Category Archives: Saturday Letter

Spring Pop Up Dinner at the Ballymaloe Cookery School

The Hungry Gap is the expression that is used to describe the 6 to 8 weeks between the end of the winter produce and the beginning of the summer crops. Brussel sprouts, leeks, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes are all coming to the end of their season, not that you’d know if all your shopping is done in your local supermarket which manages to source fruit and vegetables all year round from one corner of the world or another.

But years ago, these few weeks, some of which also coincided with Lent were very lean ones, hence the importance of a wonderful perennial kale called, hungry gap, cottiers kale or cut and come. The latter was so called because the more you cut this tender green with the flavour of kale and the texture of spinach, the more it grew…….
Because it was propagated from slips (rather than seed) Cottiers kale was passed from one cottage garden to another and of course it filled the ‘hungry gap’ before the summer greens and new potatoes were ready to eat.

The botanical name is Brassica Olereaca and I’ve been fortunate to have a patch in my vegetable garden for years – mine came from Glin Castle gardens no less but theirs had come from their cooks, Nancy and May Liston’s cottage garden in Lower Athea in Co Limerick.
All of the above is by way of introduction to the main subject of this column, the Spring Pop Up dinner, organised by the 12-Week Certificate Course students to raise funds for the Slow Food Educational Project. Every term they plot and plan to create a special menu and vibe to celebrate their chosen theme. This year it was ‘Stepping into Spring – eating between the seasons’.

The students wanted to highlight the hungry gap between the seasons when fresh produce can be scare. With that in mind, they foraged around the farm and gardens for the end of the last seasons crops, wild foods and new shoots. They incorporated local lamb and the milk and cream from our small herd of Jersey cows. Students were also keen to encourage the guests to think about what they could grow themselves as the new season begins.

Planning started at the end of January. Phoebe, Shauna and Colm volunteered to be the event planners and together with their fellow students, they formed a creative team and divided themselves into small groups with responsibility for bread, canapes, starters, main course, desserts and petit four and dining room service…..

The creative team planned the décor to enhance the Garden Café at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. They spent several nights making pretty pom pom flowers from tissue paper to hang from the rafters, others cut out ‘Stepping into Spring’ in letters to loop across the huge demo mirror.

The menu was decided, Harry did the graphics and then they set out to harvest and forage. Where you and I might see weeds, they imagined a delicious dinner…..

Shauna and Phoebe led a team of helpers to sow pea shoots and now five weeks later, they were ready to harvest.

Fresh pollock from Ballycotton was cured with salt, sugar and dill while other students dug some fresh horseradish roots to grate into a bowl of rich Jersey cream to accompany the gravlax.
The starter was also made from scratch, homemade yoghurt was dripped for labneh then cold smoked.
Beetroot was dug out of the winter clamp and cooked two ways for the roasted and pureed beets to complete the starter plate of Roast Beetroot and Labneh with Sourdough Bread.
The enthusiastic breadmakers headed for the ‘Bread Shed’ to make and bake the natural sourdough bread, others went to the dairy to collect Jersey cream to make homemade butter.

For the next course guests were given a shot of flavoursome organic chicken broth sprinkled with foraged with wild garlic flowers.
The lamb from local butcher Frank Murphy was served three ways – crispy lamb cutlet, lamb breast stuffed with pearl barley and a mini lamb pie.
Haulie dug the leeks which were then seared and the plate was served with a wild salsa verde – lamb breast stuffed with pearl barley.

Other students were roasting new seasons rhubarb they has just pulled from the garden. Roasting is an easy and brilliant way to intensify the flavour.
Kate folded chopped stem ginger into the homemade ice cream – so delicious… This was served with one of Rory O’ Connell’s caramel and almond flats and chocolate soil.

Meanwhile another team were creating a sylvan setting in the Garden Room to hide petit fours so the guests could forage among the twigs and chocolate soil for white chocolate and orange truffles, little puff pastry apple bites….
They also had egg shells and tiny pots for guests to sow a seed to take home.

Louis Edmanson wrote a poem on ‘Stepping into Spring’ for the occasion and the gardeners played traditional music as the guests arrived.

Two of our grandchildren were commandeered to help to pass around the canapés, pollock gravlax with horseradish cream and crudités with anchoide and hummus all served with a glass of irresistible raspberry prosecco.

The guests hugely enjoyed the convivial Slow Food evening and delicious food. If you’d like to know about the next pop-up, email eastcorkslowfood@gmail.com

Hot Tips
Ballycotton Island Lighthouse Tours
Have resumed again after the winter break. Join Jerry for a truly magical guided tour and hear about the life of the fishermen and the bounty of fish and shellfish in the seas around Ballycotton. Daily tours from 10.00am and take 90 minutes. Visit Ballycotton Island summit and explore the lighthouse. http://www.ballycottonislandlighthousetours.com or phone 021 4646875

Ireland’s First Rooftop Cocktail Herb Bed at the Granville Hotel in Waterford is bursting with a beautiful assortment of herbs like chocolate mint, pineapple sage, lemon verbena, black peppermint together with the classics thyme, sage and rosemary…herbs are infused with fruits and botanicals to create special cocktails….www.granville-hotel.ie. Tel: 051 305555

East Cork Slow Food event
Bet you didn’t know that we now have several snail farms in Ireland.
Brian McDaid from the Irish Snail Farm in Carlow will give a fascinating talk about his snail farm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Thursday May 4th at 7pm. We’ll also taste the fruits of his labour.
Tel: 021 4646785 www.slowfoodeastcork@gmail.com

Pollock Gravadlax with Horseradish Cream on Croutini

This was a canape – a delicious combination.
People in Nordic countries use this basic pickling technique with several types of fish and create many exciting variations. Gravadlax is flavoured with beetroot, black peppers, mustard, even vodka. Fresh dill is essential.

Serves 12–16 as a starter

700g (11⁄2lb) tail piece of fresh pollock
1 heaped tablespoon sea salt
1 heaped tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped

Horseradish Cream
1 1/2-3 tablespoons grated horseradish
2 teaspoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
225ml (8fl oz) softly whipped cream

Garnish
wood sorrel, wild garlic flowers and/or dill sprigs

Fillet the pollock and remove all the bones with a tweezers. Mix the salt, sugar, pepper and dill together in a bowl. Place the fish on a piece of clingfilm and scatter the mixture over the surface of the fish. Wrap the pollock tightly with the clingfilm and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours.

Next make the croutini.

Preheat the oven to 150˚C/300˚F/Gas Mark 2.
Slice staleish baguette diagonally into the thinnest slices possible. Dry in a low oven until crisp and dry, about 15-20 minutes. Store in an air-tight tin box if necessary.

Next make the horseradish cream. Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate on a ‘slivery grater’. Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not overmix or the sauce will curdle. There will be more than enough for this recipe, but save the rest for another dish. It keeps for 2-3 days: cover so that it doesn’t pick up flavours in the fridge.

To serve, wipe most of the dill mixture off the pollock and slice thinly.

Arrange a couple of slices of gravadlax on top of each croutini and add a blob of horseradish cream on top. Garnish with wood sorrel, wild garlic flowers and/or dill sprigs.

Stuffed Breast of Lamb with Salsa Verde

Serves 8-10

2 x breast of lamb, fat and bones removed

For stuffing
100g (3 1/2oz) pearl barley
50g (2oz) dried apricot, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy
1 1/2 large garlic clove, crushed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons pistachio, chopped
2 x shallots, chopped finely
15g (1/2oz) of curly or flat-leaf parsley, rosemary, wild garlic and mint, chopped

For braising
2 x medium onions, chopped
1 x large carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
6 bay leaves
1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes, chopped and sieved
4 cloves garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
250ml (9fl oz) chicken stock
40ml (1 1/2fl oz) white wine

salt
black pepper
string
a large oval casserole dish

Wash the pearl barley, put into a saucepan, cover with a little cold water and cook until tender, about 30 minutes, drain and cool. (Best cooked the day before.) Put into a bowl, add the apricots, brandy, garlic, lemon zest and juice, pistachio nuts, shallots and herbs. Season, taste and correct the seasoning.

Lay the well-trimmed lamb breast on a chopping board to form a rough rectangle. Spread the stuffing evenly over the lamb leaving 2.5cm (1 inch) border all the way around. Fold in the ends and then carefully ‘roll into a Swiss roll’. Tie individually with cotton string. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Render some crispy lamb fat in a wide sauté pan or heavy roasting tin over a low heat for 15 minutes. Remove the bits of lamb fat and discard (birds love it). Brown the meat in the rendered fat (alternatively you can use extra virgin olive oil) on all sides and remove to a plate. Add the chopped vegetables, garlic, bay and rosemary. Toss and cook for 4 or 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes (save the juice), season with salt, pepper and sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes or more. Return the lamb to the casserole. Add wine and stock to come 2/3 of the way up the meat.
Bring to a lively simmer on the top of the stove. Cover and transfer into the preheated oven at 250°C/500°F/Gas Mark 10 for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 160°C/275°F/Gas Mark 2-3 and cook until completely tender – 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, serve in slices with potato gratin and salsa verde.

