AuthorDarina Allen

Medjool Dates and Neufchâtel for my Valentine

We all love a bit of romance, an unexpected bouquet; a bar of choccie, a spontaneous hug, even a furtive wink can put a skip in your step for the rest of the day.

Valentine’s Day is upon us again where everyone from 9 to 90 gets license to be silly and cutely romantic.

Even my grandchildren are making cards and cupcakes and having fun.

But most of all the way to everyone’s heart is through their tummy, of course you can book a romantic meal for two in a fancy restaurant but how about cooking supper instead of or as well as particularly if your favourite spot is already booked out.

Choose a nice easy menu that can be spirited without too much fuss or bother, a simple starter might me Ardsallagh Goat Cheese with Highbank Orchard syrup with a few rockets leaves or Medjool Dates with Yoghurt, Sumac, Pistachios and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Both are light and easy. A stew or tagine can be made ahead and served with a bowl of mash, a few baked potatoes or a simple cous cous.

Follow this with a salad of winter leaves and a piece of cheese – a heart shaped Neufchâtel would be perfect. You’ll find it in the many specialist cheese shops like Sheridans in Dublin or Galway or On the Pigs Back at the English Market or Iago on 9 Princes Street Cork. It’s a heart shaped Camembert type cheese made in Normandy it has an appealing mushroom taste and is perfect for a Valentines supper.

A light fruity dessert would be good after this comforting stew. Blood oranges are in season at present. A blood orange granita would be perfect or even some thickly sliced blood oranges with a chiffonade of mint.

However I’m tempted to suggest a rice pudding with a little grating of nutmeg over the top. We’ve been having lots of rice puddings recently – and it seems to get a joyous reception from every age group particularly when it’s served with a little Jersey cream and a sprinkling of soft brown sugar.

 

Rory O’Connell’s  Ardsallagh Goats Cheese with Highbank Orchard Syrup

 

 

Serve a crisp cheese biscuit or 2 or some hot bread to accompany this cheese course.

 

Serves 4

 

120-130g (4 1/2oz) fresh soft Ardsallagh Goats Cheese

4-6 tablespoons Highbank Orchard Syrup (available at Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop)

16-20 Rocket leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Divide the leaves between 4 plates.

 

Place a slice of cheese on top of the Rocket leaves.  Drizzle with the syrup.  Season with a pinch of Maldon Sea salt and serve.

 

Lamb, Winter Vegetable and Pearl Barley Stew

Serves 4 – 6

This comforting stew makes more than you’ll need for your romantic supper but it reheats brilliantly.

1kg lamb neck fillets cut into thick chunks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 onions peeled and quartered

3 carrots peeled and cut in half at an angle

3 leeks trimmed and cut into thick chunks

1 sprig thyme

1 small bay leaf

600ml lamb or chicken stock

100g pearl barley

 

Gremolata

a nice handful of fresh parsley

the same of fresh mint

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, grated

 

Cut the neck of lamb into chunky pieces, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a wide pan over a high? heat, brown the meat on all sides, transfer to a casserole. Don’t overcrowd / he pan just do the meat in batches. The toss the vegetables in the olive oil and fat in the pan, add a little more extra virgin olive oil if necessary. Add to the meat in the casserole.

Pour the stock into the pan and stir to dissolve all the meat juices, bring to the boil, pour on the meat and vegetables in the casserole, add the herbs and bring to the boil, simmer on the top of the stove or transfer to a moderate oven 180°C/ 350°F / Mark 4 for 45 minutes, add the pearl barley and continue to cook for a further 15 to 20 minutes or until the grains are plump and the meat and vegetables are meltingly tender. Taste and correct seasoning. Not long before serving make the gremolata, chop the parsley, fresh mint and lemon zest together. Turn the stew into a terracotta serving bowl, sprinkle with gremolata and serve with baked potatoes and a green salad.

 

Jacob Kenedy’s Blood Orange Granita

 

Blood oranges are in season at present so use them in every way you can while they last.

 

blood oranges

caster sugar

 

To Serve

toasted flaked almonds, dusted with icing sugar

a little chopped fresh mint

 

Juice the blood oranges, removing any pips but straining only through a colander or coarse sieve to do so, so some pulp remains. Add 120g (4 1/2oz) caster sugar per litre (1 3/4 pints) of juice and stir to dissolve.

 

Pour the liquid into a deep tray that will fit in your freezer (metal is best, as it will conduct heat from the granita fastest – but this is only a question of time, rather than quality). Place it in your freezer, and check after half an hour. Once ice crystals start to form, stir every
15 minutes or so with a fork or sturdy balloon whisk until you have a satisfyingly thick slush. If it gets too hard, you can always thaw it a little before serving – and it can be stored this way (frozen solid) for weeks.

 

Serve on a hot day, sprinkled with the flaked almonds and mint.

 

Variation

Mixed 2:1 with vodka or Campari, this makes for an excellent cocktail, too.

 

Figs with Yoghurt, Sumac, Pistachio and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Serves 4 as a starter

 

8 fresh figs in season

 

8 tablespoons Greek style natural yoghurt (the yoghurt should be thick)

2 teaspoons fresh sumac

3 – 4 teaspoons pistachios, halved

extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

a few flakes of sea salt

 

Spoon two – three tablespoons of yoghurt onto each plate. Cut the figs into quarters, push gently down into the yoghurt. Sprinkle with sumac and pistachios, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and honey, serve.

 

Wild and Free Food

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)

 

For those who like to be on the cutting edge, you may be interested to know that watercress is the new rocket! Chefs are going crazy for it and using it in all kinds of recipes. But in reality there’s not much new under the sun. There are references to watercress – the original hydroponic vegetable – in many early Irish manuscripts. It formed part of the diet of hermits and holy men who valued its special properties, which we now know include significant amounts of iron, calcium, folic acid, vitamins A and C. Watercress is brilliant for detox – the mustard oils boost and regulate the liver’s enzymes. Its beta carotene and vitamin A are good for healthy skin and eyes, and watercress is naturally low in calories and fat. Gram for gram, watercress has more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than oranges and more calcium than full-cream milk.

Watercress grows naturally in rivers and drains all around Ireland. When you’re looking for it in the wild, make sure the watercress you pick comes from a pure water source with constantly running water. Avoid water drained from fields that are grazed, especially by sheep, which may infest the plant with the liver fluke parasite. Look for darker leaves, which signify older plants and deliver more peppery flavour. Watercress often grows side by side with a plant called fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), which is sometimes referred to as wild celery but it isn’t, even though it is part of the parsley and celery family. It has small green flowers, whereas watercress has small white flowers. With watercress, the top leaf is the biggest and they decrease in size as you go down the stem; with fools watercress, it’s the reverse. When the watercress begins to form little white flowers the leaves elongate.

 

Garden Workshop at Ballymaloe Cookery School – Learn how to build a Willow Structure with Norbert Platz The Willow Wizard from West Cork. Norbert will show you how to make scarecrows, dragons, willow tunnels, plant covers, baskets… On this intensive course you will learn how to harvest and prepare willows and the basic techniques needed to create a variety of willow structures in your own garden. Monday 17th February at 9:00am, coffee and homemade biscuits on arrival and light lunch included – €95.00. Phone 021 4646785 to book or www.cookingisfun.ie

 

Cask and Winter Ale Festival at Franciscan Well on 14B North Mall, Cork Festival is on Friday, Saturday & Sunday the 14th, 15th & 16th February. With a selection of casks from a selection of Irelands best craft breweries and some winter specials this festival is growing each year to showcase the real ale culture in Ireland. Talk to some of Irelands newest brewers at the  ‘Meet the Brewer’ section, a new element in this year’s festival. See their FaceBook page – Cask & Winter Ale Festival.

Sugar, the New Tobacco

A little of what you fancy does you good. Well, no actually, all evidence points to the fact that sugar is damaging our health in a myriad of ways we are only beginning to understand. Make no mistake about it, sugar is addictive and is set to be the ‘New Tobacco’ as it becomes  abundantly clear that it’s an ingredient we absolutely don’t need, empty calories that pile on the pounds without nourishing us in any way.

Type 2 diabetes and obesity are increasing dramatically around the world but excess sugar is also linked to cancer, heart disease and of course tooth decay.  Ireland’s leading obesity expert Donal O’Shea paints a grim picture, 25% of Irish children are overweight, 25% of adults are obese while a further 40% are considered to be overweight. International doctors, scientists and obesity experts are joining forces to put pressure on governments to force food and drink manufacturers to cut hidden sugar in processed foods by up to 30%.

In the UK, Action on Sugar has launched an initiative chaired by Professor Graham MacGregor – who also heads up CASH which spearheaded the hugely successful campaign on salt reduction. “Provided the sugar reductions are done slowly, people won’t notice. In most products in the supermarkets, the salt has come down by between 25% and 40%. Kellogg’s Cornflakes contain 60% less salt than they used to.”

The panel includes obesity experts, high profile scientists and doctors including Robert Lustig author of Fat Chance – The Bitter Truth about Sugar and Professors John Wass, academic vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians, Philip James of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, Dr Aseem Malhotra cardiologist and Sir Nicholas Wald of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine.

Yoni Freedhoff from the University of Ottowa, Canada is another advisor to the group said   “Not only has added sugar found its way into virtually everything we eat, but worse still, the use of sugar as a means to pacify, entertain and reward children has become normalised to the point that questioning our current sugary status quo often inspires anger and outrage.”

Experts have calculated that reducing sugar in processed foods by between 20 and 30% over the next 3 to 5 years could remove 100 calories a day from diets, enough to reverse the obesity epidemic.

Deep down, we’ve all known this was coming.

People are aware that fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes and biccies are loaded with sugar, but they are often amazed to discover that sugar can also be in many types of bread, soups, sauces…

So what to do?

Labelling can be confusing, low fat does not mean low sugar and labels are often carefully worded to mask the reality. For most people, teaspoons are easier to visualise than grams. We now know that Coca Cola Original, 330ml and Pepsi, regular contain 9 teaspoons of sugar. Mars Bar 51g has 8 teaspoons sugar. Even zero fat yoghurt can contain up to 5 teaspoons of sugar, while a tall Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream and skimmed milk was found to have 11 teaspoons of sugar.

Over the years we’ve noticed many items getting progressively sweeter. In fact, I’m convinced that sugar itself has become more intensely sweet, since we are now using imported sugar now that our domestic sugar beet industry is gone, can this be my imagination – I’m awaiting the results of a scientific analysis. In the meantime we have been systematically reducing sugar in many of our recipes often without a murmur of complaint.

Sugar is unquestionably addictive, so cutting sugar out of our diet altogether is a ‘big ask.’ It can certainly be done but one may have to endure a couple of weeks of ‘cold turkey’ then apparently the craving dissipates. However with a certain resolve it should be possible to cut out sweet fizzy drinks, sugar in tea and coffee, sweetened yoghurt and soups. There are still some supermarkets that have aisles of tempting sweets and bars as one queues for the till, perhaps it’s time for Mammies of the world to unite and demand support to help solve this global problem of obesity.

So what are the alternatives, bananas are naturally sweet and can enable you to reduce or eliminate sugar in banana bread, muffins or buns. Think about eliminating breakfast cereals from your shopping list and replace with porridge, a brilliant food which also includes fibre.

Honey can be substituted for sugar or add a sprinkling of plump raisins or sultanas. Several of my grandchildren love peanut butter on their porridge, sounds very odd but it’s been their winter breakfast of choice for many years and keeps them sated until lunch time.

Completely eliminate sugar sweetened drinks, SSDs as they are called – make no mistake sugar is addictive so if you or your children are used to a couple of these drinks a day – you’ll need to be full of resolve to kick the habit. Substitute real apple juice with sparkling water or just water.  Dried fruit and nuts or blueberries are good for snacks but why are we snacking all the time? A bar of dark chocolate has less sugar but at least has the benefit of antioxidants.

 

Debbie Shaw’s Banana and Pecan Loaf


This is a lovely, moist loaf and a great way to use up over-ripe bananas. See sugar free version of this recipe below.

 

 

Serves 10-12

 

110g (4oz) white spelt flour
110g (4oz) brown spelt flour (Ballybrado)
1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of salt
75g (3oz) Billington’s unrefined caster sugar
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 large egg, beaten
75ml (3fl oz) of sunflower oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
65g (2 1/2oz) pecan nuts or walnuts, chopped
4 large ripe bananas, well mashed

 

Place the flour, salt, finely sieved baking powder and caster sugar into a large bowl. Lightly mix the egg, oil, vanilla and maple syrup together and add to the dry ingredient mixing very gently. Fold the pecan nuts and mashed bananas into t this mixture with a fork being careful not to over beat or mix. Place in a lined and oiled 900g (2lb) loaf tin and bake in the preheated oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour. Allow it to cool in the tin before turning out.

 

For a Sugar Free Version:
You can also make this bread very successfully omitting the 75g (3oz) of caster sugar and ensuring that the bananas are very, very ripe and it’s equally as delicious.

Debbie Shaw’s Figgy Flapjacks

 

It is almost impossible to find a flapjack without tons of butter, golden syrup and sugar in it. This is my healthier version of the flapjack with vastly reduced sugar and butter content but it does need a little golden syrup for binding.

 

Makes 25 bars

 

Tin size – 19cm x 30cm or 11 ½ x 7 ½ inches

175g (6oz) of porridge oats
50g (2oz) butter
2 scant tablespoons of golden syrup
1 ½ oz light brown sugar
2 tablespoons of honey
25g (1oz) sunflower seeds
25g (1oz) pumpkin seeds
25g (1oz) toasted sesame seeds
150g (5oz) of figs, roughly chopped
25g (1oz) apricots, finely diced

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

Blend the figs in a food processor with 5 tablespoons boiling water to make a paste. Line the base of the tin with parchment paper and oil the sides with sunflower oil. Heat the butter, brown sugar, honey and golden syrup in a medium-sized pot until melted and add the other ingredients. Mix the fig mixture with the other dry ingredients and add to the melted sugars and butter. Stir thoroughly and place in the lined tin. Press firmly into the tin with a palette knife and bake for 30 minutes until lightly golden brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting. Store in a tin or airtight container.

