ArchiveSeptember 2018

Slow Food Grandmothers Day

On Sunday 30th September, we celebrate Slow Food Grandmothers Day at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Grandparents from all over will gather their grandchildren around to share their favourite memories and experiences and to pass on some of their valuable life skills, to have fun and show them how to bake a cake, sow a seed, knit a scarf…

Grandparents are the guardians of inherited wisdom – this is the perfect opportunity to pass these skills onto our grandchildren.

Slow Food International has celebrated Grandmothers Day since 2009.

Now that I’m a grandmother 11 times over I’m even more aware of the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

It’s even more important than ever nowadays. Years ago at a time when many families lived in multi-generational groups the skills were effortlessly passed from generation to generation this situation is more unusual nowadays. The myriad of pressures of modern living mean that both parents are working.

 

We hope Slow Food Grandmothers’ Day will encourage grandmothers to get together not only once a year but once a month with their grandchildren to have fun together in the kitchen.

From 12 noon to 5.30pm Sunday 30th September we’ll have all sorts of events…

Rebecca O’Sullivan of Granny Skills, Australia will demonstrate how to make flower petal tote bags and edible skin care. She will also talk about how to use edible flowers and herbs for health.

 

Maria Walsh, our Dairy Queen and Lydia Hugh-Jones will show us how to make butter and have a ‘disco butter making’ session with the children.  Maria also plans to pass on her knowledge of how to make tinctures, teas and natural cleaners. Penny Porteous will introduce us to ferments and demonstrate how to make kombucha and kefir.

There will also be a talk on bees to encourage young bee keepers.

 

Karen O Donoghue of GIY, co-star of Grow Cook Eat on RTE will show how to sow seeds in pots to take home.

Bill Frazer will talk about heritage apples and provide tempting tastings.

Rupert Hugh-Jones will set up an apple press so bring along some of your windfall apples (and bottles) to make your own apple juice.

 

Granny Rosalie Dunne will show us how to make glamorous and crazy hats.

 

Saturday Pizzas will be open on Sunday for this special Grandmothers Day and there will be lots of food stalls.

 

Guided walks around the organic farm and gardens, a foraging walk for children and grandparents with Pat Brown and Lydia Hugh-Jones to teach them to recognise wild and edible foods, a treasure hunt with your granny and much, much more.

Check out our Grandmothers Day competition on page ?????? today.

Here are some favourite recipes from our local grannies.

Macaroni with Cheddar Cheese

Macaroni cheese is one of my grandchildren’s favourite supper dishes. We occasionally add a few cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni. The little ones are deeply suspicious of green bits in the sauce so you may want to omit the parsley

Serves 6

225g (8oz) macaroni

3.4 litres (6 pints) water

2 teaspoons salt

50g (2oz) butter

50g (2oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

850ml (1½ pints) boiling milk

1/4 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

150g (5oz) grated mature Cheddar cheese

25g (1 oz) grated Cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top

 

1 x 1.1 litre (1 x 2 pint) capacity pie dish

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook until just soft, 10-15 minutes approx. drain well.

Meanwhile melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, parsley if using and cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately.

 

Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place.  Turn into a pie dish, sprinkle grated cheese over the top.  Reheat in a preheated moderate oven – 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. It is very good served with cold meat particularly ham.

 

Top Tip: Macaroni soaks up an enormous amount of sauce.  Add more sauce if making ahead to reheat later.

 

 

 

Scalloped Potato with Steak and Kidney

I’m sure all of you have a favourite recipe that you might ask your grandmother or mother to cook, have bubbling on the stove or in the tin when you came home for the weekend from college or after a hard week at work. Mine was scalloped potato, a layered casserole of beef, kidney and potatoes. We ate plates and plates of this comforting dish with lots and lots of butter.

Serves 4–6

1 beef kidney, about 450g (1lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper

450g (1lb) well-hung stewing beef (I use round, flank or even lean shin)

1.3kg (3lb) ‘old’ potatoes – Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks, thickly sliced

350g (12oz) onions, chopped

50g (2oz) butter, or more

370ml (13fl oz) beef stock (see recipe) or hot water

Garnish

freshly chopped parsley

large, oval casserole, 2.3 litre (4 pint) capacity

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/ gas mark 2.

Remove the skin and white core from the kidney and discard. Cut the flesh of the kidneys into 1cm (1⁄2 in) cubes, put them into a bowl, cover with cold water and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt. Cut the beef into 5mm (1⁄4 in) cubes. Put a layer of potato slices at the base of the casserole. Drain the kidney cubes and mix them with the beef slices, then scatter some of the meat and chopped onions over the layer of potato.

Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, dot with butter, add another layer of potato, more meat, onions and seasoning and continue right up to the top of the casserole. Finish with an overlapping layer of potato. Pour in the hot stock or water. Bring to the boil, cover and transfer to the oven, and cook for 2–21⁄2 hours or until the meat and potatoes are cooked. Remove the lid of the saucepan about 15 minutes from end of the cooking time to brown the top slightly.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve in deep plates with lots of butter.

 

 

 

Ballymaloe Sausage Rolls with Bramley Apple Sauce

Makes 8 – 16 depending on size

Homemade Sausages or best quality bought

Homemade Sausages:

Makes 16 Small or 8 large sausages

 

450g (1lb) good, fat streaky pork (rindless)

2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, rosemary and sage)

60g (2½oz) soft white breadcrumbs

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

1 organic egg (optional – helps to bind – reduce breadcrumbs to 50g/2oz if omitting egg)

dash of oil for frying

50g (2oz) natural sheep or hog casings (optional)

 

450g (1lb) Puff Pastry

 

First make the homemade sausages. Mince the pork at the first or second setting, depending on the texture you like. Chop the herbs finely and mix through the breadcrumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a

little salt. Whisk the egg, and then mix into the other ingredients thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the seasoning. Correct if necessary. Fill the mixture into natural sausage casings and tie. Twist into sausages at regular intervals. Alternatively, divide into 16 pieces and roll into lengths to make skinless sausages. Cover and chill. Homemade sausages are best eaten fresh but will keep refrigerated for 2–3 days.

 

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

 

Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 4mm (1/6 inch) thick.  Lay the sausage along the wider side 5cm (2 inch) from the edge.  Brush with egg wash or water.   Fold over the excess pastry, press to seal and cut along the edge.  Flake the edge with a knife or seal with a fork. Brush the top of pastry with egg wash and prick the surface with a fork at 1” (2cm) intervals.  Cover and chill.  Repeat with the remainder.  Before cooking cut into 8’s or 16’s .

 

Cook for 20-25 minutes depending on size.  Serve with Bramley Apple Sauce.

 

 

 

Great Grandmother’s Butter Sponge with Summer Berries

This is the best sponge cake you’ll ever taste. The recipe has been passed from my great grandmother through the generations in our family and now I delight on passing it on to my grandchildren and their friends.

175g (6oz) flour

175g (6oz) castor sugar

3 eggs, organic and free-range

125g (4½oz) butter check

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon baking powder

 

Filling

110g (4oz) homemade raspberry jam or 110g (4ozs) strawberries, sliced or raspberries

300ml (10fl oz) whipped cream

 

castor sugar to sprinkle

 

2 x 7 inch (18cm) sponge cake tins

 

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/regulo 5.

 

Grease the tine with melted butter, dust with flour and line the base of each with a round of greaseproof paper. Cream the butter and gradually add the castor sugar, beat until soft and light and quite pale in colour. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well between each addition. (If the butter and sugar are not creamed properly and if you add the eggs too fast, the mixture will curdle, resulting in a cake with a heavier texture). Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in gradually. Mix all together lightly and add 1 tablespoon of milk to moisten.

 

Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 tins, hollowing it slightly in the centre. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked – the cake will shrink-in slightly from the edge of the tin when it is cooked, the centre should feel exactly the same texture as the edge.  Alternatively a skewer should come out clean when put into the centre of the cake. Turn out onto a wire tray and allow to cool.

 

Sandwich together with homemade raspberry jam and whipped cream. Sprinkle with sieved castor sugar. Serve on an old fashioned plate with a doyley.

 

 

Blackberry, Apple and Sweet Geranium Jam

We’ve had lots of fun for the last few weeks picking blackberries and making jam with the children – what a fantastic crop this year. The grandchildren love chopping some of the sweet geranium leaves into the jam to give it a haunting lemony flavour.

 

 

Makes 9-10 x 450 g jars approx.

 

All over the countryside every year, blackberries rot on the hedgerows.  Think of all the wonderful jam that could be made – so full of Vitamin C!  This year organise a blackberry picking expedition and take a picnic.  You’ll find it’s the greatest fun, and when you come home one person could make a few scones while someone else is making the jam.  The children could be kept out of mischief and gainfully employed drawing and painting home-made jam labels, with personal messages like “Lydia’s Jam – keep off”!, or “Grandma’s Raspberry Jam”. Then you can enjoy the results of your labours with a well-earned cup of tea.