Stem Ginger Ice-Cream with Roast Rhubarb and Chocolate Soil

Really good cream makes really good ice-cream. This recipe is made on an egg-mousse base with softly whipped cream. It produces a deliciously rich ice cream with a smooth texture that does not need further whisking during the freezing period. This ice cream should not be served frozen hard; remove it from the freezer at least 10 minutes before serving. You can add other flavourings to the basic recipe. The students added stem ginger and drizzled it with some of the syrup – the end result was totally delicious.

Serves 12–16

4 organic egg yolks
100g (3 1/2oz) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/3 vanilla pod
1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)
6 pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped plus 2 tablespoons of syrup from the jar

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar with 200ml (7fl oz) of water in a small heavy-based saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, about 106–113°C (223–235°F): it will look thick and syrupy, and when a metal spoon is dipped in the last drops of syrup will form thin threads. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time by hand. (If you are whisking the mousse in a food mixer, remove the bowl and whisk the boiling syrup in by hand; otherwise it will solidify on the sides of the bowl.)

Add the vanilla extract or vanilla seeds and continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.

After one hour, fold in the chopped stem ginger and syrup. Cover and return to the freezer and chill until firm.

The students served it with roast rhubarb and caramel and almond flats.

Roast Rhubarb

Roasting rhubarb is super-easy and really intensifies the flavour. The sugar content can vary depending on the variety of rhubarb – the end result can be used in a myriad of delicious ways. Try it with warm rice pudding and a blob of cream – OMG!

900g (2lb) rhubarb
200-250g (7-9oz) sugar

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

Slice the rhubarb into 2 1/2cm (1 inch) pieces and arrange in a single layer in a medium size oven proof dish. Scatter the sugar over the rhubarb and allow to macerate for 30 minutes. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes approximately depending on size, until the rhubarb is just tender.

Rhubarb Fizz
Purée the roast rhubarb, put 1-2 tablespoons in a glass, top up with Prosecco or Cava or sparkling water or soda water for a non-alcoholic fizz.

Rory O’Connell’s Caramel and Almond Flats

Makes about 60 biscuits

250g (9oz) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon bread soda/bicarbonate of soda
100g (3 1/2oz) butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons water
300g (10oz) soft, medium dark soft brown sugar
110g (4oz) flaked almonds, unskinned if possible

Sieve the flour and bread soda into a bowl. Melt the butter, cinnamon and water on a low heat until just melted. Do not allow to boil. Remove from the heat and add the sugar. Stir with the almonds into the flour mixture. Place the dough on a piece of strong plastic (not clingfilm) or parchment paper. Form this mixture into a neat rectangular slab, 23cm (9 inch) wide, 2.5cm (1 inch) thick, and 9cm (3 1/2 inch) long. I use the sides of a shallow baking tray to help me to achieve neat and straight edges. Freeze until set. Slice into about 3mm thick slices and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, allowing a little room between the raw biscuits for expansion during the cooking. Bake for 10 minutes at 180°C/350°FGas Mark 4 or until golden brown. Slide the biscuits still on the parchment paper on to a wire rack to cool. Store in an air tight box or tin.

Ottolenghi’s Chocolate Soil

45g (1 3/4oz) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon cornflour
40g (1 1/2oz) caster sugar
30g (1 1/4oz) cocoa powder
40g (1 1/2oz) unsalted butter, melted
coarse sea salt.

Heat the oven to 160˚C/325˚/Gas Mark 3.

Put the flour, cornflour, sugar, cocoa powder and half tsp of salt. Mix, then slowly pour in the melted butter.

Using first a wooden spoon and then the tips of your fingers, mix until it resembled cookie crumble texture, then spread out on a parchment lined tray.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring and checking after 5 minutes until cookie crumble like. Remove and allow to cool. Break up once it has cooled and set.

White Chocolate and Orange Truffles

This delicious petit-four recipe was created by past student Sara Al-Faraj for the Student Pop-Up Dinner, ‘Stepping into Spring’ in early 2017.

Makes 24 truffles

225g (8oz) white chocolate, chopped (we use Valhrona)
50g (50g) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3 tablespoons of cream
110g (4oz) icing sugar

To coat the truffles:
finely chopped pistachios
OR
desiccated coconut
OR
icing sugar
unsweetened cocoa powder

Melt the butter and add the orange zest. Allow to bubble, stirring for 1 minute. Add the cream and continue to stir for a further 1 – 2 minutes or until bubbles appear around the side of the pan. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture through a fine sieve onto the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Allow to cool.
Cover the truffle mixture and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours or until the mixture is firm enough to handle

Shape into 24 balls and roll in the coating of your choice.
Chill on parchment paper for another hour.

Serve in little gold petit four cases.

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to you all, just one more day until you can break your fast and feel deeply virtuous, maybe you’ve given up ‘the drink’ or sweet things or sugar. That’s how I gave up sugar in my tea originally and I’ve always been grateful to the Dominican nuns in Wicklow who insisted we did proper penance during Lent. This Easter I thought I might dedicate this column to the magic and versatility of eggs in general. Easter eggs sometimes called Pascal eggs have always been associated with Easter not least because there’s usually a glut of eggs when people fasted during the Lenten period.

Numerous cultures use eggs in different ways in their Easter rituals and ceremonies. In Judaism, hard boiled eggs are an element of Passover Sedepr which coincides with Christian, Holy Week. Iranians paint eggs for the Spring Holiday of Nowruz.
For Christians, the custom of giving eggs for Easter is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection but it also dates back to the Pagan festival of Oestre.

The decoration of eggs is thought to date back to the 13th century but this has been one of the best loved and most enduring traditions. My grandchildren have hours of fun painting eggs every Easter and our clever hens lay eggs with the children’s name on them in the Palais des Poulets every Easter Sunday. Lovely Rosalie makes me an Easter tree and the Easter bunny hides chocolate eggs in tufts of daffodils around the Pond Garden.

From the cook’s perspective the egg is the quintessential fast food, cake bakers depend on it to create their magic and fancy chefs can create elaborate dishes, think Eggs Benedict and sauces like Hollandaise, Bernaise and Buerre blance. But it’s all about the quality of the egg, a beautiful egg, freshly laid by happy lazy hens that forage around your garden or are moved around your lawn in their arc is quite a different thing to an egg produced in an intensive system both in terms of flavour and nutritional content. I’m always encouraging anyone who will listen either in an urban or rural environment to consider getting a few hens. They will convert all your food scraps into delicious eggs a few days later, provide chicken manure to activate compost so you can grow lots of nourishing produce in your garden and a freshly boiled egg with soldiers will taste like a ‘forgotten flavour’.

We’ve been enjoying them with the first of the new season’s asparagus to use as dippers, utterly sublime and the earliest ever. I’ve included a recipe for Eggs Benedict but I have to tell you that Christine Crowley’s Egg Benedict at the Shanagarry Pottery Café is the best ever. We’ve also been serving them with some of the kale sprouts which cook to melting tenderness in boiling, well salted water.

I also love an egg fried in extra virgin olive oil with sage leaves or a deep fried egg all crispy on the outside and soft and gooey in the centre. Maybe drizzle it with a spicy tomato sauce or a little wild garlic pesto in season at present.
A little cheese soufflé is also impressive and super easy to make, a delicious little starter or a perfect main course.
Collect some wild garlic and make a wild garlic custard – silky and sophisticated and then of course there’s an Easter frittata to have for supper with a salad of organic leaves after an Easter Sunday roast lunch of spring lamb with mint sauce.

HOT TIPS

New Farmers Market
Has recently opened at the Ballyseedy Home & Garden in Carrigtwohill – Green Saffron, Rostellan Chocolate, , Annie’s Roasts, Joe’s Crisps, Ardsallagh Cheese, Arbutus Breads, Little Apple Juice, Ballintubber Fruit and Veg, Ballycotton Seafood and many more……It runs every Wednesday from 9am to 2pm.
www.ballyseedy.it 021 488 1010

Easter Egg Trail at Fota House and Gardens on 14th and 15th April 2017. Discover clues amongst the trees and wildlife that will bring you to your own chocolate egg. www.fotahouse.com//whatson
Staying with Fota House….the annual Plant and Garden Fair is on Sunday April 23rd from 11am-4.00pm and is recognised as the biggest Plant and Garden fair outside of Dublin. Many specialist nurseries with unusual and special plants. Admission is €8.00 part of which will be donated to Friends of Marymount Hospice. Phone Margaret Martin or Maura Geary on 021 481 5543 or Margaret@irishheritagetrust.ie for more information

Jeannie’s Chorizo Timbales with Rocket Mayonnaise

Serves 12

A perfect little starter, almost a soufflé, without flour so it is suitable for coeliacs.

275 g (10 oz) soft chorizo, peeled and chopped
6 eggs
500 ml (18 fl oz) cream
125 g (43/4 oz) mature Cheddar, plus extra for sprinkling on the top
Scant 1 teaspoon of salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Rocket Mayonnaise
1 egg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mustard powder
Black pepper
Dessertspoon white wine vinegar

4 fl oz olive oil
then 2 fl oz sunflower oil
100 g rocket, coarsely chopped

12 x 4 fl oz ramekins

Butter for greasing

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400F/gas mark 6.

