AuthorDarina Allen

Finca Buenvino Andalusia

The mere mention of Finca Buenvino creates a ripple of happiness and joy among those of us who have already discovered this hidden gem nestled amidst the sweet chestnut trees and cork oaks of the Sierra de Aracena in Andalusia. A beautiful pink washed finca, perched on the top of the hill, with olive groves and fruit orchards in the valley below. Long legged black Iberian pigs snuffle around in the forests nibbling the acorns that give the jamón, salchichón and morcilla its unique flavour and the magnificent red retinto cattle renowned for their beef graze in the surrounding countryside, it’s an idyllic place.

Finca Buenvino has been home to ex-pats Sam and Jeanie Chesterton and their family for almost 30 years, it feels like staying in a wonderfully comfortable and convivial country house, crackling log fires, big comfy sofas, lots of books and good conversation, breath-taking views, star filled skies and I kid you not, there was a nightingale singing in the trees outside our bedroom window!

There’s a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the valley and several cottages tucked into the woods.  The mountain air is scented with pine, eucalyptus, and rosemary. Jeannie gives occasional cookery classes and a few lucky people can book well ahead to attend the annual la matanza  (pig killing and curing) as we did a couple of years ago. It all sounds too good to be true.

Imagine coming across a place away from the madding crowd, a place to stay where you feel like treasured family friends, look forward to every meal with a childlike excitement, enjoy tapas and a glass of vino around the fire on the terrace before dinner.

Well check it out if you don’t believe me…

Sam and Jeannie use fresh local ingredients: Iberian pork, mountain lamb and wild venison. Fish comes mainly from the Huelva coast. Eggs from their Violet Andalusian hens. They kill and cure their own jamón ibérico and bake fresh wholemeal loaves and Moroccan flat breads from organic flour shipped down from Albacete. Honey comes from the hives above the orchards, organic vegetables and herbs from the garden. In autumn, wild mushrooms spring up in the woods, while just picked chestnuts from the forest below the house, roasted in the open fire, are perfect with a glass of rich, dry Chesterton oloroso straight from the barrel which sits in the conservatory. This was a gift from a dear friend and the sherry is blended specially in Cozalez Byass bodega. Jeannie is a beautiful cook. I love her food and apart from being the most convivial of hosts Sam has his specialities too, I particularly remember his candied aubergines preserved in honey which he makes every year to use up the glut.

Meanwhile Jeannie and Sam have at long last published the Buenvino Cookbook which I personally, as well as their many, many fans, couldn’t wait to get my hands on.  They had a launch in London, Edinburgh (Jeannie’s home turf) and recently at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Their friends Javier Jiménez Rodríguez and Alfonso Pérez Pardo hand carved the jamón, a 4 year old pata negra – one of the most sublime foods on earth, we enjoyed a variety of tapas with Lustau Manzanilla and Oloroso sherries and Rueda Verdejo white and red Rioja wines with Marcona almonds.

Rory O’Connell and his team cooked up paella to Jeannie’s recipe, tiny potato tortillas, ajo blanco a white almond soup with raisins soaked in Pedro Ximénez sherry and spinach, pickled anchovies, quail eggs with cumin and turmeric, manchego with membrillo.

Buenvino Cookbook by Jeannie and Sam Chesterton is published by Bene Factum Publishing Ltd.

 

Finca Buenvino Garlic and Almond Soup Ajo blanco

 

Cold almond soup has always been made in the Montes de Málaga, the steep hillocks which cut off the coastal strip from the mountains and plains of Antequera. In late winter and early spring, the hills are covered in almond blossom. In isolated farmhouses this soup would have been a refreshing summer staple, for it is extremely nourishing. It would originally have been made in a mortar with a pestle, but nowadays it is easier to make it in a food processor.

You will also find ajo blanco on the menu in many top class restaurants in Andalusia, where it’s simplicity and subtle blend of flavours is greatly appreciated.

 

Serves 8 as part of mixed tapas or 4 as a starter

 

For the soup

 

6 slices of white country bread, crusts removed

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

2 garlic cloves, or to taste

2 good fistfuls of blanched almonds

100 – 120ml good quality olive oil to taste

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar (the paler the better for looks!) or to taste

iced water

 

To serve

 

120g seedless sultanas or raisins

150ml Pedro Ximinez sherry or cream sherry

ground cumin, or toasted cumin seeds

extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Soak the bread in water until soft, then wring it out. Place the salt, garlic and almonds in a food processor and grind finely. Grind the bread together with the almond mixture until you have a paste. Now, with the processor still turning, gradually pour in the oil. Immediately the oil has been absorbed, pour in the vinegar. Now add the iced water – little by little – until you have a thin, creamy texture. Taste the soup, adding more salt or vinegar accordingly and mix well. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate. While the soup is chilling, simmer the raisins with the sherry in a pan over low heat until all the sherry has been absorbed and the raisins, then sprinkle with ground cumin or toasted cumin seeds. Swirl on a little extra virgin olive oil, if you like, to serve.

 

Finca Buenvino Mini Tortillas

 

This is an inspired idea for using up cold boiled potato left over from the previous day and much easier to make than a tortilla a la patata.

Peel and chop up the cooked potato finely, and place in a bowl with some chives and parsley. We used 450g (1lb) cooked potatoes and a tablespoon each of chopped chives and parsley.

Beat 4 eggs with some salt and pepper, and then pour them over the chopped potatoes. Stir together vigorously. It does not matter if the potatoes break up a little.

Now pour a little oil into a pan and heat gently. Spoon some of the egg and potato mix into the oil. Let it cook on one side, then flip. Each tortilla should be about the size of a small pancake or drop scone.

Place on a warm dish or keep in a low oven until you want to serve them. Don’t leave it more than 20 minutes. To eat them cold, just leave them on a cold plate to cool, then serve with a little mayonnaise or aoili. Fab!

 

Finca Buenvino Spinach with Chickpeas Espinacas Con Garbanzos

 

Chickpeas are a standard ingredient of Andalucian and Spanish cooking. When you go to the vegetable shops in Aracena you will often see the pulses soaking in a dish. They are deliciously nutty when you buy them this way or soak them yourself for 24 hours.

Spinach and chickpeas is one of the many Moorish dishes left to Spain. It has many variants, sometimes tomato is introduced, or cumin or mixed spices like cloves and cinnamon and black pepper. Feel free to try this. Another variation is Spinach with raisins and pine nuts. You can also stir in some grated Manchego cheese and put the little dishes under the grill at the last moment before going to table.

 

1 small onion, finely sliced (optional)

3 large tablespoons (serving spoons) olive oil, plus more to thicken

3 cloves of garlic roughly chopped into 3 or 4, or 1 small garlic clove, crushed

2kg (4lb 8oz) spinach

500g (1lb 2oz) soaked, cooked chickpeas

1 small clove of garlic, crushed, or

300ml (1/2 pint) chicken stock

2 tablespoons plain flour

spices to taste (cumin, pepper, cloves or pinchito spice)

2 teaspoons tomato purée (optional)

salt

freshly ground black pepper

 

If using the onion, wilt it in the olive oil, and then add the crushed garlic and spinach. Then, if using chopped garlic, stew it in the olive oil, allowing to turn golden. If using crushed garlic, just add it to the pan. Throw in the spinach, and wilt it down without burning (150ml/5fl oz of water can help at this point, to steam the spinach into submission) Add the chickpeas and half the stock. When all is warmed through, add the remaining stock.

Stir the flour in a little oil in a small bowl to make a runny paste. Take some of the liquid from the spinach and stir in into the paste, then tip back into the spinach and allow to thicken. If it’s too thick, add more stock or water.

Add the spices to taste and the tomato puree (if using). Season with salt and pepper and serve with thin slices of bread fried in olive oil.

 

Finca Buenvino Ginger Roulade

 

Serves 8 – 10

 

This is one the desserts I loved at Finca Buenvino.

“If you use treacle you will get a darker, saltier flavoured roulade with the faint liquorice flavour molasses brings with it. If you prefer a lighter ginger sponge, then go for golden syrup.”

Believe it not, it freezes perfectly cut in slices on a platter.

 

85g (3 oz) butter

225g (8 oz -1/4pt) golden syrup or treacle

60g (2 oz) granulated sugar

115g (4 oz) plain flour

1tsp baking powder

1tsp ginger

1tsp cinnamon

1tsp allspice

1tsp nutmeg

1 free range egg separated

500ml (18fl oz) whipping cream, whipped

a few marrons glacés, chopped, or finely chopped stem ginger (optional)

 

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC gas mark 4. In a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat melt the butter, syrup or treacle and sugar with 115ml (4fl oz) water.

 

Mix the flour with the baking powder and spices and when the liquids have melted and cooled add the dry ingredients and the egg yolk.

 

Beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks, and then fold into the mixture.

 

Line a Swiss roll tin with silicon paper and bake in the oven at 350ºF/180ºC for 12 -15 minutes.

 

Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to cool.

 

Turn the sponge out of the tin and remove the papers.  Mix the whipped cream with the marrons glacés or for a more intense ginger flavour, the stem ginger, or neither, spread it over the cake, then roll it up. Sift over icing sugar to serve.

 Hot Tips

Just 3 weeks to go until The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2014. Rene Redzepi, Simon Hopkinson, Thomasina Miers, Rowley Leigh, Maggie Beer… Don’t miss the cookery demonstration with Diana Kennedy, an octogenarian force of nature who is travelling from her ecological adobe house in the foothills of Mexico to share her passion and immense knowledge of Mexican food. Another cookery demonstration high on my list is Maggie Beer- she will using some of her favourite ingredients to make delicious dishes such as Oysters with Verjuice and Eschalote or Chocolate Tart using Vino Cotto. Tickets are still available for many of the inspirational talks but advanced booking is advised – www.litfest.ie  for more information and to see the full list of events and I’ll keep you posted.

 

Wild and Free Food

Nettle (Urtica dioica)

 

Young nettles are springing up all over the place, they are best in Spring when they are young and tender and not too strongly flavoured.

We use them to make soup, either alone or mixed with wild garlic. They make a super nettle pesto and are a terrific addition to champ or buttered spinach. We even use them as a topping for pizzas with ricotta cheese.

You’ll need gloves to protect your hands. If you do get stung, rub with a dock leaf to relieve the pain – happily, they usually grow side by side. With their high iron and vitamin C content, nettles were prominent in folk medicine and, like many other wild foods, they helped in some small measure to alleviate hunger during the Irish famine. Among the older generation, the tradition of eating nettles four times during the month of May to clear the blood still persists. In fact, herbalists confirm that nettles contain iron, formic acid, histamine, ammonia, silica acid and potassium. These minerals are known to help rheumatism, sciatica and other pains. They lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels to increase the haemoglobin in the blood, improve circulation and purify the system, so our ancestors weren’t far wrong.

In more recent times, nettles have become a much sought-after ingredient for trendy chefs. We have been delighted by the demand for organic nettles at our stall at the farmers’ market in nearby Midleton. They wilt quickly, so use them fast.

 

The asparagus season is a couple of weeks late this year – but it’s now in the markets – so feast on it for the next few weeks. Telephone Tim York – 086 8593996.

 

New Trends from the Big Apple

So what new trends did I see in the US this time?

Well as ever there’s lots going on and New Yorkers are always on the lookout for the new ‘big thing’. Readers may remember my piece of Saturday July 20th 2013 on queuing for 2 hours in the rain to buy a cronut (a cross between a croissant and a doughnut) at  Dominique Ansel’s, bakery in Soho and very very delicious it was too. Well they are still queuing around the corner of Spring Street but Dominique has done it again. His latest genius creation is a play on the milk and cookie theme, a chocolate chip cookie with ice cold milk inside.  Essentially it’s a shot glass shaped chocolate chip cookie lined with chocolate and then filled with Tahitian vanilla flavoured organic milk. Ansel created a special aerated dough, crispy on the edges with a moist centre and Valrhona chocolate chips.  As with the cronut customers are limited to 2 per person at present. Apparently his inspiration came after he tasted his first Oreo cookie a few weeks ago – who would have thought it!