 

Blackberries are a bit low in pectin, so the apples help it to set as well as adding extra flavour.

 

2.3 kg blackberries

900 g cooking apples (Bramley, or Grenadier in season)

1.8kg sugar (use 225g) less if blackberries are sweet) – since Ireland has gone over to cane sugar which appears to be more intensely sweet we reduced the sugar to 1kg.  The intensity of sugar varies in different countries.

8-10 sweet geranium leaves

 

Wash, peel and core and slice the apples.  Stew them until soft with 300ml of water in a stainless steel saucepan; beat to a pulp.

 

Pick over the blackberries, cook until soft, adding about 150ml of water if the berries are dry.  If you like, push them through a coarse sieve to remove seeds.  Put the blackberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan or preserving pan with the apple pulp and the heated sugar. Destalk and chop sweet geranium leaves and add to the fruit.  Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.

 

Boil steadily for about 15 minutes.  Skim the jam, test it for a set and pot into warm spotlessly clean jars.

 

 

 

 

Jam Tarts and Starlets

 

One of course can make jam tarts from start to finish, but I usually make these with the trimmings when I’m making other pies and tarts, I can’t bear to waste any scraps. When the grandchildren are around, get them involved, they love making jam tarts so it teaching the children about the important of not wasting s scrap of any precious scraps of food.

Makes about 36

 

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry OR ‘Break all the Rules’ Shortcrust Pastry OR Shortbread Biscuit mixture

 

homemade jam of your choice or Lemon Curd

 

1–2 shallow non-stick bun trays

 

6cm (21⁄2in) round or 8.5cm (31⁄2in) star-shaped cutter

 

Make the pastry as directed in the recipe. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour; or better still make the pastry the day before.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/gas mark 4.

Roll the pastry out thinly to about 2.5mm (1⁄8 in) and stamp into rounds or star shapes. Use to line the bun trays.

Put a small teaspoon of jam or lemon curd into the tartlets and bake for 14–18 minutes, until the pastry is a pale golden colour.

Alternatively, bake the empty tartlets (no need to use beans). Leave them to cool. Fill the centres with a teaspoonful of jam or lemon curd.

School Days

Recipes
  1.  

Yet, another special day, one more of our little dotes had her hair brushed, (no mean feat), donned her school uniform, shiny new shoes and school bag for the very first time, always a bitter sweet moment and an anxious one.

She’s really excited now but how will she take to school? Her big sister and brother will take special care of her so she will hopefully settle in a couple of days….

In the UK and US children are provided with a school lunch, a subject of much controversy.

Jamie Oliver did much to highlight the poor quality of the school food in the UK. A few schools do a brilliant job and where extra effort is made, the teachers find a tangible difference in the children’s behaviour and concentration levels in the classrooms. Some are convinced that this results in happier kids who miss less school days through colds and flus.

One way or another, school lunch is vitally important for children’s health and wellbeing yet it seems to be very low on many governments list of priorities. In the US, Alice Waters original Edible School Yard Project in Berkley in California has been an inspiration for many more initiatives across the country and indeed the world.

Each school has a school garden where the children learn how to grow some of their own food, then cook it and sit down at the table with their friends to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

They love the experience, learn lots of skills and get credits for eating school lunch- what’s not to love about that model.

 

Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden project is similar and has been rolled out into over 650 schools in Australia and still counting….

I have visited both these projects and several others,  and have been blown away by the enthusiasm of both children and teachers, as well as the deeply grateful parents.

Most recently at the MAD food Symposium in Copenhagen I attended two sessions on school food given by Dan Giusti who was originally sous chef in Noma (the top restaurant in the world). After years of feeding 45 or 50 privileged guests a night, he felt the need for a change and yearned to feed more people. So after much thought and consideration, he decided to create a school lunch project called Brigade, www.chefsbrigaid.com based in a small town in Connecticut called New London where 1 in 4 children are below the poverty line. Many are certified homeless so the food they eat on Friday  at school is most probably the last meal they will eat until the following Monday…..

The challenge for Dan and his team  on the Brigaid project is not easy. There are 85 pages of government nutritional guidelines, allergies, ethnic preferences, logistics…

Plus the budget for each child’s food is $3.31, which must include a glass of milk and cover other expenses so  $1.25 in real terms.