Butter the ramekins well.

First make the rocket mayonnaise. Put the egg into a blender, add the mustard and white wine vinegar. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Whisk and add the mixture of oils. Finally add the coarsely chopped rocket. Whizz for a second.
Turn into a bowl, taste and correct seasoning if necessary.

Next, peel and chop the chorizo and divide between the ramekins – a good tablespoonful in each.

Whisk the eggs and cream together, add 1 teaspoon of salt and lots of freshly ground pepper and the grated cheese.

Just before cooking, stir the batter and pour over the chorizo, sprinkle with grated cheese and pop into the oven for 15 minutes.
They will puff up and be nicely golden on top.

Turn out onto warm plates and serve with a dollop of rocket mayonnaise.

Eggs Benedict

This recipe is a combination of two, ‘forgotten skills’: poaching eggs and making Hollandaise sauce (which also involves eggs). It is the perfect breakfast for a lazy Easter weekend.

Serves 4 (or 2 if very hungry)

Hollandaise Sauce (see recipe)
4 organic eggs
4 slices good sourdough bread or 2 English muffins or 2 bagels
butter
4 slices home-cooked ham or 8 rashers good bacon, cooked

First, make the Hollandaise sauce and keep it warm.
Next poach the eggs. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Reduce the heat, swirl the water, crack the egg into a tiny bowl and slip the egg gently into the whirlpool in the centre. This avoids getting the tips of your fingers burned as you drop the egg into the water. The water should not boil again but bubble very gently just below boiling point. Cook for about 3–4 minutes, until the white is set and the yolk is still soft and runny.
Meanwhile, toast or chargrill the bread, muffins or bagels. Slather a little butter on the hot bread and lay a slice of ham or freshly cooked crispy bacon on the base. Lift out the poached egg or eggs on a perforated spoon; drain and place on top of the toast. Coat generously with the Hollandaise Sauce and serve immediately.

Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 4–6

2 organic egg yolks
125g (5oz) butter, cut into dice
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the egg yolks in a heavy, stainless-steel saucepan on a low heat or in a bowl over hot water. Add 2 teaspoons water and whisk thoroughly. Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water to cool it quickly. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add the lemon juice to taste.
If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency.
It is important to remember that if you are making Hollandaise sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand, then it is also too hot for the sauce.
Another good tip if you are making Hollandaise sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the base of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.

Freshly Boiled Eggs and Asparagus Soldiers

Mothers all over the country cut up fingers of toast for children to dip into soft-boiled eggs. In our family we call them ‘dippies’.

2 fresh free range organic eggs
salt and freshly ground pepper
a few pats of butter
1 slice of fresh best quality white loaf bread

6-8 spears fresh Irish asparagus

First prepare and cook the asparagus. Hold each spear of asparagus over your index finger down near the root end, it will snap at the point where it begins to get tough. Some people like to peel the asparagus but we rarely do.

Tie similar sized bundles of asparagus in bundles with raffia. Choose a tall saucepan.
Cook in about 2.5cm of boiling salted water (1 teaspoon salt to every 600ml) in an oval cast iron casserole. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes or until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily. Drain and serve immediately. If serving cold, refresh in cold water and drain again.

Next, bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, bring the water back to the boil and simmer gently for 4-6 minutes, according to your taste. A four minute egg will be still quite soft, five minutes will almost set the white while the yolk will still be runny, 6 minutes will produce a boiled egg with a soft yolk and solid white.

Immediately the eggs are cooked, pop them into egg cups, put the asparagus soldiers on the side and serve with a pepper mill, sea salt and a few pats of butter.

Crispy Deep-fried Eggs

This technique takes a bit of practice but the crispy white is irresistible.

extra virgin olive oil, sunflower or peanut oil
really fresh organic eggs
salt and freshly ground pepper

croutons

Tomato and Chilli Jam (see recipe)
rocket leaves

Heat the oil in a deep sided frying pan. It should be really hot, test by dropping in a tiny cube of bread – it should brown in seconds.

Break an egg into the hot oil. Tilt the pan immediately so the egg slides down into a pool of oil. Use a tablespoon to lift the white over the yolk so the yolks is completely enclosed between two layers of white. This will prevent the yolk from overcooking and allow the white to get deliciously crisp and slightly golden. Cook for a minute or two more.

Lift the egg out of the oil with a perforated spoon, drain well on kitchen paper. Serve on warm crisp croutons with tomato and chilli jam and some rocket leaves.

Tomato and Chilli Jam

Makes: 2 large pot or 4 small pots

In season:

This zingy jam is great with everything from fried eggs to cold meat. Terrific on a piece of chicken breast or fish or spread on bruschetta with goat’s cheese and rocket leaves.

1kg (2 1/4lb) very ripe tomatoes
4-8 red chillies
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
about 5cm (2 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
50ml (2 fl oz) fish sauce (Nam Pla)
500g (18oz) golden castor sugar
200ml (7fl oz) red wine vinegar

Peel the tomatoes and chop into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice. Purée the chillies, garlic, ginger and fish sauce in a blender. Put the purée, sugar and vinegar into a stainless steel saucepan, add the tomatoes and bring to the boil slowly, stirring occasionally. Cook gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking.

When cooked pour into warmed, sterilized glass jars. Allow to cool. Store in the fridge.

Cheese Soufflé Omelette

A perfect soufflé omelette is a special treat and takes only a few minutes longer to make than a French omelette, but it is well worth the effort. This is definitely a forgotten skill, and Irish farmhouse cheeses in particular are utterly delicious in this recipe.

Serves 1–2

3 organic eggs, separated
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons finely grated cheese – Gruyère, Parmesan, Irish farmhouse cheese or a mixture
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives or spring onion tops (optional)
25g (1oz/1/4 stick) butter

omelette pan, preferably non-stick, 23cm (9 inch) in diameter

Whisk the egg yolks until light. Season well with salt and pepper, and add the cheese and chives, if using.
Whisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak, stir a little of the whites into the yolks, then very lightly, very carefully fold in the rest with a metal spoon.

Melt the butter in the omelette pan, shaking it gently so that the sides are covered with butter, too, and as it foams turn in the egg mixture and level it off with a palette knife.

Cook the omelette very gently for about 3–4 minutes. The bottom should be golden when you lift the omelette with the palette knife to have a peek, and it should have started to fluff up. Then put the pan under a grill about 10cm (4 inch) from the element. Cook very gently for 3–4 minutes longer, until the omelette is well risen and just set. Remove at once, loosen the edges with the palette knife, and if you want to fold it over, first score it lightly across the centre. Then turn it out gently onto a hot plate and serve with a green salad.

Asparagus, Rocket and Wild Garlic Frittata

Asparagus is normally ready until May but we had a few spears at the beginning of April – another symptom of global warming.
The pan size is crucial here. If you don’t have the exact size, increase the eggs so the frittata is 4cm deep, otherwise the frittata is likely to be thin and tough. This is an example of how we incorporate seasonal ingredients into a frittata.
Serves 6
8 eggs, preferably free-range, organic
225g thin asparagus
1 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
50g Parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated, or a mixture
2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped wild garlic and rocket leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Garnish
wild garlic and rocket leaves and flowers

non-stick frying pan – 19cm bottom, 23cm top rim
Bring about 2.5cm of water to the boil in an oval casserole. Trim the tough ends of the asparagus, add salt to the water and blanch the spears until just tender for 3 or 4 minutes. Drain. Slice the end of the spears evenly at an angle keep 4cm at the top intact. Save for later.
Whisk the eggs together into a bowl. Add the blanched asparagus except the tops, most of the Parmesan and wild garlic leaves. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Heat the oil in the pan, add egg mixture and reduce the heat to the bare minimum – use a heat diffuser mat if necessary. Continue to cook over a gentle heat until just set – about 15 minutes. Alternatively after an initial 4 or 5 minutes on the stove one can transfer the pan to a preheated oven (and this is my preferred option), 170°C/Gas Mark 3 until just set 10-15 minutes. Arrange the asparagus tops over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Pop under a grill for a few minutes but make sure it is at least 5 inches from the element. It should be set and slightly golden. Turn out on a warm plate, cut into wedges and serve immediately with a salad of organic leaves, including wild garlic and rocket.
Garnish with wild garlic flowers

International Carrot Day

Bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as an International Carrot Day, well indeed there is. It is celebrated every year on April 4th, the day when virtues of the carrot are highlighted through Carrot Parties and Carrot related festivities around the world.
I’m completely baffled as to why this date was chosen considering most gardeners haven’t even sown the seed yet. We got our early crop into the soil in the greenhouse at the end of February but they are only just above the ground now.

Nonetheless, there are lots of fat crunchy carrots still around in the shops and greengrocers. They were piled high on Joseph Burns’ stall in the Midleton Farmers Market last Saturday, side by side with parsnips, freshly dug and still covered in earth. That’s the way I like to buy them, they keep better, taste better and ultimately I suppose have even more nutrients because the skin is not damaged in any way by washing.