 

 

Debbie Shaw’s Medjool Date and Coconut Rounds

 

This is a no-cook, egg-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan cookie that takes minutes to make.

 

 

Makes 25

 

½ small ripe banana, mashed (optional)
225g (8oz) Medjool dates, stoned
250g (9oz) of whole almonds
1 heaped tablespoon of raw cocoa powder
1/4 scant teaspoon of vanilla extract
110g (4oz) desiccated coconut

 

Whiz the almonds in the food processor until they are the size of breadcrumbs. Add the raw cocoa powder and pulse. Add the banana (if using), vanilla, and dates and blend to a paste. Shape the mixture into a log with your hands and roll in the desiccated coconut. Cut into rounds or roll into truffle-sized balls and roll in desiccated coconut and give them as presents.

 

 

Debbie Shaw’s Kiddies Crispy Party Buns

 

These fun buns are a great way to get essential fats and B-vitamins into kids and they are pretty tasty too. The protein in the seeds prevents a sudden blood sugar rise that some sugary treats cause which make kids hyper!

 

Makes 20-24 depending on size

 

3oz (75g) 60% dark chocolate, melted

2 1/2oz (62g) puffed wholegrain brown rice or puffed quinoa (available from Health Food Shops)
3  1/2oz (82g) pumpkin seeds
1oz (25g) sunflower seeds
1oz (25g) toasted sesame seeds
1oz (25g) flaked almonds, broken up
1 tablespoon maple syrup

 

Melt the chocolate and add all of the other ingredients stirring well to coat. Place in paper cases, press down gently and allow to set. If you are in a hurry, pop them in the freezer for 5 minutes and they set quickly.

 

Wild and Free Food

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)

For those who like to be on the cutting edge, you may be interested to know that watercress is the new rocket! Chefs are going crazy for it and using it in all kinds of recipes. But in reality there’s not much new under the sun. There are references to watercress – the original hydroponic vegetable – in many early Irish manuscripts. It formed part of the diet of hermits and holy men who valued its special properties, which we now know include significant amounts of iron, calcium, folic acid, vitamins A and C. Watercress is brilliant for detox – the mustard oils boost and regulate the liver’s enzymes. Its beta carotene and vitamin A are good for healthy skin and eyes, and watercress is naturally low in calories and fat. Gram for gram, watercress has more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than oranges and more calcium than full-cream milk.

Watercress grows naturally in rivers and drains all around Ireland. When you’re looking for it in the wild, make sure the watercress you pick comes from a pure water source with constantly running water. Avoid water drained from fields that are grazed, especially by sheep, which may infest the plant with the liver fluke parasite. Look for darker leaves, which signify older plants and deliver more peppery flavour. Watercress often grows side by side with a plant called fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum), which is sometimes referred to as wild celery but it isn’t, even though it is part of the parsley and celery family. It has small green flowers, whereas watercress has small white flowers. With watercress, the top leaf is the biggest and they decrease in size as you go down the stem; with fools watercress, it’s the reverse. When the watercress begins to form little white flowers the leaves elongate.

Hot Tips

Alternative Sugars from Natural Sources

Brown rice syrup, date syrup, maple syrup, honey and agave syrup are all available from health food stores.  XyloBrit or Xylitol is a refined sugar made using fruit or Birch tree extracts. You can use this as a 1:1 direct replacement for refined white caster sugar in baking. The Tate and Lyle brand, which is a blend of caster sugar and stevia, can be also used as a 1:1 direct substitute for refined caster sugar in baking. This is available in powder, liquid and dried herb form from good health food stores. Another good way to naturally sweeten baked goods without using refined sugar, is to add dried dates, dried figs or overripe bananas, whizzed in a food processor with a little boiling water to make a sweet paste. Other dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, cranberries, apricots etc.) also add sweetness to cakes and muffins.

Debbie Shaw

Debbie will be presenting more healthy recipes in her “Feel Good Food – Let’s Cook” course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Mon 21st July 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. This one day course offers fresh, simple and seasonal recipes for energy, vitality and optimal health. The morning cookery demonstration is followed by an opportunity to cook some of Debbie’s tasty recipes in the kitchens. Debbie Shaw is a chef and Nutritionist and runs “Apple A Day Nutrition” (Mobile tel: +353 (086) 785 5868, email: debbieswellness@gmail.com).

The booking office is now open for the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 16th-18th May. There’s an incredible line-up again this year international food heroes such as René Redzepi, Diana Kennedy, Simon Hopkinson, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. There will be a cocktail of wine and drinks experts, Irish participants will include talented chefs Ross Lewis, Paul Flynn and Clodagh McKenna. Some events are already fully subscribed so check out the website www.litfest.ie or call the Box Office (open Monday to Friday 10am-5pm) on 021 4645777.

 

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 4 month period from Tuesday 11th February 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.

 

 

 

New Trends in Food 2014

It’s a hugely exciting time to be in food. Farmers are more optimistic about the future than they have been in years and a high percentage of start-up businesses are food related.

There’s innovation at every level so it’s fun to ponder on emerging food trends in different sectors. For dedicated food trend spotters it’s always worth studying what’s hot in the US and UK because much of that will be coming our way in the not too distant future. It used to take 4 – 5 years but in the current techie age all that has speeded up considerably.

In the US, according to Conagra Foods 62% of consumers want to support companies that have ethical policies and donate to important social causes.

Customers are fast becoming more educated about supermarket practices and products, they want more sustainable packaging and less plastic wrapping, so we’re beginning to see the use of new technology to create edible wrappers.

Online shopping and apps appear to be a strong trend for the future with many consumers, deciding what they will cook for supper by browsing for recipes on their smart phones.

On the other hand there is a definite small shop revival in many cities – a counter reaction to the super convenient increasingly impersonal shopping experience.

There is a growing realisation that the 24/7 snacking habit is here to stay. According to Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert there are lots of opportunities to capitalise on that by supplying ‘better for you’ and ‘on the go’ options.

Food waste continues to be an issue but using up leftovers making the most of lesser known fish and cuts of meat has never been so trendy.

As allergies and food intolerances continue to rise ‘Free From’ foods gain more and more shelf space and create opportunities for food entrepreneurs.

Every year there seems to be a new super food, 2013 it was kale – so what’s coming up? Some predict the humble cauliflower and kohlrabi, I certainly saw lots of cardoons on fancy restaurant menus in the US last year.

Ancient beans and grains like freekeh, faro, teff and the humble pearl barley are definitely causing renewed excitement. We’ll see even more adventurous use of spices, chilli and exotic flavourings in home kitchens not just to jazz up increasingly bland ingredients but for their health benefits – turmeric for example has antibacterial properties and is a powerful antioxidant.

Tea has been predicted to be the new coffee for quite some time now but it’s been slow in coming however things are hotting up. Starbucks have joined forces with Teavana in the US to open the first Tea Bar in New York. Check out The Tea Shop on MacCurtain Street in Cork City which offers Ireland’s biggest selection of loose leaf teas and the Palais des Thés on 31 Wicklow Street in Dublin.

The cronut, Dominique Ansel’s cross between a croissant and a donut was the hottest food item in New York last year and they’re still queuing around the corner of Spring Street.

Ramen Shops popped up everywhere and now at last we have a Ramen restaurant in Cork on 21 Angelsea Street (021) 4317116.

We’re slurping noodles in every shape and form. They are hot and getting hotter.  Check out Koya Udon noodle restaurant on 49 Frith Street in London.

Burgers continue to endure but the ones that are making waves are boasting higher fat and better provenance. 2013 was the year of the innovative bun, lots of new twists and flavours and even brioche. The big success story in the fast food area in the US was Wendys Bacon Cheeseburger on a Pretzel bun.

Our love affair with bacon continues but now for top chefs and cooks it’s about house-cured bacon, hams, sausages and salami.

Fermenting and pickling continues to excite both cooks and diners. Home smoking is a growing trend. Top restaurants are seeking out hand-made, traditional and cultured butter and cream. Artisan and local foods are still very strong, sustainable fish and home-made or as they say in the US house-made ice cream, granitas and sorbets made with seasonal ingredients.

Vegetables are gradually edging their way to the centre stage. Vegan is becoming more main stream and we will see more veggie dishes in non-vegetarian restaurants. The Grain Store in London continues to cause a stir and we’re noticing more salads as an art form.

Small plates, sharing dishes, and small plate desserts are huge hit with restaurant customers.

Top chefs are growing their own on rooftops and balconies and more chefs own their own farms, and are employing foragers and are incorporating seasonal wild foods into their menus. Supermarkets like Wholefoods in the US are putting vegetable gardens and tunnels on their roofs.

The Dim Sum concept is being adapted with considerable success in many restaurants.

The Nordic Food Movement continues to inspire.

One Food Wonders or Single Item restaurants seem to be an enduring trend, not just burgers but chicken, pork, polenta, mozzarella, potatoes…

The interest in hand-made and craft items, farmhouse cheeses and artisan foods endures and there’s a renewed interest in ‘ethnic’ cheeses, queso fresco, halloumi, paneer, heirloom varieties of tomatoes, speciality salt, urban honey, raw honey.  Leaves, banana, taro, kaffir lime leaves. At a recent meal that I enjoyed Fäviken in Sweden Magnus Nielson steamed potatoes in Autumn leaves.

New ethnic flavours continue to excite, the sales of Sriracha, the Thai hot sauce are catching up on ketchup.

There’s also huge excitement in the drinks area – craft brewers and micro distillers are popping up everywhere. Chefs are making house-made lemonade, sodas, bitters, ratafias…Natural wines are exploding – orange wine is a cult. Cocktails and mocktails and liqueurs are ever more exciting and inventive and there’s lots more but I’ve run out of space.

 

Ottolenghi’s Bulgur and Cauliflower Tabouleh with Red Onion, Pomegranate and Sweet Spices

 

Serves 4

 

600g (1 1/4 lb) cauliflower florets (1 large or 2 medium heads)

240g (8 3/4 ozs) fine bulgur, soaked in 500ml (18fl oz) of boiling water for 10 minutes, then squeezed dry

4 celery sticks, finely sliced at an angle

1 red onion, finely sliced

80g (3 ozs) whole almonds, lightly toasted and roughly broken

a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley

seeds from 1 pomegranate

 

Dressing

 

4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons caster sugar

100ml (3 1/2 fl ozs) olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

salt and black pepper

 

Preheat the oven 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 5.

 

Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet, lined with greaseproof paper, and roast for 25 minutes, or until lightly golden and just tender; set aside to cool.

To make the dressing, combine the ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk well and set aside for 5 minutes.

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and arrange on a plate. Spoon the dressing on top and serve.

 

Rachel Allen’s Roasted Cauliflower with Gremolata

 

Gremolata is an Italian condiment made from a mixture of garlic, parsley and lemon peel that is traditionally served with braised veal but is equally at home sprinkled over fish and provides a lovely tangy foil to roasted cauliflower, as here. By roasting cauliflower the florets take on a charred crispness while the flesh remains soft and yielding.

Serves 4–6

 

2 cauliflowers, cut into florets

110ml (4fl oz) olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

For the Gremolata

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or finely grated

4 tbsp finely chopped parsley

2 tsp olive oil

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), Gas mark 6.

Place the cauliflower florets in a large bowl and mix with the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through the cooking time, until the cauliflower is tender and just browned at the edges.

While the cauliflower is roasting, make the gremolata by simply mixing all the ingredients together and seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. When the cauliflower is cooked, lightly mix with the gremolata and serve.

Ottolenghi’s Kohlrabi and White Cabbage Slaw with Lemon Zest, Tarragon, Dill and Sesame Seeds

 

Serves 4

 

1 kohlrabi bulb (300g/10 1/2oz)

200g (7 ozs) white cabbage

30g (1 1/4 oz) parsley, chopped

30g (1 1/4 oz) dill, chopped

30g (1 1/4 oz) tarragon, chopped

70g (2 3/4 oz) dried cranberries

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

120ml (3 3/4ml) lemon juice

2 tablespoons maple syrup

60ml (2 1/2 fl ozs) olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame oil

4 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

salt and black pepper

 

Peel the kohlrabi, slice thinly and cut into matchsticks. Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible.

Place together in a mixing bowl all of the ingredient, mix well, taste and add salt and pepper accordingly.

 

Smoked Gubbeen and Pearl Barley Salad with Toasted Almonds, Apple and Pomegranate Seeds

 

Pearl Barley is inexpensive and fantastically nourishing – lots of protein, vitamins, and minerals – some varieties are also high in Lysine.  In tandem with other grains it’s having a revival of interest in gastronomic circles.  We also use it for pilaffs and to add to Winter stews as casserole like our Granny’s did!

 

Serves 4-8

 

6 1/2oz (165g) pearl barley

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) water

1 teaspoon salt

2 dessert apples, Cox’s orange or Gala, cored and diced

freshly squeezed lemon juice of 1 lemon

seeds from 1/2-1 pomegranate, depending on size

2 1/2oz (65g) halved toasted almonds

coarsely chopped diced smoked Gubbeen cheese

 

Dressing

125ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons Forum Chardonnay vinegar or cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Flat parsley leaves

 

Put the pearl barley and water into a saucepan and add salt. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.

 

Drain very well. Whisk the extra virgin olive oil and vinegar and crushed garlic together, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss while still warm. Spread out to cool.