In that case one has to let go of deeply held preferences for local sustainable produce and do ones very best within the restrictions. Dan has gradually changed the system to do ‘from scratch’ cooking and uses plates as opposed to disposable moulded plastic containers. The kids have become much more engaged and now it will be rolled out in some schools in the South Bronx in New York City, where a million kids get a free school lunch every day.

I asked Dan what was the kids favourite lunch – he told me barbequed bone-in chicken with warm corn bread and potato salad.

So back to the reality in Ireland – where like everywhere else much depends on the quality of our children’s school lunch. It’s a constant concern and hassle for parents, it needs to be nutritious, delicious and not too nerdy. It’s quite a tight rope to navigate. If it is too different from the norm, we run the risk of our kids being teased or ridiculed by their friends which may be ‘water off a ducks back’ to parents but can devastate a child and may well result in them skipping lunch altogether.

It’s fun to involve older children in making their own packed lunches, many are now becoming very adventurous, hummus, wraps, dips, chunky soups, yoghurts, rice bowls and salad jars are becoming the norm but ham sandwiches are still the favourite so the quality of bread is super important, ditch the processed ham for a piece of thinly sliced home-cooked bacon and a piece of good cheddar. A  mixture of nuts or spiced seeds make a delicious nibble, chunks of melon with berries tossed in honey, lemon juice and a shred of mint – delicious.

A little rainbow salad in a jar or hummus pots are easy to transport and eat. A grated carrot and apple salad is another winner and if your child likes avocado, it’s a brilliant option or you might like to try a guacamole dip. Alternatively, sticks of raw vegetables and a little pot of aioli (garlic mayo) may make an irresistible nibble. A hard-boiled egg is full of protein, a super easy option and also great with a dollop of mayo.

When the weather gets a little colder, think how your child would enjoy a warm glass of soup and a little buttered brown scone.

One Dad who take his kids foraging on a regular basis, told me how they love to have wild sorrel and sprigs of purslane and pennywort in their salad – how wild and cool is that and super nutritious. Fortunately their school friends and teachers are curious rather than dismissive, so gently does it.

Dan Giusti made another interesting observation, when they sliced the apples particularly for younger children, they ate the slices rather than throwing away the apple after taking a bite or two- obvious when you think about it (slice and tightly wrap the  apple or half apple again)

Here are a few suggestions that I hope will prove enticing…

 

 

 

Hummus Bi Tahina

Hummus bi Tahina is a very inexpensive and delicious source of protein, this recipe makes quite a lot but you could half it. It can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days

 

Serves 4-8 (depending on how it is served)

 

170g (6oz) chickpeas, cooked, save the cooking liquid

freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons, or to taste

2-3 large or small cloves garlic, crushed

150ml (5fl oz) tahini paste (available from health food shops and delicatessens)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

salt

 

Accompaniment

pitta bread or any crusty white bread, raw vegetables cut in to batons.

 

Drain the chickpeas, save the cooking liquid. Whizz up the remainder in a food processor with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little cooking water if necessary. Add the crushed garlic, tahini paste, cumin and salt to taste. Blend to a soft creamy paste. Taste and continue to add lemon juice and salt until you are happy with the flavour. Pop a lunch-box sized serving into little jars. Layer up the hummus with a selection of fresh vegetables in the jar, could be diced carrot, diced cucumber, maybe a few peas whatever you have to hand but make sure it tastes delicious

 

Rachel’s Bulgur Wheat Salad

Rachel likes to serve this bulgur wheat salad with roast chicken as an alternative to roast vegetables. It does a great job of soaking up the chicken juices and the ruby-like pomegranate seeds bring their gorgeous sweet-sour flavour. Any leftover chicken and salad can be simply mixed together for a divine school lunch the next day.

 

200g (7oz) bulgur wheat

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 pomegranate, seeds and any juices, see tip below

1 tablespoon chopped mint

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

50ml (2fl oz) olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Cover the bulgur wheat in boiling water and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes until just soft. Drain well.

 

Mix the lemon juice and zest, pomegranate seeds and any juice, herbs and olive oil. Stir through the bulgur wheat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Rachel’s Tip: There is a smart trick to quickly removing the seeds of a pomegranate without removing much pith and avoiding any fiddly peeling. Cut the pomegranate in half, then hold in the cupped palm of your hand, cut side down over a large bowl. Use the back of a wooden spoon to hit the pomegranate and let the seeds fall through your fingers. Keep hitting the back of the pomegranate and you’ll soon have a bowl full of pomegranate seeds. Remove any small bits of pith then repeat with the other half.