Apart from all that, small plates are everywhere from chic neighbourhood restaurants to gastro pubs and posh places.  A counter reaction to the gross portions that we have come to associate with so many fast food restaurants. These plates are meant for sharing so one can order and sample 5 or 6 dishes or even 7 or 8. Tiny desserts too are a brilliant concept, almost guilt free so we’ll try 2 or 3 little bites!

A raw fish section on many menus is super popular. John Dory had several choices including Kampachi with crispy fish skin and Myoga ginger, Spanish mackerel with yaita olives, wasabi greens and tiny blobs of lemon mayo.

I also had periwinkles and Winter chantrelles on toast and a lobster roll with a bowl of gaufrette potatoes before Dulche de Leche tart with mascarpone cream and a few flakes of sea salt over the top, – small plates …..

Meat balls were served in a variety of ways and on sliders (tiny burger buns skewered with a bamboo skewer), Roast or fried Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and kale in lots of guises.

Brooklyn is still hopping; Best BBQ is Fette SV, Williamsburg.

For the best pulled pork sandwich made with heritage pork of course head for Mighty Quinn close by on 27th N 6th Street. St Anselm also in Brooklyn has a cult following who are prepared to wait over an hour in the local pub Sputyen Duyvil while their table comes free.

America’s love affair with bacon continues. It’s all about amazing house made bacon and amazing ice creams, sometimes in combination. Anyone for blue cheese ice cream with candied bacon and burnt orange cheesecake or housemade vanilla ice-cream with Pork crackling and chocolate sauce – I’m not so sure….but I did eat amazing Parsnip ice-cream (Ignacio Mattos’s) Estella’s and mussel escabeche on toast, another place to definitely add to your list.

Lots of heirloom grains and pulses, lard is super cool and at Pearl and Ash one of the hottest items on the menu is smoked bread with organic chicken fat. How about that for a turn around, the word is out that good fat is good for you after all. A recent study from Cambridge University and the Harvard School of public health published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that they found no link, repeat, no link between consumption of saturated fats and heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems. Saturated fats are found mostly in meat and dairy so this is very good news indeed for our meat and dairy industries – not that it’s any surprise to me!

Craft everything, beer, cider, spirits, housemade lemonades, relishes, pickles, hot sauce – the Ottolenghi effect has spread to the US so Middle Eastern flavours are wowing customers everywhere.

Every chef who possibly can is growing food somewhere, anywhere in the backyard, on the roof, up the walls, in boxes…

The range of foods and salad greens continued to expand with farmers adding the health benefits to the labels in the markets.

The coolest chefs are cooking over ‘live fire’. The allergy and food intolerance is now big business. Ramen shops are popping up everywhere. The New York Times Dining section did a whole piece on the hot spots if you would like to be on the inner groove http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/05/dining/ramens-big-splash.html?ref=petewells&_r=0

I stayed at the Ace hotel and loved it. Best breakfast I ate was at the Breslin and Buvette. By the way I pay all my own bills so I can say what I like, no strings attached!

 

Cibli Turkish – Fried Egg with Paprika

 

Great starters everywhere, Zanne Stewart shared this recipe for one of her favourites.

 

Serves 2

 

2 free range eggs

4 tablespoons natural yoghurt

1 small clove garlic, crushed

pinch salt

 

25g – 50g (1 – 2 oz) butter or extra virgin olive

¼ – ½ teaspoons smoked paprika

 

Put the yoghurt into a bowl; add a very little garlic and a pinch of salt, set aside.

Melt some butter or extra virgin olive oil in a pan; fry the eggs on a high heat. Transfer the eggs onto a warm plate. Add more butter or oil to the pan; add a generous sprinkle of smoked paprika. Put a dollop of thick yoghurt on top of each egg. Drizzle with paprika butter or oil and serve immediately with toasted sour dough bread.

 

Fried Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo and Parmesan Aioli

 

This is my interpretation of a starter I enjoyed at The Diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – everything I ate there was memorable.

 

Makes 4 small plates

12 Brussels sprouts

 

Chorizo Crumbs

 

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

125g (4 1/2oz) chorizo, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice

100g (3 1/2oz) coarse white breadcrumbs

 

6 – 8 anchovies

flat parsley sprigs

Parmesan Aoili (see recipe)

 

First make the Parmesan Aioli and then the chorizo bread crumbs (you’ll have more than you need) Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo.  Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to run and the chorizo begins to crisp.  Careful it’s easy to burn the chorizo, drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan. Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden.  Drain and add to the chorizo.

 

Trim and split the sprouts in half. Fry in hot oil for 3 or 4 minutes. Spread a slick of Parmesan Aioli on a plate; preferably oval shaped. Arrange six fried half Brussels sprouts on top, some cut side up, tuck a few bits of anchovy in here and there.  Sprinkle chorizo crumbs and sprigs of flat parsley over the top. Serve immediately while the sprouts are still hot. They also scattered some celery tops and little tiny pieces of kale over the dish – the combination was super delicious.

 

Parmesan Aioli

 

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

8 fl ozs (225ml) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 6 fl ozs (175ml) arachide oil and 2 fl ozs (50ml) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

2 teaspoons of freshly chopped parsley (optional)

2oz finely grated Parmesan cheese

 

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

 

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, garlic salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). 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 pace. Add the grated Parmesan and chopped parsley. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

 

Reynard’s Dutch Pancakes

Makes 4

3 free range eggs

175ml (6fl ozs) milk

75oz (3oz) all-purpose flour

salt to taste

3/4 tablespoons clarified butter

 

Topping

4 slices cooked ham

75-110g (3-4ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated

maple syrup (optional)

2 teaspoon thyme leaves

freshly ground pepper
We use small, 15cm (6 inch) cast iron pans for ours.

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

Whisk all the ingredients together for the batter. Melt a scant tablespoon of clarified butter in each of the cast iron pans over a high heat, pour 1/4 of the batter into the hot pan.  Transfer into the preheated oven, they will bubble up.   Reduce temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add a slice of cooked ham and a good sprinkle of grated Gruyére cheese.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the cheese melts. Slide onto a warm plate.

 

Drizzle with maple syrup (optional), sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and a grind of freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.

 

Ramen

Ramen is the ultimate comfort food, it needs to be well flavoured but it can be varied in so many ways. The broth can be a mixture of chicken, pork, dashi, miso or vegetable based. Noodles can be traditional wheat ramen noodles or you can use buckwheat or brown rice noodles if it needs to be gluten free. The meat can be braised brisket or short ribs, pork shoulder, pork belly or bacon, tofu or shrimp. It’s whatever vegetables are in season, fresh herbs that you like. You can top it with softish hardboiled egg, nori, sesame seeds or nuts. The variations are endless. It’s also a fantastic way to use leftovers at any time of year. Here’s a basic starting point.

 

Serves 6

1.8 litres (3 pints) homemade chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2.5cm (1 inch) chunk ginger root, gently smashed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

300g (10oz) cooked squash or pumpkin, diced into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

2 chillies, finely sliced
200g (7oz) ramen noodles or other Chinese noodles
100g (3 1/2oz) Mizuna or spinach or Swiss chard or kale, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons coriander, roughly chopped
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime

450g (1lb)  roasted turkey, chicken thighs, with or without skin, sliced
3  ‘hardboiled’ eggs – cook for 7-8 minutes rather than 10
6 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

6 lime wedges
Heat chicken stock with soy sauce, mirin and ginger. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Discard the ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sesame oil, squash and sliced chilli and simmer for 10 minutes.
Cook the noodles in boiling water until just tender (usually 4 to 5 minutes but check the directions on the package). Drain well.  Add the mizuna to the soup, cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the coriander and lime juice.
Place the noodles in each bowl, top with the sliced chicken. Ladle the broth over noodles.  Shell the eggs, halve and lay 1/2 an egg in each bowl and sprinkle with lots of green spring onions and garnish with a lime wedge. Eat while very hot — broth first and then other ingredients or any way you want.

Soft-cooked eggs

 

Lower the eggs gently into a medium sized saucepan of boiling, salted water. When water returns to the boil, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Allow to rest for 7-8 minutes. Drain the eggs and cool in a bowl of cold water. Crack the shells, peel and cut in half lengthwise just before serving.

 

Hot Tips

 

Just 6 weeks to go until The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2014. Rene Redzepi, Maggie Beer, Diana Kennedy, Ariana Bundy… You can’t imagine the line-up and you can check out ‘RTE’s Finest’ Catherine Fulvio, Martin Shanahan and Paul Flynn who will be giving a cookery demonstration or perhaps listen to a talk ‘Celebrating Elizabeth David’ with Tom Doorley and John McKenna in conversation with Jill Norman. The wine and drink element is also beyond exciting, meet Lilian Barton, Telmo Rodriguez, Alberto Zenato, Brian Nation…Tickets are still available for many of the inspirational talks but advanced booking is advised – www.litfest.ie  for more information and to see the full list of events and I’ll keep you posted.

 

Foraged foods from local woods, hedgerows and sea shore have been part of the Ballymaloe House menu for over forty years and not just in Autumn but throughout the Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. This year we are offering a Spring and Autumn Walk on the Wild Side with Darina Allen on Saturday 26th April 9:30 am to 5:00 pm and Saturday 20th September 2014. After just one day you’ll learn how to identify and use over forty wild food, plants, wild flowers, nuts, berries, fungi, seaweeds and shellfish depending on the season. Suitable for chefs or for anyone with an interest in foraging for pleasure or to earn a living. www.cookingisfun.ie

 

Connemara Mussel Festival is a celebration of Killary Bay mussels which takes place every May Bank Holiday Weekend. The festival includes mussel cooking demonstrations, heritage walks, a country market and lots of craic. www.slowfoodireland.com/event/connemara-mussel-festival-2014/

 

Slow Food Ireland has just re-launched its website www.slowfood.com  Check it out to see upcoming Slow Food events around the country.  Next East Cork Slow Food event is a Celebration of Local Food at Sage Restaurant Midleton. Kevin Aherne will create a 12 mile dinner menu, featuring local producers within a 12 mile radius. 021 4639682 – book now, places are very limited www.sagerestaurant.ie

 

Easter

Great excitement here, we have just hatched out a clutch of fluffy chicks in time for Easter. Several weeks ago we put a batch of fertile eggs into the incubator, plugged it in and hoped for the best. Both students and grandchildren were agog with anticipation. Twenty one days later we heard faint cheeping and eventually a few damp little chicks pecked their way out of the eggs. After several hours they fluff up and get perky enough to be moved out under the infra-red lamp in the Palais des Poulet.

After a few weeks they will grow pin feathers and eventually proper plumage. We’ll have to wait and see which grow little tails, those will turn into fine cockerels and the others will mature into hens. We’ll fatten up the cockerels for the pot and the hens will keep us supplied with beautiful fresh eggs.

A few weeks ago I was in New York and guess what, the coolest new hobbies are still keeping chickens in your back yard and bees on your roof, can you imagine? They are even selling hens and chicken food in some of the Farmers Markets in Brooklyn.

It’s almost as big a craze as urban farming; so many people are growing a few vegetables and fruit right there in Manhattan and in the boroughs. At the Farmers Market in Union Square, several stalls are selling eggs from different types of rare breed hens, the beautiful blue green eggs of the aracanas were selling at several dollars a dozen more than the other heirloom varieties. At Dean and De Lucca, possibly the poshest food shop in Manhattan, beautiful duck eggs sell individually for 2 or 3 dollars each.