Carrots are one of our four basic vegetables alongside onions, cabbage and potatoes. We pretty much take them for granted but let’s focus for a minute or two on their many attributes. They are a powerhouse of nutrients, can be eaten raw, they store for months and will keep for several weeks even in a home fridge. They are immensely versatile in the kitchen.

Carrots are one of the few vegetables that virtually every child will eat. In fact one of my grandchildren ate almost nothing but raw carrots for months on end when he was about 3. We had to save the end of a row of carrots in the garden to feed the ‘carrot-monster’ habit.

When children for local schools come to visit the farm and vegetable gardens during the seasons. We encourage them to pull a carrot from the ground, wash it under the tap in the greenhouse and then they munch it with relish. Many, in fact I would say most, have never seen a carrot growing; they presume they come already washed in a plastic bag from the supermarket. It’s a similar story for most other foods, milk, meat and some are disgusted by the thought of them coming from the ground and from an animal, such is the paranoia around hygiene and food safety. How scary is that….there’s a serious piece of education to be done and urgently. Carrots are a rich source of both alpha and beta carotene and also goodly amounts of Vitamin K and B6 and dietary fibre. They’ve also been associated with eye health but their impact on our night vision may be overestimated. Nonetheless they are super nutritious and because of their sweetness the cook can have fun using them in many sweet as well as savoury dishes. The tender young leaves can be used in carrot pesto or dipped in a batter and deep fried. Carrots were originally grown for their leaves and flowers. Wild carrots are thought to have originated in Central Asia, Persia (now part of Iran and Afghanistan).

They were bred selectively over the centuries to reduce the bitterness, increase sweetness and minimise the woody core and now we have carrots of many colours, red, white, yellow, purple, black and of course orange. There are sometimes long and tapered or more squat depending on the variety. Carrots are amazingly inexpensive considering they take an average of three months to grow from seed. We all know they are super versatile, include them in chunky or creamy soups, tagines, stews, as a vegetable, roast them. Boil them, grate them for salads, add to a carrot cake, transform them into carrot spaghetti with a spirlizer. Make carrot crisps, or make a surprisingly delicious jam or chutney and then there’s carrot juice….I love fresh carrot juice, maybe add some apple, a little ginger and a few leaves of fresh mint!

We’ve also been getting lots of compliments when we add carrot juice to a risotto – here’s the recipe we use plus some other favourite ways to enjoy this under appreciated vegetable and now how about a Carrot Party….

Hot Tips
Bunsen
The super popular Bunsen restaurant on Wexford Street and Temple Bar in Dublin has come to Cork – Tom Gleeson, past 12 Week graduate has recently opened his award winning ‘burger joint’ on 4 French Church Street in Cork. Check it out.
Tel: 021 239 0660 http://www.bunsen.ie/

Cheese Lovers Time to Celebrate
The National Dairy Council recently announced a new recipe competition to celebrate cheese. Create an original recipe using cheese as the main ingredient. Two categories to choose from:- Passionate Cooks and Foodies – A delicious, healthy and nutritious family style recipe that you might cook mid-week.
Trainee Chefs/Culinary Students – A special occasion recipe that you might cook for a dinner party or celebratory occasion.
The judges for the competition include Irish Chef Clodagh McKenna, Irish Olympian and food author Derval O’Rourke and Vanessa Greenwood of Cooks Academy in Dublin. http://www.ndc.ie for details on how to enter

Carrot Halva

Serves 4

1 lb (450 g) carrots
1¼ pints (700 ml) milk
8 whole cardamom pods
5 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
5 tablespoons caster sugar
1-2 tablespoons sultanas
1 tablespoon shelled, unsalted pistachios, lightly crushed
10 fl ozs (275 ml) cream, optional

Peel the carrots and grate them either by hand or in a food processor. Put the grated carrots, milk, and cardamom pods in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring now and then, until there is no liquid left. Adjust the heat, if you need to. This boiling down of milk will take at least half an hour or longer, depending on the width of the pot.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-low heat. When hot, put in the carrot mixture. Stir and fry until the carrots no longer have a wet, milky look. They should turn a rich, reddish colour. This can take 10-15 minutes.
Add the sugar, sultanas and pistachios. Stir and fry for another 2 minutes.
This halva may be served warm or at room temperature. Serve the cream on the side.

 

A Carrot Risotto

Serves 4-6
This is super delicious, made with fresh carrot juice, you really have to try it, my grandchildren love it too. This risotto is soo good. We love it on its own or with a pan-grilled lamb chop and rocket salad.

425ml (15fl.oz) home made chicken stock
225ml (8fl.oz) fresh carrot juice, (4 medium carrots, weighing approx.. 400g/14oz)
25g (1oz) butter
50g (2oz) onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
200g (7oz) Basmati rice
50ml (2fl.oz) dry white wine

50g (2oz) finely grated Parmesan or Coolea cheese
2-4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Put the chicken stock, carrot juice and 450ml (16fl.oz) water in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat. Meanwhile, melt half the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the chopped onion, cook gently until soft but not coloured, about 5 minutes. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Increase the heat, add the rice and stir until all the grains are coated and translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add the wine, stir and cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes.
Add 125ml (4fl.oz) hot liquid, stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding broth, a small ladle at a time till it is all incorporated and the rice is tender and still a tiny bit al dente, 25-30 minutes. Stir in remaining 10g (½oz) butter and half the Parmesan. Taste, correct the seasoning, sprinkle with chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

In the Fez and Meknes area many meals start with an array of little ‘salads’, not greens doused in French Dressing but little dishes of spiced or sweetened raw or cooked vegetables to tempt the palate before the tagine arrives.

Serves 6-8

6 large carrots, scraped and grated
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 – 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
pinch of salt

Mix the carrots with the sugar, lemon juice, orange-blossom water, and salt. Marinate 1 hour before serving. Taste and correct seasoning. Eat with Moroccan bread.

Julia Wight’s Carrot Cake

This recipe for carrot cake, by far the best one I know and was given to me by a dear friend. It keeps for ages.

7oz (200g) fine wholemeal or spelt flour
3 level teaspoons mixed spice
1 level teaspoon bread soda
3oz (75g) soft brown sugar
2 large eggs, preferably free range
1/4 pint (150 ml) sunflower oil
grated rind of 1 orange
7oz (200g) grated carrot
4oz (110g) sultanas
2oz (50g) dessicated coconut
2oz (50g walnuts, chopped

Cream Cheese Icing (see recipe)
or

Glaze
juice of 1 small orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3oz (75g) soft brown sugar

Decoration (optional)
toasted flaked almonds or pumpkin seeds (crystallized – optional)

Loaf tin 9 inch (23 cm) x 5 inch (12.5 cm) x 2 inch (5 cm) lined with silicone paper

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

Put the flour, spice and breadsoda into a bowl and mix well. Whisk the eggs with the sugar and oil in another bowl until smooth. Stir in the dry ingredients, add the orange rind, grated carrot, sultanas, coconut and walnuts. Pour into the lined tin. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch. Meanwhile make the glaze. Mix the sugar with the orange and lemon juice in a bowl. While the cake is still warm prick the top with a skewer, pour the glaze over the cake and leave in the tin to cool.

This cake can also be made in a round tin (7x 3inch/17.5 x 7.5cm deep) which needs to be lined and will only take 1hour in the oven.

Note: When this cake is made in a round tin, the cream cheese icing is very effective and is a very tasty finish.

Cream Cheese Icing

Do twice the icing to coat a round carrot cake.

3oz (75g) cream cheese
1 1/2oz (45g) icing sugar
1 1/2oz (45g) butter
grated rind on 1/2 orange

Mix all the ingredients together and spread over the top of the carrot cake. Sprinkle with toasted flaked almonds or pumpkin seeds, crystallized if you fancy.

Carrot Crisps

You can make vegetable crisps from a variety of different vegetables: parsley, celeriac, beetroot, Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes of course. But you need to be careful with the ones that are very high in sugar, because they need to be cooked at a lower temperature, otherwise they’ll be dark and bitter. Serves about 8

a few raw carrots, small to medium-sized
oil in a deep-fat fryer
salt

Use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrot. Then slice on a mandolin into paper-thin slices. Leave them to dry out on kitchen paper (this may take several hours). You want them to be dry, otherwise they’ll end up being soggy when you cook them.
Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 140ºC (275ºF) and cook slowly, a few at a time. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt.

Gajar ka Halwa

Maunika Gowardhan’ Carrot Pudding with Cardamom, Pistachios and Raisin

Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1kg (2 1/4lb) peeled and coarsely grated carrots
300ml (10fl oz) whole milk
200ml (7fl oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
handful of raisins
roughly chopped pistachios to garnish

To Serve
vanilla ice-cream

In a heavy bottom non-stick pan heat the butter and add grated carrots. Cook over medium heat and sauté till they have softened slightly and have changed in colour to a bright orange for about 30 mins or so, stirring continuously.

Add whole milk to the pan and reduce the heat to low cooking till the milk has dried out which will take about 15 minutes. Stir the pan well to avoid the mix from sticking or burning.