 

 

 

See-in-the-Dark Soup

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 6 approx.

 

This soup may be served either hot or cold, don’t hesitate to put in a good pinch of sugar, it brings up the flavour.

 

450g (1lb) carrots, preferably organic, chopped

45g (1½oz) butter

110g (4oz) onion, chopped

140g (5oz) potatoes, chopped

140g (5oz) sweet potatoes, chopped

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

sprig of spearmint

1.1Litre (2 pints) home-made light chicken or vegetable stock

62ml (2½fl oz) creamy milk, (optional)

3 teaspoons freshly chopped spearmint

Garnish

a little lightly whipped cream or crème fraiche

sprigs of spearmint

 

Melt the butter and when it foams add the chopped vegetables, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a sprig of mint, cover with a butter paper (to retain the steam) and a tight fitting lid. Leave to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes approx. Remove the lid, add the stock and boil until the vegetables are soft. Pour the soup into the liquidiser. Add 3 teaspoons of freshly chopped mint, puree until smooth. Add a little creamy milk if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning

Garnish with a swirl of lightly whipped cream or crème fraiche and a sprig of fresh mint.

Tip: Buy unwashed local carrots whenever possible, they have immeasurably better flavour and keep longer  Heirloom seeds are said to have more  vitality and food value than F1 hybrids.

 

A Little Brown Soda Bread Loaf

The buttermilk in the shops is low fat but if you have access to rich, thick buttermilk, there is no need to add butter or extra cream.

 

This little loaf of brown soda bread is mixed in minutes and then just poured into a tin.  A few seeds can be sprinkled over the top or added to the dough for extra nourishment. Why not weigh up x 5 times the amount of flour and salt (but not bread soda).  Mix well and each time just scoop out 450g (16oz), add bread soda and buttermilk – mix and pour into the tin.

Makes 1 loaf

 

225g (8oz) brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda) sieved

450ml (16fl oz) buttermilk plus 2 tablespoons cream

A selection of sesame, pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds (optional)

 

1 loaf tin 13x20cm (5x8inch) approx. brushed with sunflower oil

 

First preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6

 

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl, (if using cream, add to the buttermilk).  Make a well in the centre and pour all of the buttermilk. Using one hand, stir in a full circle starting in the centre of the bowl working towards the outside of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft. When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it into the oiled tin – slide a knife down the centre of the loaf.  Sprinkle with a mixture of sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and poppy seeds.

 Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes approximately.

(In some ovens it is necessary to turn the bread upside down on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before the end of baking) It will sound hollow when tapped.  Cool on a wire rack, wrapped in a clean tea-towel while hot if you prefer a softer crust.

Note:One could add 12g (1/2oz) fine oatmeal, 1 egg, and rub in 25g (1oz) butter to the above to make a richer soda bread dough.

 Note:  Bread should always be cooked in a fully pre-heated oven, but ovens vary enormously so it is necessary to adjust the temperature accordingly.

 

Guacamole

Easy even for the kids to make, a delicious dip for home made crisps, corn chips or raw vegetable sticks
1 ripe avocado

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon fresh coriander or flat parsley

 

Scoop out the flesh from the avocado.  Mash with a fork, add lime juice, olive oil, chopped coriander, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Homemade Potato Crisps or Game Chips

 Making chips at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce

a ton of crisps and nothing you buy in any shop will be even half as delicious. A mandolin is well worth buying for making chips – but mind your fingers!  When these are served with roast pheasant they are called game chips

Serves 4

450g (1lb) large, even-sized potatoes

extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying

salt

 

Wash and peel the potatoes. For even-sized crisps, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth. Slice them very finely, preferably with a mandolin. Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together). Drain off the water and dry well.

 

In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil or dripping to 180ºC/350ºF. Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until they are all cooked.

 

If they are not to be served immediately, they may be stored in a tin box and reheated in a low oven just before serving.

 

Stewed Bramley Apple Pots

The trick with stewed apple is to cook it covered on a low heat with very little water. Pop it into little pots and maybe top with a dollop of cream and a sprinkling of soft dark brown sugar…

Also great with flapjack dips… see below
Serves 10 approx.

 

450g (1 lb) cooking apples, e.g. Bramley Seedling or Grenadier

1-2 dessertspoons water

55g (2 ozs) sugar, depending on how tart the apples are

 

Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut the pieces into two and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan with sugar and water. Cover and cook over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, beat into a puree, stir and taste for sweetness. Serve warm.

