the second item free, rather it is the producer who often has no option but to do so which further depresses their income even further.

At least, the conversation about food waste is gathering momentum. There are now many initiatives including Food Cloud, Bia Food, Stop Food Waste and Fruta Feia – Ugly Veg. In 2013 its founder Isabel Soares set up in Portugal an initiative to combat food waste by selling at bargain prices some of the perfectly edible fruit and vegetables that are not currently reaching the consumer for mere aesthetic reasons.

The project model works on a cooperative basis.  Every week, Fruta Feia buy misshapen fruit and vegetables directly from the farmers who cannot sell them on the regular market because of EU regulations and supermarket demands for uniformity. They, then sell at half the regular price of perfect produce, so the farmers see a much higher % of their crop and the general public are only too happy to buy the produce that the supermarket consider ‘garbage’. At present there are over 3,000 people on a waiting list for the Fruta Feia box scheme. They have just been awarded a European Commission grant of €300,600 to roll the model right across Portugal. This is music to my ears. After years of being outraged by the wanton waste created by the notion that undersized or oversized ‘uglier’ fruit and vegetables were less saleable  or nutritious or delicious.

There is another element I love about Fruta Feia, volunteers run workshops in primary schools to teach children about food waste and why they shouldn’t shun produce that looks less than perfect. Surprise, surprise, they find that children are very receptive to the message and think ugly fruits are funny and appealing….

This is timely at the start of the new growing season. We’ve been feasting on rhubarb over the past few weeks and I’ve just enjoyed the first of the seakale, asparagus and new potatoes. The latter were planted on December 22nd 2015 and are grown in the greenhouse. The new potato crop will be harvested out just in time to plant salad leaves.

I’m not a deeply religious person but each new year when I taste the first of these delicious crops, fresh from the farm and garden, I give thanks to the good Lord and Mother Nature for the earth’s bounty, but also to the farmers and food producers who work day in and day out to produce food to nourish and sustain us. They deserve to be appreciated and adequately paid for their efforts.

 

Hot Tips

Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016

Food Northern Ireland and Taste of Ulster have put together a  brilliant little handbook showcasing food producers, farmers, fishermen, breadmakers, fruit and vegetable growers, farmers markets…..it’s a revelation. http://www.nigoodfood.com/guides

 

Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine

May 20th-22nd 2016

At this year’s Litfest, Canadian writer, Susan Musgrave, who has been described as everything from a standup comedian to an eco-feminist will be talking about her latest book and first cookbook, Taste of Haida Gwaii in the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Sunday May 22nd. Susan has received several awards in different categories of writing, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, personal essay, children’s writing and for her work as an editor. She has published close to 30 books. She lives on Haida Gwaii and teaches poetry at the University of British Columbia.

 

Flavours of Burma

A trip to Burma, now known as Myanmar, was one of my most intriguing adventures of 2015. Burmese food is virtually unknown outside the country, but word of its unique multi-ethnic cuisine is spreading throughout the culinary world.  Delicious salads, soups, dahls, curries, noodle and rice dishes with intriguing Thai, Indian and Chinese influences, reflecting its geographical location.  When I came home, we cooked many of the Burmese recipes I’d tasted and learned in the restaurants, cafes and tea-shops of Yangon, Heho, Lake Inle, Mandalay, and Bagan to a hugely enthusiastic response.

On Friday May 27th , we’ll teach a Flavours of Burma course, and introduce you to the essential elements of Burmese cooking and provide a repertoire of recipes that can be reproduced with ingredients, readily available from your nearest Asian shop.

This course includes an optional slide show of my Burmese adventure. www.cookingisfun.ie

 

Asparagus and Spring Onion Tart

Serves 6

 

Shortcrust Pastry

110g (4ozs/scant 1 cup) white flour

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

1 egg, preferably free-range

 

Filling

150g (5ozs) asparagus, trimmed and with ends peeled

15g (1/2oz) butter

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) olive oil

250g (9ozs) onion, finely chopped (we use about half spring onion complete with green tops and half ordinary onion)

110g (4ozs/1 cup) Irish Cheddar cheese, grated

3 eggs, preferably free-range

110ml (4fl ozs/1/2 cup) cream

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

1 x 18cm (7 inch) quiche tin or 1 x 18cm (7 inch) flan ring

 

First make the shortcrust pastry. 