Eggs were also starring on restaurant menus, both for dinner and lunch as well as brunch, but now with the breed and provenance clearly written on the menu. There is a fast growing awareness of food issues and everyone is all aflutter to hear that butter and all good fats are not harmful after all.

We’ve just made and iced a lovely Simnel cake for Easter. I’ve topped it with eleven balls of marzipan to represent eleven of the twelve apostles. Judas doesn’t make it to the top of the cake for obvious reasons. One has to watch it like a hawk while it’s toasting because we scorched it on several occasions in the past. I have also got hot cross buns rising, how lovely is that?

This is a particularly nice recipe that we have been tweaking for a while. Try it and let me know what you think. I love hot cross buns at any time but I particularly love them toasted for breakfast on Easter Sunday.

For Easter Sunday lunch, of course its Spring lamb, sweet, succulent and tender, it needs no further embellishment. Just roast it in a moderate oven with a few flakes of sea salt sprinkled over the top. Serve it with fresh mint sauce made from the new season’s mint, lots of roast potatoes and maybe the first Irish asparagus or sea kale.

For dessert it has to be a rhubarb tart, I love my mum’s rhubarb tart but for a change I am including this delicious rhubarb crumble tart which I think you will love. Happy Easter, Spring is here at last!

Roast Leg of Spring Lamb with Sea Salt, Mint Sauce

 

Serves 6-8

 

Young Spring Lamb is sweet and succulent and needs absolutely no embellishment apart from a dusting of salt and pepper and a little fresh Mint Sauce – made from the first tender sprigs of mint from the cold frame in the Kitchen garden.  Follow it with Rhubarb crumble made with the first pink spears of the season.  For me this is the quintessential taste of Easter.

 

1 leg of Spring lamb

Maldon or Irish Atlantic Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Gravy:

600ml (1 pint) lamb or chicken stock

A little roux

Salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Garnish:

Sprigs of fresh mint and parsley

 

Mint Sauce – see recipe

 

If possible ask your butcher to remove the aitch bone from the top of the leg of lamb so that it will be easier to carve later, then trim the knuckle end of the leg.  Season the skin with salt and freshly ground pepper.   Put into a roasting tin.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.   Roast for 1-1 1/4 hours approximately for rare, 1 1/4 –1 1/2 hours for medium and 1 1/2-1 3/4 hours for well done, depending on size.  When the lamb is cooked to your taste, remove the joint to a carving dish.  Rest the lamb for 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile make the gravy.   Degrease the juices in the roasting tin and add stock.  Bring to the boil and whisk in a little roux to thicken slightly.   Taste and allow to bubble up until the flavour is concentrated enough.  Correct the seasoning and serve hot with the lamb, roast spring onions and lots of crusty roast potatoes.

 

Mint Sauce

 

Mint sauce is easy peasy to make it takes only minutes to make. For those who are expecting a bright green jelly, real mint sauce has a slightly dull colour and watery texture but tastes fresh and delicious.

Makes about 175ml (6fl oz);

 

Serves about 6

 

25g (1oz) fresh mint, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

110ml (4fl oz) boiling water

25ml (1fl oz) white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

 

Put the freshly chopped mint and sugar into a sauce boat. Add the boiling water and vinegar or lemon juice. Allow to infuse for 5–10 minutes, before serving.

 

Hot Cross Buns

 

 

Nowadays Hot Cross Buns are eaten in Ireland from Ash Wednesday to Easter and beyond.

 

Makes 16

 

25g (1oz) fresh yeast

75-110g (3-4oz) castor sugar

450g (1lb) bakers flour

75g (3oz) butter

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2-3 teaspoons mixed spice, depending how fresh it is

1 level teaspoon of salt

2 organic eggs

225-300ml (8-10 fl oz) tepid milk

75g (3oz) currants

50g (2oz) sultanas

25g (1oz) candied peel, chopped

egg wash made with milk, sugar, 1 organic egg yolk, whisked together

Liquid Cross

 

50g (2oz) white flour

1 tablespoon melted butter

4-5 tablespoons cold water

 

To Make the Hot Cross Buns

 

Dissolve the yeast with 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a little tepid milk.

Put the flour into a bowl, rub in the butter, add the cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, a pinch of salt and the remainder of the sugar.  Mix well. Whisk the eggs and add to the milk. Make a well in the centre of the flour, add the yeast and most of the liquid and mix to a soft dough, adding a little more milk if necessary.

 

Cover and leave to rest for 2 or 3 minutes then knead by hand or in a food processor until smooth.  Add the currants, sultanas and mixed peel and continue to knead until the dough is shiny. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.

 

“Knock back”, by kneading for 3 or 4 minutes, rest for a few minutes.  Divide the mixture into 14 balls, each weighing about 50g (2oz). Knead each slightly and shape into buns.  Place on a lightly floured tray.  Egg wash and leave to rise.

 

If using short crust, arrange a cross of pastry on each one.  Leave to rise until double in size.  Then egg wash a second time carefully.

 

We tend to decorate with what we call a “liquid cross”.  To make this, mix the flour, melted butter and water together to form a thick liquid.  Fill into a paper piping bag and pipe a liquid cross on top of each bun.

 

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas mark 6.

 

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6 for a further 10 minutes or until golden.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.  Split in two and serve with butter.

 

Crunchy Rhubarb Crumble Tart

 

Serves 8

 

Pastry

6 ozs (175g) plain white flour

3 ozs (75g) butter

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

1 beaten egg, approximately

 

 

5-6 stalks of red rhubarb

75-110g (3-4oz)

 

 

Crumble

3 ozs (75g) unsalted butter

3 ozs (75g) plain white flour

6 ozs (175g granulated sugar from the vanilla pod jar

3 ozs (75g) chopped almonds (unpeeled)

 

9 – 10 inch (23-25.5cm) tart tin or 6 x 10cm (4 inch) tartlet tins

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

 

To Serve

softly whipped cream

 

First make the pastry.

Sieve the flour and sugar into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.

Whisk the egg. Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven.

 

The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, ‘shorter’ crust. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

 

Line the tart or tartlet tins with pastry. Chill.  Bake blind in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes approximately until the pastry is three quarters cooked, remove from the oven.  Take out the baking beans, brush with beaten egg wash and place back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Allow to cool.

 

Fill with chopped rhubarb and sprinkle generously with 75-110g (3-4oz) sugar before adding the crumble topping.

 

Next make the crumble.

Rub the butter into the flour and sugar to make a coarse crumble. Add chopped almonds. Spread the crumble over the top of the rhubarb.

Bake in a preheated oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4 until fully cooked – 45-50 minutes.

 

Serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

 

Simnel Cake

Simnel Cake is a traditional Easter cake. It has a layer of almond paste baked into the centre and a thick layer of almond icing on top.  The 11 balls represent 11 of the 12 apostles – Judas is missing because he betrayed Jesus.

 

8 ozs (225g) butter

8 ozs (225g) pale, soft brown sugar

6 eggs, preferably free range

10 ozs (275g) white flour

1 teaspoon mixed spice

2 1/2 fl ozs (35ml) Irish whiskey

12 ozs (350g) best quality sultanas

12 ozs (350g) best quality currants

12 ozs (350g) best quality raisins

4 ozs (110g) cherries

4 ozs (110g) homemade candied peel

2 ozs (50g) whole almonds

2 ozs (50g) ground almonds

rind of 1 lemon

rind of 1 orange

1 large or 2 small Bramley Seedling apples, grated

 

Almond Paste

 

1 lb (450g) ground almonds

1 lb (450g) castor sugar

2 small eggs

a drop of pure almond extract

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

 

Line the base and sides of a 9 inch (23cm) round, or a 8 inch (20.5cm) square tin with brown paper and greaseproof paper.

 

Wash the cherries and dry them. Cut in two or four as desired. Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, rub off the skins and chop them finely. Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and grated orange and lemon rind. Add about half of the whiskey and leave for 1 hour to macerate.

 

Next make the almond paste.

Sieve the castor sugar and mix with the ground almonds. Beat the eggs, add the whiskey and 1 drop of pure almond essence, then add to the other ingredients and mix to a stiff paste. (You may not need all the egg). Sprinkle the work top with icing sugar, turn out the almond paste and work lightly until smooth.

 

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

 

Cream the butter until very soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn’t curdle. Mix the spice with the flour and stir in gently. Add the grated apple to the fruit and mix in gently but thoroughly (don’t beat the mixture again or you will toughen the cake).

Put half of the cake mixture into the prepared tin, roll about half of the almond paste into an 8 1/2 inch (21.5cm) round. Place this on top of the cake mixture in the tin and cover with the remaining mixture. Make a slight hollow in the centre, dip you hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake: this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked. Cover the top with a single sheet of brown paper.

 

Put into the preheated oven; reduce the heat to 160°C/325°F/regulo 3 after 1 hour. Bake until cooked, 3 – 3 1/2 hours approx., test in the centre with a skewer – it should come out completely clean. Pour the rest of the whiskey over the cake and leave to cool in the tin.

 

NOTE: When you are testing do so at an angle because the almond paste can give a false reading.

 

Next day remove the cake from the tin. Do not remove the lining paper but wrap in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required.

 

When you wish to ice the cake, roll the remainder of the almond paste into a 9 inch (23cm) round. Brush the cake with a little lightly beaten egg white and top with the almond paste. Roll the remainder of the paste into 11 balls. Score the top of the cake in 1 1/2 inch (4cm) squares or diamonds. Brush with beaten egg yolk; stick the ‘apostles’ around the outer edge of the top, brush with beaten egg. Toast in a preheated oven 220°C/425°F/regulo 7, for 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden. Decorate with an Easter Chicken.  Cut while warm or store for several weeks when cold.

 

NB: Almond paste may also be used to ice the side of the cake.  You will need half the almond paste again.

 

This cake keeps for weeks or even months, but while still delicious it changes both in texture and flavour as it matures.

 

Hot Tips

 

Growing Unusual Vegetables with Klaus Laitenberger at The Organic Centre in Rossinver on Saturday 26 April. There are hundreds of plants you could grow for food, but Klaus will concentrate on a few unusual crops like Kohlrabi, Scorzonera, Celeriac, Oca, Mashua, Yacon, Lentils, Amaranth, Quinoa as well as some unusual fruits such as Sea Buckthorn, Aronia, and Rosehips. Klaus will teach you how to source, sow, plant, and look after them. Price: €65.00 – www.theorganiccentre.ie

 

Date for your Diary – The 8th Burren Slow Food Festival Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th May 2014. Pavilion Theatre Complex, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare. The three day event packs in the best of food culture in Clare, featuring produce from local growers, food producers and traders. Events include a large indoor and outdoor farmers market, Burren walks, wild foods, seaweed foraging, beer tasting… Look out for special offers at local restaurants and hotels too – www.slowfoodclare.com

 

 

Mother’s Day

I’ve only just discovered how Mother’s Day came about.  I’d often wondered but just recently came across a piece about an American lady called Anne Jarvis who conceived the idea of Mother’s Day in the early 1990’s after the death of her own mother. She imagined it as a way of honouring the sacrifices mothers make for their children and how it’s not until we have our own children that we truly begin to appreciate the heroism of our own mothers. We may whinge and argue and at times be totally unaware of how unreasonable and obnoxious we are particularly during those tumultuous teenage years but the penny drops pretty quickly during those first days when you bring home a new born babe and struggle to snatch a few hours sleep not to speak of keeping all the balls in the air.

I can’t imagine how young mothers (and fathers) manage to juggle as the responsibilities of motherhood and a job nowadays – heroic ‘is truly’ an understatement and if ever a celebration was justified its Mother’s Day.

Anna battled for a number of years to get Mother’s Day officially recognised and in 1914 her persistence paid off when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the 2nd Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in the US.

What originally started as a personal celebration quickly became highly commercialised much to the disappointment and disgust of its originator who disowned the festival altogether and actually lobbied the US government to remove the holiday from the American calendar without success.