Flapjacks

These nutritious oatmeal biscuits keep very well in a tin. Children love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter, because the flavour is immeasurably better. This is the recipe that I use when I want to prove to people who swear they can’t boil water that they can cook. We often drizzle them with melted chocolate as an extra treat. Makes about 24

 

350g (12oz) butter

1 tablespoon golden syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

225g (8oz) caster sugar

450g (1lb) rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)

 

Swiss roll tin 25 x 38cm (10 x 15in)

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and vanilla extract, stir in the sugar and oatmeal and mix well. Spread evenly into the Swiss roll tin.

Bake until golden and slightly caramelised, about 30 minutes. Cut into squares while still warm – they will crisp up as they cool.

 

Variation

Oatmeal and coconut flapjacks

substitute 50g (2oz) desiccated coconut for 50g (2oz) oatmeal in the above recipe.

 

Rachel’s Drop Scones

Makes 12

110g (4ozs) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz/1/8 cup) caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 egg

110ml (4fl ozs/) milk

drop of sunflower oil, for greasing

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and stir to mix.  Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and whisk, gradually drawing in the flour from the edge.  Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time, to form a smooth batter.

Lightly grease a frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat.  Drop 3 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons + 3 teaspoons) of the batter into the pan, keeping well apart so they don’t stick together. Cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and begin to burst and the drop scones are golden underneath, then flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or until golden on this side as well.

Remove from the pan and serve warm with butter and jam, apple jelly, lemon curd or if you are like my children, chocolate spread! (If you wish, wrap the drop scones in a clean tea towel to keep warm while you make the rest.)

 

Ambling though the Burren

For me, ambling slowly through the Burren in Co. Clare is almost a spiritual experience – the prehistoric landscape feels sooo ancient,  I can virtually feel the spirit of those who chipped away patiently to build the drystone walls that still provide enduring shelter for the little fields.

It’s like driving through the Garden of Eden, fields of wild flowers interspersed with an occasional elderberry or hawthorn bush scattered here and there, a flock of sheep grazing contentedly, even a few cattle.

Can you imagine how delicious the meat of the animals reared on this bio-diverse pasture must be.  Looks like there will be lots of sloes and hazelnuts too, the blackberries are just ripening on the brambles pleading to be picked.

We’re on our way to Ennistymon to eat at Little Fox, a newly opened, super cool café on a corner of Main Street.  A short menu of delicious food, a red lentil and turmeric soup with masala yoghurt and toasted seeds was delicious as were all the salads and the Gubeen sambo on flatbread

Just across the road is a cheese shop called The Cheese Press owned by the inimitable Sinead Ni Ghairbhith. Locals get 30 cents off their coffee if they bring their own cup to reduce plastic use.

Just across the street, a little further up,  Pot Duggan’s is also rocking so set aside a little time to visit Ennistymon and beautiful Co. Clare.

Then on to Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon to visit a variety of inspirational farms.  First, Ronan Byrne aka The Friendly Farmer who rears free-range turkeys and geese and has a farm shop on his 35 acre farm at Knockbrack close to Athenry. Ronan also sells at the Moycullen Farmers Market on Friday and the Galway Farmers Market on Saturday where his growing number of devotees often queue up to buy his produce.

Near Ballymote in Co Sligo, we came upon Clive Bright’s enterprise,

 

known as Rare Ruminare, Clive has a most beautiful herd of Hereford and Shorthorn cattle which he ‘mob grazes’ on lush,  organic pastures on his family farm near Ballymote in Co  Sligo. Loved his paintings too –detailed drawings of insects and plant life, beautifully observed.

 

From there we popped in to Drumanilra Farm Kitchen Café in Boyle and met owners Liam and Justina Gavin whose beautiful farm overlooks Lough Kee,  I won’t easily forget the few minutes I spent leaning on a farm gate watching Drumanilra’s herd of gentle Dexter cattle grazing naturally and contentedly on the nourishing pasture.  These cattle will have an honourable end on a plate in the café in their much sought after Dexter burgers or for local people to buy in the farm shop, look out for their rashers and sausages too.

 

Clive Bright’s Hereford and Shorthorn meat can be bought in chilled boxes insulated with lambs’ wool, directly from www.rareruminare.  I can certainly vouch for the flavour having eaten Clive’s beef cheeks for lunch – this young farmer cooks brilliantly as well.