 

Meanwhile, quarter and dice the apple. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top, and add the pomegranate seeds, well toasted almonds and diced smoked Gubbeen cheese. Add the remainder of the dressing. Toss gently and combine with the pearl barley. Taste and correct the seasoning. Transfer to a serving dish and allow the flavours to meld for an hour or so. Scatter with flat parsley leaves and serve.

 

Hottips

 

Fermented and Cultured Foods hands-on course on Sunday 23rd February at The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim  with Hans and Gaby Wieland. Cultured foods are “superfoods” celebrated around the world for their health benefits  (digestive tonics, probiotic, antioxidant rich). They are delicious and easy to create.  Among the recipes covered on this course are Kombucha (fermented tea), Sauerkraut (lacto fermented cabbage), Kim-chee (Korean fermented vegetables), Kefir (fermented dairy drink), Rejuvelac (fermented grains). Lots of tastings and sources for the various cultures will be given. €65.00 – www.theorganiccentre.ie

 

East Cork Slow Food event – Celebrate St Brigid, Irish Patron Saint of Dairy on Thursday January 30th 2014. Eileen Cowhig will show us how to make St Brigid’s crosses from local rushes at the Ballymaloe Cookery School at 7pm. Tickets €8.00. €6.00 for Slow Food Members. Coffee and a homemade biscuit from 6.30pm. Enquiries 021 4646785.

 

Monty’s of Kathmandu – Dublin

Shiva and Lina Gautam travelled from Kathmandu in 1996 with the lofty ambition of opening a Nepalese restaurant. They had planned to have their dream restaurant in Richmond in London but an Irish friend enticed them to Ireland saying ‘Why not Dublin? There isn’t a single decent curry house in Dublin and your restaurant would fly here.’ A seed was firmly planted so they worked on a plan to see if the idea could become reality.

Their first priority was to find someone who could back them. They took a giant leap of faith and signed a 25 year lease. The next challenge was to find chefs with knowledge of Nepalese food. They managed to entice two chefs from London to Dublin and on 25th September 1997 they opened Montys of Kathmandu. Sadly or perhaps fortuitously neither of the two chefs could settle in Dublin so Shiva and Lina were faced with a dilemma, either to close the doors or don aprons and go into the kitchen themselves, they haven’t looked back since.

Sixteen years later Lina has published Lina’s Nepalese Cookbook with a collection of the best loved Nepalese recipes which Myrtle Allen describes as a ‘must read book before visiting Nepal.’

When Lina was growing up, eating out in a restaurant was a very rare occurrence. Once or twice when she was little she got the opportunity to dine in a beautiful restaurant. She still has vivid memories of one such meal and can picture the whole fish in the centre of the table.  “It looked and smelled so delicious but we were with my father’s boss so I had to wait patiently for my turn. I was so worried that the adults might finish the dish before it came to me, but to my relief there was enough for all of us and I can still taste that delicious fish.”

Lina spent most of her childhood in Kathmandu, but every year her family travelled around Nepal following her father’s various jobs, so she had the chance to experience many different cultures and food traditions.

Nepali cuisine can be described as a fusion of Indian and Chinese cuisine, with spices like cumin, coriander, Szechuan pepper, garlic and ginger, so the end result reflects Nepalese culture and demographic diversity.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to dine at Montys of Kathmandu in Temple Bar, Dublin yet, here are some recipes from Lina’s Nepalese Cookbook to whet your appetite. Order the book from Montys of Kathmandu’s website www.monty.ie

 

Lina Gautam’s Spicy Gizzards (Ghuseuto Tareko)

 

Serves 4–6 as a side, or 6–8 as a snack

 

I was delighted to find this recipe for Gizzards; they may not be to everyone’s taste. They are inexpensive and delicious and a much loved snack or pre-dinner bite in Nepal. Gizzards can be found in most craft butchers and in almost all Asian stores.

 

 

1kg chicken gizzards

2 tsp salt

2 tsp turmeric powder (half for boiling, half for frying)

3–4 tbsp mustard oil (or vegetable oil)

1 tsp ajwain seeds

¼ tsp asafoetida powder

6 garlic cloves crushed

1 tbsp ginger peeled and crushed

½ tsp plain masala

½ tsp chilli powder

½ tsp garam masala

handful fresh coriander

 

 

Bring a pot of water to the boil, season with one teaspoon each of salt and turmeric, add approximately half a teaspoon of mashed garlic, and simmer the giblets for 15 minutes.  Adding garlic to the cooking water significantly reduces the rather strong smell produced by the gizzards.  Drain and cool before cutting the gizzards into bite-size pieces, trimming and discarding any hard parts as you go.

 

Heat the oil in a wok or pan until it starts to smoke, then add the ajwain seeds and fry for five seconds.  Add the giblets, turmeric, asafoetida powder and a teaspoon of salt.  Fry over a high heat for a minute or two, then cover, reduce the heat and continue cooking for five to ten minutes.

 

Meanwhile, mash the garlic and ginger together to form a rough paste. When the giblets have browned nicely, add the garlic-ginger paste together with plain masala and chilli powder and cook for another few minutes until the spices have lost their raw aromas.

 

Stir in the garam masala and check seasoning, adding extra salt as needed to bring out the various flavours. Garnish with coriander leaves, and serve warm or cold with a cool beer or warming whiskey.

 

Lina Gautam’s Nanglo Chicken Chili

 

Lina says that Chicken Chili is a hugely popular dish in Nepal and at Montys of Kathmandu. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, it is not difficult to prepare. This dish demonstrates the Tibetan influence and can be found on the menu of virtually every Chinese restaurant in Nepal.

 

Serves 4

 

For the batter

 

½ tsp of turmeric powder

1 tsp  of chilli powder

1 tsp  of  salt or to your taste

1 egg beaten

2 tbsp of cornflour

vegetable oil for deep-frying

 

 

4 large chicken fillets cut into small finger-long strips

2 tbsp of vegetable oil

1 medium red onion peeled and quartered

2 ripe tomatoes quartered

2 fresh chillies snapped in half

3-4 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced

1 tbsp of peeled and grated ginger

½ green pepper cut into chunks

½ red pepper cut into big chunks

½  tsp of salt or to your taste

½ tsp of plain masala

pinch of asafoetida powder

¼ tsp Szechuan pepper

3 tbsp of tomato ketchup

2 tbsp of light soy sauce (or 1 tbs if dark)

2-3 stems of spring onion chopped into long strips

handful of chopped coriander

 

Prepare all the vegetables for the sauce and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep-fat fryer or non-stick saucepan.  While the oil is heating, mix chicken strips with batter mixture.  Once the oil is hot, fry the chicken strips in 3-4 batches for 3-4 minutes until cooked but not browned.  Remove and set aside.

Next, heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan. Cook the onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, green chilies and green and red peppers for 4-5 minutes, until the onion softens slightly.  Add salt and stir in plain masala, asafoetida and Szechuan pepper.  Add the fried chicken and cook for a minute followed by the ketchup and soy sauce, and stir and cook for a further minute or so.

To serve, stir in spring onion and fresh chopped coriander.  Serve this with rice or a green salad..

 

Lina Gautam’s Lamb and Radish Curry (Masu Ra Mula Ko Raas)

 

Serves 4

 

The most popular meat dish in Nepal, traditionally this would be made with goat meat but lamb makes a good substitute.

 

You can make this into a one-pot dish by adding peeled, halved potatoes at the same time as the meat.

 

 

4 tbsp mustard or vegetable oil

1 tsp turmeric powder

¼ tsp of asafoetida powder (optional) available from Asian shops

750g lamb  (gigot chops or shoulder/leg on the bone cut into golf-ball-sized  pieces)

1 tsp salt or to taste

1 red onion chopped into small pieces

1 green or red chilli

3 fresh tomatoes chopped into small pieces

1 medium mooli radish cut into longer pieces like thick chips

4 garlic cloves peeled and crushed

1 tbs ginger, peeled and grated

1 tbsp plain masala

½ tsp  garam masala

handful of fresh chopped coriander

 

Heat the oil in heavy-based pot, add the lamb, turmeric powder, salt, asafoetida (if using), chilli, onion, tomatoes and plain masala.  Cover and cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the radish and garlic, and stir until fully coated with the sauce.  Next, add 250ml of boiling water, replace the lid and cook on a medium to low heat for approximately 40-50 min or until the meat is cooked and loose around the bone.

 

Once the lamb is cooked, add more hot water to make a thin sauce, then add ginger and garam masala.  Stew the lamb and radish in this lovely rich sauce for a further ten minutes so that all the flavours mix together.  Add coriander and serve hot with basmati rice.

 

Nepalese Rice Pudding (Khir)

 

Rice is, of course, the staple food of Nepal and is present at every festival and family event. Rice pudding is also an important part of religious ceremonies.   Sweet rice pudding is sometimes eaten with the main meal and is particularly good with puffed poori bread and cauliflower and potato dishes on the side.

 

 

Serves 4

 

 

½ cup, 60g of Basmati rice (washed 2-3 times)

1ltr full-fat milk

3-4 strands of saffron (optional)

10 cardamom pods crushed in a pestle and mortar (skins removed)

3 tbsp of brown sugar (or to your taste)

3-4 tbs of cream

dry-roasted cashew nuts and/or almonds

 

Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan (avoid non-stick pans to prevent brown specks).  Once the milk begins to boil, add saffron, cardamom, sugar and the washed and drained rice.  Cook for about 10 minutes on a low heat until the rice is soft, stirring continuously to prevent the grains from sticking to each other.  While stirring continuously may sound tedious, you should find it a calming, Zen-like experience!

 

Add the cream and cook for a further 5 minutes until the rice has a creamy soup-like consistency.  Be careful not to make the rice pudding too thick.  Remove from the heat and transfer to individual serving bowls, sprinkle with some chopped dry-roasted cashew nuts and almonds, and serve warm or cold.

 

Nepalese Home-Made Lemonade (Sarbat)

 

Serve 4

 

4 glasses chilled water

4 tbsp sugar

½ tsp freshly crushed black pepper

3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice with its bits

 

Add all the ingredients to a jug and mix well until all the sugar is dissolved. Serve chilled.

 

Wild and Free Food

Hairy Bittercress –  Cardamine Hirsuta

a member of the mustard family it’s one of the very first edible plants of the year, it grows in little clumps on recently disturbed bare ground, and even on gravel paths and stonewalls. There’s lots around at present and it will continue until Autumn. It will have tiny white flowers later in the year. We love it’s peppery taste in salads, sandwiches and as a garnish. Apparently Queen Elizabeth also loves it and requested Bitter Cress as part of 90th birthday menu, so there you are now! As well as being delicious to eat it also has medicinal properties that stimulate the release of digestive juices to aid in liver detoxification, and help regulate blood sugars.

 

 

Hot Tips

 

FOOD WRITING at UCC – Announcing a new UCC flexi-option graduate course in Food Writing. This innovative food writing course is the first of its kind in Ireland and is taught in collaboration with Ballymaloe Cookery School and Café Paradiso Vegetarian Restaurant. Lecturers include Darina Allen, Denis Cotter, John McKenna, John & Sally McKennas’ Guides and Regina Sexton, Food Writer/Food Historian.  Course lectures take place in UCC and at the Ballymaloe Cookery School from 6th – 8th March Cost: €500. Closing date for applications: January 31st Email Gretta.McCarthy@ucc.ie for an application form.

For further details please contact Regina Sexton – r.sexton@ucc.ie  or visit the website http://creativewritingucc.com/www/about-the-ma-in-creative-writing/content/food-writing/

 

Date for the Diary – Organic Centre Course

Starting a Garden from scratch with Ingrid Foley on Sat 22nd Feb

The ultimate start-up course to your first gardening year. You will learn how to select and assess your site, test your soil and build fertility. Day includes a garden plan, rotation plan, making lazy beds and selecting tools. The Organic Centre Rossinver, Co. Leitrim (071) 985 4338.

Fäviken Restaurant – Sweden

There is a restaurant way up in the tip of Sweden, 600 miles north of Stockholm that I have been longing to go to for quite some time – it’s called Fäviken, I managed to get a booking a couple of weeks before Christmas. It’s quite a mission to get there, you have to fly from Trondheim via Oslo, hire a car and drive two and half hours north through the snow and then Alleluia, there it is, a sign for Fäviken like a mirage in the dark.

We drove along a windy snow covered avenue, lots of fir trees and a collection of traditional Swedish timber houses painted in brick red. We’re greeted by Robert a friendly young man who sounds as though he is from New York, turns out he’s now from a local town who watches a lot of American TV! The rooms are cosy and chic, beautiful linen, lots of timber, spruce I think and Swedish grey paint. The sauna and shower is just across from our bedroom. They’ve laid out a timber ice bucket with champagne, a Petit Chablis and several bottles of their home made beer, and then a little snack of wafer thin house-cured ham and pickled vegetables. After a delicious sauna and lots of cold beer, we go down to the comfy drawing room at 6.30, we’re determined to enjoy every second. There are several clusters of seats and a big log fire, Magnus greets us warmly like long lost friends, I’d forgotten that I’d sent him a copy of Forgotten Skills last year and apparently he loved it, he’s planning to come to the LitFest in 2015. It would be brilliant to have him speak about opening a restaurant 600kms north of Stockholm out in the back of beyond; Ballymaloe is positively urban by comparison…

We had a couple of homemade Negroni, A couple from Sweden joined us and then delicious little bites started to come, the first was paper thin linseed crackers to dip in mussel sauce.  Then a little crackly tartlet made from blood with trout eggs to be eaten all in one bite, next lingonberries and crow berries in a tiny bowl with a hot dashi like broth on top, all these bites came with instructions on how best to enjoy them. Next, on a flat stone a beautifully arranged pickled herring that had been buried underground for two years. A heavily disguised piece of pigs head inside a crispy croquette on a little birch twig, delicious and we still hadn’t got upstairs to the dining room – this is another timber lined room which doubles as a curing room for occasional hams and other cured meats. Fäviken serves only 14 people each night, it’s always full and guests fly in from all over the world.

