It’s Such an Exciting Time in Food…..

It’s such an exciting time in food and even though the figures for obesity and Type 2 diabetes continue to increase expedientially, there are real grounds for optimism as growing numbers of young and not so young, don their lycra and take to their bikes or run or swim or even walk. I’m a fan of the latter and greatly enjoy a bit of hill walking every now and then. Most gyms are oversubscribed and despite my pessimistic prediction that Operation Transform would never catch on, it’s been the biggest success and has got many couch potatoes off the sofa and transformed them into messianic walkers or bikers.

So much to be encouraged about, not just here in Ireland but there also appears to be a global grassroot movement who really want to take back control over their food and their lives. Millennials, many of whom, are hugely successful with high powered jobs in the city are beginning to ask themselves searching questions. In the midst of all the pressure and traffic jams, there’s the nagging thought, ‘there has to be more to life than this’…..

So some at least (and the numbers are growing) are finding solace in the joy and satisfaction of growing some of their own food – instead of planting flower beds, they are sowing vegetables and herbs, seeds, planting a few apple trees, a cherry, a few gooseberries and blackcurrants and are like children in a toy shop when their produce is ready to eat. A decade ago 70% of all seeds were flower seeds now vegetables seeds are outselling flower seeds by 78% to 22% and the graph keeps climbing.

In the US, the Grow Food not Lawns Movement continues to grow as does GIY here om Ireland. Cully and Sully’s program, Give Peas a Chance in conjunction with national secondary schools had entries from 7,000 students, 3,000 teams, a fifth of secondary schools and was won by the St Augustine’s in Dungarvan. Their teacher Margo McGann and David McCarthy told us about the excitement it generated among her class, the parents, fellow teachers and how the whole school is basking in the warm glow of success and will now further develop a school garden with the prize they won and continue to teach the children how to grow vegetables and fruit – many of the children have already encouraged their parents to start a vegetable garden at home, the very best use of pester power.

The craving to reconnect with how food is produced and to relearn skills is particularly evident in the response to a new course we introduced onto the Ballymaloe Cookery School curriculum this year. A Six Week Sustainable Food program where the participants learn everything from how to sow a seed, plant a seedling into the ground, how to milk a cow, make butter, cheese, yoghurt , keep chickens for eggs and the table. They learn how to rear heritage pigs, butcher, bake breads, forage, preserve, ferment, make charcoal and cook and address a number of food issues. The course filled in a couple of weeks and was oversubscribed by 100%+, six nationalities – how interesting is that…..many of course, will return to their former careers, several have already bought some land or will now begin to cultivate their gardens or at least plant a window box depending on their situation but whatever their future path life will never be the same. In their own careers, each have a skill set that I couldn’t even begin to aspire to but you can’t imagine the joy they are finding in learning these basic life skills and baking their first loaf of bread or roasting a free range organic chicken…..
In this column, I include a few of the recipes they have learned to make from scratch over the past six weeks.

Hot Tips
Check out the Carlow Garden Festival, 21st July – July 30th 2017. A full program of tv and radio gardeners, international garden designers, tree trails, garden visits, free events, workshops…. http://www.carlowgardentrail.com/events/category/carlow-garden-festival-2017/

Irish Street Food Awards. We are looking for the best street food dishes in Ireland with the winner going on to represent Ireland in Berlin in the Autumn. European Street Food Awards Final. Applications and nominations are now open at http://irishstreetfoodawards.com/ to any street food vendor trading in Ireland. Closing date July 7th 2017. For more information contact Ali Dunworth on 087 4144288 or alidunworth@gmail.com

Midleton Farmers Market
Check out Michael Barrett’s lobster sandwich and oysters at the Midleton Farmers Market, every Saturday 9.30am-2pm www.facebook.com

Caramelized Carrot, Beetroot and Apple Salad with toasted sesame seeds

A couple of bocconcini make this salad into a more substantial lunch
Serves 6

600g young carrots, with a little green top
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
Extra Virgin olive oil
Honey
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
450g beetroot, cooked and peeled
1-2 dessert apples, unpeeled and coarsely grated or julienned
25g pumpkin or sesame seeds
Watercress, purslane and chickweed or a mixture of interesting leaves and ‘weeds’
Dressing
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 230C/mark 8
Scrub the carrots, dry, split in half lengthwise, if too big. Put into a large bowl, add the thyme leaves, drizzle with the olive oil and honey, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss gently to coat.
Spread out in a roasting tin. As soon as you put the trays into the oven reduce the heat to 200C/mark 6.

