Darina Allen is awarded ‘Hall of Fame’ at Food and Wine Magazines Annual Awards.

On Sunday evening, Darina was delighted to accept an award at the annual awards ceremony for ‘Food and Wine’ magazine in the Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge, Dublin.  Joining her Mother in Law Myrtle Allen who won the award several years ago, as well as many other important figures in Irish food, Darina gave a short speach reiterating the importance that all those in the room played in ensuring the next generation learn the vital life skill that is cooking. We all have a responsibility to teach our children how to cook.

Congratulations to Darina from All at Ballymaloe.

The Irish Government never voted against GM food and crops

The controversy over GMOs was re-ignited recently in Ireland when the world’s largest chemicals and biotechnology company BASF submitted an application to the EPA for permission to conduct open-air experimental field trials of genetically modified (GMO) potatoes near the Hill of Tara in Co. Meath. BASF says the potatoes may provide greater resistance to late potato blight. 

The memory of the Great Famine of the 1840’s still resonates in the nation’s consciousness and potato blight is an emotive issue, so it is no surprise that the biotech industry chose a potentially blight-resistant potato as a strategic spearhead to introduce GMO crops into Ireland. Most GMO crops are intended to be immune to weedkillers or to produce their own pesticides. But many do not perform as expected, end up requiring more chemicals and produce “superweeds”. Farmers in the USA and Canada have filed class action lawsuits against GM companies in relation to GM crop failures. 

Despite the growing popularity of rice and pasta, the potato still holds a very special place in the Irish diet – we love our floury spuds and eat 121 kg of potatoes per person per year, nearly 1,000 potatoes for every man, woman and child. Unless the EPA denies permission, the BASF experiment will commence this April on a farm at Arodstown, Summerhill, Co Meath for the next five years. 

But the GMO potatoes would have to carry a GM label, and there is no market for GM foods in Europe. The 30 largest food brands and 30 largest retailers have a GM-free policy. Moreover, the majority of EU governments, 175 Regional governments, and over 4,500 local authorities and smaller areas prohibit the cultivation of GM crops amid mounting evidence of their health and environmental risks.

The most extraordinary thing about GMO crops is that they are patented. Under the WTO’s trade-related intellectual property rights agreement, farmers whose crops have been contaminated – often by wind-borne pollen or seed dispersal from a neighbour’s farm - no longer own their crops. Monsanto is currently pursuing 9,000 farmers for patent infringement in the USA and Canada. Most settle out of court, but the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, whom I met last year at Slow Food’s wonderful Terra Madre conference in Turin, fought his case all the way to the Supreme Court. Monsanto demanded patent royalties for every acre of his contaminated crops, plus a million dollars in court costs. The Court admitted that Schmeiser had no intention of stealing the patented genes, but ruled that his crops now belong to Monsanto!

In this context, why has the Irish Government never voted against GM food and crops in a dozen votes in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers? Why do the Irish Farmers Association, Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association and Macra na Feirme, appear to have no policy on GM?

The Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers’ Association is one of 80 farm and food organisations that are vehemently opposed to the proposed trials on the basis they would irrevocably destroy this country’s economically valuable clean green marketing image as Ireland – The Food Island. Thousands of contamination incidents around the world make it clear that GMO crops cannot possibly “co-exist” with conventional and organic farming. We have come to a fork in the road, and the time has come to choose what kind of farming future is best for Ireland.

More blight-resistant potatoes are a desirable trait. But natural blight-resistant varieties are already available to Irish farmers, and non-GMO breeding techniques provide the only safe way to increase resistance. There is growing scientific evidence of deaths and disease attributable to GMO foods in laboratory animals and the human population. With so many independent scientists invoking the precautionary principle, and the insurance industry’s refusal to provide cover for GMO crops, the EPA should not allow this experiment to go ahead.

According to Michael Antoniou Clinical Geneticist and senior lecturer in pathology at Guys Teaching Hospital in London - ‘Once released into the environment, unlike a BSE epidemic or chemical spill, genetic mistakes cannot be contained, recalled or cleaned up, but will be passed on to all future generations’.

Once the genie is out of the bottle there is no putting it back in again. 

There is also a growing concern that so many university and research institutes are funded by biotech companies. More independent research is urgently needed.

If genetically modified crops are allowed to be grown and cross-contamination becomes a reality, neither conventional nor organic farmers will be able to label their produce GM free - Ireland the Food Island will have lost its most precious and priceless marketing tool – somehow Ireland the GM Food Island doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

Most Irish meat, poultry and dairy produce already comes from animals whose diet includes GM ingredients, but is not labelled as such because of a loophole in EU law. Whatever one’s opinion on GMOs, the reality is that if we get an allergy or an inflammation or an impaired immune system, our doctors have no way of knowing if such genetically modified food was the cause because food containing GMO’s was released onto our shelves completely unlabelled. We are all guinea pigs in this corporate experiment. This is the single most important food and health threat in our lifetime – and that of our children and grandchildren.