The meal itself started at quite a lively pace, one delicious morsel after another, there were 27 ‘courses’ in all and exquisite handmade butter and sourdough bread.

Altogether it was a memorable experience; the staff are all local and so sweet and knowledge and delighted to be part of Fäviken.

After dinner, a selection of little sweet treats, homemade liqueurs and fresh herb infusions and Swedish snus for those who felt inclined.

Magnus came out of the kitchen and gave us a tour of the butchery and curing room and the underground Root Shed where they store all their root vegetables and pickles during the long cold Swedish winter.

Magnus only uses local ingredients with a couple of rare exceptions , they don’t even use citrus or spices but use lots of preserved, pickled and fermented foods in the Winter. Magnus has tremendous respect for inherited wisdom and tradition and an insatiable appetite to learn time honoured ways of doing things. He and his small team of chefs, five in total, kill their own deer, moose, elk and wild fowl and catch fat brown trout in the Summer. They butcher them and use every scrap including the delicious nutritious blood.

Early this morning we had a superb breakfast, one of the rare breakfasts that lived up to the dinner the night before. There were several unusual things, a smooth reindeer pâté, potted trout, a kind of special Swedish yoghurt and a Nordic porridge, also cloudberry jam and sour cream, homemade caviar and more of that wonderful butter. Sadly we had to rush it because our flight left Trondheim at noon.

As we drove back to the airport we fantasised about, how Ireland could be the new centre of the gastronomic world, we certainly have the produce and without question, many of our young cooks and chefs have the skills, but do we have the combination of curiosity and respect for our traditional food culture and appreciation of what’s unique in our landscape ? This is the special experience that brings people from all four corners of the globe on a daily basis to places like Noma in Copenhagen and Fäviken in Northern Sweden. Just shows, as the old saying goes you “If you make the best mousetrap, people will go out of their way to find it…” A lesson to us all…

Magnus Nilsson’s book Fäviken is extraordinary, published by Phaidon Press, it costs €45.00 and is worth every penny.

 

Fäviken’s Scallop I skalet ur elden Cooked over Burning Juniper Branches

Taken from Faviken Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson

 

This is a dish I am very proud of. In my opinion, not only is it very close to perfection at every stage, from the raw product to the technique used to cook it to the presentation, but it is also our only truly iconic dish. The recipe has been printed countless times, and even if people know in advance that they are going to eat it when they visit us, it never seems to stop surprising diners with its simplified complexity and deliciousness.

The reason I love this particular recipe is that it exemplifies everything that I think is desirable in a dish. It is a perfect product cooked very simply and presented with an even greater simplicity, which tells the diner a story of passion, and in which you can sense the skill of the chef’s cooking in every bite and sip.

The origins of this dish go back to when I was around 20 years old, at a Biarritz beach barbecue. When I lived in Paris I quite often went to the Basque town of San Sebastián in Spain to eat at one or another of its great restaurants. I usually stayed in a little bed and breakfast run by an old French lady in Biarritz. It was actually a bit impractical, since San Sebastian is quite a distance away. The first time I went I didn’t realize this, but afterwards I just kept going back because I liked the lady and the place, with its beautiful setting high up on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, impractical or not.

One night when I had just arrived, I went for a walk on the beach and soon met some surfers, who invited me to a barbecue with them and to have some drinks on the still sun-warmed sand. As I was sitting there, talking and enjoying myself, I remembered a Swedish friend telling me some time before about placing some oysters, whole in their shells, on a grill, cooking them until just barely warm and then enjoying them straight from the shell. He claimed it was delicious and I had no reason to disbelieve him.

A couple of hours earlier I had met a girl who turned out to work in a local restaurant. I later befriended her and grew very fond of her, meeting up with her every time I went to Biarritz for years afterwards. I like to believe we had a bond because of what I served her later that night. I asked her if she thought we could find some oysters somewhere at this hour (it must have been three o’clock in the morning). I was thinking that she might have a key to the restaurant where she worked and that we would go there and raid the fridge, but instead she just pointed towards one of the cliffs a bit farther down the beach. It was one of those beaches that will be familiar to anyone who has been to Biarritz, that looks as though large pieces of rock have just been thrown out on the beach, some with their bases standing in the water. I must have looked a bit perplexed because she stared at me as if I was foolish and asked if I did not know that oysters live attached to cliffs. She said that she had seen them there, and that when it was low tide you should be able to walk there and pick them. She took me by the hand and we walked away from the bonfire and away from the other people, towards the looming shapes ahead.

We didn’t realize beforehand how firmly the oysters were attached to the cliff, and, lacking other tools to break them loose I used the key to my rental car (making them the most expensive oysters ever) and she used a bottle opener, but we managed to harvest about ten small oysters after quite a lot of hassle, some badly bruised knuckles

and a lot of laughter. When we finally got back to the party, it was more or less dying out and so was the fire, which had been fuelled by driftwood and a piece of old telegraph pole.

A few people were dozing on the sand, but when I walked past them they hardly noticed my footsteps as I dragged with me some branches broken from a big bush that was growing a bit farther up towards the back of the beach. When I placed the branches on the hot coals it began to smoke a little and we set the oysters out, straight onto the embers; after a minute or so they slowly opened and we picked them off the heat and ate them as we watched the sun come up over the Bay of Biscay. They were briny and creamy, utterly fresh and had a faint aroma of sweet smoke. It was a magical moment.

I don’t know if it was because of the girl, the place or the utter deliciousness of the oysters, but this meal has always stayed with me as a very strong and important memory. It was the basis of what I started developing some years later at Fäviken, ending up with what it is today. We don’t use oysters at Fäviken because there aren’t any this far to the north; we use scallops instead. We don’t use beach bushes, but juniper. And we don’t use telegraph poles as firewood because creosote is neither delicious nor very good for your health, so we use birch charcoal instead.

Even though it is a very simple dish, it is extremely demanding to produce. The scallops must be nothing less than perfect, the timing of the cooking has to be very precise and the process needs to be perfectly rehearsed to be executed quickly enough. To be able to reproduce this recipe with good results you need to have at least two people working on it, otherwise the critical moments will take too long and the precision, which makes for perfection, will be lost.

The iodine saltiness of the almost-raw broth, together with the perfect scallop eaten and drunk directly from the half-shell covered in fresh smoky soot, is excellent with some good bread and mature butter.

 

Serves 6

−−fresh juniper branches, for the fire

−−some dry hay with a high herb content, or a piece of moss that covers the plate, to serve

−−6 perfectly fresh, very large and absolutely sand-free live scallops in their shells

−−good bread and butter, to serve

 

Light your birch charcoal with a hot-air blower or an electric coil – never use lamp oil or any other chemical. Spray the hay or moss lightly with water.

Put the juniper branches on top of the charcoal and when they start burning, cook the scallops directly over the fire. They are finished when you hear them making a crackling noise around the edges.

Open each scallop up and pour all the contents into a preheated ceramic bowl. Separate out the scallop meat and put it back in the bottom shell. Strain off the beards and intestines quickly and pour the cloudy broth back into the shell with the scallop in it. Put the top half shell back on, place the whole scallop on the dampened hay or moss with some fresh juniper and hot coal for

a few moments, then serve right away with good bread and mature butter. No more than 90 seconds must pass between taking the scallop off the fire and serving it.

 

Linseed Crisps

 

Taken from Faviken Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson

 

I devised this technique after watching Tove, my wife, making crisp flatbread at home from a mixture of many grains that seemed to be suspended in what can best be described as a solidified nothingness. The texture and purity of flavour were so remarkable that I soon started experimenting with the recipe to work out how to reproduce this extraordinary effect.

The reason I took such an interest in this in the first place was because I felt so bad every time we had someone in the restaurant who could not eat gluten, someone who never got to enjoy the delicious bread we bake. Tove’s recipe contained no gluten and was by far the most delicious gluten-free bread I had ever tried.

After working a while with it I understood that what makes it work is the high proportion of linseed (flax seeds). When steeped in water, these tiny, shiny, almost beetle-like seeds exude a gelatinous substance, which when cooked becomes virtually crystal clear and very, very crispy.

After a while the only grain I was still using in the mixture was linseed – the other seeds were eliminated for not adding enough to the end result. The linseeds were mixed with a little potato starch and some salt, then infused in hot water before being spread on baking trays and cooked in the oven.

After making and serving this a couple of times, I started to notice that at the edge, where there were always a few escaped seeds lying a little distance from the bread, a very thin film formed, giving the impression that the seeds were suspended in the air with several millimetres between them. So I tried rolling the mixture out even thinner, between two sheets of baking paper, to the thickness of one linseed. When this was cooked it looked like a piece of distorted glass in an old-fashioned window with seeds in it, and it was extraordinarily crisp. We soon started serving it not as a substitute for bread but as an appetizer, the crisps (chips) sprayed with a little vinegar and then left to dry before being served with a cup of sea-urchin or raw blue-shell-mussel dip on the side.

All along I had the idea that this could be very interesting in a dessert, especially because nutty flavours are very scarce in our climate, and in the end it became an accompaniment for a sweet dish made from birch-sap syrup (page 175). A dollop of delicious ice cream in a deep bowl is dressed with syrup and then covered in a layer of flakes of linseed crisp so thick you can’t see the ice cream, and eaten with a spoon pushed straight through the crackling layers to the bottom of the bowl.

 

Makes 5 53 x 32.5 cm trays of crisps

 

−−200g linseeds (flax seeds)

−−40g potato starch

−−5g salt

 

Mix the dry ingredients. Pour 700g boiling water over the seeds, whisking thoroughly. Leave to soak for 20 minutes, or until thickened.

Spread out onto a sheet of baking paper, cover with another sheet of paper and roll out to the desired thickness. Remove the top sheet, transfer the dough on the bottom layer of paper onto a baking tray and bake at 150°C (300°F) for about 10 minutes, or until perfectly dried. Leave to cool on paper – as the temperature falls the crisp will shrink a little and release from the paper. Serve within an hour or two; it does not get any better with keeping.

 

Wild Trout Roe in a Warm Crust of Dried Pigs’ Blood

Taken from Faviken Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson

 

This recipe, together with the scallop over burning juniper, is the most iconic that this young restaurant has come up with. Served as an appetizer before the main meal, I love it for its deliciousness, and for the egg-yolk flavour of the trout roe and its popping texture. It started when I was searching for a good vehicle for the different types of roe that are available from the clean, crisp mountain waters around Fäviken. At first it was a little potato pancake, which turned into a blood pancake, which later turned into a crispy disc of fried Swedish black pudding (blood sausage). This process took about two years and the change to something closer to perfection occurred when I found an old croustade iron in a flea market. I bought it and started experimenting with the batter – a hellish task, as it turned out. The idea is that you heat the whole iron in hot fat, then dip it into a very runny batter just long enough for some of it to cook and stick to the surface. When the iron is lifted out, the excess batter drips off the iron, which is once more dipped into hot fat to cook the thin crust formed on it.

 

You can probably imagine how difficult it was to find a recipe that didn’t stick too much to the iron, especially when I started to substitute some of the egg for pigs’ blood. At first it was just that, a thin crust of pastry containing blood, which we filled with trout
roe and a little salt on top. After a while we added a kind of custard containing blood, which was piped
into the crusts to fill them halfway and then baked
at the last minute, topping the now custard-filled
pastry with trout roe. The dish took on its final appearance when I saw some dried blood on a plate in the kitchen; shiny and almost black, it had an extremely fragile texture when you touched it, and running a fingernail through it shattered it into tiny, almost glass-like fragments, which were delicious.
From then on we dipped the crusts in raw blood and baked them before piping the custard into them. This process is what gives the crust its very particular texture and appearance.

 

Serves 6

 

For the croustades

100g unbleached, wholemeal (whole wheat) flour

1 pinch salt

100g double (heavy) cream

50g pig’s blood, plus 100g for dipping

1 egg yolk

10g melted butter

fresh, unsalted trout roe, taken out of the fridge about 2 hours before serving

neutral oil, for deep-frying

salt

 

For the custard

100g pigs’ blood

100g whole eggs

25g butter

 

Mix together the flour, salt, double cream, 50g pigs’ blood, egg yolk and melted butter to make a batter and leave it to rest in the fridge overnight. If you rush this you will get bubbles in your croustades.

Heat the oil with the croustade iron in the casserole. When it is nice and hot, take the iron out and dip it quickly into the batter, then put the whole thing quickly but carefully back into the oil and cook until crisp.

Loosen the little croustades from the iron and place on a paper towel.

When all the croustades are cooked, dip them one by one into the blood and place them upside down on a rack so the excess blood runs off. Turn them right way up again and place on a baking tray. Cook at 150°C (300°F) until the blood is dry and completely coagulated. Repeat until the desired thickness is achieved – it depends on the thickness of the blood, but 3 times is usually enough.

To make the custard, place all the ingredients in a Thermomix and process at 80°C (175°F) until thick and silky smooth. Place in a piping (pastry) bag and keep it at room temperature until later.

When the croustades are ready, halfway-fill them with custard and warm them through in the oven at 150°C (300°F). When warm, spoon a nice mound of
roe into each croustade and place them on preheated stones or plates. Finish with a tiny pinch of salt on top
of each one.

 

Wild and Free Food

 

Wall Pennywort or Navelwort, Umbilicus Rupestris grows in mossy stone walls and is abundant at present. The slightly crimped thick roundish leaves are juicy and succulent and delicious in salads and make an intriguing garnish for starter plates. Presumably named navel worth because of the indentation in the centre of the leaf but they also have several local names like ‘Bread and Butter’ or ‘Walkers Friend’ because the leaves hold moisture in Summer and are known to be thirst quenching.  Just pick them, rinse and add to your green salad.