Add the condensed milk and cardamom powder. Stir through getting all the carrots to coat the condensed milk cooking on a low heat for 20 minutes. Add the raisins and some of the pistachio. The heat of the pudding will also puff up the raisins making them taste even better.

The consistency should be thick, making sure all the moisture has evaporated and the carrots have softened. Serve warm garnished with remaining pistachios alongside some ice cream.
Copyright Maunika Gowardhan

Angels Hair (Carrot Jam)

A blob of this carrot jam makes a super delicious starter with goat cheese, mozzarella and a few fresh rocket leaves.

600g (1 1/4lbs) carrots
500g (18oz/2 1/4 cups) caster sugar
zest of 2 large lemon, cut into strips
freshly squeezed juice of 2 large lemon
6 cardamom pods, split

Trim and scrape the carrots. Grate on a medium sized grater. Put into a pan with the sugar, lemon zest and juice and the cardamom pods. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then boil hard until the mixture is very thick.

Place into a warmed, sterilised jar and seal tightly.

Mothering Sunday

I’m flipping this year’s column for Mother’s Day, though we certainly don’t want to forget about hugs, breakfast in bed and sweet little primroses for Mam……

Instead I thought I’d write about teaching our kids to cook. Some of you at least, will have heard me on my hobby horse about how our generation and the one before us has failed our children by letting them out of our houses without teaching them the basic life skills to feed themselves properly. Skills are freedom, otherwise we are totally dependent on others for our basic needs. It’s all very fine having degrees, masters and PhDs but one also needs to be able to scramble a few eggs or whip up a spontaneous meal for a couple of friends with a few inexpensive ingredients. There is no greater joy, that’s how bonds are formed and what memories are made of.

If you can’t cook you simply cannot feed yourself or your family properly. It’s not rocket science. You don’t need to be a super chef – no need for twiddles and bows and smarties on top – all that’s needed is a bit of basic kitchen kit and a few basic techniques and a few basic recipes that really work. So here are some suggestions for perennial favourites that you and your kids can make together to celebrate Mother’s Day. And while we’re at it pick up your pen and write to the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton and ‘demand’ that practical cooking be re-embedded in the school curriculum. Meanwhile enjoy Mother’s Day.

Children of course love to cook sweet things but encourage them to have fun with savoury dishes and salad. I’m keeping the text short this week so we can include as many recipes as possible.

Hot Tips
Rachel’s
Rachel’s eagerly awaited new venture – Rachel’s – a restaurant serving lunch, dinner as well as gorgeous cocktails is now open on 28 Washington Street, Cork. Book online www.rachels.ie or tel:
021 427 4189

Afternoon Tea and Cakes
Join us on Thursday April 13th, 2017. We will share some of our favourite sweet treats to serve at tea-time. How about a chest of sandwiches, macaroons, delicate madeleines, a lemon meringue or coffee cupcakes, a light airy sponge cake with raspberries and rosewater cream. We’ll also talk about tea and introduce you to some delicious options…..
www.cookingisfun.ie

Nourishing Broth
Here at Ballymaloe making our own home-made stocks, has always been a priority.
It’s the flavour basis of all broths and so many other good things, soups, stews, risotto. The translation of ‘fond’, the French word for stock is foundation, and that just sums it up. Stocks are a power house of vitamins and minerals and comforting nourishment. Making stock is actually a mind-set. It’s just a way of working, instead of throwing things into the bin, think first. Does this qualify for the stock pot?
In this intensive afternoon class, we’ll show you how to make chicken, beef, fish and vegetable broths and how to utilise them in a variety of ways, plus we’ll add many flavours, Asian, Mexican, Moroccan, Mediterranean …. to your basic broth so everyone in the family, from tiny tots to athletic teens and Grandmas and Grandas will be clamouring for more.
Friday April 20th, 2.30pm-5.30pm www.cookingisfun.ie

Roast Fish with Tomato Fondue

The fish can be cooked whole or cut into portions. Allow 4 ozs for a starter, 6 ozs for a main course. This is a brilliantly easy way to cook fish, it is also delicious served with a creamy mushroom sauce or butter zucchini.

Serves 8-10 approx.

1 fillet of haddock, hake, grey sea mullet
salt and freshly ground pepper
butter and extra virgin oil, about 1oz (25g/25ml) of each

Tomato Fondue
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
110g (4oz) onions, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
900g (2lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste
2 tablespoons of any or a combination of the following: freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil
a few drops of balsamic vinegar (optional)

Garnish
sprigs of chervil

First make the tomato fondue. Heat the oil in a casserole or stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and toss until coated. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat until the onions and garlic are soft but not coloured. Slice the tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions. Season, with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes soften.
A few drops of balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhance the flavour.

Preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/regulo 9

Line an oven baking tray with tin foil or parchment paper, cut the fillet of fish into portions, brush with melted butter and oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Bake the fish in the preheated oven for 5-25 minutes depending on the size or until cooked and tender. It is cooked through when the fish changes colour form translucent to opaque.

Transfer the fish onto one or two hot serving dishes. Garnish with sprigs of chervil.
Serve the tomato fondue in a warm serving bowl on the side.

Mac and Cheese

Serves 6

Macaroni cheese is one of my children’s favourite supper dishes. We often add some cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni. It’s also incorporates several techniques how to grate cheese, make roux and a basic béchamel white sauce which can be used as a basis for many other recipes.

8 ozs (225g) macaroni
6 pints (3.4 litres) water
2 teaspoons salt

2 ozs (50g) butter
2 ozs (50g) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 1/2 pints (850ml) boiling milk
1/4 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 ozs (150g) grated mature Cheddar cheese
1 oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top

1 x 2 pint (1.1 litre) capacity pie dish

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

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

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

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

Toad in the Hole

This brilliant recipe can be used for a savoury or sweet filling. Kids love making their own sausages but of course you can buy tasty cocktail sausages instead.

Makes 8 approx

1/4 lb (4 oz) flour
2 eggs, preferably free range
½ pint (300ml) milk
1/2 oz (15g) butter, melted

1/2 lb (225g) good homemade sausages, see recipe
a little oil

Garnish
chopped fresh parsley

First make the batter. Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. Using a small whisk or wooden spoon, stir continuously, gradually drawing in flour from the sides, adding the milk in a steady stream at the same time. When all the flour has been incorporated, whisk in the remainder of the milk and the cool melted butter.
Allow to stand while you cook the sausages in a very little oil in a frying pan until pale golden on all sides.
Grease hot, deep patty tins with oil and half fill with the batter. Stick a cocktail sausage into each and bake in a preheated oven 230C/450F/regulo 8, for 20 minutes approx.
Alternatively, put the sausages and their cooking fat into a small roasting tin. Heat on the stove for a few seconds and when it begins to sizzle, pour batter over the sausages. Bake in a pre-heated oven as described for 20-25 minutes or until well risen and crisp. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Jammy Popovers
Make the basic popovers as above but instead of sausage fill with a spoonful of raspberry jam, add a blob of cream and dust with icing sugar – super delicious.

Ballymaloe Homemade Sausages

Sausages made from 100 percent lean meat may sound good, but for sweetness and succulence one needs some fat. The addition of breadcrumbs is not just to add bulk, it greatly improves the texture, too.

Serves 8

(Makes 16 Small or 8 large sausages)

450g (1lb) good, fat streaky pork (rindless)
2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, rosemary and sage)
60g (21⁄2oz) soft white breadcrumbs
1 large garlic clove
1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper
1 organic egg (optional – helps to bind – reduce breadcrumbs to 50g/2oz if omitting egg)
dash of oil for frying
50g (2oz) natural sheep or hog casings (optional)

Mince the pork at the first or second setting, depending on the texture you like. Chop the herbs finely and mix through the breadcrumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a
little salt. Whisk the egg, and then mix into the other ingredients thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the
seasoning. Correct if necessary. Fill the mixture into natural sausage casings and tie. Twist into sausages at regular intervals. Alternatively, divide into 16 pieces and roll into lengths to make skinless sausages. Cover and chill.

Homemade sausages are best eaten fresh but will keep refrigerated for 2–3 days.
When ready to eat, fry gently on a barely oiled pan on a medium heat until golden on all sides. These sausages are particularly delicious served with

Apple Sauce
and Potato Cakes

Best Ever Apple Sauce

1 lb (450g) cooking apples
1-2 dessertspoon water
2 ozs (55g) approx. sugar (depending on how tart the apples are)

Peel, quarter and core the apples; cut the pieces in two and put them in a stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan, with sugar and water. Cover and cook on a very low heat until the apples break down in a fluff. Stir and taste for sweetness. Serve warm or cold.

Chocolate Mousse

Serves 8

285ml (10floz) cream
200g (7oz) good quality chocolate
2 large egg yolks – free-range and organic
½ teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon of coffee
25g (1oz) unsalted butter

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the cream until it reaches the shivery stage, almost boiling. Take off the heat, leave for about a minute.

Then add the chocolate and whisk until fully smooth. Beat in the egg yolks. Add the butter, whisk till smooth and silky.

Pour into individual serving pots, espresso cups or chocolate cases. Cover well and leave to set in the fridge. Serve with a jug of pouring cream.