Sieve the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Mix in the egg to bind the pastry.  Add a little water if necessary, but don’t make the pastry too sticky.  Chill for 15 minutes. Then roll out the pastry to line the quiche tin or flan ring to a thickness of 3mm (1/8 inch) approx.  Line with greaseproof paper and fill to the top with dried beans and bake blind for approximately 20 minutes in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Remove the beans, egg wash the base and return to the oven for 1-2 minutes. This seals the pastry and helps to avoid a ‘soggy bottom’.

 

Next make the filling.

Melt the butter, add the olive oil and onions; sweat the onions with a good pinch of salt until soft but not coloured.

Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water until al dente, then drain.  When it is cool enough to handle, cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl; add the cream, almost all the cheese, onion and the cooked asparagus.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Pour into the pastry case, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top and bake in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 40-45 minutes.

NOPI’ s Chargrilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce and Apple Balsamic

 

Serves 6

 

1 kg asparagus, woody bases trimmed (800g)

40 ml balsamic vinegar

60 ml apple juice

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil

10 g flaked almonds, toasted

Coarse sea salt and black pepper

 

Romesco Sauce

1 dried ancho chilli (10g), soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained, de-seeded and roughly chopped

40 g whole almonds

50 g crustless sourdough bread, cut into 3cm cubes

3 medium plum tomatoes, cut into 1½ cm wedges (200g)

1 tablespoon good quality sherry vinegar

25 ml olive oil

1 medium red chilli, de-seeded and roughly chopped

 

Place all the ingredients for the Romesco sauce in a small bowl, along with 1 teaspoon salt and a good grind of black pepper. Stir well, and then leave in the fridge to marinate for 4 hours or preferably overnight. Transfer to a food processor and blitz to form a paste. Place in a small pan and warm through just before serving.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to the boil and add the asparagus. Blanch for 1-2 minutes, until al dente, then strain and refresh under cold water. Set aside to dry.

Place the balsamic vinegar, apple juice and caster sugar in a small pan and place on a high heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until it has reduced by half and has a thick, sticky consistency.

Place a ridged griddled pan on a high heat. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt and put them on to the griddle pan. Chargrill for 2 minutes, turning halfway through so that both sides get scorched. Spread the Romesco sauce on individual plates and place the asparagus on top. Drizzle the balsamic reduction on top, sprinkle over the flaked almonds and serve.

NOPI, Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully

 

 

Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Hollandaise

 

Serves 2 lucky people, a last minute treat but so worth the wait.

 

10 spears of asparagus

2 beautiful fresh eggs

 

Hollandaise Sauce – (see recipe, p.00)

 

2 tablespoon of freshly grated Parmesan

Flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

2 slices sourdough bread

butter

 

First make the Hollandaise sauce; keep warm

Then prepare the asparagus.

Put on two saucepans of water, one for the asparagus, and the other to poach the eggs.

Heat a grill pan on a high heat to sear the bread.  Cook the asparagus in 4cm (1½in) boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, or until the tip of a knife will pierce the root end easily.  Drain.

Meanwhile crack an egg into a cup, then slide the egg into the other pot of barely simmering water.  Repeat with the second egg.  Cook gently for 3-4 minutes, or until the egg whites are set and the yolk is still soft.

Meanwhile grill the bread on the hot pan.

 

To serve:

Take two hot plates, slather the grilled bread with butter.  Remove the eggs one at a time with a slotted spoon.  Pop one on top of the bread, arrange five stalks of asparagus alongside and at an angle.  Drizzle with Hollandaise and sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan and a few flakes of sea salt.  Coarsely grind some black pepper on top, serve and enjoy ASAP.