Foolproof Food

Potato Soup with Parsley Pesto

Most people would have potatoes and onions in the house even if the cupboards were otherwise bare, so this 'simply delicious' soup could be made at a moment's notice. While the vegetables are sweating, pop a few white buttermilk scones into the oven!
Serves 6

2 ozs (55g) butter
4 ozs (110g) diced onions
15 ozs (425g) peeled diced potatoes eg. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
1 generous teasp. salt
Lots of freshly ground pepper
36flozs (1L) home made chicken stock
4 fl ozs (130ml) cream or creamy milk, approx.
Parsley Pesto (see recipe)

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are just soft. Puree the soup in a blender. Taste and adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk to the required consistency. 
Put a swirl of parsley Pesto on top of each soup before serving.

Other good things to serve with Potato soup.

1. Cut 4ozs streaky bacon into lardons (little strips) . Cook until crisp on a hot pan in a little oil. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle over the soup with some chopped parsley, just before serving. 

2. Stir a mixture of freshly chopped herbs eg. Parsley, Chives, Thyme, Mint into about 2ozs of softly whipped cream. Put a blob on top of each bowl of soup .

3. Just fresh mint flavoured cream is also delicious, particularly if you add some freshly chopped mint to the soup just before liquidizing .

4. Dice of roast red pepper mixed with cream and coarsely chopped basil or coriander.

Potato, Chorizo & Flat Parsley Soup

3 ozs (85g) Chorizo sausage
flat parsley sprigs

Make the soup as in the master recipe. Slice the Chorizo thinly – you will need 18 slices. Cook on a medium heat on a frying pan.
Just before serving, lay three slices of Chorizo on top of each bowl of soup. Drizzle with Chorizo oil and garnish with sprigs of flat parsley.

Parsley Pesto

25g (1oz) flat parsley leaves (no stalks)
1‑2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
40g (1½ozs) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
25g (1oz) pine kernels
75ml (3 fl ozs) extra virgin olive oil

Put all the ingredients except the oil into the food processor. Whizz for a second or two, add the oil and a little salt. Taste and correct seasoning.

Potato, Carrot and Cauliflower Curry

Sophie Grigson, made this exceptionally delicious vegetable curry when she was guest chef at the school some years ago.
Serves 4

7 ozs (200g) small new potatoes, or waxy salad potatoes
7 ozs (200g) cauliflower florets
7 ozs (200g) carrots, sliced at an angle
4 green cardamon pods
2 dried red chillis, deseeded and broken into pieces
1 tablesp. coriander seeds
2 teasp. cumin seed
4 tablesp. desiccated coconut
1 scant teasp. grated fresh ginger
8 fl ozs (250ml) Greek style yoghurt
12 ozs (45g) butter
2 tablesp. sunflower oil
1 small onion, grated
1 oz (30g) toasted flaked almonds
1 tablesp. fresh chopped coriander leaves

Boil the potatoes in their jackets until just tender. Skin and halve. Steam or boil the cauliflower until barely cooked. Drain well. Steam or boil the carrots until barely cooked.

Split the cardamon pods and extract the seeds. Mix with coriander and cumin seeds. Dry fry in a heavy pan over a high heat until they smell of incense. Tip into a bowl. Dry fry the chilli (which makes it easier to grind) and then add the coconut and fry until pale golden, mix with the spices. Cool, grind to a powder and mix with ginger and yoghurt.

Melt the butter with oil and fry the potatoes, cauliflower and carrots briskly until patched with brown. Set aside. Add the onion to the fat and fry until golden brown, then stir in the yoghurt mixture a tablespoon at a time. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes, then stir in 2 tablespoons water, followed by the potatoes and cauliflower. Stir until piping hot, and then serve sprinkled with toasted almonds and fresh coriander leaves.