 

Some of Darina’s top food books of 2013

Now that Christmas is over and New Year’s resolutions are still fresh in our minds why don’t we all decide to spend even a couple of extra hours a week having fun in the kitchen with all the family, cooking from scratch and saving money to boot.

If you are short of inspiration there are a ton of cookbooks out there bursting with new and edgy ideas, comforting food and advice on how to use some of the newer ingredients coming our way.

Here is my list of the some of the top food books of 2013, I’ve already mentioned Master It – How to Cook Today by Rory O’Connell.

 

The Modern Peasant – Jojo Tulloh published by Chatto and Windus Jojo writes for The Week and lives in inner city London, yearning for a peasant like self-sufficiency. She is not alone. Beneath railway arches, on inner city rooftops, and on borrowed land, a new breed of food producers are baking bread, making cheese, keeping bees and growing vegetables. Inspired by their success, Jojo watched and learned.

Ethicurean Cookbook published by Ebury Press– An inspirational cookbook from the brilliant young team behind the Ethicurian Restaurant and walled garden in Bristol. Fresh, seasonal ethical food – delicious unexpected cameos.

From Lynda’s Table – Lynda Booth. A beautifully produced self-published book from a past student of Ballymaloe Cookery School, Lynda Booth, now owner of the prestigious Dublin Cookery School.

Snackistan – Street Food, Comfort Food, Meze, published by Anova Books Group – Sally Butcher – another gem.

The Paris Gourmet by Trish Deseine, published by Flammarion. This is the dream book for those who would love a couple of days in Paris but don’t have time to do the research.

No Time to Cook – Donna Hay, published by Harper Collins. The perfect book for the working mum, trying as Donna is, to keep all the balls in the air – cheat’s notes, short cuts and hints on food styling, from one of the world’s chicest cookbook writers.

Cooked – Michael Pollan, published by Penguin UK. Comes as a surprise to learn that America’s most influential didn’t really cook at all. In his inimitable way, he apprenticed himself to a succession of culinary masters to learn how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer. A fascinating insight into a culinary journey that led him to believe that many of life’s ills could be solved if we just started to cook again.

The Pitt Cue Co. Cookbook, published by Mitchel Beasley is your guide to enjoying the best hot, smoky, sticky, spicy grub all year round. Tom Adams , Jamie BergerSimon AndersonRichard H. Turner.

Simon Hopkinson Cooks, published by Ebury Press is a much anticipated new cookbook from many peoples favourite and most trusted cookbook author.

A Platter of Figs by David Tanis, published by Clarkson Potter – definitely one of my personal favourites of the year. David was head chef at Chez Panisse for many years and now divides his time between New York and Paris. This book is based on the menus he cooks for small groups of friends of which I am fortunate to be one and I remember every delicious morsel. This book is full of recipes for simple, delicious food that you’ll love to cook.

Food DIY Tim Hayward published by Penguin Fig Tree – How to make your own everything, sausages to smoked salmon, sourdough to sloe gin.

 

Cheffy Cookbooks

 

You may not have a brigade of chefs to help with your mis-en-place, but these books give a glimpse of beautiful contemporary food and current trends.

 

Chapter One – An Irish Food Story – Ross Lewis published by Gill and Macmillan. Another long overdue book, a beautiful production from one of Ireland’s most highly respected and best loved chefs. Shortlisted for the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year Award 2013.

Rediscover Brazilian Ingredients – Alex Atala published by Phaidon This chef is definitely one to watch, I first saw him at the MAD Food Symposium in Copenhagen. A former punk DJ who was classically trained as a chef in Europe, Atala refuses to import ingredients such as caviar, truffles and fois gras, staples in many high-end restaurant kitchens, into Brazil and instead scours the Amazon for indigenous produce to fuse with classical techniques in his cooking. He then works with the Amazon’s native communities and small-scale producers to extend the availability of these native products around Brazil.

A Work in Progress: Journal, Recipes and Snapshots, by Rene Redzepi published by Phaidon. René Redzepi of NOMA in Copenhagen committed to writing a journal for an entire year to reflect on this question and the result is reflective, insightful and compelling. Rene will be one of the guest chefs at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 16th – 18th May 2014 (book early)

Proper Pub Food – Tom Kerridge, published by Absolute Press is a no nonsense collection of comforting old fashioned favourites from the down-to-earth new super chef on the block. Put his restaurant The Hand and Flowers on your London list.

If several of these appeal to you, rummage around in your dresser and gather up those gift tokens and head for the local book shops – some may have to be ordered…

 

Lynda Booth’s Butternut Squash Risotto 

Taken from Lynda Cook’s Cookery Book

 

Serves 6 as a starter

 

1 butternut squash olive oil, for drizzling

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

30g butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 leek, white part only plus 2.5cm of the green, finely chopped

1.3 litres chicken stock or vegetable stock

400g risotto rice (Carnaroli or Arborio)

120ml dry white wine pinch of saffron threads

 

50–60g Parmesan cheese, grated, or to taste

30g butter

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan, 400°F, Gas 6. Remove the skin from the butternut squash. Slice in half and scoop out the seeds and fibres with a teaspoon. Cut the flesh into large cubes and place in   an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat and season with sea salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven until tender, about 30 minutes, turning over once or twice during the cooking. Purée in a food processor until smooth, adding a little stock or water if required.

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion, season with salt and cook with a lid on over a low heat until completely softened. Add the chopped leek to the pot and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Meanwhile, heat the stock in a separate saucepan and keep this just below simmering point on the cooker.

Add the rice to the onion and leek and stir for a couple of minutes so that the grains of rice become coated with the butter. The risotto will take about 20 minutes to cook from this point onwards. Add the white wine and simmer, stirring, until the wine has evaporated. Add a ladleful of broth and simmer again until the stock has been absorbed, stirring regularly. Add in the saffron threads. Continue adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, for the duration of the cooking, allowing each batch of stock to be absorbed by the rice before adding another. Stir regularly. Taste the rice towards the end of the cooking. At the end, the rice should be tender but still retain a slight bite.

Stir in the puréed butternut squash. Mix well and add more stock if the risotto isn’t loose enough. Finally, add the Parmesan and butter. Mix well and season to taste. If the risotto needs more flavour, add extra Parmesan. The final flavouring of the risotto can only be done to taste. Add a little more stock or boiling water,   if necessary, to achieve a soft and slightly runny consistency. Serve immediately.

 

Jojo Tulloh’s Roast Chicken with Chorizo

Taken from the Modern Peasant – Adventures in City Food Cookbook

 

The chicken in this recipe is stuffed with chorizo and as the chicken roasts the meaty orange drips form the perfect basting liquid.

 

Serves 4

 

1 free-range chicken (approx.. 2 – 2.5kg)

2 tablespoons dry sherry

Sea salt and black pepper

Small bunch of herbs (rosemary, thyme, bay and parsley)

1 cooking chorizo (75g – 100g) sliced

500g waxy potatoes cut into chunks

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Rub the chicken with the sherry inside and out and season with salt and pepper. Place the bundle of herbs inside the chicken along with the chorizo.

Place the chicken on a roasting tray surrounded by the diced potatoes. Roast for 2 hours, basting frequently with the red juices from the chorizo. When you remove the chicken to baste it, turn the potatoes so that they crisp up well. Serve with wilted greens.

 

Tim Hayward’s Coffee Ice Cream

Taken from the Food DIY Cookbook

 

75g roasted coffee beans

500g whole milk

6 egg yolks

75g caster sugar

300g double cream

 

Crush up some of your coffee beans in a pestle and mortar or with the end of a rolling pin. Put them in a pan with the milk, raise the temperature to just short of boiling, then cool, cover and refrigerate overnight. This will extract all the smooth, aromatic elements of the coffee without any of the bitterness.

Strain the milk through a sieve lined with a clean piece of J-cloth or muslin. Make a double boiler with a mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water and in it, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thickened. Now pout in the infused milk and keep whisking until you have a custard thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pass the custard through a sieve, mix well with the cream, then chill well. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn until set.

This a quite a grown-up ice cream, low on sugar and high in coffee flavours. It works well in small servings.

 

Fennel Seed and Ginger Hot Chocolate

Taken from the Ethicurian Cookbook

 

 

Serves 2 comfortably

 

400ml milk

100g dark chocolate with 70 – 73 per cent cocoa solids, grated, plus a little extra

1 teaspoon ground ginger

20g dark muscavado sugar

a pinch of salt

2 teaspoons fennel

100ml double cream

 

Gently heat half the milk in a pan and add the grated chocolate, ginger muscavado sugar, salt and most of the fennel sugar (save a pinch for sprinkling). Stir until the chocolate has melted into the milk, then whisk in the remaining milk and cream. Do not allow the mixture to boil but bring it to a comfortable drinking temperature. If you have a hand blender, substitute this for a whisk; either way, for a frothy head a good amount of whisking is needed. Serve sprinkled with the remaining fennel sugar and a few shards of chocolate.

Hot Tips

Slow Food East Cork Event – Dr Margaret Linehan will give a talk on her study ‘A Study of Irish Food Culture before the Arrival of the Potato.’  Tuesday  14th January at 7pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Slow Food Members €6.00/€8.00. Proceeds raised to support fundraising for the East Cork Education Project. www.slowfoodireland.ie

Gift Vouchers are available now for the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 16th – 18th May 2014 at Ballymaloe House  www.ballymaloe.ie or call 021 4652531.

Delicious Ways with Christmas Leftovers

Phew it’s all over again for another year – hope it was jolly and lots of fun. Now for the best bit, using up the leftovers. If you haven’t eaten every last morsel from the turkey carcass, here are two delicious ways to use up the remainder.

We made the Tostadas recently with chicken and I was amazed how the grandchildren as well as the adults loved them. The kids loved the interactive bit of piling the filling on top of the tortillas.

Ramen Shops are sweeping across the US and UK. People can’t get enough of this comforting Japanese broth choc full of Chinese noodles with various additions. The best ones are of course made with homemade broth, noodles. This is a quick comforting version on the Ramen theme. Use up scraps of turkey, ham and even Brussels sprouts. Ribollita is similar, another comforting bowl of chunky soup.

If you still have any leftover Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce you may be surprised to hear it makes the most divine boozy ice-cream and it’s definitely hard to beat plum pudding that’s gently fried in butter.

A frittata is also a fantastic vehicle for little bits and pieces, add some grated

cheese and lots of freshly chopped herbs.

Macaroni cheese can be perked up with a little dice of smoked mackerel or salmon or a few little morsels of cooked ham or bacon. Left over bread can be made into all manner of bread and butter puddings – there’s no end to the delicious revival you can serve up with aplomb. Happy New Year

Turkey Tostadas

Tostadas are a favourite snack in Mexico, the filling varies according to the area, it can be beef, chicken, pork, turkey, crab or just vegetables.  The filling is always piled high so Tostadas are always quite a challenge to eat elegantly but what the heck they taste delicious! For a family meal pile the crisp torillas onto a plate and have bowls of shredded turkey meat, tomatoes, guacamole…so people can help themselves and make their own tostadas.

 

Serves 8

 

8 tortillas, they ought to be corn tortillas but wheat flour tortillas can be substituted.

 

225g (8ozs) refried beans, optional

1/2 iceberg lettuce, shredded

110-175g (4-6ozs) cooked turkey or chicken, shredded

4 sliced chilli, optional

4 – 6 very ripe tomatoes, sliced (cherry tomatoes would be best in which case you’ll need more)

1 or 2 avocados or guacamole

4 tablespoons spring onion, sliced

8 tablespoons sour cream

50-110g (2-4ozs) grated Cheddar cheese

 

Deep fry the tortillas in hot oil until crisp and golden, drain on kitchen paper.  Put each tortilla on a hot plate, spread with a little warm refried beans and then top with some crunchy lettuce, shredded chicken breast, guacamole and so on.

 

Finish off with a blob of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and chives.

Serve immediately.   In Mexico Tostadas are considered to be finger food – you’ll need both hands!

 

Refried Beans

 

Refried beans accompany numerous snacks including tacos and Mexican Scrambled Eggs.  The texture can be soupy or a thickish puree.

 

50-75g (2-3oz) best quality pork lard or butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

225g (8oz) Mexican beans

 

Heat the lard or butter in a heavy frying pan, cook the onion until soft and brown,  increase the heat and add about a third of the beans and their broth to the pan and cook over a high heat mashing them as you stir with a wooden spoon, or you could even use a potato masher.  Gradually add the rest of the beans little by little until you have a soft or thick puree.  Taste and season with salt if necessary.   Although this sounds as though it might be a lengthy business it only takes about 5-6 minutes.  Refried Beans keep well and may be reheated many times.

 

Guacamole

 

The avocado must be really ripe for guacamole

 

1 ripe avocado (Hass if available)

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander or flat parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Scoop out the flesh from the avocado.  Mash with a fork or in a pestle and mortar, add lime juice, olive oil, chopped coriander, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.  Otherwise, cover the surface of the guacamole with a sheet of plastic to exclude the air.  Cover and keep cool until needed.

 

A little finely diced chilli or tomato may be added to the guacamole.

 

Festive Frittata

 

Serves 6-8

 

 

A frittata is an Italian omelette.  Unlike its soft and creamy French cousin, a frittata is cooked slowly over a very low heat during which time you can be whipping up a delicious salad to accompany it!  It is cooked on both sides and cut into wedges like a piece of cake.  This basic recipe, flavoured with grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of herbs.  Like the omelette, though, you may add almost anything that takes your fancy.  One could substitute grated mature cheddar but Gruyére and Parmesan give you more ‘bang for your buck’.