We covered a lot of ground over a couple of days…. On our way south, we detoured to Birr to catch up on Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni, Hannah Ward at Woodfield Café just outside the town.  Another cool café – delicious brunch and a wander around the tempting Woodfield Garden Centre at the rear.  A lovely surprise to find Mueller, O’Connell sourdough bread from Abbeyleix for toasted bacon and Mossfield cheese sandwiches.

Our next stop, the Eco-Village at Cloughjordan in Co Tipperary to meet Joe Fitzmaurice in his Riot Rye bakery, wonderful smells….we had the opportunity to watch Joe shaping and baking his sour dough loaves in the  wood-burning oven – beautiful crusty bread to nourish his community which for him is a major priority. Check out his sour bread classes, www.riotrye.ie.

Just outside the town we found Mimi and Owen Crawford whose rich and beautiful organic raw milk and butter, people flock to buy at Limerick Milk Market and locally.

They also rear and sell their own plump Ross free-range organic chickens, lamb, bacon and pork.  Their small 20-acre holding is super-productive with a little tunnel and vegetable patch bursting with fresh product.

That was the last stop on this short reconnaissance

trip – so many inspirational people.  We ran out of time to visit Sodalicious in Limerick, a recent start-up owned by another Ballymaloe Cookery School allumni Jane Ellison – we hear it’s worth a detour.

 

Orange Lentil Soup with Turmeric, Masala, Yoghurt and Toasted Seeds and Coriander

Serves 6

 

225g (8oz) onions – chopped

extra virgin olive oil or butter

2 teaspoons turmeric, peeled and freshly grated

225g (8oz) orange lentils

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 pints of vegetable of chicken stock

6 tablespoons yoghurt

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds

2 teaspoons sunflower seeds

1 teaspoon each of black and white sesame seeds

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

fresh coriander leaves

 

 

Bring a saucepan of the chicken or vegetable stock to the boil.

 

Meanwhile heat the oil and/or butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the freshly chopped onion, toss, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured.

 

Uncover, add turmeric, cook for a minute or two, add the lentils. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the boiling stock. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the lentils are soft.

 

Meanwhile, toast the seeds by stirring continuously on a dry pan over a low to medium heat until they smell toasty, 3-4 minutes, turn into a bowl,  add 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and cool.

 

Heat the cumin and coriander in a dry pan over a medium to high heat until it starts to smell aromatic. Turn into a mortar and grind to a fine powder. Add to the natural yoghurt, add salt to taste.

 

Whizz the soup to a coarse puree. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Correct the seasoning.

 

Ladle into wide soup bowls, drizzle some masala yoghurt on top. Sprinkle with an assortment of seeds and some fresh coriander leaves and serve

 

Braised Beef Cheeks with Colcannon and Swede Turnips

 

Gary Masterson from Fire and Ice Café in Midleton served delicious beef cheeks with a gutsy red wine sauce and sea spinach at a Winter Slow Food event – perfection.  He shared the recipe with us.

 

Serves 6

 

6 beef cheeks

dripping or oil

1 head garlic, cut in half

2 onions, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 celery sticks, chopped

4 ripe tomatoes, cut in half

sprig of thyme and a bay leaf

1 bottle full bodied red wine

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

hot chicken or veal stock

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Scallion or Parsnip Champ

 

Marinate the beef cheeks in half the red wine, vinegar, chopped vegetables and herbs for a minimum of 12 hours, up to 48 hours if you are organised enough.

 

Before cooking, take the meat out of the marinade and pat dry.  Heat a frying pan, add the dripping, season the beef cheeks with the salt and freshly ground pepper and sear the cheeks in the hot oil, allowing them to colour on both sides.  Remove from the pan and transfer to a casserole.  Add the vegetables to the oil and sauté until brown, then deglaze the pan with the marinade, scraping off all the flavour from the bottom.  Bring to the boil and skim off any impurities that rise to the top as it boils.  Reduce by half and pour over the beef and add the other half of the wine and enough hot stock to cover the cheeks.  Cover the casserole and cook in a low oven at 130°F/250°F/gas mark 1/2 for 3-4 hours or until the meat is soft and meltingly tender.

 

When cooked, remove from the sauce and keep aside.  Strain the sauce, pushing hard through the sieve to extract as much flavour as possible from all the vegetables.  If the sauce is too thin, put back into the saucepan and reduce until the required consistency is reached.  Check the seasoning, it may also need a touch of sugar and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.  Gently reheat the cheeks in the sauce and serve in bowls with a few crispy smoked bacon lardons on top.

 

We like to serve with Colcannon and Swede turnips.