Of course a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates or some perfume and a hand-made card are always greeted with delight but how about the gift of a few hours off. Maybe a couple of gift tokens to do the ironing, wash the dishes or cook the supper even  breakfast in bed with a little posy of flowers on the tray.

Here are a couple of delicious one pot dishes that would make an easy family supper or Sunday lunch and our absolute favourite chocolate cake from 30 years at Ballymaloe.

Shermin’s Thai Chicken Curry

 

Arjard would be a nice accompaniment.

 

Your Mum and all the family will love this recipe which Shermin Mustafa Thompson shared with us.

 

 

Serves 4-6

 

350g (12oz) chicken thighs free range and organic

400ml (14fl oz/1 3/4 cups) coconut milk

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) green curry paste

1 Thai green chilli, pounded (optional – if you like a hotter curry)

175ml (6fl oz/3/4 cup) chicken stock

1/2 aubergine, cut into 1cm (1/2inch) cubes or 20-24 pea aubergines

2 kaffir lime leaves

1/2 tablespoon (1/2 American tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon) palm sugar or a little less of soft brown sugar

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) fish sauce (Nam Pla)

20 basil leaves

1 large red chilli, pounded

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) soya sauce (optional)

 

Remove the skin and bone from the chicken thighs, cut into very thin strips.

 

Heat the wok on a low heat. Pour 110ml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) coconut milk into the wok. Add the green curry paste and a pounded green chilli, and mix well. Add the chicken strips, increase the heat to medium. Cook until the chicken changes colour, then add the stock, remainder of the coconut milk, aubergine dice, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar and fish sauce, half the basil leaves and pounded red chilli.

 

Stir constantly on a medium heat until the curry boils and foams up.  Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, otherwise the sauce may separate – it should be cooked in about 10 minutes. Add the remainder of the basil leaves.  Taste for seasoning, add a dash of soya sauce if necessary.  There should be lots of sauce in proportion to the meat.  Serve hot with steamed rice.

 

Note: If using pea aubergines, add 1-2 minutes before end of cooking.

 

Arjard (Cucumber salad)

 

Serves 4-6

 

1 cucumber, quartered and sliced thinly

2 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly, lengthwise

1 red chilli, seeded and sliced in rings

1 green chilli, seeded and sliced in rings

 

Marinade

4 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons + 4 teaspoons) sugar

6 tablespoons (6 American tablespoons + 6 teaspoons) water

6 tablespoons (6 American tablespoons + 6 teaspoons) white malt vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Mix the ingredients for the marinade together in a saucepan.  Bring to the boil. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. When cool, pour the marinade over the cucumber.

 

Baked Hake with Smokey Maple Baked Beans and Aioli – Paul Flynn

Everyone loved this dish which Paul cooked at a recent class at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

 

Serves 4

 

4 fillets of hake (1 per person)

1 glug of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic sliced

1 knob of butter

4 thick slices of smoked bacon diced

1 large onion diced

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) tomato purée

1 teaspoons of smoked paprika

300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) of chicken stock

1 tin (400g/14oz) butterbeans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of maple syrup

salt and pepper

 

Heat the oil over a gentle heat and add the garlic.  Carefully cook until golden, but no more, this will give you a roasted garlic oil, if you take it too far the garlic will burn.

 

Add the butter, bacon, and onions.  Cook slowly for 15 minutes and add the tomato purée, smoked paprika and the chicken stock.  Finally add the beans and cook for 5 more minutes, stir in the maple syrup, salt and pepper and serve.

 

Pan-fry the hake for 5-7 minutes, it may need more time depending on thickness.

 

Aioli

 

Aioli is essentially a posh garlic mayonnaise.  The flavours are made more subtle and rounded by the blanching of the garlic.  The addition of olive oil gives it authenticity and an extra dimension.  We use this with any Mediterranean style dishes i.e. anything with olives, red peppers or basil.

 

This will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

 

8 garlic cloves, blanched (cooked vigorously for three to four minutes in boiling water, then cooked for another three to four minutes in fresh water)

1 teaspoon English mustard

2 egg yolks plus one whole egg

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

juice half a lemon

275ml (9 1/2fl oz/generous 1 cup) groundnut oil

50ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) crème fraiche

salt and pepper

 

To make the aioli, whizz the garlic cloves, mustard and egg yolks and whole egg in a food processor until smooth. Add the vinegar and lemon juice and whizz briefly to combine. With the machine running, gradually trickle in the groundnut oil and then the olive oil to form a smooth rich mayonnaise. Fold in the crème fraiche, season and set aside.

 

Blathnaid’s Chocolate Cake

 

We have numerous chocolate cake recipes but this one given to me by my sister Blathnaid Bergin after much persuasion is our absolute favourite – it’s quite a mission to make but well worth the effort.

 

 

Serves 10 – 12

 

225g (8ozs) plain white flour

pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon bread soda

2 level teaspoons baking power

225ml (8fl ozs/1 cup) milk

75g (3ozs) chocolate – we use 52%

150g (5ozs/1 1/4 sticks) butter

275g (10ozs/1 1/4 cups) soft light brown sugar

3 eggs, organic and free-range

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Filling

200g (7ozs) plain chocolate – we use 52%

250g (9ozs/2 1/4 sticks) butter

4 egg yolks

150g (5ozs/generous 1 cup) icing sugar, sifted

 

Chocolate Ganache

150g (5ozs) plain chocolate, chopped – we use 52%

300ml (10fl ozs/1 1/4 cups) cream

 

2 x 9 inch (23cm) tins

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

 

Grease the tine with melted butter, dust with flour and line the base of each with a round of greaseproof paper.

 

Put the milk and chopped chocolate into a saucepan, warm gently until the chocolate melts, allow to cool. Sieve the flour, salt, bread soda and baking power into a bowl.    Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract, add to the creamed mixture bit by bit alternating with flour.  Add the cool milk and chocolate and fold in the remaining flour.  Divide between the two prepared tins.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes approximately.  Allow to cool for a few minutes, turn out carefully and cool on a wire rack.

 

Meanwhile make the filling.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water.  Allow to cool slightly

 

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter in a bowl for at least ten minutes at the highest setting until it is white and fluffy.  Add the egg yolks and icing sugar. Beat vigorously for a further five minutes.

 

When the butter mixture is thoroughly mixed, take 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of it and add slowly to the melted chocolate. Then slowly pour the melted chocolate down the side of the mixing bowl and fold in quickly and gently until fully combined and smooth.

 

To make the chocolate ganache

Put the chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the cream to the boil, pour over the chocolate and leave for 8-10 minutes or until cool. Then whisk the chocolate and cream gently until it reaches soft peaks – careful not to overwhisk or it will be too stiff to spread and may turn into chocolate butter. (Use as soon as possible otherwise it will become too stiff to spread).

 

To Assemble the Cake

Split the cakes in half with a sharp serrated knife. Spread a little of the chocolate filling onto each cake and sandwich the base of the cakes together. Ice the cake with the soft chocolate ganache and decorate as desired.  We use chocolate curls and dredge them with unsweetened cocoa and icing sugar.

 

Hot Tips

Seaweed Sprinkles – If you can’t make it down to the beach anytime soon then Seaweed sprinkles from Wild Irish Sea Veg are a brilliant condiment to use – you can sprinkle them over salads, or stir into soup, sauces …..

For more information: www.wildirishseaveg.com

 

Cookery Demonstration – Darina and Rachel Allen will do a fundraising demonstration in aid of East Cork Rapid Response at Garryvoe Hotel on Thursday, 10th April 2014 at 8.00pm.

Tickets €25 per person are available from the following:

John: (083) 179 5945 or Eoghan: (087) 706 1727

 

Date for your Diary

West Waterford Festival of Food, 10th – 13th April 2014 – a Celebration of Local Produce and Culinary Excellence!

www.westwaterfordfestivaloffood.com

 

 

Lucknow, An Update from India…

What a surprise Lucknow was, even though it is famous for its Awadhi food, sophisticated culture, gastronomic etiquette  and  Chickan embroidery,  it’s not really on the main tourist trail despite its fascinating history and memorable monuments.  We spent three days there and loved it. The city was founded by the Nawads who came from Persia at the invitation of the Mogul king Mohammed Shah in 1725.

I only knew one person in Lucknow, a lady called Vijay Khan whom I’d met briefly in Udaipur a couple of years ago and had promised to visit if I ever came to that city. She’d invited us to dinner at her home and a trip to their house in the country the following day. Well, it turns out that she is the wife of the Raja of Mahmudabad no less.

What a lovely surprise, we were collected from our hotel and brought to their residence in Lucknow. After lots of riveting conversation, we went down stairs to what appeared to be a family dining room with book lined walls, simple furniture, fascinating black and white photos on the wall and intriguing memorabilia.  The round table was groaning with some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten anywhere, several mutton (goat) dishes including Raan and Biryani, an aubergine raita, an intriguing sweet dish called Mutanjan with rice, mutton, yoghurt and spices apparently this was a favourite of the old Nawads, but few cooks know how to prepare it nowadays.  For dessert there was Royal toast, light fluffy balai ke tukre topped with silver leaf – all totally memorable.

Our gracious host Sulaiman Khan, is a great scholar and a graduate of Imperial College Cambridge with degrees in astro physics and theology. A native Urdu speaker who bursts into poetry every now and then to illustrate a point. It was a memorable evening in so many ways – The servants and cooks, Bawarchis (cooks), Rakabdars (mastercooks), stood around in a semi circle silently watching while we enjoyed the delicious food they had cooked for us.

Lucknow has many spectacular buildings and historical monuments but as ever food was my focus so I arranged to have a cookery class. My teacher Cyrus turned out to be a great fan of Rachel’s so I promised to send a signed copy of her latest book. He taught me how to make a Lucknow chicken korma and the mutton kebabs that Lucknow is so famous for.

The famous Awadi food of Lucknow evolved under the patronage of the Nawads and aristocrats who treated it almost like an art form but when time and history wrought havoc on the fortunes of the noble families, their ‘out of work’ cooks and chefs continued the gastronomic tradition on the streets and the secret recipes were passed down in families from generation to generation.

Cyrus also took us on a ‘culinary tour’ of the Chowk Bazzar in the heart of the old city. The frenzied atmosphere was similar to Old Delhi.

We ate some amazing street food in surroundings that were challenging even for me!

We started with Kebabs at Tundys, a 108 year old kebab house in the Chowk which originally made its name catering for the Nawabs of Awadh. Kebabs in Lucknow aren’t remotely like kebabs as we know them, Tunday is famous for little tender spicy mutton patties cooked on an enormous pan to a secret recipe. They are now cooked by the great grandson of the original owner sitting there with a little white crochet cap.

We tasted another Lucknow delicacy at Museem’s, another ‘hole in the wall’ place famous for pasanda, a spicy barbecued meat dish marinated in yoghurt and spices and cooked over a charcoal grill.

Locals also queue up at Raheem’s for a spicy, oily dish called nigiri. The sealed pot of mutton is cooked  slowly overnight with lots of spices. In the morning, it’s opened and each diner gets just one piece of mutton with lots of really flavoursome gravy which is eaten with a stack of fluffy flat breads called Kulchas, heart stopping but delicious…

Lucknow is also famous for its sweets, Rehmat sweets have some of the very best Jauzi Habshi and Halwa, all tooth achingly sweet but very typical.

As we wound your way along the lanes, we came to the Parathi wali gali where one shop and stall after the other turned out to be serving a  mesmerising selection of freshly cooked breads from fluffy Rulchas and bakarkhani to paper thin romali roti and spongy sheruals  kneaded in milk – the skills are simply mind boggling.