Roast for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until the carrots are almost tender and caramelized at the ends and edges.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Just before serving, toast the pumpkin or sesame seeds on a dry pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, you’ll need to keep tossing them or they’ll burn on one side and become acrid and bitter.
Cut the cooked beetroot into wedges or chunks depending on size.

Make the dressing – Whisk the lemon juice, oils and honey together, add the thyme leaves, keep half the dressing aside.

Grate the apple on the coarse side of a box grater, directly into the rest of the dressing. Toss, taste and correct seasoning.

To serve
Arrange a few sprigs of watercress, chickweed, and purslane on each plate. Whisk the dressing.
Sprinkle over the carrot and beets. Taste, it should be nice and perky. Divide them between the plates. Spoon some grated apple here and there, sprinkle with toasted seeds and serve with crusty bread.

Rory O’ Connell’s Salad of Beetroot with Raspberries, Honey and Mint

Serves 4

2 cooked beetroot, peeled and very thinly sliced on a mandolin
24 raspberries
16 small mint leaves
honey
olive oil
lemon juice
Maldon sea salt
cracked black pepper

Divide the sliced beetroot between 4 white plates.

Cut some of the raspberries in half lengthways and some in cross section slices, and scatter over the beets. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Dress the salads with a drizzle of honey, a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle on the tiny mint leaves and serve.

Note
I sometimes place a few teaspoons of thick yoghurt or labne on the salad when assembling.

Kohlrabi or White Turnip and Coconut Curry

Serves 4-6

225g onion, peeled and finely chopped
25g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
700g kohlrabi or white turnip, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon roasted and ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
seeds from 8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
20g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
sea salt and black pepper
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
400ml vegetable stock or water
200ml coconut milk
handful fresh coriander leaves

Rice and Naan bread
Mint or coriander yoghurt

Melt the butter and the oil in a wok, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat until soft and translucent. Meanwhile, prepare the kohlrabi, add to the onion, and cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes.
Stir in the mustard, cumin and fennel seeds and cook for 2 minutes, careful not to brown the seeds or they will become bitter. Add the ground turmeric or coriander, crushed cardamom seeds, ginger, garlic and chillies and cook for 30 seconds. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, add the chopped tomatoes, stock or water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, then add the coconut milk and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the kohlrabi is tender. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Pour into a hot serving bowl, scatter with coriander and serve with rice, naan bread, and mint or coriander yoghurt.

Maunika Gowardhan’s Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

This was recently voted in a survey as one of people’s top ten dishes to eat on their bucket list! Murgh Makhani which is basically tandoori chicken in a buttery sauce, is an all-time Indian favourite.

Tandoori Chicken
2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh root ginger
4 garlic cloves
1 green bird’s eye chilli
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) Greek yoghurt
2 teaspoons gram (chickpea) flour
1 teaspoon mild paprika
1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder (or a little more if you’d like it spicy)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of crushed saffron
450g (1lb) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
salt to taste
butter for basting
1 teaspoon chat masala
juice of 1/2 lemon

To Serve
salad and chutney

Tandoori Chicken.
Put 5-6 wooden skewers in water and leave them to soak.

Put the ginger, garlic and bird’s eye chilli into a wet grinder or mini food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. Set aside.

Put the yoghurt in a bowl. Add the gram flour and mix well to get rid of any lumps and create a thick, paste-like consistency. Add the ginger-garlic paste, the paprika, chilli powder, garam masala, coriander, cinnamon, saffron and salt. Stir well, then add the chicken, mixing well to make sure the pieces are coated in the thick marinade. Leave to marinate for 2-3 hours or preferably overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat the grill until medium-hot.

Shake the excess marinade off the chicken pieces and thread them onto the skewers. Place them on a wire rack and grill on the top shelf for 15-20 minutes, turning the skewers every 5 minutes and basting with melted butter until the meat juices run clear. The chicken should be cooked through and slightly charred around the edges.
If you wish, the tandoori chicken can be served at this point just as it is – over parathas sprinkled with chaat masala and lemon juice along with a salad and mint and coriander chutney.
However, to make an authentic butter chicken, serve with the gravy (see recipe).

Murgh Makhani Gravy

1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) unsalted melted butter
6 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2.5cm (1 inch) cassia bark
4 cloves
1 onion (about 50g/2oz), finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon ( 1 1/4 American tablespoons) grated ginger (made from 8cm/3 1/4 inch) fresh root ginger
2 green bird’s eye chilliest, slit lengthways
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder or mild paprika
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) tomato purée
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) double cream
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) honey
1 tablespoon ( 1 1/4 American tablespoons) kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaf)
salt to taste
chopped fresh coriander to garnish

Top Tip
Crush the dried fenugreek with your fingers before adding to release the aromas in the curry.