 

Reynard’s Buckwheat Pancake with Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 6

 

Buckwheat Batter

25g (1oz) butter

65g (2 1/2 oz) buckwheat flour

50g (2oz) plain white flour

1 large free range egg

175ml (6fl oz) milk

110ml (4fl oz) cold water

a pinch of salt

2 tablespoons sugar

 

To Serve

best quality organic chocolate and hazelnut spread

toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Maldon sea salt (optional)

 

First make the batter.

Melt the butter on a low heat – cool.  Sieve both flours and a pinch of salt into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre, add an egg, gradually whisk in the milk and water drawing in the flour from the outside.  Finally whisk in the melted butter. Cover and allow to rest for 15- 30 minutes.

 

Heat a non-stick pan on a high heat.  Pour in a small ladle-full of batter just enough to cover the base of the pan.  Cook for about a minute, flip over and cook for a further 30-45 seconds.  Slide onto a hot plate.

 

Spoon a couple of generous tablespoons of chocolate spread onto the centre.  Fold in the four edges, once, twice to form a square with chocolate in the centre.  Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts and a few flakes of Maldon sea salt.

Buckwheat Pancakes with Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche and Crispy Capers

 

Buckwheat is deliciously nutty, rich in minerals and B vitamins and naturally gluten-free.

 

Serves 8

 

8 buckwheat pancakes (see recipe)

16 thin slices of smoked salmon (approximately 225g/8oz)

8 tablespoons of crème fraîche (see recipe)

56 capers, drained and fried until crisp in a little hot oil

4 tablespoons of finely chopped scallions or chives, cut at an angle

Freshly ground black pepper

 

To serve: place the pancakes on warm plates, divide the smoked salmon between the pancakes.

 

Drizzle 1 tablespoon crème fraîche over each pancake.

 

Sprinkle 7 capers and 1/2 tablespoon of chopped scallions or chives over the crème fraîche.

 

Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

 

Buckwheat Pancake Batter

 

Makes twelve 18cm (7 inch) pancakes

 

2 tablespoons butter

225ml (8fl oz) milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

60g (21/2oz) rice flour

21/2 tablespoons buckwheat flour

11/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 small free-range eggs

40ml (11/2fl oz) sparkling mineral water

 

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

Add the milk, salt, and sugar, stir well, and turn off the heat.

 

Put both flours in a mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the vegetable oil and eggs. Mix the eggs and oil with a whisk, gradually bringing in flour from the sides until it begins to thicken. Add the milk mixture little by little until all has been incorporated and the batter is smooth. Whisk in the water.

 

Pour the batter through a medium strainer into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.  (This resting time will allow the batter to relax and the flour to absorb the liquids fully.) Pancake batter may be made a day ahead and refrigerated.

 

To cook: Heat a 15-18cm (6-7in) frying pan.

 

Add a very little oil. When the pan is hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan.

Allow to cook on one side for a minute or two, flip over onto the other side and continue to cook, until speckled and slightly golden.

 

Slide onto a plate, repeat with the other pancakes.

 

Stack one on top of the other, they can be peeled apart later but are best eaten fresh off the pan.

 

 

Wild Blackberry and Rose Petal Sponge

When the first blackberries ripen in the autumn we use them with softly whipped cream to fill this light fluffy sponge.   The recipe may sound strange but the cake will be the lightest and most tender you’ve ever tasted.

 

Serves 6-8

melted butter, for greasing

140g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

3 organic eggs75ml water

225g granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

 

Filling

 

110ml cream

2 teaspoons icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

½ teaspoon rosewater, optional

225-350g wild blackberries

 

pale pink rose petals, fresh or crystallized

 

2 x 20.5cm sandwich tins

 

Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas mark 5.

Brush the cake tins evenly with melted butter and dust with flour.  I usually take the precaution of lining the base with a circle of greaseproof paper for guaranteed ease of removal later.

 

Separate the eggs. In a food mixer whisk the yolks with the sugar for 2 minutes, then add in the water. Whisk until light and fluffy, 10 minutes approx. Fold the sieved flour and baking powder into the mousse in batches. Whisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Gently fold them into the fluffy base. Pour into prepared sandwich tins and bake in a moderately hot oven 190C/Gas mark 5 for 20 minutes approx.  Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

 

Whip the cream, add the icing sugar and a few drops of rosewater.

 

Sandwich the sponge together with whipped cream and blackberries. Sieve a little icing sugar over the top. Sprinkle with fresh or crystallized rose petals – it will look and taste enchanting.

 

 

 

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