Shammi Kebab

Mutton Kebabs from Lucknow

These mutton kebabs for which Lucknow is famous are like no kebabs you’ve encountered before in fact they are much more like little spiced meat patties – delicious. In India the word mutton often means goat and very delicious it is too but of course we can use lamb over here if goat is unavailable.

 

Serves 4

 

1 kg (2¼ lbs) mutton, boneless

150 g (5 ozs) split bengal (channa dal), lentils

50 g (2 ozs) onions

Salt, to taste

1 teaspoon cumin seed

3 whole red chillies

seeds from 5 small green cardamom

seeds from 3 big black cardamom

2 inch (5 cm) piece cinnamon

6-8 black peppercorns

2 inch (5 cm) piece fresh ginger

5 allspice berries

20 g (¾ oz) garlic

3 bay leaves

 

1 green chilli

2-3 tablespoons onion

2-3 tablespoons green coriander

 

Pass the boneless mutton through a mincer and make a fine paste.

Soak the channa dal (split lentils) in water and keep aside for 1 hour.

Chop the green chillies, green coriander and onion. Keep aside to be added later.

 

Take a deep saucepan; put the mutton mince and all the ingredients into it. Add a little water  (approx. 5 fl ozs) enough to almost cover the ingredients.

Put on a medium heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and meat is cooked through. Cyrus cooked this in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes.

Add a little fat to the mixture and stir so that the moisture evaporates and the mixture firms up. Remove from the saucepan and allow to cool and make a fine puree in a food processor.

Add the chopped chillies, coriander and onions to the meat and mix in well.

Divide the mixture into equal portions.

Make round patties of 2.5 inches (6 cm) diameter and shallow fry on heated  tawa, griddle or frying pan on both sides till golden brown and serve hot.

We ate these delicious kebabs with sheermal an Indian flatbread with freshly chopped coriander and mint or naan would be good too.

Note: If the mixture is not firm enough to shape into balls or cracks on the outer side when rounded add 1 beaten egg to bind.

 

Lucknow Chicken Korma

Cyrus introduced me to Screw Pine Essence of course  it’s not essential but it really enhanced the flavour of this korma which was delicious anyway.

 

Serves 6

 

1 kg (2¼ lbs) chicken breast

3 onions, peeled and finely crushed

6 garlic cloves, crushed

¼ teaspoon white peppercorns

½ teaspoon black cumin

2 inch (5cm) piece cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cloves

6 green cardamom, seeded

1 blade mace

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

2 black cardamom

2-3 dried chillies or ¼ teaspoon dry chilli powder

½ teaspoon coriander seeds

50 g (2 ozs) cashew nuts, coarsely ground

200 g (7 ozs) natural yoghurt

Salt

Few drops of screw pine essence (Kewra) optional

 

Cut the chicken breast into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes, approximately.

Whizz the onions and garlic with all the spices. Cook in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes to dry stirring to prevent sticking. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of oil or ghee.

Add the ground cashew nuts and allow to cook until pink in colour, 5-6 minutes.

Add the chicken pieces and sauté. When all the liquid has evaporated, add the yoghurt stirring in a little at a time. Add salt to taste.

Cover and cook on a gentle heat until the chicken is tender – about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add a few drops of Screw Pine Essence if available. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Serve hot with rotis, (Indian flat breads) or basmati rice.

 

Mangoes and Bananas in Lime Syrup

 

Serves 4

 

1 ripe mango

1-2 bananas

2 ozs (50g/1/4 cup) sugar

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

1 lime

 

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes, allow to cool.

 

Peel the mango and slice quite thinly down to the stone. Peel the banana into cut rounds.  Put the slices into a bowl and cover with cold syrup.

 

Meanwhile remove the zest from the lime either with a zester or a fine stainless steel grater and add to the syrup with the juice of the lime.  Leave to macerate for at least an hour. Serve chilled.

Hot Tips

Let’s get Kids into the Kitchen, there’s a  half day cookery course coming up at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Monday April 14th from 9.30am-2.00pm. We’ll teach your children  how  to proudly cook a range of simply delicious food for friends and family. They will learn how to cook some of their favourite dishes from scratch – juicy home-made beef burgers in home-made buns, a seasonal salad, oriental chicken stir fry and rice and a whole host of sweet treats including a Swiss roll from scratch – even the raspberry jam, cupcakes and lovely ways to decorate them and home-made strawberry popsicles – www.cookingisfun.ie

The Irish Seed Savers need your help!

They have been saving rare and heritage seeds and preserving our precious biodiversity since 1991. Like so many other organisations there funding has been severely reduced – send what you can even a letter of support to Lisa Duncan, Manager, Irish Seed Savers Association, Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare. They are my heroes.

I popped into Hassetts Bakery in Carrigaline last week – it wasn’t even 10am and the display cabinet was packed with tempting cakes, biscuits and cookies of all kinds – someone must have been up all night baking – loved my cup of freshly ground coffee and my first hot cross bun of the year. www.hassettsbakery.ie or phone 021 4371534

 

The Whole World Celebrates St Patricks Day

The iconic site of Petra in Jordan, Niagara Falls, the Tower of Piza, the Sydney Opera House, the Pyramids in Egypt – these and scores of other iconic buildings and monuments across the world will be illuminated bright green on St Patrick’s Day. A simple, inspired and fun idea which immediately focusses attention on Ireland

The global greening is indicative of the relationship our little island has built up with our diaspora and the new partnerships Ireland has forged around the globe. The whole world celebrates with the Irish on St Patricks day. It’s a brilliant opportunity for Tourism Ireland to promote Ireland worldwide and to encourage people to study and invest in Ireland and to showcase Irish companies.

The word about the Irish food scene is spreading fast. Last week-end, the legendary Murray’s Cheese Shop in New York hosted a high profile event with Ballymaloe Relish “To celebrate the Irish food Renaissance.” and it caused a mighty stir among the media and food cognigency.

The latest book on Irish food to be launched in the US to considerable fanfare is Cathal Armstrong’s, My Irish Table, published by Ten Speed Press.  Dublin born, Cathal is now an internationally renowned chef with seven restaurants to his name in the Washington DC area. Food and Wine magazine called him a “one man urban-renewal engine” who kicked off a dining revival in Old Town using French techniques and local produce. Armstrong is a multi-award winning chef and the White House have honoured him as a “Champion of Change” for his work on ending childhood obesity and his involvement in improving the school lunch system.

Here are some of the recipes from Cathal Armstrong’s book – co-written with David Hagedorn.

Let’s celebrate St Patricks Day proudly ourselves by inviting our family and friends to a traditional Irish feast.

 

Irish Caesar Salad

 

Serves 4

 

In this recipe we use Cashel Blue Cheese and brown bread as a riff on what has become an American classic. Feel free to make the brown bread topping crouton size. At the restaurant, we use fine bread crumbs.

 

Dressing

 

1 large egg

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 anchovy fillets

½ cup canola oil

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

 

Salad

 

2 small slices brown soda bread

2 large heads romaine lettuce, dark outer leaves discarded, cleaned and cut crosswise into 2 inch pieces

4 ounces Cashel Blue cheese, crumbled

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

 

Make the dressing: Combine the egg, garlic, lemon juice and anchovies in the bowl of a food processor. With the machine running, add the oils in a thin stream through the small tube in the bowl’s lid to create an emulsion. Add the salt to taste.

 

Make the bread crumbs: Preheat the toaster or conventional oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Crumble the bread into fine crumbs and place them on a small baking sheet. Bake them lightly for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are crunchy.

 

Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, cheese and 1 cup of the dressing tossing to coat the leaves well. Mound the salad on 4 plates and sprinkle them with the bread crumbs and ground pepper. (Leftover dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

 

Dublin Coddle

 

Serves 6

 

This is a classic Dublin peasant dish that we all hated growing up. It wasn’t anything more than breakfast sausage and bacon cooked with milk. So my version is more like a French blanquette, a rich and elegant cream-based stew, with potatoes added, of course. This recipe doesn’t call for salt because the bacon we use supplies all this is necessary. If yours doesn’t, taste and add ½ teaspoon salt if needed.

 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 yellow onion diced

8 (1/4 inch thick) slices streaky (American) bacon cut into 1 inch pieces

1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes

8 Breakfast Sausages, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup homemade chicken stock

2 cups heavy cream

3 large fresh bay leaves

½ cup coarsely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

 

Crusty bread for serving

Cracked black pepper for garnish

 

Sweat the onion: in a medium flame proof casserole over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion to the pot and let it sweat for about 8 minutes, until soft but not browned at all (this is a white stew, you don’t want the onion to take on any colour.)

 

Cook the coddle: One the onion is translucent add the bacon and continue to cook over a low heat until the bacon in pale pink and a few tablespoons of the fat have been rendered, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, sausage, chicken stock, cream and bay leaves. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring liquid to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook slowly until the potatoes are cooked through about 30 minutes.

 

Add the herbs and serve: Remove the coddle from the heat, stir in the parsley and thyme and serve immediately with lots of crusty bread. If you wish, sprinkle a little bit of cracked black pepper on top. The coddle can be made a day ahead and gently reheated on the stove for in a 150°C/300°F/mark 2    oven for 30 minutes.

 

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

 

Serves 8 – 10

 

1 pineapple, peeled

3 cups sugar1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

8 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

 

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

 

Cut the pineapple: Quarter the pineapple length-wise. Remove and discard the core form the quarters, halve them lengthwise, and then cut each eighth crosswise into ½ inch slices.

 

Prepare the caramel: Spread 1 cup of the sugar on the bottom of a well-seasoned 9 inch cast iron skillet and place it over a medium heat. Let the sugar cook for a few minutes, until you see a ring of clear syrup around the edge of the pan. Stir the sugar until it begins to caramelize (take on a golden hue,) breaking up any clumps of sugar crystals that may form. Continue stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved and the caramel is deep brown.

Cook the pineapple: Stir the pineapple into the skillet. The caramel will come together in a mass, but will turn to liquid again as the water in the pineapple boils and melts it. Continue cooking the pineapple, stirring occasionally, until most of its water evaporates and the caramel becomes a thin syrup, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool.

Prepare the batter: Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the remaining 2 cups of sugar on a high speed until white, light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, completely incorporating each one before adding the next and scraping the bowl from the mixer and using a rubber spatula, fold the flour into the batter by hand.

 

Bake the cake: Spoon the batter into the skillet, spreading it over the pineapple. Bake the cake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the skillet from the oven and immediately invert the cake onto a cake plate. Use a rubber spatula to scrape off any caramel or pineapple left in the pan and spread them onto the top of the cake. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.

 

Wild and Free food

 

Wild garlic or ramps are in season again. There are two types, Wild garlic or ransoms (Allium ursinum), which grow in shady places along the banks of streams and in undisturbed mossy woodland. They have broad leaves and white star like flowers later in the season.

Snowbells (Allium triquetrum), resemble white bluebells and usually grow along the roadside or edges of country lanes. The leaves and flowers of both are delicious in salad, pasta, sauces, soups, stews and pesto.

Hottips

Cork Food Policy Council brings the FEED THE CITY initiative to Cork today 10am – 4pm. There will be talks on growing your own veg, composting, managing waste and cookery demonstrations. A new urban dining initiative, “Feed the City” aims to feed 5,000 people a tasty and nutritious vegetarian curry absolutely free at 1pm.The initiative will highlight the issues of food waste and sustainability, and will only use vegetables that have been deemed surplus or otherwise going to waste.

Another Postcard from India

Another postcard from India…

1.5 billion people live in India, a country of extremes which is truly intriguing to visit.

Delhi is now one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world with a kilometre long mall, a burgeoning restaurant scene, glitzy designer shops, art galleries pop up supper clubs…

Much of New Delhi was designed by Lutyens, a thoroughly modern metropolis where one encounters the 21st century and the medieval side by side. Cows still nonchalantly roam the streets, bicycles, rickshaws and tuc tucs weave in and out of the crazy traffic in a noisy melee of beeping horns.