Variations
For a lighter mouse fold in 2 stiffly beaten egg whites before pouring into pots

 

St Patrick’s Weekend

St Patrick’s Day gets bigger and better every year, as more than 100 million people around the world celebrate our National holiday with the Irish diaspora.

This year, even more iconic sites and monuments were illuminated in green. Over 15 new sites joined the old favourites among them the One World Trade Centre in New York, The City Hall in London, the fountains on Gran Via in Barcelona, Matsue Castle in Japan, The Diamond Bridge in Korea even a Rhino Station in Nairobi National Park and most fun of all the famous red carpet in Cannes will become the ‘green carpet’ on 17th March – what a coup for Tourism Ireland…..

An inspired idea that focuses the global attention on the Emerald isle. St Patrick’s Day was extra special for us this year because my daughter in law Rachel (Allen) was thrilled and honoured to have been chosen as Grand Marshall in St Patrick’s Day parade in Cork City. There were flamboyant parades with elaborate floats all over Ireland, in Cork City and in capital cities all over the world.
The colourful parade attracted at least 50,000 people onto the streets of Cork.

To top all that lovely, Olympic sailor and silver medallist Annalise Murphy was Grand Marshall of the Dublin St Patrick’s Day parade in recognition of her achievement at the Rio Olympics. Annalise who is doing a 12 Week cooking course with us here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School at present was also deeply honoured to be leading the Dublin St Patrick’s Day parade that Irish people all over the world love to watch or participate in.
We were all super excited and rummaged through our wardrobes to find every scrap of green to wear on St Patrick’s Day – I even wore my green glasses….how corny is that but I love the excuse to celebrate and to tell everyone how proud we are to be Irish whether we are at home or abroad.

Sadly up to with a few exceptions there’s often more fun and excitement abroad than at home. So let’s celebrate this weekend and also have a few friends around to share one of my favourite meals of all bacon, cabbage, parsley sauce and a bowl of fluffy champ flecked with scallions with a nice lump of Kerrygold butter melting into the centre.

Follow that with a gorgeous rhubarb pie made from the first few spears of new season’s rhubarb – truly a feast. Well I gave those recipes in my last St Patrick’s Day column so this time I’m sharing a a recipe from the Chapter One cookbook by much loved Cork born chef Ross Lewis.

Hot Tips
Ummera Smoked Irish organic Picanha Beef
Congratulations to Ummera who won a Guild of Food Writers award for his excellent smoked duck. Love the way the artisans continue to develop new products – Anthony Cresswell whose Ummera smoked salmon and smoked duck we all know and love has recently introduced smoked rump of organic beef. It’s available in 1 kg to 1.5 kg pieces – ready to enjoy.
We love it thinly sliced with horseradish cream and little herb salad. www.ummera.com

The Business of Food with Blathnaid Bergin
In this 10 day course you will learn the vital information needed to set up a viable, enjoyable Food Service Business. The course will include workshops, discussions, case studies, practical sessions and presentations. Some of the concepts explored include where to start the A-Z of getting started, standards and systems, menu planning and development, food quality, kitchen management, finance and cash management, interior design, equipment, suppliers, front of house operations management, coffee & tea, hidden costs, staff, service skills, balancing business and life….……course includes all materials and lunch. www.cookingisfun.ie for further information

Ross Lewis’s Cured Salmon with Burren Smoked Salmon Cream and Lemon Balm Jelly, Horseradish and Wild Watercress, Kilkenny Organic Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil

I created this dish for the official State dinner marking the first visit of the reigning British monarch to the Irish Republic. It was served to Queen Elizabeth II, President McAleese and other dignitaries in St Patrick’s Hall, Dublin Castle on May 18th 2011. This dish articulated the very best of what our rich larder has to offer in May, as well as being a celebration of our historic food culture.

Serves 8

For the cured salmon
1.25 litres water
200 g rock salt
400 g sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
10 g star anise
5 whole cloves
4 juniper berries
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 side fresh organic salmon, skin on and pin bones left in
1 bunch fresh coriander
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely sliced

For the watercress puree
500g wild watercress, well picked over
300 ml cream
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

For the wild smoked salmon cream
150 g piece Burren Smokehouse wild smoked salmon
400 g crème fraîche
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon smoked paprika

For the lemon jelly balm
200 g celery, sliced
300 g fennel, sliced
10 g root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
200 ml white wine
50 ml white wine vinegar
2 litres still mineral water
2 star anise
30 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon lemon puree
200 g lemon verbena
200 g lemon balm
8 gold leaf gelatine leaves

For the horseradish cream
200 g Glenilen crème fraîche
1 tablespoon creamed horseradish
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

For the pickled radish and onion
200 ml apple balsamic cider vinegar
50 g sugar
2 shallots, finely sliced and separated into 24 small rings
4 radishes, finely sliced, 24 slices in total

To serve
Handful each tiny rosemary flowers and fresh bronze fennel sprigs
50 ml cold pressed organic rapeseed oil, in a squeezy bottle

For the cured salmon. Place all the marinade ingredients in a pan, except for the coriander and fennel and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the fennel and coriander, then cool. When the marinade is completely cold, pour over the salmon in a tray deep enough to keep it submerged. Cure in the fridge for 18 hours, then lift the salmon out of the cure and transfer to a drying rack. Leave to dry, uncovered, in the fridge for 24 hours.

Next make the watercress puree. Blanch the watercress in a pan of boiling water and refresh in a bowl of iced water. Squeeze as much water out as possible using kitchen paper, then transfer to a Pacojet container and freeze overnight. Reduce the cream by half and cool. When the watercress is frozen, place in a Pacojet and blend 3 times, then transfer to a blender with the reduced cream and blend until smooth. Add the Worcestershire sauce and season and season with salt and black pepper. Pass through a chinois and put into a small squeezy bottle, then chill until needed.

Wild smoked salmon cream
Remove the skin from the smoked salmon and trim down the flesh. Bring the skin, trimmings and half the crème fraîche to the boil in a pan. Cool and pass through a chinois. Place the smoked salmon in a Pacojet container with the infused crème fraîche and freeze overnight. Blend the frozen salmon mix and pass through a tamis then fold in the rest of the crème fraîche. Add the lemon juice, Tabasco and paprika and season with salt and black pepper. Transfer to a piping bag and chill until needed.

Lemon Balm Jelly
Put all the ingredients in a pan except for the lemon verbena, lemon balm and gelatine. Cover and simmer gently for 40 minutes. Pass through a chinois and pour onto the lemon verbena and lemon balm. Cover and leave to infuse for 2-3 hours, then pass through a double layer of muslin and measure out 1 litre. Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water and set aside for 10 minutes. Heat 200 ml of the lemon balm liquid in a pan until just below boiling and whisk in the softened gelatine. Combine with the other 800 ml and mix well, then pass through a chinois into a jug. Pipe 25 ml of the smoked salmon cream into the bottom of each small serving bowl and cover with 100 ml of the lemon balm jelly. Chill for 3-4 hours to set.

Horseradish Cream
Whisk the crème fraîche with the creamed horseradish, vinegar and a pinch of salt until just before it gets to a stiff peak. Put into a squeezy bottle and chill.

Pickled Radish and Onion
Bring the vinegar, sugar and 2-3 generous pinches of salt to the boil, stirring to dissolve, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cold, pour over the vegetables and leave to marinate for 20-30 minutes.

Serving
Take the skin off the cured salmon and remove the pin bones with tweezers. Carve into 5×10 cm pieces from the thick end of the fillet and cut into cubes – you’ll need 24 in total. Arrange 3 cured salmon cubes on each lemon balm jelly and add 2-3 of the pickled radish slices and 2-3 of the pickled onion rings. Add 3 dots of the horseradish cream and 3 dots of the watercress puree. Finish each one with the rosemary flowers, the bronze fennel sprigs and a drizzle of the rapeseed oil.

Taken from Chapter One an Irish Food Story by Ross Lewis

Traditional Brown Soda Bread

If the buttermilk is low fat rub 12-25g (1/2-1oz) of butter or cream into the dry ingredients first.

Makes 1 loaf

8oz (225g/2 cups) brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)
8oz (225g/2 cups) plain white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 oz (25 g) butter
1 level teaspoon bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda) sieved
14-15fl oz (400-425ml/1 3/4 cups – generous 1 3/4 cups) sour milk or buttermilk

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

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour. Make a well in the centre and pour all of the sour milk or buttermilk. Using one hand, stir in a full circle starting in the centre of the bowl working towards the outside of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it out onto a well-floured board (use wholemeal flour).

WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Roll around gently with floury hands for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Flip over and flatten slightly to about 2 inches (5cm) approx. Sprinkle a little flour onto a baking sheet and place the loaf on top of the flour. Mark with a deep cross and bake in the preheated oven 45 minutes approximately.
(In some ovens it is necessary to turn the bread upside down on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before the end of baking) It will sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack, wrapped in a clean tea-towel while hot if you prefer a softer crust.

Serve slathered with good Irish butter.

Spring Rhubarb Tart with Crystallised Ginger Cream

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.

