Literacy Festival of Food and Drinks at Ballymaloe

It’s crazily busy at Litfest HQ – the fifth Ballymaloe Litfest is underway. This year we’ve changed the emphasis somewhat so the proper title is A Food and Drinks Literacy Festival at Ballymaloe.

We’ve continued to build on the previous years events which have by now been written about from New York to Sydney, Los Angeles to Capetown with well over 35 nationalities attending. They return to their own countries to spread the word of what’s happening on the Irish food scene and the fun and thought provoking events they attended at the Litfest. Sommelier Colm McCan has managed to assemble yet another world class line up in the Drinks Theatre. Isabelle Legeron M W, a London based wine writer and global crusader for the natural wine movement is coming along as well as many other luminaries from the spirit, craft beer and cider world. Garrett Fitzgerald and James Boland will discuss their book The Brother Hubbard Cookbook. David Puttnam will be in conversation with John McKenna ‘Living, Working and Eating in West Cork’, Trish Deseine, Irish food writer and cookbook author will give her perspective on Irish food culture – also unmissable.

Brian McGinn Ex producer of Netflix and series Chefs Table will be in conversation with David Prior International Editor of Conde Nast Traveller, they’ll both be keeping their eyes open for stories. The festival takes place at Ballymaloe House, Ballymaloe Cookery School, The Grain Store and the Big Shed. This year the humming Big Shed at the heart of the festival will once again be brimming with good things to eat and drink from some of Ireland’s finest artisan producers. There will be the sound of music ranging from the gentle during daylight hours to the more energetic when the sun goes down. Some of the weekend’s many free Fringe events will take place here and the Family Corner will ensure that festival goers of all ages will be kept happy and amused.

So what am I looking forward to at the Ballymaloe Cookery School?

At last we’ve managed to tempt Clare Lattin and Tom Hill over from their restaurants in London’s Soho and Shoreditch to share some of their recipes. Readers of this column will know that Raw Duck and Duck Soup as two of my favourite London restaurants. Monika Linton from Brindisa who wrote the book I’ve been waiting for on Spanish food will teach a class on Saturday morning.

Then there’s Jacob Kennedy from Bocca di Lupo, back by ‘popular demand’ as is the beautiful and gracious Claudia Roden who will speak on both Saturday and Sunday.

Generous as always, Sunil Ghai from Pickle in Dublin will share the secret to many of the dishes that have made Pickle award winning new restaurant so renowned.

But you may not yet have heard of Sumayya Usmani who’s really making waves with her Pakastani food. This is award winning author’s first appearance in Ireland – don’t miss….

Charlotte Pike (former Ballymaloe Cookery School student) has already built up quite a following with her Fermented book but this time she will focus on her recently published book, Smoked and show us how to have fun at home, hot and cold smoking all manner of delicious foods.

Christian Puglisi of Relae, Manfred’s and Baest in Copenhagen can’t stay away. After his last trip to Ballymaloe he was so inspired by the farm, gardens and ethos that Mrs Allen had created that he is setting up the Farm of Ideas Project – he’ll tell us all about it on Sunday afternoon in The Carrigaun Room.
The Grain Store will host the symposium – a series of short talks and presentations on the theme – Our Responsibility.

The BBC Radio 4 food program, Sheila Dillon and Dan Saladino are coming over from London to record from the Litfest.

Want to go foraging on the seashore with Alys Fowler, garden correspondent of the Guardian? Or watch another of my food heroes, Margot Henderson of Rochelle Canteen will talk on the Joy of Cooking in the Grain Store on Saturday afternoon.
The pretty Garden Tent nestled alongside the scented rosemary bed is now an established and exciting venue over the weekend and will have a full programme of free events to which all are welcome. John Bowman from RTE will be back with his Questions and Answers as will Jim Carroll with his banter series.

There simply isn’t nearly enough space to mention all of the 64 speakers or events so go and check it out on litfest.ie.