Fadge or Potato Bread

In Ulster people are passionate about fadge or potato bread. It can be cooked on a griddle, in a frying pan or in the oven.
Serves 8

2 lbs (900g) unpeeled 'old' potatoes eg. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg, preferably free range
1-2 ozs (30-55g) butter
Creamy milk
1 tablespoon chopped Parsley, Chives and Lemon thyme, mixed, (optional)
Seasoned flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bacon fat, butter or olive oil for frying

Cook the potatoes in their jackets, pull off the skin and mash right away. Add the beaten eggs, butter, flour and herbs (if using). Season with lots of salt and freshly ground pepper, adding a few drops of creamy milk if the mixture is altogether too stiff. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shape into a 2.5 cm/1 inch thick round and then cut into eighths. Dip in seasoned flour. Bake on a griddle over an open fire or fry in bacon fat or melted butter on a gentle heat. Cook the fadge until crusty and golden on one side, then flip over and cook on the other side (4-5 minutes approx each side). Serve with an Ulster fry or just on its own on hot plates with a blob of butter melting on top.

Celeriac and Potato Puree

Great with game, turkey, chicken, duck or guinea fowl.
Serves 4-6

a large celeriac, 700g (1½lb) approx.
225g (8oz) potatoes
110-175g (4-6oz) butter
parsley, chervil, 
salt and freshly ground pepper
lemon juice to taste

Quarter, peel and cut the celeriac into 2.5cm (1inch) cubes. Cook in boiling salted water for 15 minutes approx. or until tender, drain well,

Meanwhile, scrub and boil the potatoes. Peel and put into a food processor together with the celeriac. Add the butter, chopped herbs and cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and add a few drops of lemon juice if necessary.

Potato, Parsnip and Parsley Colcannon

Songs have been sung and poems have been written about Colcannon. It’s one of Ireland’s most famous traditional potato dishes. It’s comfort food at its very best and terrific for a party. In Dublin, parsnip colcannon was very popular, the proportion of parsnips to potato varied. Here is my version which is a big hit in Cork at any rate! Why not try a dish for St Patrick’s Day.
Serves 8 approx.

2 lbs (900g) parsnips
1 lb (450g) 'old' potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
8-10 fl oz (250-300ml) approx. creamy milk
2 tablesp. chopped scallion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 ozs (55g) approx. butter
2 tablesp. chopped parsley

Scrub the potatoes, put them into a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, (15 minutes approx. for 'old' potatoes), strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put onto a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked.

Peel the parsnips, and cut into chunks, cook in boiled salted water until soft. Drain and mash, keep warm.

When the potatoes are just cooked, put on the milk and bring to the boil with the scallions. Pull the peel off the potatoes, mash quickly while they are still warm and beat in enough boiling milk to make a fluffy puree. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes in the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade.) Then add in the mashed parsnip with the chopped parsley and the butter and taste for seasoning. Cover with tin foil while reheating so it doesn't get crusty on top.

Colcannon may be prepared ahead and later reheated in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 20-25 minutes approx.

Serve in a hot dish or with a lump of butter melting in the centre.

Baked Potatoes

8 x 8 ozs (225g) old potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
Sea salt and butter

Scrub the skins of the potatoes very well. Prick each potato 3 or 4 times and bake in a preheated hot oven 2001C/4001F/regulo 6 for 1 hour approx. depending on the size. When cooked, serve immediately while skins are still crisp and make sure to eat the skins with lots of butter and sea salt, Simply Delicious!

Suggested Stuffing for Baked Potatoes
Garlic mayonnaise with tuna fish
Fromage Blanc with smoked salmon and chives
Garlic butter with crispy rasher.
Crème Fraiche with Harrissa, or Tapenade or Smoked Mackerel and Dill

Hot Tips

Fair Trade Fortnight 

Is running until 19th March – the aim is to increase consumer awareness of the FAIRTRADE MARK and to encourage people up and down the country to purchase Fairtrade products. With an ever growing range of Fairtrade Mark products available , its easier than ever to include Fairtrade in your everyday shopping and thus help to protect the livelihoods of farmers and workers in developing countries. Have a look at the website  for ideas on fair-trade events and what you can do.  

New Farmers Markets in Co Cork

Ballincollig Farmers Market opened on 8th March
And will run every Wednesday from 10am to late afternoon in Time Square by the Reel Cinema.
Bandon Farmers Market will open on 1st April 
It will be held in the Car Park of Mace Supermarket in Bandon on the first Saturday in every month from 10-2. Potential stall holders should contact Veronica Neville on 087-2324327, 

Food for Life by Kevin Thornton of Thornton’s Restaurant is available from Thornton’s, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,Tel 01-4787008 and Mitchell & Son, Kildare St., Berry Bros and Rudd, Harry St. and Green’s Bookshop on Clare St., all in Dublin.
Priced at €100 the book is for charity and a cause very close to his heart. 

Happy First Birthday Midleton Farmer’s Market

Today is the first birthday of the Midleton Farmers Market – a whole year has whizzed by since we set up our stalls for the first time behind the court house. After initial discussions about the location with the local community it was set up with the full support of the Chamber of Commerce and the Urban Council. From an initial twelve stalls the market has blossomed and gone from strength to strength. The Country Market joined in from the very beginning.