Serves 8-12

Pastry
225g (8oz//2 sticks) butter
40g (1 1/2oz/scant 1/4 cup) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
300g (12oz/2 1/2 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached

Filling
900g (2lbs) sliced red rhubarb (about 1cm/1/2 inch thick)
approx. 175 – 225g (6-8oz/generous 3/4 – 1 cup) sugar.
egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk
castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve
softly whipped cream with chopped crystallised ginger
or Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream

tin, 18cm (7 inches) x 30.5cm (12 inches) x (2.5cm) deep

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

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.

To make the tart
Roll out the pastry 3mm (1/8 inch) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Put the prepared rhubarb into the tin and sprinkle with the sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the rhubarb is tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with crystallised ginger cream or with Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream.

Jerusalem

A couple of months ago I had a delicious dinner at an exciting Israeli restaurant in London’s Soho called Palomar. The amazing vibe transported me right into the Jerusalem party scene. The intriguing Yiddish, Yemini and Meknes style dishes whetted my appetite to learn more about this kind of food. Our friends, Yotam and Sami at Ottolenghi and Itamir and Sarit from Honey and Co in London have also been spreading the word about Israeli and Middle Eastern food for decades.

As ever, I decided to make a trip to the source. I arrived into Jerusalem on a Thursday evening and headed straight for the famous Mahane Yehuda Market, known as the ‘Shuk’.
A huge colourful, partially covered, bustling market with over 250 stall holders, selling an irresistible melange of seasonal vegetables, fruit, fresh herbs…there are butchers, fish mongers, innumerable bakeries piled high with challah, babka and a tantalizing range of filo and kunefe pastries. Others crammed with a wide range of zattar, tahini, sumac, fresh spices, nuts and dried fruits, dates, olives, barberries….. Some just sell many variations of halva. Of course there are also little shops selling wines, housewares, clothes, sandals and a huge variety of judaica.

In and around the edges of the market, there are street stalls and cafes offering irresistible street foods – shawarma, falafel, kebabs, kibbah, shasklik, konafe, baklava…… Juice stalls, press and squeeze the freshest juice as you wait, mango, orange, pomegranate, pink grapefruit, carrot, lime…..

The vendors vie with each other calling out their prices to passerbys. On Thursdays and Friday morning, there’s an extra frenzy of activity as the Jewish community stock up with produce for the Sabbath meal. The bugle is sounded by a couple of Haredi men on Friday afternoon, the market closes and doesn’t reopen until Saturday afternoon.

But, what I hadn’t realised was that for the past few years, at night when the stalls close and the graffiti covered shutters are secured. The market reinvents itself into the centre of Jerusalem’s hip night life scene where local foodies, hipsters and tourists hang out. Table and chairs are set up, suddenly there’s live music, dance, cocktails and great food….The energy is off the scale.

Thursday and Saturday are the liveliest nights but every night, the area is a swinging scene. How about that for an idea for the English Market in Cork City…..

It was very tempting to eat in the midst of all the excitement but we’d managed to get a 10.30pm booking at Machneyuda restaurant on the outskirts of the market. It’s the inspiration for and the mother of the Palomar restaurant in London which had inspired my trip. It’s the hottest restaurant in Jerusalem right now and has been for quite some time. Exuberant head chef, Asaf Granet and two friends chop, dice and sauté to the beat of loud zippy music while banging on pots and pans in the open kitchen. Conversation is virtually impossible but the cacophony of sounds and the lively party scene is enough to keep all the guests wildly entertained as they enjoy Asaf’s eclectic take on Jerusalem dishes. I particularly loved the silky polenta with mushrooms, crisp asparagus, slivers of parmesan and truffle oil and of course the shikshukit and hummus with lamb and many toppings.

Dessert can be homemade twix and tonka icecream, pistachio hash cake, cheese cake in a jar – old school style. Alternatively, a table of friends could opt for the raucous splashed dessert to be hurled onto their tin foil covered table top by three exuberant chefs – a delicious spectacle – not for everyone……

Where better to find the penultimate Jerusalem recipes than in Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book Jerusalem

Hot Tips
Onwards We March
After a short winter break, Good Things at Dillon’s Corner in Skibbereen reopens on March 15th. Carmel Somers writes a beautiful seasonal menu together with a wide range of cookery classes…
028 519 48

UCC Food Conference
Innovation in Irish Food and Drink: Past, Present and Future
10-12 March 2017.
A conference organised by food historians Regina Sexton and Chad Ludington will showcase the research work of UCC staff to local and regional food business community. The first of its kind at UCC, this conference is open to the general public. Registration is now OPEN and free to all, please see below.
http://www.uccconferencing.ie

Just Cook It
Join us at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Monday April 10th 2017 for a half day cookery course. We will start with a welcome coffee and a guided tour of the seasonal produce in the garden. Then don an apron and into the kitchen. You’ll have fun and learn how to cook several delicious dishes under the expert guidance of our supportive tutors. Afterwards, we’ll sit down together to enjoy a relaxed and informal dinner. You will leave inspired with a selection of superb recipes to cook at home for family and friends. www.cookingisfun.ie

Jerusalem’s Basic Hummus

Serves 6

Our basic hummus is super smooth and rich in tahini, just as we like it, and can be kept in the fridge for up to three days and used simply spread over a plate, drizzled with olive oil and eaten with pita or bread.

250 g dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
270 g light tahini paste
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, crushed
100 ml ice cold water
Salt

Start a day before by washing the chickpeas well and placing them in a large bowl. Cover with cold water, at least twice their volume and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place in a medium saucepan on a high heat and add the drained chickpeas and the bicarbonate of soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1.5 litres of fresh water and bring to a boil.

Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas can cook for anywhere between 20-40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer.

Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but quite mushy.

Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 600 g now. Place the chickpeas in a food processor bow. Process until you get a stiff paste; then with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic and 1½ teaspoons salt.

Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix until you get a very smooth and creamy paste, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the hummus into a bowl, cover the surface with cling film and let it rest for 30 minutes. If not using straight away, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.

Taken from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar

Serves 4

1 large butternut squash (1.1kg/2 1/2lbs), cut into 2cm x 6cm (3/4 x 2 1/2 inch) wedges
2 red onions, cut into 3cm (1 1/4 inch) wedges
50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) olive oil

Sauce
3 1/2 tablespoons tahini paste
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 small garlic clove, crushed

30g (1 1/4oz) pine nuts
1 tablespoon za’atar
1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley
Malden sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

Put the squash and onion in a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons of oil, 1 teaspoon of salt and some black pepper and toss well. Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast in the oven for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some colour and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions as they might cook faster than the squash and need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

To make the sauce place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Whisk together until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary.

Pour the remaining teaspoon of oil into a small frying pan and place on a medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts, along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts are golden-brown. Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl, along with the oil, to stop the cooking.

To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.

Taken from Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi, Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s Root Vegetable Slaw with Labneh

We make this salad in the winter or early spring before any of the summer crops are around. It is incredibly fresh, ideal for starting a hearty meal. It is also great served with grilled oily fish. The labneh can be substituted with Greek yoghurt, well-seasoned with some olive oil, crushed garlic, salt and pepper.

Serves 6

3 medium beetroot (450 g in total)
2 medium carrots (250 g in total)
½ a celeriac (300 g in total)
1 medium kohlrabi (250 g in total)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons caster sugar
25 g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
25 g mint leaves, shredded
20 g flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
½ tablespoon lemon zest, grated
200 g labneh
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Peel all the vegetables and slice thinly, about 2 mm thick. Stack a few slices at a time on top of each other and cut them into matchstick like strips. Alternatively, use a mandolin or a food processor with the appropriate attachment. Place all the strips in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside while you make the dressing.
Place the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir until the sugar and the salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Drain the vegetable strips and transfer to a paper towel to dry well. Dry the bowl and replace the vegetables. Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables, mix well and leave to cool. Place in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

When ready to serve, add the herbs, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon of black pepper to the salad. Toss well, taste and add more salt if needed. Pile onto serving plates and serve with some labneh on the side.

Taken from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tami

Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichoke and Lemon

The combination of saffron and whole lemon slices does not only make for a beautiful looking dish, it goes exceptionally well with the nutty earthiness of the artichokes. This is easy to prepare – you just need to plan ahead and leave to marinate properly.

Serves 4

450 g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into six lengthways (1.5 cm thick wedges)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
8 chicken thighs, on the bone with the skin on, or a medium whole chicken divided into four
12 banana shallots, peeled and halved lengthways
12 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 medium lemon, cut in half lengthways and then into very thin slices
1 teaspoon saffron threads
50 ml olive oil
150 ml cold water
1½ tablespoons pink peppercorns, slightly crushed
10 g fresh thyme leaves
40 g tarragon leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Put the Jerusalem artichokes in a medium saucepan, cover with plenty of water and half the lemon juice. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender but not soft. Drain and leave to cool.

Place the Jerusalem artichokes and all the remaining ingredients, excluding the remaining lemon juice and half of the tarragon in a large mixing bowl and use your hands to mix everything together well. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight, or at least for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 240°C/220°F/gas mark 9. Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up in the centre of a roasting tin and spread the remaining ingredients around the chicken. Roast for 30 minutes. Cover with tin foil and cook for a further 15 minutes. At this point the chicken should be completely cooked. Remove from the oven and add the reserved tarragon and lemon juice. Stir well, taste and add more salt if needed. Serve at once.