Some events are already booked out but there are still lots of opportunities, so come along it’s still not too late to book. Maybe our biggest coup of all is Vytenis Andriukaitis who will speak in the Grain Store on Sunday ‘To Eat is a Political Statement’ and then there’s the Great Grocers and Joanna Blythman speaking on Nutrition – Really? and our own Professor Ted Dinan on Diet, Stress and Mental Health and even a session on Food from Space by astrophysicist Niall Smith – sure where would you get it!
And believe me all of the above is just a taste. Check it out, see you there and speaking of taste here’s what to come.

Hot Tips
Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Duck Soup cookery demonstration, handful of places remaining for at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday May 20th. Bookings through www.litfest.ie

Meet the Author, Rebecca Sullivan who will discuss her new book The Art of the Natural Home on Saturday May 20th. Further information on www.litfest.ie

Slow Food Galway is hosting an event on Sunday May 21st 2017.
Curing, Pickling, Smoking fresh vegetables, fish and meat at Cáit Curran Síol Centre in Moycullen, Galway.
Phone Trish 086 635 9920 or Kate 087 931 2333 for more information. www.slowfoodireland.com

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Courgettes, Broad Beans, Peas, Tahini Yoghurt, Pomegranate and Dill

Serves 4

800 g courgettes
Extra virgin olive oil
500 g peas in the pod
500 g broad beans in the pod
1 pomegranate
Juice of 1 lemon
250 g tahini yoghurt, see recipe
Handfuls of dill fronds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut each courgette into three on the diagonal; if you can do this on alternate angles you will get a more interesting shape which helps add texture to the dish.

Place a large frying pan over a medium –high heat until hot. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add your courgettes, frying them until they are golden brown on all sides. Season, with salt as you go. Once cooked, remove from the pan and set to one side.

Bring a large pan of well salted water to the boil while you pod the peas and broad beans. Once podded add to the water and blanch for just one minute and drain. Plunge straight into a bowl of iced water to stop them cooking further.

Remove the seeds from the pomegranate by cutting it in half and then holding over a bowl, cut side down on your spread palm. Hit the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon or rolling pin so that the seeds drop out into the bowl. If you have trouble try turning the half inside out and gently coaxing the remaining seeds out with your fingers.

Drain the peas and broad beans well and add to a bowl with the courgettes. Dress with the lemon juice and some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

It’s now time to assemble the ingredients. Spoon the tahini yoghurt into the middle of a large plate and then use the back of your spoon to gently spread it out. Don’t go for a thin, even circle – you want some texture. Spoon your vegetables over the yoghurt, making sure that you don’t cover it completely – you want them to sort of look like they’re bobbing in a tahini pond. Tear over your dill, being sure to keep the fronds intact, and finally spoon over the pomegranate seeds – you want to try to spoon little groups into any gaps rather than just have a sprinkling of seeds here and there. Finish with a bit more lemon juice and a good helping of extra virgin olive oil.

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Tahini Yoghurt

An absolute staple ‘go to’ accompaniment at the restaurant. We add toasted nigella and coriander seeds, garlic and olive oil to our tahini yoghurt. It works really well with a whole array of roast vegetables.

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
Juice of ½ lemon
50g tahini paste
500 g thick Greek yoghurt
1 garlic clove, minced
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt

Light crush the coriander seeds with a pestle and mortar and toast with the nigella seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes.

Whisk the lemon juice and tahini paste together in a large bowl; it will go quite thick but that’s fine. When the seeds are toasted, add to the bowl along with all the other ingredients.

Whisk together until everything is combined. Decant into a jar or a covered bowl and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

The Wisdom of Simple Cooking Ducksoup Cookbook by Clare Lattin and Tom Hill

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Crispy Lamb, Labneh, Mint, Red Onion and Pomegranate

Serves 4

1 whole lamb breast, about 2 kg, cut in half
500 ml lamb stock
1 pomegranate
Extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
Small handful of mint leaves
Small handful of flat leaf parsley
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
160 g labneh
Chargrilled flatbread or toasted sourdough bread, to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 6. Season the lamb breast with salt and pepper and put into a large roasting tray. Pour over the lamb stock, cover tightly with foil and cook in the oven for 2-3 hours, or until the meat easily comes away from the bone.