 

Asparagus on Toast with Hollandaise Sauce

 

Serves 4

 

In season: late spring

This is a simple and gorgeous way to serve fresh Irish asparagus during its short season. We feast on it in every possible way for those precious weeks, roast, chargrilled, in soups, frittatas, quiches don’t forget to dip some freshly cooked spears in a soft boiled egg for a simple luxury. This was my father-in-law’s favourite way to eat Irish asparagus during its short season.

 

16-20 spears fresh green asparagus

Hollandaise sauce, (see recipe)

4 slices of homemade white yeast bread

Butter

 

Garnish

sprigs of chervil

 

Hold each spear of asparagus over your index finger down near the root end, it will snap at the point where it begins to get tough. Some people like to peel the asparagus but we rarely do. Cook in about 2.5cm (1inch) of boiling salted water in an oval cast iron casserole. Cook for 4 or 8 minutes or until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily. Meanwhile make the toast, spread with butter and remove crusts. Place a piece of toast on a hot plate, put the asparagus on top and spoon a little Hollandaise sauce over. Garnish with a sprig of chervil and serve immediately.

 

Sea Kale on Toast

 

Serves 4-6

In season: late spring

 

Seakale is an exquisitely delicate vegetable much sought after vegetable in country house gardens in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is rarely if ever seen for sale in the shops but more adventurous garden centres now sell plants. It is relatively easy to grow, so is well worth cultivating. Replicas of the old seakale blanching pots with lids are now being reproduced, but a brick chimney liner covered by a slate works perfectly well. Even a black plastic bucket, though not aesthetically pleasing will suffice. Seakale thrives with a mulch of cinders.

Sow in spring and cover them with seakale pots or chimney liners and a slate to exclude the light in about November, then you will be rewarded with pale delicate shoots in early April. Seakale is perennial and visually it is altogether a beautiful plant with white flowers in summer and lots of bobbly seed heads in autumn.

Seakale is divine served with the first wild salmon or with some lobster or Dublin Bay prawns. One rarely has an abundance of seakale but one of our favourite ways to serve it at Ballymaloe is on toast with melted butter or hollandaise sauce.

 

600ml (1pint/2 1/2 cups) water

1 teaspoon salt

450g (1lb) seakale

55-85g (2-3oz/3/4 – 1 stick) butter

toast

hollandaise sauce (see recipe) or melted butter

 

Wash the seakale gently and trim into manageable lengths – say 10cm (4inch) approx. Bring the water to a fast boil and add the salt. Add the seakale, cover and boil until tender – about 15 minutes. Just as soon as a knife will pierce the seakale easily, drain and serve on hot plates with a little hollandaise sauce or melted butter and lots of toast.

 

 

Seakale Tempura with Chervil Mayonnaise

 

Serves 6-8 as a starter

450g seakale

Batter:

110g flour

2 tablesp cornflour

250ml iced water

225g chervil mayonnaise

Mix the cornflour into the water.  Put the flour into a bowl.  Add the water gradually, stirring with chopsticks, it will be a bit lumpy at first but a will eventually be a light creamy texture.  You may need to adjust the consistency by adding a drop more water or flour to get a thin even coating batter.

Heat the oil in a deep fry to 180C.

Trim the seakale and cut into pieces 10-11.5cm.   Dip one piece into the batter and fry for a couple of minutes or until crisp but not brown.  Taste for seasoning and adjust the batter if necessary.  Continue to cook the rest, drain on kitchen paper.

Thin the mayonnaise with a little water to a dip-like consistency.  Add lots of finely chopped chervil and a nice sprinkling of sea salt.

Serve the crisp tempura immediately with a little bowl of chervil mayonnaise.

 

Roast Rhubarb

 

Serves 6

 

I’ve become a huge fan of the sweet and intense flavour of roast rhubarb

 

900g (2lb) rhubarb

250-350g (9-12oz/generous 1 cup – 1 1/2 cups) sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Slice the rhubarb into 2 1/2cm (1 inch) pieces and arrange in a single layer in a medium size oven proof dish.  Scatter the sugar over the rhubarb and allow to macerate for 30 minutes.  Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes approximately depending on size, until the rhubarb is just tender.

Serve alone or with cream, ice-cream, panna cotta, labne……

 

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