Place a deep saucepan over a low heat and add the butter. When hot, add the cardamom pods, cassia bark and cloves. Fry for 20 seconds, then add the onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes over a medium heat until it takes on a light brown colour.

Add the grated ginger and bird’s eye chillies. Fry for a further minute, add the chilli powder and garam masala, stir for 20 seconds and add the tomato purée. Mix well and cook for a couple of minutes. Now gradually add the double cream, stirring continuously to mix it with all the spices. Simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the honey and fenugreek. Season to taste and add 50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) water.

Add the cooked chicken pieces and simmer the curry over a low heat for 6-8 minutes.

Garnish with coriander and serve with naan bread.

Pork Osso Bucco

This recipe is also lovely made with lamb or rosé veal shanks. The leftover meat and juices are delicious over pasta.

Serves 8

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, sliced
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 red peppers, seeded and sliced
2 yellow peppers, seeded and sliced
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) sweet or smoked paprika
900ml (11⁄2 pints/3 3/4cups) homemade chicken stock
16 thick slices of pork shanks (you’ll want 4 shanks for 8 people, ask the butcher to saw them into thick slices for you or do it yourself)
seasoned flour
450ml (16fl oz/2 cups) dry white wine
300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4cups) sour cream
about 50g (2oz) roux
lots of flat parsley

a cast-iron or heavy roasting tin

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/Gas Mark 3.

Heat 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) of olive oil in a casserole, add the sliced onion and garlic, toss, cover and cook over a medium heat while you prepare the peppers. Add the peppers and continue to cook until the onion and peppers are soft. Add the bay leaves, thyme and chopped tomatoes with their juice. Add salt, freshly ground pepper and paprika. Stir, then add the chicken stock and bring to the boil.

Meanwhile, heat another 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan. Toss the pork in seasoned flour. Sear the meat a few pieces at a time, and add to the tomato base. Deglaze the pan with white wine and bring to the boil.

Dissolve the caramelized meat juices in the wine. Add to the casserole.
Cover and cook gently for 2–2 1⁄2 hours.

When the meat is almost falling from the bones, remove the pork from the casserole and set aside. Skim the fat off the cooking sauce, add the sour cream, bring to a boil
and thicken lightly with roux. Taste and correct the seasoning. Return the pork shanks and their juices to the sauce. Bubble over a medium heat until the meat heats through.
Taste and correct the seasoning.

Transfer to a shallow serving dish. Scatter with lots of flat parsley sprigs and serve with noodles, rice or mashed potatoes. Serve one small and one large piece of shank per person.

Jacob Kenedy’s Blackcurrant Leaf or Meadow Sweet Panna Cotta

Panna cotta (‘cooked cream’), normally, is a somewhat bland vehicle for fruit or sauce. Here infused with blackcurrant leaves (which magically have more aroma than their fruit, that comes later in the year), it becomes the star attraction. Something of a charlatan, I actually prefer to make my panna cotta without cream at all, replacing it with yoghurt – both for a lightness of taste, and reduction of guilt.

Serves 4

3 sheets gelatin (2.5g each – ‘standard’ size)
400ml (14fl oz) whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split
25g (1oz) fresh blackcurrant leaves (or, equally lovely, fig leaves) or meadow sweet flowers
100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar
150ml (5fl oz) double cream (or 200g/7oz Greek yoghurt)

To Serve
Optional: Blackcurrant Compote (see below)

Bloom the gelatin in cold water.

Bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla pod, and take it straight off the heat. Allow it to cool to about 70oC/158˚F, then add the blackcurrant leaves (or meadow sweet flowers if using). Keep it around 60-70 oC/140-158˚F (put over a low flame briefly if it cools below) for 5-15 minutes, and taste to judge when the infusion is correct (too long and it starts to taste bitter, too short and it will be bland).

When you’re happy, strain the milk and, while still hot, add the sugar and the bloomed gelatin. Stir to dissolve. At room temperature, stir in the cream or yoghurt and portion into glasses or moulds.

Serve turned out onto little plates, just as they are or with a spoonful of blackcurrant compote (see recipe), which though not seasonal can be made using frozen berries and not much sugar.

Blackcurrant Compote

350g (12oz) fresh blackcurrants, strings removed

Stock Syrup:
50g (2oz) sugar
50ml (2fl oz) water
Put the blackcurrants into a stainless steel saucepan, cover with stock syrup. Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts – this will take about 4 to 5 minutes.

Jacob Kenedy, Bocca di Lupo (LitFest 2017)