Once cooked remove the lamb breasts from the stock and allow to cool. Keep the lamb stock as you can use it another day – simply pour into small tubs and freeze.

While the lamb cools, remove the seeds from the pomegranate by cutting it in half and then holding over a bowl, cut side down on your spread palm. Hit the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon or rolling pin so that the seeds drop out into the bowl. If you have trouble try turning the half inside out and gently coaxing the remaining seeds out with your fingers.

Once the lamb breast is cool enough to handle remove all the meat from the bones in large chunks and set aside. Heat a frying pan over a medium high heat and add a generous glug of oil. Add the chilli flakes and then fry the lamb until nice and crisp, giving it a pinch of salt as it cooks.

When the lamb is crisp transfer to a large bowl. Tear in the mint and parsley and add the sliced onion. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add another good splash of olive oil and half the pomegranate seeds and season with salt and pepper.

Toss everything together with your hands and gently coax the salad out of the bowl with your fingers onto individual plates. Spoon a dollop of labneh on to a third of the plate, and finish by scattering the entire dish with pomegranate seeds. Serve with chargrilled flatbread or toasted sourdough.

The Wisdom of Simple Cooking Ducksoup Cookbook by Clare Lattin and Tom Hill

Jacob Kennedy’s Tomato and Purslane Salad

Serves 4 as a starter or side

500 g delicious tomatoes
½ small red onion
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (optional)
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
100 g picked purslane leaves and tips

Quarter the tomatoes and slice the red onion very thinly across the grain. Macerate these with the vinegar, oil and plenty of salt and pepper for 5 minutes, then toss in the leaves and serve with a crust of bread on hand to mop the bowl afterwards.

Bocca Cookbook by Jacob Kennedy

Jacob Kennedy’s Orecchiette with ‘Nduja

Even a small amount of ‘nduja is enough to make for extremely spicy pasta, but the heat is tempered, slightly by the cream.

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main

200 g semolina or 260 g bought fresh orecchiette or 200 g dried (but only if you must)

1 red onion, halved and sliced with the grain
120 g cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
50 g ‘nduja or 100 g if shop bought and not quite so strong
50 ml white wine
80 ml double cream
50 g rocket, very roughly chopped
Freshly grated pecorino romano, to served

First make a semolina pasta dough with the semolina flour and 80 ml of water. It should be firm but malleable. Knead well; let it rest for at least 20 minutes, then make the orecchiette.

Roll the dough into a sausage (it may help to do this in a few batches) 1 cm wide. Cut across to make 1 cm dumplings. Take a knife and make the orecchiette one by one. With the flat of the knife at 30° to the table, use a smearing action (away from your body) to press the dumpling out, using the rounded end of the knife blade. It should stretch, flatten and curl around the blade, becoming thinner in the middle than at the edges, one of which will be slightly stuck to the blade of the knife. Put your index finger gently against the centre of the little curl of pasta over your fingertip and simultaneously detach it from the blade. It should now look like a little ear, with a slightly thick rim (the lobe), and a rough texture on the thinner centre, from where the knife pulled against the dough. A lot of words for very small pasta, these take some practice before they come right, but after are as easy as pie. Leave them spread out on a wooden or floured surface until you’re ready to cook – they’re best left for half an hour or so, to become a little leathery.

Next fry the onion and tomatoes in the oil over a high heat for 3 minutes, until softened and slightly browned. Crumble in the ‘nduja and fry for 30 seconds, then add the wine and a small ladleful of water. Let it bubble for a few moments, then add the cream.

Allow the sauce to cook until the cream has reddened, and thickened if it looked watery. To cook the orecchiette, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, drop in the pasta and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the drained pasta (still a little wet) and the rocket to the sauce, cook until the rocket is wilted and the pasta coated in the sauce. Serve with grated pecorino on top.