Farmers Markets are set up for the express intention of providing an outlet for farmers and small food producers to sell local seasonal produce to the consumers who are desperately seeking this kind of food. These markets are different from some of the established markets, they do not sell clothes, cd’s, tools, bric-a-brac… they simply sell local food to local people , the producers themselves or an appropriate representative must man the stall. They enable farmers and food producers to sell their goods locally which benefits both them and the local community. They keep the money circulating within the local area and attract people to adjacent retail businesses. Farmers Markets benefit the environment by encouraging sustainable agriculture and small scale less intensive production. They reduce the effects of the long distance transport of food and the need for excess packaging.

The variety of produce is amazing and of course most abundant during the growing season. As you enter the market area, Mrs. Burns who has been a trader for many years sells a variety of local vegetables, bundles of fresh carrots and turnips…… in season. Wendy English and her mother are next with their table piled high with freshly baked scones, cakes, biscuits, jam and chutney. Next comes Frank O’Neill with a variety of goodies, carrot cakes, delicious little pies, some beautifully grown vegetables from his own garden and little pots of jellies and jams.

The Ballymaloe Cookery School Gardens stall is next, with organic vegetables, lots of free range eggs, brown bread, jams and chutneys. Little bunches of sweet pea, Nora Aherne’s duck, Frank Krycwzk’s salamis, chorizo, fresh herbs, salad dressings, elderflower cordial and occasionally organic free range pork from our own saddleback pigs. Frank Hederman from Belvelly near Cobh has a tempting array of smoked fish, chicken,duck, and mussels. Sarah Mossman swings into action by his side making crepes which literally sell like hot cakes. Fiona Burke who does three markets a week, Macroom and Bantry, as well as Midleton, sells a gorgeous selection of Irish farmhouse cheese, as well as carefully chosen Continental cheese, eg. aged Gouda, Comte, Double Gloucester and some seaweed products, and Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen Bacon. Clodagh McKenna from Ballymaloe House has a little stall sandwiched between Fiona Burke and the Yorks. She sells delicious home made fresh pasta, parsley pesto, tomato fondue, toffee apples, brown soda bread and seasonal soups and dressings.

Tim and Fiona York have recently joined the market and sell a tantalizing array of organic vegetables and plants and plan to expand their range. Local cheesemaker Jane Murphy sells a fresh and a mature version of her exquisite Ardsallagh goat cheese – a delicate gorgeous cheese that tastes of the rich pastures that the goats are fed on. The irrepressible plantsman Ted Murphy trades beside her with an colourful selection of pot plants, herbs and flowers. Helen Aherne and Frances Lucey man the Country Market stall brimming with cakes and biscuits and occasionally a few duck eggs and wild mushrooms in season.. David and Siobhan Barry have a truck full of vegetables and fruit. Kate O’Donovan, of the market, sells her delicious homemade marinades, dressings and dips, and Margaret Keane’s quiches, side by side with Marog O’Brien of the Farmgate Restaurant here in Midleton, who sells Declan Ryan’s fantastic breads – soda, yeast and sourdough and some of her own famous chocolate cake. Next comes local farmer Dan O’Neill and his wife Anne. They invested in a refrigerated truck and now sell their organic beef. He responded to the numerous requests for free range organic chickens and now can scarcely fulfill the demand. Oren Little of the Little Apple Co. drive down from Kilkenny every Saturday to sell their cooking and eating apples and delicious apple juice. Chris Cashman’s cakes made with butter sell out in no time and finally Willie Scannell sells his Ballycotton potatoes, he like many others was a victim of the supermarkets’ central distribution policy, now the Midleton Farmers Market allows him the opportunity to sell his potatoes directly to the consumer, his future is secure, and this year he will have a selection of vegetables including lettuce, cabbage, white turnips, radishes and onions. The variety of produce is truly amazing. The market has been enthusiastically supported, not only by the local community, but by the local shops who report an increase in business on market day.

Midleton Farmers Market is held every Saturday from 10am-2pm on Hospital Road.