 

10 large eggs, preferably free range organic

1 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

75g (3ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated

25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

25g (1oz) butter

4 tablespoons basil or annual marjoram chopped

 

To Serve

Rocket leaves

Tomato and Coriander Salsa

 

Non-stick pan – 22.5cm (10inch) frying pan

 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl; add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, grated cheese into the eggs.  Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs.  Turn down the heat, as low as it will go.  Leave the eggs to cook gently for 12 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.

 

Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set but not brown the surface.  Alternatively after an initial 3 or 4 minutes on the stove one can transfer the pan to a preheated oven 170ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3 until just set 15-20 minutes.

 

Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate.

Serve cut in wedges, arrange some rocket leaves on top of the frittata and top with a blob of tomato and coriander salsa or alternatively you can serve with a good green salad and perhaps a tomato salad.

 

Additions

Diced cooked potato, ham, chorizo, sweated leek, spring onion, blanched broccoli, roast pumpkin or squash, sautéed mushroom…

 

 

 

 

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 but particularly Christmas. Here’s a basic starting point.
1.8 litres (64fl oz)        homemade chicken stock
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon mirin
1-inch chunk ginger root, gently smashed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
12 oz ramen noodles or other Chinese noodles
11/2 cups sautéed greens (spinach, Swiss chard, kale or Brussels sprouts)
11/2 cups mashed cooked squash or pumpkin
1lb  roasted turkey, chicken thighs, with or without skin, sliced
3  soft cooked eggs
3 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Heat chicken stock with soy sauce, mirin and ginger. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Discard ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sesame oil.
Cook the noodles in boiling water until just tender (usually 4 to 5 minutes but check the directions on the package). Drain well.
Heat greens, squash and chicken.
When everything is hot, assemble soup. Place about a cupful of noodles in each bowl. Ladle the broth over noodles. Arrange greens, squash and slices of chicken — in separate areas on top of the noodles. Shell the eggs, halve and lay ½  an egg in each bowl and sprinkle with lots of  green spring onions. Eat while very hot — broth first and then other ingredients or any way you want.
Sautéed greens  Sauté 275g (10oz) baby spinach or 450g (1 lb) trimmed and chopped kale or Swiss chard in 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil until wilted and tender — a minute or two for spinach and 8 to 10 minutes for kale or Swiss chard. Season with salt and pepper.
Puréed squash – Cut a butternut or buttercup squash in half, remove seeds and pulp, brush cut surfaces with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast, cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, in a preheated 400F oven for 45 minutes to one hour or until tender when pierced with a knife. Scoop out squash and mash with 1 tbsp roasted sesame oil and salt to taste.
Roasted chicken thighs – Toss 8 boneless chicken thighs (with or without skin) in 112ml (4fl oz) teriyaki sauce or 112ml (4fl oz) hoisin mixed with 2 tbsp soy sauce. Arrange skin side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in a preheated 200°C/400°F/Mark 6 oven for 30 minutes.
Soft-cooked eggs – Add 4 eggs gently to a medium sized saucepan of boiling, salted (1 tbsp) water. When water returns to the boil, cover pot and turn off heat. Let rest seven minutes. Drain eggs and cool in cold water. Crack shells and soak eggs in cold water for 5 minutes longer. Remove shells and cut eggs in half lengthwise with a piece of unflavoured dental floss.

 

Boozy Ice Cream with Raisins

 

A gorgeous rich ice cream with a scoopable texture, serve it in small helpings. Here I give the recipe from scratch but if you have any Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce left over you can use that instead.

 

Serves 20 approximately

 

4 oz (110g) butter

8 oz (225g) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown sugar)

1 egg, free-range

 

62ml (2½fl oz) port

62ml (2½fl oz) medium sherry

 

2 ¼-2 ½ pints (1.3-1.4L) lightly whipped cream

 

4oz (110g) muscatel raisins

62ml (2½fl oz) sherry

62ml (2½fl oz) rum

2oz (50g) fresh walnuts, chopped

 

2 13x20cm (5x8inch) loaf tins or plastic box

 

Melt the butter, stir in the sugar and allow it to cool slightly.  Whisk the egg and add to the butter and sugar with the sherry and port.  Cool.  Add the softly whipped cream.  Put into a plastic box, cover and freeze.

Alternatively line two loaf tins with cling film, cover and freeze.

Meanwhile put the raisins into a bowl, cover with a mixture of rum and sherry and allow it to plump up.  Chop the walnuts coarsely and add to the raisins just before serving.

To Serve 

Cut the ice cream in slices or serve in little glasses scattered with a few boozy raisins and some chopped walnuts.  Sliced or diced banana is also delicious with this combination.

 

Hot Tips

 

The Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co Leitrim 2014 Course Program and Seed Catalogue is full of brilliant ways to fulfil your New Year’s Resolutions to grow your own vegetables. You could start by signing up for Starting a Garden from Scratch on Saturday 22nd February 2014 and there are lots more brilliant forgotten Skills courses like Cheese Making, Beer Making, Beekeeping… www.theorganiccentre.ie  – to order a 2014 Catalogue or phone 071 9854338.

 

Master It – How to Cook Today – Rory O’Connell

For me it was a wonderful surprise that my latest book 30 Years at Ballymaloe won the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year award at the Bord Gais Irish Book Awards – and it really was a surprise, I was in very good company Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen and Catherine Fulvio’s The Weekend Chef were also shortlisted as were Neven Maguire’s The Nation’s Favourite Food, Kevin Dundon’s Modern Irish Food  and Ross Lewis for his beautifully produced Chapter One – An Irish Food Story.

But for me the best cookbook of the year was unquestionably Master It – How to Cook Today by Rory O’Connell. Yes, he’s my brother and you may well be thinking ‘well she would say that wouldn’t she’ but that’s what I truly believe.

It’s a fine tome and by the way, long overdue. Rory has spent his life in food ever since he came to Ballymaloe for a Summer job after his first year at University. Myrtle in her perceptive way noticed that he had a particular interest so she invited him into the kitchen to ‘try his hand’ for a couple of weeks. After no more than ten days she decided he was a natural…

Rory cooked in the kitchens at Ballymaloe House and Arbutus Lodge for many years. He spent several years with the legendary Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico in London, a stint in Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons with Raymond Blanc, a month with Alice Waters in Chez Pannise in Berkeley California and in the inspirational kitchens of the American Academy in Rome. He was head chef at Ballymaloe House for many years.

Rory and I co-founded the Ballymaloe Cookery School in 1983 and we now run the Cookery School together with my son Toby and our ace team.

Master It is a culmination of all those years of cooking and teaching both of which Rory really really loves. “This is not a ‘chuck it in and see how it goes’ book.  I find that approach irksome and unfair, as unless the cook is utterly instinctive and much practised, this approach is fraught with pit falls. Food is too precious and expensive for that sort of game of chance. So many times, I have witnessed the wide eyed amazement and delight of a cook who, when finally cajoled into reading, weighing, heating and timing a set of ingredients, has produced a dish that has previously eluded them. My approach to cooking is simple and not new. Use the best ingredients you can find, get organised and follow the recipe.”

Master It was one of just a handful of cookbooks chosen by BBC4 Radio Food Programme as one of the outstanding books of 2013, quite an honour and they are definitely not a ‘pushover’.

To the students here at Ballymaloe Cookery School he is a hero, his creativity and presentation are inspirational and they love it.

Follow any of the recipes in Master It you will be guaranteed success and a bucketful of compliments.

 

Hot Tips

We are very excited about New Seasons Capezzana Extra Virgin Olive Oil that has just arrived in the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop – 021 4646785

Rory O’Connell’s Carrot, Coconut and Lemongrass Soup

 

I tasted a soup with these ingredients in Laos a few years ago, and when I came home I set about recreating that delicious flavour. Carrot soup is a funny thing – you imagine it would be easy, but in fact it can be difficult to achieve a really flavoursome result. However, with

this lovely combination of flavours I think it works really well. It is worth noting that lemongrass grows successfully in this country in a glasshouse or conservatory, or even just on a south-facing windowsill. If possible buy carrots with the earth still on them, as generally they have much more flavour than pre-washed ones.

 

The ingredients

I like to make this soup with big carrots that have been sold with some earth still on them, and preferably after the first frosts, when they seem to become deeper in flavour, so this becomes a late autumn and winter soup.

 

Lemongrass is easy to source now and is a lovely ingredient with its sweet, scented and astringent flavour. Bright green when fresh, it dulls to a pale straw colour when dried, which is the way it is sold generally in the West. Here it needs to be sliced as finely as you can, so that it will cook down and disappear into the puréed soup. Be careful when running your hands over the grass, as its leaves can be razor sharp. If you have not cooked with it before, give it a go, as it will open up a world of different recipes to you.

 

Coconut milk, like lemongrass, is an essential ingredient in the cooking of south-east Asia and indeed all of southern India. Like lemongrass, using it is an entry ticket to a repertoire of dishes bigger than you can imagine. The first time you open a can, you may be surprised

by the rather grey-white colour of the contents. That’s fine, that’s the way it looks. Apart from the colour, the general appearance can also vary. Sometimes there will be a thick and solid layer on top, which is the richer cream, with a thinner, watery milk-like liquid underneath. If the can has been shaken, the two different consistencies can appear rather curdled, and again that’s all quite all right.  Just stir the two liquids together to mix. Some brands of coconut milk have been emulsified to prevent the two liquids from separating and to give the coconut a creamy appearance. I avoid these brands, because apart from the fact that in some recipes the

thick and the thin are added separately, I really just want the coconut and water that is used as part of the process and don’t want the stabilisers and emulsifiers. The quality of tinned coconut milk varies quite a bit, so search out a good brand such as Chaokoh.

 

Serves 6–8

40g butter

700g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

225g onions, peeled and thinly sliced

1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped

2 stalks of lemongrass

Maldon sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

and sugar, to taste

850ml chicken stock

500ml coconut milk

Fresh coriander leaves, to garnish

 

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and allow it to foam. Add the carrots, onions and garlic and stir to coat in the butter. Remove the coarse outer leaves and the tough ends from the lemongrass. Slice the trimmed stalk finely against the grain and add to the vegetables. Tie the tough outer leaves together with string and add to the pan. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cover with a greaseproof paper lid and the saucepan lid and cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are beginning to soften.

 

Add the chicken stock, return to a simmer and cook, covered, until the vegetables are completely tender. Remove and discard the tied up lemongrass stalks. Purée the ingredients to achieve a smooth and silky consistency. Heat the coconut milk to a simmer, add to the carrot purée and mix well. Return the soup to a simmer. The consistency will be slightly thick. Taste and correct the seasoning, bearing in mind that carrots sometimes benefit from a small pinch of sugar to really lift the flavour. Serve hot, garnished with coriander leaves.

 

Rory O’Connell’s Fish Fillets Bakes ‘au gratin’

 

Keys to Success

Measure all the ingredients accurately, so as to ensure the correct amount of sauce and flavourings for the amount of fish being cooked.

The cooked gratin should be a rich golden colour and bubbling hot when ready to be served.

 

Gratin of Hake with Tomatoes, Basil, Olives and Parmesan

 

The firm texture of hake is perfect for this dish, although cod, Pollock and salmon are also good here. Really ripe tomatoes are essential to add sweetness and depth of flavour to the sauce.

The final addition to the dish of the strong-tasting chopped olive and basil pulls the flavours together. The cooked gratin should arrive at the table bubbling hot, with a rich golden colour.

The ingredients

Hake is a firm-textured white-fleshed fish with great flavour. Freshness, as ever, is the key to a delicious result.

Fat, black and briny Kalamata olives are the preferred choice for this dish.

 

Serves 4:

2 teaspoons olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons

600g ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced 5mm thick

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced

4x150g pieces of hake fillet, skin removed

10 basil leaves

100ml regular or double cream

50g Parmesan

16 fat black olives, such as Kalamata, stoned removed and finely chopped

8 small basil leaves, for serving

 

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

 

Rub an ovenproof gratin dish with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Place the sliced tomatoes in the dish and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the sliced garlic. Lay the pieces of fish on next. Tear the basil leaves and scatter over the fish. Whisk the cream and Parmesan together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the cream directly over the fish.

The dish can now be cooked immediately or covered and refrigerated for up to 2 hours. To cook, place in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through and the cream and tomatoes have become a bubbling light sauce with a golden hue.

Mix the chopped olives with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and drizzle over the dish.

Scatter the small basil leaves over and serve.

 

Rory O’Connell’s Roast Loin of Pork with Fennel Seeds

 

Watch out for pork from old breeds such as Gloucester Old Spot, Saddleback, Red Duroc and Black Berkshire for juicy and flavoursome meat.

Fennel seeds have a sweet and aniseed-like flavour and are lovely with pork.

Dried chillies, with their deep and slightly smoky heat, enliven this dish.

Bitter Bramley-type cooking apples and dark red plums are best for the accompanying sauce.

Star anise is a beautiful, sweet and aromatic spice but needs to be used with restraint. Too much can result in an over-the-top, pot-pourri type flavour.

 

Serves 6-8

2.25kg loin or belly of pork, on the bone, with the rind on

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2-4 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 dried chillies or 2 teaspoons chilli flakes

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

500ml chicken stock

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

 

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F / gas 5

Score the pork rind at 1cm intervals, running with the grain of the meat. If you are worried about this, ask your butcher to do it for you. Grind the fennel seeds to a coarse powder with the pestle and mortar. Add the garlic and chilli and a pinch of sea salt and continue to grind to a paste. Season the pork with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Place it on a wire rack in a roasting tin and roast the loin for 1 hour or if using belly for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread on the spice paste. Replace in the oven and roast for a further 40 minutes. By now the juices should be running clear, and if you do the ‘skewer test’ on the pork, the skewer will be hot. Baste the pork several times during the cooking.