Old Delhi, is a city within a city, covering 1,500 acres and home to approximately 22 million people.  It includes the biggest wholesale spice market in Asia established in 1850. We met our guide beside the Metro station at the Chawri Bazaar  It was literally like being dropped into a time warp of India in the 1800s but with mobile phones and of course electricity which is transmitted through a  crazy mass of tangled overhead wires, it all seems to work but is enough to render a Health and Safety inspector apoplectic! Ancient haveli with exquisite plaster work and carvings stand side by side with soulless new flat concrete structures emblazoned with signs.

Everywhere there are eye catching ads, mostly in Hindi but a few also in English, and a particularly prominent one for the rather grand sounding Oriental Bank of Commerce on the front of a totally crumbling old Haveli. There is a frenzy of activity, the noise level is deafening, porters pulling trolleys, bearers with huge loads perched precariously on their heads, motor bikes and tuc tuc’s crammed with more people and /or produce than you could possibly imagine, cycle rickshaws groaning under the weight of  passengers of every age and size or a load of assorted merchandise , could be loos, cooking pots, newspapers, spices…

To an outsider there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the traffic, Indians tell you over and over, to survive you need “good brake, good horn, good luck”

I’m particularly interested in the street food, the myriad of little chaat shops and street stalls and occasional restaurants that feed the 22 million people estimated to live in Old Delhi.

Much of the food is deep fried in large iron woks called karhi, It is cooked in front of you so I reckon it’s perfectly safe to eat, little vegetables and occasionally meat filled pastries, mutton katchori, samosas, pakoras, bahji,  lots of little fritters, sometimes made with gram (chickpea) flour, spices, fresh coriander and turmeric. Occasionally fresh corn is added, it’s such a pity to miss out on these quintessential flavours of India.

Flat breads like roti and naan are cooked in deep clay tandoor ovens, others like poori and bhatura are deep fried in oil.  Rumali roti or handkerchief bread and flaky paratha are cooked on an upturned wok shaped iron karhi over the open fire.

There are lots of peanut roasters, the whole nuts are roasted in sand and the shelled peanuts in salt once again in the multipurpose karhi.

They are sold for a couple of rupees in recycled newspaper bags with a little portion of salt.

Further down the street I had one of the most delicious confections I’ve ever tasted, Daulat ki Chaat, made from the lathered up froth of boiling milk which is left outside overnight in a wide pan – the next day blobs of a saffron flavoured fluff are laid on top. The dish is lightly covered with muslin and kept over ice on the little street stalls It is served in little dried leaf bowls with grated jaggery (cane sugar) and chopped pistachios on top, exquisitely light and delicious, only available for 3 or 4 months in the year.

Naan – Kharai are yet another speciality of Old Delhi – these sweet crumbly cookies are cooked ingeniously in a khari with another khari with hot embers on top.

I am endlessly in awe of the resourcefulness and entrepreneurial spirit of the Indian people.  Another vendor was cooking diced chilli potatoes on a huge heavy concave griddle pan; they had been baked in sand for two hours first and then served with various chutneys, again completely delicious.

Every couple of hundred yards there were chai wallahs boiling up milky tea or chai masala flavoured with spices and served in glasses or earthenware pots. Kulfi and the chilled sweet lassi (yoghurt drink flavoured with rosewater) was also served in earthenware beakers that were thrown into a bin and returned to the earth after use.

We also visited Standard Sweets whose specialities apart from a selection of Indian sweets all made from milk was Bhatura, a puffy deep fried bread with chole and aloo (potato) curry, served in a little stainless steel plates on chipped Formica tables.

It was sooo good, I followed this with another of their specialities carrot halva garnished with almonds and cashew nuts. In India, it is the custom to eat with the fingers of your right hand although of course cutlery is provided in more up market restaurants. We also ferreted out a famous Kheer (rice pudding) maker whose family have made Bade Miyan ki Kheer for the last 135 years in the same spot in Old Delhi. It’s sold warm, once again in little dry leaf bowls and is usually sold out by 2pm.

Karin’s established in 1913 is  famous for its Moghul food, it’s actually a little collection of tiny restaurants, the mutton biryani and the  mutton stew are not to be missed eaten with the paper thin rumali roti, the seekh kebabs were also super delicious.

I could go on and on, of course food is just one tiny aspect of Old Delhi, there’s alley after alley of different products, utensils, sanitary ware, textiles, diamonds, shoes, saris – there are 1,500 wedding card shops alone…

Every possible service is also provided, tailoring, ironing, mending, deed reading – a lucrative business seeing as most Havali are owned by 10 – 12 families and even a man who cleans wax from people’s ears.

We saw skilled labourers, carpenters and plumbers, queuing up to be hired and labourers fighting to be given one more heavy load of bricks to carry on their heads, most work 8 – 10 hours a day and earn maybe 600-800 rupees, 1,000 if they are really lucky

We were taken up onto the roof tops to see the frenzy of old Delhi from above, and to see the pet pigeons and kites flying in the breeze favourite recreational activities for many.

Everyone also seemed incredibly devout and there are little shrines and temples at frequent intervals where people stop to pray and worship regularly.

There’s so much more – Old Delhi is a powerful experience, an assault on the senses – a humbling and in many ways inspirational experience.

To be continued…

 

Onion Bhajis with Tomato and Chilli Sauce

 

There are so many interpretations of onion bhajis, they are usually served hot, straight from the karhi as street food in little newspaper bags or dried leaf bowls both of which can be recycled. We serve them as a starter with the spicy tomato and chilli sauce.

Onions are a powerful source of quercetin, a plant compound that reduces inflammation. They also have powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties.

 

Serves 4 as a starter

 

4 onions, thinly sliced in rings

4 ozs (110g) plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon chilli powder

2 eggs, beaten

5fl oz (150ml) water

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

oil, for deep frying

 

Tomato and Chilli Sauce

 

1oz (25g) green chillies, deseeded and chopped, or 2-3 depending on size

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut in 1/4 inch (5mm) dice.

1/2 x 14oz (400g) tin of chopped tomatoes

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

1 dessertspoon soft brown sugar

1 tablespoons white wine vinegar

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons water

 

First make the sauce.  Put the chillies, pepper, tomatoes and garlic into a stainless steel saucepan with the sugar, vinegar and water.  Season and simmer for 10 minutes until reduced by half.

 

Sieve the flour, baking powder and chilli powder into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, add the eggs, gradually add in the water, mix to make a smooth batter.  Stir in the thinly sliced onions and chives.  Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

 

Just before serving heat the oil to 170°C/325°F approx.  Fry dessertspoons of the batter for 5 minutes approx. on each side until crisp and golden, drain on kitchen paper.  Serve hot or cold with the tomato and chilli sauce.

 

Madhur Jaffrey’s Carrot Halva – Gajar ka halva

Serves 4

 

1lb (450g) carrots

1 ¼ pints (700ml) milk

8 whole cardamom pods

5 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee

5 tablespoons castor sugar

1 – 2 tablespoons sultanas

1 tablespoons shelled unsalted pistachios, lightly crushed

10 fl oz (275ml) clotted or double cream, optional

 

Peel the carrots and grate them either by hand or in a food processor. Put the grated carrots, milk and cardamom pods in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat to meadium and cook, stirring now and then, until there is no liquid left. Adjust the heat, if you need to. The boiling down of the milk will take you at least half an hour or longer, depending upon the width of your pot.

Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium low flame. When hot, put in the carrot mixture. Stir and fry until the carrots no longer have a rich reddish colour. This can take 10 – 15 minutes.

Add the sugar, sultanas, and pistachios. Stir and fry another 2 minutes.

This halva may be served warm or at room temperature. Serve the cream on the side, for those who want it.

 

Kheer Marwadi – Indian Rice Pudding

 

Serves 4

 

Rosewater varies in strength so be careful to add gradually and taste. This dessert can be made ahead and may be served warm or cold.

 

50g (2 ozs) Basmati rice, soaked for an hour and drained

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) milk

3 tablespoons whole almonds, peeled and ground to a paste

2 tablespoons water

100g (3 1/2ozs) sugar

50g (2ozs) fresh coconut, grated

25g (1oz) raisins

50g (2ozs) pistachio nuts, cut into slivers

50g (2ozs) blanched almonds, cut in to slivers

1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom seeds

2 teaspoons Kewra essence (screw pine essence which keeps indefinitely) or use Rosewater instead but be careful – add 1/2 teaspoon first and then taste.

 

Heat the ghee in a pan.  Add the soaked rice, stir for 2 or 3 minutes then add the milk and cook over a low heat for an hour until the rice absorbs the milk and the pudding thickens.

 

Stir in the almond paste, sugar, coconut, raisins, pistachios and almond slivers.  Cook for a final couple of minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the ground cardamom and kewra or rosewater.  Cool and chill.

Serve in individual dishes.

 

Indian Baked Yoghurt

 

This is often cooked and served in unglazed earthenware bowls which are broken and returned to the land later. A few drops of vanilla extract may also be added.

 

Serves 8

 

400g (14oz) thick natural yoghurt,

400ml (14fl oz) cream

400ml (14fl oz) condensed milk,

 

8 x 225ml (8fl oz) dishes

 

Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3

 

Whisk all the ingredients together, strain if necessary. Divide the mixture evenly between the bowls.  Arrange in a bain-marie. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the top seems firm to the touch.  Cool, cover, refrigerate and serve chilled with a compote of fruit or fresh berries.

 

Hot Tips

Date for the Diary

West Waterford Festival of Food Dungarvan – Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th April 2014.

http://www.waterfordfestivaloffood.com/

Galway Food Festival – 17th – 21st April – Easter Weekend. http://www.galwayfoodfestival.com/

The Business of Food with Blathnaid Bergin – The vital information needed to set up a viable, enjoyable Food Service Business on this intensive 10 day course from 9.00am-5.00pm, Monday 31st to Friday 11th April at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The course format will be workshop, discussion, case studies, practical sessions and presentations. Up to 25% funding may be available for this course for Irish Residents.  If you would like to avail of this funding, see www.cookingisfun.ie for further details.

 

 

Shrove Tuesday – Pancake Day

Shrove Tuesday reminds us all of pancakes, almost the world’s most versatile recipe with a myriad of interpretations. For many, pancakes were the thin crêpes that, if we were lucky, our Mam’s rustled up on Shrove Tuesday and we then forgot about for the rest of the year.

Made in minutes from a simple batter it’s amazing that they were often just an annual treat.

In our house however they were my perennial standby, when I needed to feed tired and grouchy children in a hurry, put the pan on the Aga, shoot a mug of flour into a bowl, add caster sugar and a pinch of salt, crack a few eggs into the centre, whisk in some milk to make a thin batter. Melt some butter in a saucepan, grab a lemon and a bowl of caster sugar, by then the pan would be hot so I’d whisk a little melted butter into batter (that stops the batter sticking) and pour in a small ladle of batter into the very hot pan. Within seconds, it will have set on one side, flip it over when it’s speckled and golden a few seconds later. Turn it onto a plate, brush with melted butter, sprinkle with caster sugar and squeeze on a little fresh lemon juice, roll or fold into a fan shape and enjoy. Within a few minutes, as one child after another got a pancake, calm was restored. Nowadays my grandchildren love pancakes, they also slather them with chocolate spread with or without toasted hazelnuts and sliced banana. They also love savoury pancakes, particularly with mushrooms or ham and cheese in the French style. They are quintessential fast food but don’t just stop with crêpes. Remember virtually every culture around the world has at least one pancake recipe. Think Moroccan Baghrir, Chinese thin white flour pancakes called Moo shoo row, Vietnamese Banh xeo and Korean Pa ‘chon- both semolina flour pancakes made from a similar type batter but served with different accompaniments.
In India pancakes are made not just from wheat flour but also rice flour, split peas, mung beans, chickpea flour depending on the region and with names like Utthappam, Dosa, Cheela and Poora.  Mexican pancakes, Lithuanian pancakes, Russian pancakes, Italian Fazzoletti and Crespelle. Scotch pancakes, American pancakes…and that’s just the beginning.