Ardsallagh Goat Cheese with Rocket Leaves, Roast Pepper and Tapenade Oil

Serves 5
10ozs (285g) Ardsallagh goat cheese (or a similar fresh mild goat cheese)
seasoned flour
beaten egg
flaked almonds
white breadcrumbs
2 large red peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
Tapenade Oil
4 ozs (110g/3/4 cup) stoned black olives
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) capers
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
6 fl ozs (170ml) olive oil
A selection of lettuces and rocket leaves
4 tablesp. (5 american tablesp. + 1 teasp.) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablesp.(1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) Balsamic vinegar
1/2 clove garlic crushed
salt and freshly ground pepper
Wild garlic flowers in season

First divide the Ardsallagh goat cheese into 25 balls, chill. Next make the Tapenade oil Coarsely chop the stoned black olives, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Whisk in the olive oil as you whisk and process to a course or smooth puree as you prefer. Coat the cheese in seasoned flour, beaten egg, flaked almonds, breadcrumbs. Arrange in a single layer on a flat plate. Cover and chill well. Roast the peppers in a preheated oven 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for approximately 20 minutes. Put into a bowl, cover the top with cling film and allow to steam for 5 or 10 minutes. Peel, remove seeds and cut into strips. Next make the dressing Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl. Heat the oil in a deep fry or a pan to 200C Fry the goat cheese croquettes in batches until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Toss the lettuces and salad leaves in a bowl with just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten. Divide between the six plates. Put five croquettes on each plate, decorate with strips or red pepper, rocket leaves and a drizzle of Tapenade oil. Scatter some wild garlic flowers over the top and serve immediately

Globe Artichokes with Melted Butter

Whole Globe artichokes are quite fiddly to eat. First you pull off each leaf separately and dip in the sauce. Eventually you are rewarded for your patience when you come to the heart! Don’t forget to scrape off the tickly ‘choke’; then cut the heart into manageable pieces, sprinkle with a little sea salt before you dip it into the remainder of your sauce. Simply Delicious!

Serves 6
6 globe artichokes
2 pints (1.1L/5 cups) water
2 teasp. salt
2 teaspoons approx. white wine vinegar
Melted Butter
6 ozs (170g/) butter
Freshly squeezed juice of * lemon approx.

Some restaurants do very complicated preparation but I merely trim the base just before cooking so the artichokes will sit steadily on the plate, rub the cut end with lemon juice or vinegar to prevent it from discolouring. Have a large saucepan of boiling water ready, add 2 teaspoons of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt to every 2 pints of water, pop in the artichokes and bring the water back to the boil. Simmer steadily for about 25 minutes.  After about 20 minutes you could try testing to see if they are done. I do this by tugging off one of the larger leaves at the base, it should come away easily, if it doesn’t continue to cook for another 5 – 10 minutes. Remove and drain upside down on a plate. While they are cooking simply melt the butter and add lemon juice to taste.  To Serve Put each warm artichoke onto a hot serving plate, serve the sauce or melted butter in a little bowl beside it. Artichokes are eaten with your fingers, so you might like to provide a finger bowl. A spare plate to collect all the nibbled leaves will also be useful.

Globe Artichokes with Vinaigrette Dressing

Ingredients as above excluding the melted butter.
Vinaigrette Dressing
2 fl ozs (50ml/) wine vinegar
6 fl ozs (150ml/) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils, e.g. sunflower and arachide
1 level teasp. (* American teasp.) mustard (Dijon or English)
1 large clove garlic
1 scallion or small spring onion
Sprig of parsley, finely chopped
Sprig of watercress, finely chopped
1 level teasp. salt
Few grinds of pepper

Put all the ingredients into a blender and run at medium speed for 1 minute approx. or mix oil and vinegar in a bowl, add mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and mashed garlic, chopped parsley, spring onion and watercress. Whisk before serving. Cook the artichokes as above. Serve little bowls of vinaigrette dressing with the warm artichokes.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Sponge

Serves 6-8

3 eggs, preferably free range
3 fl ozs (75ml) water
8 ozs (225g/1 cup) sugar
5 ozs (140g/1 cup) flour
1 teasp. baking powder
1 lb (450g) green gooseberries
2 elderflower heads
1/2 pint (300ml/11/4 cups) cold water
1 lb (225g/1 cup) sugar
4 fl ozs (110ml/1/2 cup) whipped cream
2 teasp. icing sugar

Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks with the sugar for 2 minutes in a food mixer and then add in the water. Whisk until light and fluffy, 10 minutes approx. Gently Fold in the sieved flour and baking powder into the mousse in batches. Whisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Fold them in very gently. Bake in two greased and floured 8 inch (20.5cm) sandwich tins in a moderately hot oven 190C/375F/regulo 5 for 20 minutes.  Next make the filling, first top and tail the gooseberries. Tie 2 or 3 elderflower heads in a little square of muslin, put in a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts. Allow to get cold. Fill the sponge with whipped cream and well drained gooseberry and elderflower compote.* Sieve the icing sugar on top before serving. * You may have some over, reserve and serve with cream as a separate dessert.


Past Letters