Remove the pork from the oven and place it in another roasting tin. Increase the oven temperature to 230°C / 450°F/ gas 8 and return the pork for a further 10 minutes to give the rind a final crisping. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 100°C/200°F/ gas ¼. Put the pork on a plate and return it to the oven to keep warm and rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

To make the gravy, degrease the first roasting tin thoroughly, saving the fat if you wish. Deglaze the tin with the chicken stock, scraping the tin to dislodge any caramelised meat juices. Strain the liquid though a sieve into a small saucepan. Taste and correct the seasoning, and if necessary continue to cook the gravy to reduce and to concentrate the flavour. Add the parsley just before serving.

Carve the pork into neat slices and serve on hot plates, with the bubbling gravy and the apple sauce on the side.

 

Rory O’Connell’s Chocolate Biscuits

 

These biscuits are particularly festive-looking at Christmas when you can shower them with all manner of shiny edible decorations – hundreds and thousands, coloured sugars and so on. They cut beautifully into different shapes, so this may be the moment to use your fanciest biscuit cutters. During the summer months these biscuits are delicious sandwiched

together with lightly sweetened berries such as raspberries, loganberries or tayberries, and vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

 

The ingredients

Cocoa powder, another important ingredient in the sweet kitchen, should be dark and completely unsweetened.

 

The pure vanilla extract used here should not be confused with vanilla essence. The extract is pure, dark, perfumed and low in sugar, indeed sometimes with no sugar at all. Generally, the pure extracts contain at least 35% alcohol. The essences tend to be low in vanilla and alcohol and high in sugar, a pale imitation of the real thing. It is quite easy to make your own extract by macerating slashed vanilla beans in water and brandy, bearing in mind the 35% of alcohol as a general rule.

 

Makes 36

 

140g salted butter, at room temperature, but not hot and oily

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

125g caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

225g plain flour

35g cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

 

Place the butter, oil and caster sugar in a bowl. By hand with a wooden spoon, or with the aid of a machine, cream together until light and fluffy in consistency and pale in colour. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until well blended and smooth. Sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder on to the mixture and blend in until it comes together and no longer looks streaky. Do not overmix. Chill the mixture for at least 30 minutes.

 

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

 

Roll out half the mixture at a time to about 5mm thick, using a little flour to prevent it from sticking. Alternatively, roll it between sheets of baking parchment. Cut out the biscuits with your cutter of choice (you should get about 36 if you use a 5cm cutter), then, using a palette

knife, place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Leave a little space between the biscuits, as they swell slightly when cooking. Bake in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes. The biscuits will rise slightly and feel gently set to the touch. They crisp up as they cool. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and allow them to cool, still on the baking parchment.

 

Serve dusted with a little icing sugar or caster sugar, or ice with one of the icings suggested below. If you are using the icing and wish to sprinkle the biscuits with edible decorations, make sure to do that as soon as the biscuits are iced so that the decorations will stick on to the still slightly moist icing.

 

Best eaten on the day they’re made, but they will keep for 2–3 days in

an airtight box or biscuit tin.

 

Rory O’Connell’s Chocolate, prune and Armagnac Puddings with Chocolate Sauce

 

These puddings are delicious and without doubt made for chocolate lovers. Although not molten in the centre, they are soft and yielding. The combination of ingredients is a classic one but has timeless appeal. The cooked puddings will sit happily in a warm oven for at

least an hour before serving, and indeed could be made ahead of time, allowed to cool and reheated in a bain-marie in a warm oven. The prunes in the recipe can be replaced with cherries, a delicious variation, in which case I would soak them in kirsch. Cognac can

replace the slightly dryer Armagnac with the prunes.

 

The pudding can be cooked in a large dish, or in individual ramekins or even teacups.

 

The ingredients

Best-quality chocolate, 62% cocoa solids, is best for this pudding.

I use Valrhona.

 

Prunes vary in quality, so look out for juicy-looking ones with their stones still in. I get the ones known as Agen prunes, grown in the Aquitaine region in the south-west of France. The same variety is grown successfully in California as well.

 

Armagnac, a brandy from the Armagnac region, which is close to Aquitaine, is dryer than the brandy from Cognac and seems to have an affinity with the flavour of the prunes, though either will do. Cream of tartar, or tartaric acid, adds stability to the beaten egg whites, resulting in a more luscious texture in the cooked pudding.

 

Serves 10

 

the prunes

225g prunes, weighed after removing the stones

4 tablespoons Armagnac or brandy

 

the pudding

150g best-quality chocolate, 62% cocoa solids

150g unsalted butter

150ml warm water

110g caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs

110g plain white flour

Pinch of cream of tartar

 

to serve

A dusting of icing sugar

Softly whipped cream

 

Put the prunes into a bowl with the brandy and leave to soak overnight.

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and get ready either a 2 litre ovenproof pie or gratin dish, or ten 200ml ramekins or teacups of a similar volume. If you plan to serve the individual puddings unmoulded from their containers, you will need to paint them with

melted butter before adding the mixture. You will also need a roasting tin about 4cm deep, large enough to accommodate the ramekins or dish.

 

Cut the chocolate into small pieces and put it into a Pyrex bowl with the butter. Place over a saucepan of cold water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Place on a low heat – don’t let the water do more than simmer. While the chocolate is melting, tear or chop the Armagnac-soaked prunes into smaller pieces, about 1cm, and either divide them between the ramekins or spread them over the base of the large dish. If there is some Armagnac that has not soaked into the prunes, save it for adding to the cream later.

 

When the chocolate is nearly melted, remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir with a flexible rubber spatula to blend the chocolate with the butter. Add the water, sugar and vanilla and mix with a whisk until smooth. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a spotlessly clean bowl for whisking later. Whisk the yolks into the chocolate mixture, followed by the sieved flour.

 

Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until holding soft but definite peaks. Do not allow them to over-whip and take on a grainy appearance. Stir a quarter of the egg white into the chocolate mixture and fold in the remainder with a heavy flexible spatula, making sure no lumps of egg white remain unblended.

 

Divide the mixture between the ramekins, or put it all into the one dish, and immediately place in the roasting tin. Pour boiling water into the tin, to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins or dish. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 160°C/325°F/gas 3 for a further 10 minutes if using individual dishes or a further 20 minutes for a large dish. The puddings will appear cooked on top but will feel a little soft and molten in the centre. Remove the roasting tin carefully from the oven and allow the puddings

to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

 

The individual puddings can be turned out on to warmed plates for serving. The large dish can be brought to the table as it is. Regardless, I dust the puddings with a little sieved icing sugar just before serving.

 

Pass softly whipped cream separately. I sometimes serve chocolate sauce with these as well.

 

Rory O’Connell’s Salad of Oranges, Dates and Mint

 

This is a lovely refreshing salad which I like to serve when the new season oranges from Italy and dates from Morocco arrive in the shops in December. I scramble around in the garden trying to find a few surviving mint leaves to freshen it up. If the mint has all been scorched by the frost, I just use a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

This dish can be served on its own with perhaps a little yoghurt.

 

The ingredients

In the shops here, oranges start to get good in early December, as the Italian ones arrive on the market. These oranges are usually around for a couple of months and are sweet and full of juice, light years away from the hard little scuds we have to put up with for most of the rest of the year. Colour in oranges is not an indication of quality, and avoid rock-hard light ones in favour of firm and heavyfeeling fruit.

 

Medjool dates, fat, meaty and shiny, arrive in the shops in December, usually the same time as the good oranges, a fortuitous bit of timing. Watch out for another wonderful variety of date called Barhi, which Alice Waters introduced me to at the Berkeley farmers’ market in California.

 

Orange flower or orange blossom water is a perfumed distillation from the fresh blossoms of Seville oranges and can be found in good food shops and chemists.

 

Serves 4–6

 

5 oranges

1 tablespoon caster sugar or 1 dessertspoon honey

12 dates

2 tablespoons orange flower water

1 tablespoon mint leaves

2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (optional)

 

Remove the zest from one of the oranges with a fine grater or a Microplane. Juice the zested orange and put into a bowl with the zest. With a sharp knife, remove the skin and pith from the remaining oranges. Slice or segment the oranges and add to the juice and zest with the caster sugar or honey.

 

Halve the dates lengthways, remove the stones and add to the oranges. Sprinkle on the orange flower water. Chop the mint leaves and gently mix all the ingredients together, being careful not to break up the orange pieces. If using the pomegranate seeds, add now. Cover and chill before serving.

 

Rory O’Connell’s Brown bread Ice Cream

 

I think this is a brilliant recipe – it’s really simple and tastes great. I use it year round. In autumn and winter I serve it with poached pears or citrus fruit, and in spring and summer I serve it with all of the different fruits as they arrive in season. It works really well with the first rhubarb, then with gooseberries and so on, and it’s heavenly when paired with roast peaches or nectarines in high summer.

 

The ingredients

Wholemeal bread, lightly processed into coarse crumbs about the

size of peas, is ideal here.

 

Serves 6–8

175g coarse wholemeal breadcrumbs (brown soda

breadcrumbs are ideal)

600ml regular, double or whipping cream

125g soft light brown sugar (or icing sugar)

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon dark rum, or whiskey or brandy

2 egg whites

 

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 5. Spread the breadcrumbs out on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 20 minutes. They should become crisp and slightly browned.

 

Meanwhile, beat the cream with the sugar until softly whipped. Mix the egg yolks with the rum, if using, and add to the cream mixture, beating it in well.

 

When the breadcrumbs are cool, fold them into the cream mixture gently and thoroughly, so that they are evenly distributed. Lastly, whip the whites of the eggs stiffly and fold into the mixture. Freeze in the usual way, in a covered container. There is no need to stir up this ice cream.

Ten Days ’til Christmas

The excitement gathers, only ten days to Christmas. Hopefully you got the opportunity to make a Christmas cake and a pudding and some mincemeat over the past few weeks. The base of Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce and Brandy Butter can also be made now. Hide them for fear the family dig in!

You’ll probably have opted for a turkey or a goose – so here are my favourite recipes – a potato stuffing is fantastic in a goose but the buttery herb stuffing I’ve chosen for the turkey is also perfect for a goose or duck or indeed either a pheasant or guinea fowl.

The most dramatic improvement for a turkey particularly if you can’t get your hands on a free-range bronze turkey is to brine it. The way this simple procedure enhances the flavour is dramatic.

It couldn’t be simpler just soak the bird in a brine mixture of salt and water (preferably for 48 hours); the electrically charged ions of the salt plump up the muscle fibres, allowing them to absorb water. This changes the structure of the proteins, preventing the water from escaping during cooking. In addition to keeping the meat moist, the salt intensifies the flavour.

This brine can also be used for chicken and pork with spectacular results, spread the left over brine on your garden paths, it’ll kill the weeds.

For the first time this year Sharon fruit or persimmon are coming into the shops ripe – they are just so gorgeous in the Winter Salad of Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pecans

This would be a totally delicious starter salad before Christmas dinner – it only takes a couple of minutes to make – light and lipsmackingly good.

If you would like to ring the changes with goose try serving it with a kumquat compote or a combination of kumquat and apple. Both can be made ahead and reheated.

Have a wonderful Christmas and many blessings for 2014.

 

Winter Salad of Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pecans

 

At last we can source ripe persimmons, they are wonderfully versatile and also great with goats cheese or mozzarella and rocket leaves.

Serves 8

 

Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar, Sherry vinegar or wine vinegar I use Forum Chardonnay Vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

 

3 ripe persimmons

3 ripe d’Anjou or other pears

1 lime, freshly squeezed

seeds from ½ pomegranate

 

a selection of frizzy lettuce, watercress and rocket leaves

1 lime freshly squeezed

 

3- 4ozs (75g – 110gs) fresh toasted pecans

 

First make the vinaigrette.

 

Mix the Balsamic or sherry vinegar, mustard, shallots, salt and pepper.  Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.

 

Slice the persimmons and pears into slices about 1/4 inch (5mm) thick.  Put into a medium bowl and sprinkle with freshly squeezed lime juice.  Add the pomegranate seeds.  Toss gently.

 

Wash and dry the greens, store in a clean towel in the fridge until ready to use.

 

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

 

Put the nuts onto a baking sheet in a moderate oven for 5 -6 minutes, tossing gently from time to time.  Alternatively toast under a grill.

 

To Serve

 

Toss the greens in some of the vinaigrette and arrange on eight plates.  Toss the fruit mixture lightly in the remaining vinaigrette.  Arrange on top of the greens and sprinkle with the toasted pecans.

Serve immediately.

 

Brining a Turkey

 

A brilliant way to guarantee moist tender flavourful meat.

 

To make basic brine, mix together 8 quarts (12.8 pints) water and 2 cups (16fl ozs) salt in a stainless steel 5 gallon bucket or a large container with a cover. A little sugar may be added to the brine, even a few spices. Add the raw turkey, cover and chill overnight.

 

N.B. If you want to brine the bird for just 24 hours, reduce the amount of salt to 8fl ozs

 

Old Fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce

 

Serves 10-12

 

This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. You may think the stuffing seems dull because it doesn’t include exotic-sounding ingredients like chestnuts and spiced sausage meat, but in fact it is moist and full of the flavour of fresh herbs and the turkey juices.  Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.

 

(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic, turkey with neck and giblets

 

Fresh Herb Stuffing

 

170g (6ozs) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16ozs) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non GM) (or approximately 1lb 4ozs of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Stock

neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

Bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns

 

For basting the turkey

225g (8ozs) butter

large square of muslin (optional)

 

cranberry sauce

bread sauce

 

Garnish

large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress

 

Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate).  Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.

 

To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to get quite cold.  If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing.  Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end.

 

Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt the butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 2 3/4-3 1/4 hours.  There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin.  The turkey browns beautifully, but if you like it even browner, remove the muslin 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.  Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with tin foil.  However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word.