The simple little crumpets or drop scones are another little gem of a recipe. Again the batter is made in virtually the length of time it takes to heat a cast iron pan.

Spoonfuls of batter are dropped onto the pan on a medium heat, I love to watch and as soon as the bubbles rise and burst, I flip them over to cook on the other side. Eat them warm with butter and honey or apple jelly.

 

Basic Pancake Batter and Good Things to Serve with It

 

Pancakes are far too simple and delicious to be served only on Shrove Tuesday. Whip up a batter with flour and milk and in a matter of minutes you will be flipping delicious speckled pancakes.

 

A Basic Pancake Batter

 

6 ozs (170g) plain white flour, preferably unbleached

a good pinch of salt

1 dessert spoon caster sugar, (omit for savoury pancakes)

2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range

scant : pint (450ml) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed

3-4 dessert spoon melted butter

 

Serves 6 – makes 12 approx.

 

Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of caster sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).

Let the batter stand in a cold place if you have time. Just before you cook the pancakes stir in 3-4 dessertspoons melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the pancakes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.

Heat a non-stick pan over a high heat, pour in a small ladleful of batter or just enough to film the base of the pan. The batter should cook immediately, loosen around the edges with a rubber slice, flip over and cook for a few seconds on the other side. Slide onto a plate, serve with your chosen filling either sweet or savoury.

 

Good Things to Serve with Pancakes

 

Savoury Pancakes

Stir a few tablespoons of freshly chopped herbs into the batter, well-seasoned mushrooms or Mushroom á la crème, bacon, crispy pieces of chicken, mussels, shrimps or whatever tasty bits you come across in the fridge, added to mushroom á la crème, goat cheese, tomato fondue and pesto.

 

Sweet Pancakes

Butter, freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar

Bananas and butterscotch sauce

Butter apples laced with mixed spices

Cinnamon butter

Chocolate Spread and Toasted Hazelnuts

Home-made jam and cream

Honey and chopped walnuts

 

Madhur Jaffrey’s Savoury Mung Bean Pancakes (Cheela).

 

 

Makes about 9 pancakes

 

a 225ml (8fl oz) measure hulled and split mung dal, picked over, washed and drained

1cm (3/4 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 fresh, hot green chilies, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons finely minced green coriander

1 smallish onion, peeled and finely minced

about 110ml (4fl oz) olive oil

 

Put the dal in a bowl. Add 1 litre (32fl oz) water and soak for 5 hours. Drain.

 

Start your food processor with the metal blade in place. (An electric blender will also do.) Through the funnel, drop in the ginger, garlic and green chilies. When they are minced, stop the machine and put in all the drained mung dal. Start the machine again and let the dal turn paste-like. Stop the machine and add 110ml (4fl oz) water, the salt, baking soda and turmeric. Run the machine for another 2 minutes to make a thick batter. Empty the batter into a bowl and mix in the green coriander and the onion thoroughly.

 

Now see that you have everything near you that you will need to make the pancakes. You need an 18 – 20.5cm (7-8-inch) non-stick frying pan. Near it on your counter place a small bowl of oil with a teaspoon, a rounded ladle for spreading out the batter, your bowl of batter, a cup or ladle to hold about 70ml (2 3/4fl oz), and a plastic spatula. You will also need a plate lined with a long piece of foil that both lines and covers the pancakes as they get made plus another plate to upturn and cover the foil package.

 

Pour 1 teaspoon of oil into the non-stick frying pan. Spread the oil around by tilting the pan. Set the pan on medium-low heat. Wait for the oil to heat up. When the oil is hot, stir the batter well and remove 70ml (2 3/4fl oz) from the bowl. Plop it down in the center of your heated pan. Let it sit for 3-4 seconds. Now place the rounded bottom of your ladle very gently on the blob of batter. Using a slow, gentle and continuous spiral motion, spread the batter outwards with the back of the ladle. Make a pancake that is about 15cm (6 inches) in diameter. Dribble 1/2 teaspoon oil over the pancake and another 1/2 teaspoon just outside its edges. Using the plastic spatula, spread out the oil and also smooth out the ridges on the pancake. Cover the pan and let the pancake cook for about 2 minutes or until the underside turns a nice reddish colour. Uncover and turn the pancake over. Cook the second side for about 1 1/2 minutes or until it develops small red spots. Remove the pancake and put it on the foil-lined plate. Cover, first with the extra foil and then with the second upturned plate. Make all the pancakes this way, making sure to stir the batter each time. Stack the pancakes on top of each other, covering the stack each time. If not eating immediately the entire foil packet could be heated in a medium oven for 15 minutes. Or you can heat up a pancake at a time in the microwave oven for about 20-30 seconds.
Julija Makejeva  Oladushki (Russian Fluffy Pancakes) with Sour Cream and Raspberry Jam

 

Julija  – known to many from our stall at the Midleton Farmers Market has worked with us for nine years. She’s a super cook and here is her recipe.

 

Serves 4

 

250g (9 ozs) white flour

225 ml (8fl ozs) buttermilk

2 free-range organic eggs, whisked

1 level teaspoon bread soda

scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, for pan frying

 

First, measure the buttermilk into a bowl and sprinkle the baking soda on top and leave for 3 to 4 minutes to allow the mixture bubble.   Whisk the egg, salt, and sugar into the buttermilk mixture.   Next, slowly add the flour to the batter by whisking all the time until mixture appears to have an even consistency, set aside.  The batter should be thick and fall very reluctantly off the spoon.

 

Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat. Add a little vegetable oil. Fill the pan with 5-6 tablespoonfuls of batter spaced evenly apart. Fry until golden brown, flip once bubbles have appeared on the surface and popped (if the pan is too hot, turn down the heat). Repeat frying process until all of the batter is used. Serve with dips (see below).

 

Serving Suggestions

 

Make several dips

 

Mix 2 tablespoons sour cream (crème fraiche) with 2 tablespoons raspberry jam

sour cream with brown sugar sprinkled on top

honey

 

 

Hottips
Slow Food Event – Ballymaloe Cookery School on Thursday 6th March at 7pm. Sally McKenna author of Extreme Greens: Understanding Seaweed will talk about this unique and ancient food, she’ll tell you how to find and harvest it and how to use it in the kitchen. There will be a tasting of different types of seaweed and some recipe suggestions. Ireland is rich in seaweed and macroalgae has been part of the Irish diet going right back to prehistoric times. It was valued in pre-famine times as a medicine, fertiliser and a food. Nowadays research into seaweed has shown us scientifically what our forebears understood culturally through experience, and the facts about seaweed are amazing. – Slow Food/Non Slow Food Members €6.00/€8.00 – Coffee and homemade biscuits on arrival  – Proceeds to the East Cork Education Project – 021 4646785.

 

Cooking for Baby Natural and Wholesome Recipes – Ballymaloe Cookery School

Friday 7th March – 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm – €50. Phone 021 4646785 or www.cookingisfun.ie

 

Darina’s Book of the Week

 

Noel McMeel grew up on a farm in Toomebridge, County Antrim. According to Marie Hulsman – his American co-author – Noel’s mother’s kitchen pantry had a cooling marble workshop and sighing shelves laden with delicious traditional treats. His childhood was steeped in the food culture of Ireland and of Ulster in particular.

Noel is now Executive Head Chef at Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh and the recipes in his first book Irish Pantry reflects his philosophy and unique food style. He urges us to “find the very best local ingredients. Support farms and grocers that respect the earth. Prepare meals that delight and excite the senses, but don’t get seduced into overcomplicating. Above all else let the natural flavour of good food shine out”

Irish Pantry – Traditional Breads, Preserves and Goodies by Noel McMeel published by Running Press 2014.

 

Supporting our Small Local Shops

There’s lots of grizzle about ‘over here’ but we ‘sure as hell’ have a lot to be grateful for too. I recently spent a weekend with friends in the UK in a prosperous part of middle England. The local village had neither pub not local shop and the nearest town (about the size of Midleton) had five supermarkets, two of which were discounters. There was not a single food shop or deli and only one butcher hanging on by his finger nails.

The main street had several estate agents, betting shops, a Spec Savers, a couple of charity shops, several fast food outlets and a Boots.

At one point the conversation at dinner centred around two nearby villages where the local community were desperately trying to save the last local shop. In Dymock in the Forest of Dean the last remaining pub in the village was destined to be a housing development so the locals joined with the parish council to buy the Beauchamp Arms for the community.

Here in Ireland the government made a decision not to allow supermarkets to build in greenfield sites outside towns and villages. Consequently we still have life and livelihoods for our local community in our towns and villages. It’s not easy for small shops to survive especially in the current climate. Low – and below cost -selling makes it impossible to compete on price. However an emerging trend brings a flicker of hope both in the US and in the UK smaller shops are beginning to pop-up again and apparently there is a craving for a more personal type of shopping experience. Mary Portas did a TV Series on Channel 4 – Mary Queen of Shops – about the demise of the high street and small shops which highlighted the problem.

Here are a few new recipes we’ve enjoyed cooking recently.

 

Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts and Candied Bacon

 

Brussels sprouts are the number one most hated vegetable – the poor little sprout has had very bad press – mostly because it can be tough to cook well.  If you follow the conventional wisdom to cut a cross in the base and boil them, you are pretty much guaranteed the result that has condemned the sprout to its appalling reputation.

 

Serves 6

 

500g (18oz) Brussels sprouts

25g (1oz) butter

62ml (2 1/2fl oz) Homemade Chicken Stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

50g (2oz) hazelnuts

6 slices lightly smoked streaky bacon – approximately 110g (4oz)

40g (1 1/2oz) soft pale brown sugar

 

Garnish

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

 

Trim the sprouts, cut in halves and shred thinly.

 

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

 

Toast the hazelnuts on a baking tray in a preheated at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15 minutes, shaking regularly until golden and skin.  Allow to cool, then chop coarsely.

 

 

Cover a baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper.  Dip the streaky bacon in pale soft brown sugar so both sides are coated.  Cook for 10-15 minutes until the bacon is caramelised on both sides.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a minute or two and remove to a wire rack to crisp up.

 

Meanwhile, over a medium high heat, melt the butter in a sauté pan.  When it foams add the shredded sprouts, toss to coat, add the chicken stock, cover and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes tossing regularly.  Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  The sprouts should be still fresh and green.

 

Snip the bacon into uneven pieces with scissors.  Add most of the coarsely chopped hazelnuts and candied bacon. Toss, taste and correct seasoning.

 

Turn into a hot serving dish.  Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts, candied bacon and chopped parsley.   Serve immediately.

 

Watercress, Blood Orange and New Seasons Toonsbridge Mozzarella Salad

 

The rich West Cork pasture that the buffalos feed on gives the Toonsbridge Mozzarella its quintessentially Irish taste.

A few beautiful fresh ingredients put together simply make an irresistible starter.

 

Serves 4

 

 

2-3 balls of fresh Toonsbridge Mozzarella

2 blood oranges

a bunch of fresh watercress

2-3 tablespoons Irish honey

a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

some coarsely ground black pepper

 

Just before serving, scatter a few watercress leaves over the base of each plate, slice or tear some mozzarella over the top.  With a sharp knife remove the peel and pith from the blood oranges, cut into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices, tuck a few here and there in between the watercress and mozzarella.   Drizzle with honey and really good extra virgin olive oil.   Finally add a little coarsely ground fresh black pepper and serve.