Bocca Cookbook by Jacob Kennedy

Shabbo Khala’s Cauliflower Pakoras with spiced moong daal batter

In Pakistan, a mother’s closest friends are like maternal aunts and are called ‘Khala’. Every Khala has her secret recipes – this one is my Shabbo Khala’s. As a child I would excitedly anticipate meals at her house, hoping to get some of these thinly sliced cauliflower florets in spicy lentil batter.

Preparation 25 minutes + 3–8 hours soaking | Cooking 10 minutes | Serves 6–8
150g/5oz/1½ cups moong daal
2 tbsp water
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp chaat masala
1 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
150–200ml/5–7 fl oz/2⁄3–scant 1 cup vegetable oil
½ cauliflower, cut into florets then florets sliced thinly vertically

To make the batter, soak the lentils in a bowl of water for at least 3 hours, or overnight, then drain and put them into a food processor or blender. Blend with the measured water until it is a smooth thick batter. Stir in all the spices, salt and chopped coriander.

Heat the oil in a wok-style pan over a medium heat. When the oil is smoking hot, reduce the heat to low.

Dip the slices of cauliflower into the batter (forming a thin coating of batter on the
cauliflower) and deep-fry in the oil for 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Move the pakora around as they cook to allow them to cook evenly. Remove the pakoras with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately.
Summers Under The Tamarind Tree by Sumayya Usmani
Photography by Joanna Yee

Chicken salan on-the-bone chicken curry

Salan means a liquid-based stew, and the closest description in English would be a thin curry. An everyday staple, chicken salan is classically made using chicken on the bone alongside onion, ginger and garlic with tomatoes and a simple combination of spice. Feel free to experiment with different spice combinations to make this dish your own. It’s best served with an accompaniment of daal, rice and a vegetable dish.

Preparation 15 minutes | Cooking 45–55 minutes | Serves 4–6
3–4 tbsp corn oil
2 red onions, roughly chopped
1-cm/½-inch piece ginger, peeled
and grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes or 5 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp tomato purée (optional)
salt, to taste
1 tsp red chilli powder (reduce if required)
¼ ground turmeric
1 kg/2¼ lb chicken with bones (ask butcher to cut a whole skinned chicken into 16 pieces with bone or use about 500g/1lb 2oz deboned thighs or chicken breast pieces (2.5–5cm/1–2 inches large)
100ml/3½ fl oz/½ cup water plus 5–8 tbsp

For the ground spices
1 tsp cumin seeds
3–4 green cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 tsp coriander (cilantro) seeds

To garnish
handful of tender fresh coriander
(cilantro) with stems, chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
For the ground spices, grind all the spices together then set aside. Heat the oil in a
heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook for 8–10 minutes until golden. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so until the raw smell disappears. Add the ground spices, reserving a teaspoon of the spices to garnish. Now cook for about 10–15 minutes until everything is caramelised. The onions will start to darken, and the garlic and ginger will also begin to caramelise. This is what you need for an intensely coloured base.

Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, salt, chilli and turmeric then turn the heat to medium
and bhuno (stir-fry) this mixture. If the tomatoes start to splutter a lot reduce the heat
slightly. Cook for about 20 minutes until you are left with a thick, rich sauce.

Turn off the heat, let the tomato mixture cool, then blitz in a blender until smooth.

Add 5–8 tablespoons water to make sure it is not too thick – it should be the consistency of a thick jam. Return to the pan, add the chicken pieces and 50ml/2 fl oz/scant ¼ cup of the water and increase the heat to medium-high. Bhuno (stir-fry) the chicken until you start to see the oil separating from the sauce, about 15 minutes of vigorous stirring.

Reduce the heat to low, add about another 50ml/2 fl oz/scant ¼ cup water, cover and
cook until the oil floats on top of the curry sauce and the chicken is cooked through.

Garnish with chopped coriander, chillies and a sprinkling of the spice blend. Serve with basmati rice, chapati and a salad such as crispy chapati kachumber salad.

Summers under The Tamarind Tree by Sumayya Usmani
Photography by Joanna Yee