 

The turkey is cooked when the juices run clear.

 

To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices: they should be clear.  Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.   .

 

The turkey is done when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.

 

To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De glaze the pan juices with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.

 

If possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.

 

Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce. See www.cookingisfun.ie – Darina’s Weekly Letters for the recipes.

 

Traditional Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing, Rose Geranium and Bramley Apple

 

Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing is almost my favourite Christmas meal. However, just a word of warning: a goose looks enormous because it has a large

carcass. Many people have been caught out by imagining that it will serve more people than it does. Ensure that you allow 450g (1lb) in cooked weight per person.

 

Serves 8-10

 

goose, about 4.5kg (10lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper

roux for the gravy (optional)

 

Giblet Stock

goose giblets

1 onion, sliced

1 carrot, chopped

bouquet garni

a sprig of thyme

4 parsley stalks

3 celery stalks, sliced

6 black peppercorns

 

Potato Stuffing

 

25g (1oz) butter

450g (1lb) onions, chopped

450g (1lb) cooking apples e.g.

Bramley Seedling, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon lemon balm

25ml (1 fl oz) fresh orange juice

900g (2lb) potatoes, in their jackets

1⁄4 teaspoon orange rind, finely grated

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

To Serve

Rose Geranium and Bramley Apple Sauce

 

To prepare the goose, gut the bird and singe off the pin feathers and down if necessary. Remove the wishbone from the neck end.

Combine the wishbone with the other stock ingredients in a saucepan, cover with cold water and the lid of the saucepan and simmer for 1 1/2–2 hours. Season the cavity of

the goose with salt and freshly ground pepper; also rub a little salt into the skin.

To make the potato stuffing, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes.

Then add the apples, herbs and orange juice. Cook, covered, until the apples are soft and fluffy.

 

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in their jackets until cooked, peel, mash and add to the fruit and onion mixture. Add the orange rind and seasoning.

Leave it to get quite cold before stuffing the goose.

 

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

 

Stuff the goose loosely, then roast it for about 2 hours or until the juices run clear. Prick the thigh at the thickest part to check the juices. If they are still pink, the goose needs to cook a little bit longer. When cooked, remove the bird to a serving dish and put it in a very low oven while you make the gravy.

 

To make the gravy, spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting tin (save the fat for sautéing or roasting potatoes – it keeps for months in a fridge). Add about 600ml (1 pint) of the strained giblet stock to the roasting tin and bring to the boil.

 

Use a small whisk to scrape the roasting tin well to dissolve the meaty deposits which are full of flavour. Taste for seasoning and thicken with a little roux if you like a thickened gravy. If the gravy is weak, boil it for a few minutes to concentrate the flavour; if it’s too strong, add a little water or stock.

Strain and serve in a hot gravy boat.

 

Carve the goose. Serve it, the rose geranium and Bramley Apple Sauce and the gravy separately.

 

Roast Goose with Quince

 

I sometimes serve a warm compote of stewed quince with a simple roast stuffed goose instead of Bramley apple sauce and I find it to be a surprisingly good combination for a change.

 

 

Kumquat Compôte

 

A gem of a recipe, this compôte can be served as a dessert or as an accompaniment to roast duck, goose or glazed ham.  Also delicious with goat’s cheese or yoghurt, it keeps for weeks in the fridge.

 

Serves 6-20 depending on how it is served

 

235g (8 1/2 oz) kumquats

200ml (7fl oz) water

110g (4oz) sugar

 

Slice the kumquats into four or five round depending on size, remove the seeds.  Put the kumquats into a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender.

 

Serve warm or cold.

 

Hottips

 

The award winning Tinahely Farm Shop is open every day until Christmas Eve when they close for Christmas at 2pm. They stock 32 different Irish and European farmhouse cheeses and make up some fantastic cheese hampers for gifts.  The shop sells freshly baked gluten free cakes and fresh white and brown soda bread every day. Rebecca Hadden makes soup from whatever fresh vegetables she can find in the garden daily and she also makes beautiful Christmas wreaths. Tinahely Farm Shop, Coolruss, Tinahely, Co Wicklow, Ireland
– on the Shillelagh road. 087 8168457 – philip@tinahelyfarmshop.comhttp://tinahelyfarmshop.com/

 

Mahon Point Farmers Market will be open as usual on Thursday 5th  Thursday12th  and Thursday 19th December, plus two additional Saturday markets on 14th and 21st  December from 10 – 3pm – on Saturday 14th there will a wonderful festive atmosphere with four local choirs performing – www.mahonpointfarmersmarket.com

 

Midleton Market will be operating every Saturday until Christmas and will run for an extra day on Monday 23rd from 9am to 2pm – www.midletonfarmersmarket.com

 

Fans of Iago (of which I am most definitely one) should know they are moving from the English Markey to Princess Street in Cork into a great new premises, the new shop is brimming not just with beautiful cheeses but a whole range of gastro temptations.

Homemade Christmas

The countdown to Christmas continues. This week, let’s get the puddings sorted and a little encouragement for those of you who have never ventured to make your own plum pudding or homemade mincemeat, honestly it’s a doddle. Mincemeat is just a question of combining ingredients and putting the end result into glass jars.

For the plum pudding, it’s the same but when you’ve mixed all that yummy dried fruit with the suet, spice and breadcrumbs, everyone has to make a wish before you divide it between the pudding bowls for the initial steaming. Here’s where that pressure cooker I wrote about a few weeks ago can really come in handy – it will reduce the cooking time substantially.

Your butcher will give you lovely fresh suet which will make a delicious succulent pudding and if you would like a gluten-free version use gluten-free bread to make the breadcrumbs (note, commercial suet often contains flour.) Here again is my favourite plum pudding recipe passed down through my grandmother’s family for many generations. Make a large, a medium and several teeny weenies for friends who would love just a taste of a moist and succulent pudding. A pot of brandy or rum butter completes the gift.

Mincemeat also benefits from being made well ahead; here’s a delicious recipe we use at Ballymaloe which is also gluten free. This also can be added to your edible presents.

On the subject of edible presents, few things are more welcome around Christmas than some delicious homemade gifts.  Pickles, relishes, chutneys also benefit from a couple of weeks mellowing. Confiture d’Oignons is a particularly delicious accompaniment to have in the pantry to cheer up cold meats or to add to starter plates of coarse pates or terrines.

We also love to have a proper old fashioned trifle at Christmas. This is also my mum’s recipe which was so loved that she had to hide it every year in ever more obscure places otherwise the boys would polish it off when they came home from midnight mass. It can easily be made a few days ahead of Christmas provided it’s well soaked in sweet sherry. The sponge cakes could even be made now and frozen but don’t add cream and final embellishments until Christmas Day or whenever you decide to serve it.

Christmas is all about tradition, in our house it was always served in the special cut-glass trifle bowl which only appeared once a year however it also works brilliantly in tiny glass pots (we use recycled Glenilen yoghurt pots) for individual helpings or little presents.

Let’s have a homemade Christmas this year and enjoy the compliments.

 

Mummy’s Plum Pudding

 

It has always been the tradition in our house to eat the first plum pudding on the evening it is made.   The grandchildren can hardly contain themselves with excitement – somehow that plum pudding seems the most delicious, it’s our first taste of Christmas.   The plum pudding can be made from about mid-November onwards. Everyone in the family helps to stir so we can all make a wish.

It’s fun to put silver plum pudding charms in the pudding destined to be eaten on Christmas Day.  Wrap them individually in silicone paper so they are bulky and clearly visible.

 

This recipe makes 2 large or 3 medium puddings.  The large size will serve 10-12 people, the medium 6-8 but I also like to make teeny weeny ones.

 

12 ozs (350g) raisins

12 ozs (350g) sultanas

12 ozs (350g) currants

12 ozs (350g) brown sugar

12 ozs (350g) white breadcrumbs (non GM)

12 ozs (350g) finely-chopped beef suet

4 ozs (110g) diced candied peel (preferably home-made)

2 Bramley cooking apples, coarsely grated

4 ozs (110g) chopped almonds

rind of 1 lemon

3 pounded cloves (1/2 teaspoon)

a pinch of salt

6 eggs

2 1/2 fl ozs (62ml) Jamaica rum

 

Mix all the ingredients together very thoroughly and leave overnight; don’t forget, everyone in the family must stir and make a wish!  Next day stir again for good measure.  Fill into pudding bowls; cover with a double thickness of greaseproof paper which has been pleated in the centre, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine, making a twine handle also for ease of lifting.

Steam in a covered saucepan of boiling water for 6 hours.  The water should come half way up the side of the bowl.  Check every hour or so and top up with boiling water if necessary.  After 5 hours, 3 hours, 2 hours depending on the size, remove the pudding.   Allow to get cold and re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper.  Store in a cool dry place until required.

On Christmas Day or whenever you wish to serve the plum pudding, steam for a further 2 hours.  Turn the plum pudding out of the bowl onto a very hot serving plate, pour over some whiskey or brandy and ignite.  Serve immediately on very hot plates with

You might like to decorate the plum pudding with a sprig of holly; but take care not to set the holly on fire – as well as the pudding!

 

Brandy Butter

 

3ozs (75g) butter

3ozs (75g) icing sugar

2-6 tablespoons brandy

 

Cream the butter until very light, add the icing sugar and beat again.  Then beat in the brandy, drop by drop.  If you have a food processor, use it: you will get a wonderfully light and fluffy Brandy Butter.

 

Note: Rum may be substituted for brandy in the above recipe

 

Mummy’s Traditional Irish Sherry Trifle

 

There’s a few things, like gravy and trifle, that are very personal – your yardstick is whatever your mammy or granny used to make. In earlier years, Mummy would have made this trifle with the trifle sponges that could be bought in Mrs Freeman’s shop in our village around Christmas; they looked like sponge rusks. Over the years, as these sponges became more difficult to source, we started making the sponge ourselves. We actually used to have a layer of tinned peaches in this trifle, but now I’m too snooty to put them in; the truth is I prefer the trifle without them. Even when my brothers were in their late 40s and 50s, they seemed to revert back to childhood and squabble over the trifle, finishing it off in the middle of the night when they came home from the pub on Christmas Eve. Mummy would have to go to great lengths to hide it on the top of a cupboard or even in her wardrobe, but somehow they always managed to find it! So, why is it better than any other trifle you’re likely to taste? Surprise, surprise – it’s the quality of the ingredients. Use homemade sponge cake, homemade raspberry jam and homemade custard made with good organic eggs, lashings of Bristol cream sherry (don’t waste your time with cooking sherry), and you cannot go wrong. Choose a bowl (glass for preference) that’s not too deep, otherwise the layers will become disproportionate – either too luscious or too dry. For a posher version, line the glass bowl with slices of Swiss roll.

 

Serves 8–10

 

450g (1lb) homemade sponge cake

225g (8oz) homemade Raspberry Jam

 

For the Custard

5 organic eggs

11⁄4 tablespoons caster sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

700ml (11⁄4 pints) full-cream milk

 

150–175ml (5–6fl oz) best-quality sweet or medium sherry – don’t spare the sherry

 

Decoration

600ml (1 pint) whipped cream

8 cherries or crystallised violets

 

8 diamonds of candied angelica

a few toasted flaked almonds

 

1.7 litre (3 pint) trifle bowl, preferably glass

 

Sandwich the rounds of sponge cake together with raspberry jam. If you are using trifle sponges, sandwich them in pairs (you’ll need 5–6 pairs).

Next make the egg custard. Whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla extract. Heat the milk to the ‘shivery’ stage and pour it over the egg mixture, whisking all the time. Return the mixture in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat and stir with a straight-ended wooden spoon until the custard lightly coats the back of the spoon. Don’t allow it to boil or it will curdle.

Cut the sponge into 2cm (3⁄4in) slices and use these to line the bottom of a 1.7 litre (3 pint) glass bowl, drizzling generously with the sherry as you go along. Spoon over a layer of the warm egg custard then add another layer of sponge and drizzle with the remainder of the sherry. Spread the rest of the custard over the top. Cover and leave for 5–6 hours, or preferably overnight in a cold larder or fridge for the flavours to mature.

To serve, spread softly whipped cream over the top, piping rosettes if you wish, and decorate with cherries or crystallised violets and large diamonds of angelica. Scatter with a few toasted flaked almonds.

 

Ballymaloe Mincemeat

 

Makes 3.2 kilos approx.

Makes 8-9 pots.

 

2 cooking apples, eg. Bramley Seedling

2 organic lemons

450g (1lb) beef suet

pinch of salt

110g (4oz) mixed peel (preferably homemade)

2 tablespoons Seville orange marmalade

225g (8oz) currants

450g (1lb) sultanas

900g (2lbs) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown)

62ml (2 1/2fl oz) Irish whiskey

 

Core and bake the whole apples in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, for 30 minutes approx. Allow to cool.  When they are soft, remove the skin and mash the flesh into pulp.  Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of a stainless steel grater and squeeze out the juice and stir into the pulp.  Add the other ingredients one by one, and as they are added, mix everything thoroughly.  Put into sterilized jars, cover and leave to mature for 2 weeks before using.  This mincemeat will keep for a year in a cool, airy place.

 

Hottips

 

Ballymaloe guests have been enjoying Nora Ahern’s farm fresh geese, ducks and turkeys for several decades – if you hurry you can too – 021 4632354.

 

The inaugural Bord Bia Christmas Food Market will take place at CHQ Building, IFSC, Docklands, Dublin 1 from Thursday 12th December to Saturday 14th December, 10am to 8pm – and 10am to 6pm on Sunday 14th December. You’ll be spoilt for choice with produce from 40 Irish food producers under one roof!

 

Ballymaloe Cookery School Gift Vouchers last a lifetime – 021 4646785.

Letters

Past Letters