 

Kale, Fennel, Radish and Parmesan Salad

 

Serves 4 as a starter

 

150g (5oz) green curly kale, stalks included

110g (4oz) fennel thinly sliced

8 French Breakfast radishes thinly sliced at a long angle

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Keep the sliced fennel and radishes in iced water for at least 5 minutes.

 

To serve

 

Remove the stalks from the kale and shred very finely.

 

Put some kale, drained fennel and radishes into a bowl. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Grate on some Parmesan with a slivery micro plane. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss and taste and serve.

 

Emily’s Poppy Seed and Lemon Scones

 

Emily Johnson from Switzerland recently did this delicious variation on our scone recipe.

 

Makes 18-20 scones, using a 3 inch (71/2 cm) cutter

 

2lb (900g) plain white flour

6ozs (175g) butter

pinch of salt

2oz (50g) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

rind of one lemon

4 tablespoons of poppy seeds

3 free-range eggs

15fl ozs (450ml) approx. full cream milk to mix (not low fat milk)

 

egg wash (see below)

 

2 ozs (50g) granulated sugar for top of scones

 

Lemon Butter

3 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind

6 ozs (175g) butter

7 ozs (180g) icing sugar

 

Preheat the oven 250ºC/475ºF/regulo 9.

 

First make the lemon butter.

Cream the butter with the finely grated lemon rind. Add the sifted icing sugar and beat until fluffy.

 

Sieve the flour into a large wide bowl; add a pinch of salt, the baking powder and castor sugar.  Grate the rind of one lemon on the finest part of the grater over the dry ingredients in the bowl.  Add the poppy seeds. Mix the dry ingredients with your hands, lift up to incorporate air and mix thoroughly.

 

Cut the butter into cubes, toss well in the flour and then with the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter until it resembles large flakes.  Make a well in the centre.  Whisk the eggs with the milk; pour all at once into the centre.  With the fingers of your ‘best hand’ outstretched and stiff, mix in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl.  This takes just seconds and hey presto, the scone dough is made.  Sprinkle some flour on the work surface.  Turn out the dough onto the floured board.  Scrape the dough off your fingers and wash and dry your hands at this point.  Tidy around the edges, flip over roll out to about 1inch thick and cut or stamp into scones. Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease. Alternatively roll out the scone dough or pat gently into a rectangle about 3/4 inch (2cm) thick.  Spread the soft lemon butter over the surface. Roll up lengthwise and cut into pieces about 1 1/4 inch (3cm) thick.

 

Brush the tops with egg wash (see below) and dip the tops only in granulated sugar.  Put onto a baking sheet fairly close together.

 

Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top.

If making classic scones, cool on a wire rack. Serve, split in half with lemon butter – delicious.

 

Egg Wash

Whisk one egg thoroughly with about a dessertspoon of milk.  This is brushed over the scones to help them brown in the oven.

 

Practical Tip

Scone mixture may be weighed up ahead – even the day before.  Butter may be rubbed in but do not add raising agent and liquid until just before serving.

 

Hot Tips

Home Butchery, Charcuterie and Sausage Making with Philip Dennhardt at Ballymaloe Cookery School. There’s a growing interest among chefs and enthusiastic amateurs for home-curing and sausage making, a subject we’ve become more and more absorbed by in the past few years as we continue to learn and explore the rich traditions of many countries including – France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland …On this busy one day course Master Butcher Philip Dennhardt will teach you to make a wide variety of lamb, beef and pork sausages and cured meats. This course is also designed for those who would like to explore ways to add value to their meat products, with a view to developing an artisan food business. Ballymaloe Cookery School – Saturday 1st March – 9:30am to 5:00pm – €195.00 – lunch included.

 

Whiskey and Artisan Food – Enjoy a taste of real Irish craft beer, Irish whiskey and artisan food at the Irish Craft Beer Village during the five-day celebration of Irish food at the IFSC inside the CHQ Building, Dublin March 13th – 17th, as part of the St Patrick’s Festival 2014.  http://www.irishfest.ie/

 

Goats Bridge Trout Farm in Thomastown in Co Kilkenny are one of a growing number of food businesses poised to capitalise on the growing interest in food tourism. Meg and Ger Kirwan will open a visitors centre on March 1st 2014. Guests can see around the trout farm, attend smoking workshops and learn how trout caviar is produced and enjoyed. To book a tour with canapés – €15.00 or a day with lunch – €100.00 – www.goatsbridgetrout.ie

 

Big reaction to my recent sugar article, many readers are making an effort to reduce their overall sugar intake. One reader finds The Honey Diet book published by Mike McInnes tremendously helpful.

 

Iyers Restaurant and Ramen Restaurant – Cork City

Two new exciting eateries have opened in Cork in recent months; both are off the beaten track.

I’ve been hearing about Iyers on Popes Quay for several months and at last I managed to pop in. It’s a tiny little restaurant serving South Indian street food. It’s chic, tiny, just five tables and a counter with a large blackboard menu on the wall behind. I love South Indian food and there it was, samosas, dosas, uthappam, Madras thali, mango lassi, chai…

The owner Gautham Iyer comes from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and his wife Caroline hails from Sligo, he’s an aeronautical engineer and she’s a jeweller. They’ve lived in Cork for 14 years and have at last achieved their dream to open a little restaurant serving the sort of Indian food they and their friends love to eat and have been craving. They opened on 17th January 2013 and the word spread fast, they were often sold out before they closed at 5:30pm. They now stay open on Thursdays until 9pm. However you and a group of friends can book a table of eight or ten on another night by arrangement. The food is simple, delicious and tastes authentic. On a recent visit they also had a couple of tempting cakes, the Pistachio and Rosewater cake had sold out so we enjoyed a slice of freshly made Mango, Banana and Coconut Cake  and a Cashew and Coconut Cookie that had the bonus of being gluten free. Iyers is a vegetarian restaurant and Gautham cooks in the Ayurvedic tradition.

Don’t miss their chai, when I closed my eyes I was sipping the spicy brew in a roadside dhaba in India – Iyers is definitely worth seeking out, they don’t take bookings and by the way it is stunningly good value for money.

Ramen on Angelsea Street is owned by John Downey a Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate, who was a retail manager for Aldi in his last life. He now serves new Asian Street food in a contemporary setting. The open kitchen at the end of the room has five or six bustling Asian chefs in bright orange T shirts. Rustling up the yummy food is head chef Zuul Basir from Kuala Lumpur.

It’s all very convivial, there’s a long timber sharing table down the centre of the restaurant as well as side tables along the wall. The menu is divided into Soups, Salads and Nibbles, and Something for Kids. Dishes from the Wok, Rice dishes, Noodle dishes and there’s strictly no MSG.

Chop sticks, soy sauce and chilli oil are on the table, customers order and pay first. Your choice of dishes arrives on a little metal tray; there will be an empty ice cream cornet for your complimentary whipped ice cream. If the generous helpings defeat you, take home the remainder.

Again it seemed to me to be exceedingly good value for money – tasty delicious food, the word is out so you may have to queue at peak times but the general consensus is that it’s well worth the wait.

 

Gautham Iyer’s Spicy Potato Curry (Urulaikizhangu Kari)

 

500g – ½ kg (18oz) potato (waxy new potatoes are better)

1 1/2 teaspoons red chilli powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon gram flour/ rice flour

salt – to taste

for the seasoning you will need

2 teaspoons sunflower oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

a very small pinch asafoetida / hing

225ml (8fl oz) water

1 teaspoon urid dhal (optional)

small sprig fresh curry leaves

 

Peel and chop the potato (into small cubes) and leave soaking in a bowl of water.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to splutter add the urid dhal (if using) and curry leaves and fry till the dhal turns golden brown.

Add the asafoetida and turmeric followed immediately by the drained potatoes. Stir for a few seconds.

 

Add 225ml (8fl oz) of water and then add the salt and red chilli powder and let the potatoes cook completely. If necessary add a bit more water.

 

Once the potatoes are cooked, reduce the flame and add 1/2 teaspoon oil and stir the potatoes to fry them.

 

Sprinkle the gram flour/rice flour to help the potatoes brown evenly.

 

Transfer to serving dish and serve hot with rice or bread of your choice.

 

Niloufer’s Cauliflower and Chickpeas

 

Serves 4 – 6

 

2 tablespoons ghee, clarified butter, or canola oil

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

1 small yellow onion finely chopped

2 tablespoons grated, peeled fresh ginger

2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced into a paste

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste

1 teaspoon garam masala

salt

12 oz cooked chickpeas (or 6oz dried – soaked overnight and cooked)

1 head cauliflower, broken in florets

large handful fresh ciltrano (coriander) leaves and stems chopped

juice of 1 lime

 

Heat the ghee in a large skillet over a medium heat and toast the fennel seeds for about 1 minute. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to keep it from sticking, until brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the turmeric, cayenne, garam masala and a big pinch of salt to the skillet and cook, dribbling in a little water as you stir. Add the chickpeas, cauliflower and ½ cup water. Cover and cook until the cauliflower and ½ cup water. Cover and cook until the cauliflower is tender, 15 – 20 minutes. Add the chopped ciltrano (coriander) and lime juice and serve with yoghurt and rice or big floppy flat bread chapatis, if you like.

 

Mekong Duck – Ramen Style 

 

John Downey from Ramen Restaurant in Cork city kindly shared this recipe with us. It’s a firm favourite with his customers.

 

Serves 4

 

2 duck Breasts

 

2 teaspoon garlic, chopped as finely as possible.

2 teaspoons fresh root ginger, minced.

 

Mekong Sauce 

 

1 tablespoon tomato purée

50mls (2fl oz) pineapple juice

50mls (2fl oz) orange juice

2 teaspoons soya sauce

2 teaspoons sweet chilli sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon five spice

 

Vegetables

 

pak Choi

cherry tomatoes (halved)

diced courgette

mangetout

fine beans

carrots (julienned)

 

Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/320°F/Mark 3

Delicately score the fat on the duck breast and roast for 25 minutes. While this is roasting, create your Mekong sauce, by mixing all of the ingredients together with a hand blender. Prepare all of your vegetables and set aside for cooking. Slice the roasted duck breast into bite-size slivers.

Once the duck is cooked (it should still be slightly pink), heat your wok as hot as you possibly can. Add a splash of rapeseed oil, sauté the garlic, add the ginger, the Mekong sauce and the duck and cook on a high heat for 1 minute, until you achieve peak temperature. Add the vegetables; toss for thirty seconds and voila!

 

Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

 

Hot Tips

 

Hospitality and business course “Being ‘the best’ takes time, dedication and an absolute commitment to raising standards, every day. It is an infinite journey and it’s what separates the best from the quickly forgotten.” says Georgina Campbell who is teaming up with business mentoring company Conor Kenny and Associates to run the Hospitality Business Development Programme, over a 3 month period from Thursday 13th March to Thursday 29th May. The programme was created by people who are immersed in the industry and the practical workshops will drive and accelerate growth. www.georginacampbelllearning.com  or call Linda Halpin – 01 663-3685 for bookings

 

Calso Cooks – Real Food Made Easy– Watch out for the new kid on the Irish food scene, Paul O’Callaghan aka Calso. He came late to the discovery that real food can be produced with very little effort and be tastier and healthier than the fast, convenient foods he’d survived on ’til then. Paul had his own plastering business in his native Armagh but when the recession hit, he lost everything. At first, he struggled with depression and feelings of helplessness but by a quirk of fate, the house he rented had some land attached so he decided to try growing some of his own food. He was soon hooked on cooking (and eating!) the ingredients he produced. In 2001 he started his blog Calso Cooks from the Sustainable Larder. Paul now runs his own food business, has a column in ‘EasyFood’ magazine and contributes to the Breakfast Show on 2fm. Look out for his first cook book Calso Cooks – Real Food Made Easy published in paperback by Mercier Press.

 

e. When the watercress begins to form little white flowers the leaves elongate.

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