Taken from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tami

Cardamom Rice Pudding with Pistachios and Rose Water

Serves 4

400 ml full fat milk
120 ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
8 cardamom pods, crushed lightly
120 g pudding rice
30 g unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons condensed milk
1 tablespoon acacia honey or another mild flavoured honey
Salt
3 tablespoons roasted and slivered or lightly crushed unsalted pistachios, to garnish
1 tablespoon dried, edible rose petals, to garnish

Syrup
1 tablespoon acacia honey or another mild flavoured honey
½ tablespoon rose water

Put the milk, cream, vanilla (pod and seeds) and cardamom in a medium saucepan and place on a high heat. As soon as the mix is about to reach boiling point, remove from the heat, allow to cool down and leave in the fridge to infuse overnight or at least for a couple of hours.

To prepare the syrup, stir the honey, rose water and 1 teaspoon of water well until the honey dissolves and set aside.

Add the rice to the pan with the infused milk and cream, bring to the boil and simmer on a medium heat, stirring all the time, for 20 minutes. The rice should cook through but still retain a bite and the pudding should be thick. You will need to add a little bit of water, up to 50 ml, towards the end of the cooking if the pudding becomes too thick before the rice is done.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pick out the cardamom pods and vanilla pod. Stir in the butter, condensed milk, honey and a p inch of salt. You can chill the mix now or serve immediately in little flat bowls, sprinkled with pistachios and rose petals and drizzled with the syrup.

Home Cooking

It’s all about home cooking these days, encouraging busy people to readjust priorities around food and how we feed both ourselves and our families.

Thomasina Miers, Tommi to her friends is an enchanting bubbly cook from the UK who cofounded the hugely popular Mexican restaurant group Wahaca in London. In 2002 she came here to the school to do a 12 Week Certificate course when as she said herself she was at a ‘bit of a crossroads’. She fell in love with Ireland, embraced country life and grasped every opportunity to learn new skills. She headed off to West Cork to meet the artisan producers and spent many happy months absorbing knowledge about cheese making, charcuterie and farmers markets from the inspirational Ferguson family at Gubeen. She is The Guardian’s Weekend Cook and somewhere in the midst of all her many awards and accomplishment, she won Masterchef 2005, has done lots of TV and to date has written five bestselling cookbooks. Her latest Home Cook is the one she’d enjoyed writing even more than the other. It’s jam packed full of the kind of food she loves to cook for her lovely husband and three little dotes.

“When I sat down to write this book, I wanted to gather together the recipes that have meant the most to me over the years. They include family favourites, versions of dishes I grew up with and those that I love to cook for my husband and children. There are recipes that have been the biggest hits when feeding friends as well as exotic recipes that I’ve picked up on travels. There are some that I have created on the hoof and others inspired by my much loved, dog eared collection of cookbooks.”

Tommi is yet another crazily busy mum who is doing her best to balance her hectic schedule with feeding herself and her family healthy wholesome seasonal food. She believes in having a well-stocked store cupboard, lots of spices and her beloved chilli to add oomph to simple vegetable and pasta dishes.
She too found it difficult to make sense of the confusing and conflicting messages on what constitutes healthy wholesome food – but now years later she’s developed her own food philosophy simply and easy to employ and guilt free.
She know the importance of shopping for great fresh ingredients, she has learned the skills of prepping methodically like a masterchef (doesn’t have to take longer) and the relaxing effect of spending time cooking in the kitchen after a busy day in the city and the sheer joy of sitting down with her family and friends around the kitchen table. Check out Home Cook and prepare to be inspired. Here are a few recipes to whet your appetite.

HOT TIPS

Support Cork Penny Dinners Fundraising night ‘Mum’s Dish 2017’.
A cookery demonstration with several chefs including Bryan McCarthy from Greene’s restaurant, Ali Honour of Ali’s Kitchen, Ciaran Scully of Bayview Hotel and many more…. will cook some of their favourite dishes while you sit back with a glass of wine and nibbles. Wednesday, 8th March 2017 at 7.30pm. The Hospitality Suite, Irish Independent Park (Musgrave Park), Cork.
Tickets are €25.00 and available www.mumsdish2017.eventbrite.ie.
Contact Grace Coffey for further information gcoff30@yahoo.ie

Just Cook It!
Join us on Monday 10th April 2017 at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for an afternoon of fun – cook a couple of delicious seasonal dishes with the guidance of our experienced tutors followed by a relaxed and informal meal.
www.cookingisfun.ie for further information.

Brand Storytelling: The Foundation of Your Growth Strategy
The ability to communicate an authentic and engaging brand story is a powerful component of any business’ growth strategy in the evolving marketplace for food and drink. Join Taste Cork on Tuesday 7th March at the Macdonald Kinsale Hotel from 9am to hear from our guest speakers including Conor Pope, Sinead Hennessy, Caroline Hennessy, Justin Green ….Booking Essential, contact Rebecca O Keeffe rebecca@tastecork.com

Thomasina Miers’ Beetroot and Fennel Seed Soup with Ginger and Crème Fraîche

Feeds four – six

For the Soup
6 medium beetroots
3-4 floury potatoes (about 500 g)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
A few pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
1.5 litres chicken, beef or vegetable stock

For the crème fraîche
Large thumb size piece of fresh ginger, peeled
250 ml crème fraîche
Finely grated zest of 1 lime and juice of ½ lime

Top and tail the beetroot, rinse the top stalks and any leaves in cold water, roughly chop and set aside. Scrub the beets and potatoes clean and roughly dice the beets (I always use rubber gloves for this to avoid pink stained fingers). Peel the potatoes and dice into the same size as the beets.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a casserole over a medium heat and add the onions, fennel seeds and chilli. Sweat for 8 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent, then add the garlic and vegetables. Cook the vegetables in the oil for about 5 minutes, stirring them to coat in the spices. Season generously with salt and pepper, pour in the stock to cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, by which time the vegetables should be completely soft. Blitz with a stick blender and adjust the thickness by adding more water, or simmering to reduce and thicken.

Meanwhile grate the ginger into the crème fraîche. Add the lime zest and juice and season with a pinch of salt.

Just before serving, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and sauté the beet tops for a few minutes until just soft and hot. Season with a pinch of salt. Serve the soup in warmed bowls with a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkling of the tops. It is delicious right away but improves substantially if you can rest it overnight; mostly I am too impatient.
Home Cook published by Guardian and Faber Publishing
Photography by Tara Fisher

Thomasina Miers’ Pomegranate Chicken Thighs with Red Quinoa Salad

Feeds four
For the Chicken
1 garlic clove
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
Pinch of black peppercorns
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra to fry
Squeeze of lemon juice
6 boneless chicken thighs
Seeds form ½ small pomegranate

For the Quinoa Salad
125 g red or white quinoa, rinsed
2 handfuls of gently toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
¼ red onion, finely chopped
Seeds from ½ small pomegranate
1 celery heart, finely sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and finely diced
½ bunch of parsley leaves and stalks, finely chopped
2 large handfuls of mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

Place the garlic in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt and crush to a paste. Add the cumin seeds and peppercorns and crush them too, then stir in the molasses, oil and lemon juice. Transfer to a large bowl, then add the chicken thighs and rub the marinade into them thoroughly. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile prepare the salad. Place the quinoa in a pan with a few pinches of salt and cover with 180 ml of boiling water. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15-17 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain in a sieve, then sit the sieve on top of the hot pan and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave to steam dry for at least 10 minutes.

Combine the remaining salad ingredients in a bowl (except for the oil and lemon juice) and lightly season. When the quinoa has steamed dry, fluff it up with a fork. While still hot, pour over the oil and half the lemon juice, mix well and season lightly. Combine with the other salad ingredients, squeeze over the remaining lemon and mix well. Set aside.
Add a small splash of oil to a lidded frying a pan and place over a medium high heat. Season the thighs with a little salt and ad d them skin side down to the pan when hot. Fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden and crisp. Turn them over once more, add the pomegranate seeds, any marinating liquid and a splash of water. Cover, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for a further 3 minutes until cooked through (the juices should run clear when you insert a skewer). Uncover and leave to rest for 3 minutes.
Cut the thighs into thirds and sit them on top of the salad, spooning over the cooking juices and cooked pomegranate seeds.
Taken from Home Cook by Thomasina Miers, published by Guardian and Faber Publishing
Photography by Tara Fisher

Thomasina Miers’ Honey and Walnut Tart

Feeds eight to ten

For the pastry
130 g butter, chilled
50 g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
225 g plain flour, plus extra to dust
¼ teaspoon fine salt
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the filling
200 g your favourite local honey
60 g dark muscovado sugar
40 g soft light brown sugar
100 g butter
¼ teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon fine salt
½ teaspoon lemon juice
350 g shelled walnuts, two thirds bashed into rough crumbs, the rest left in halves
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

To make the pastry, blitz together the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a food processor. Pulse in the flour and salt until just combined then briefly beat in the egg. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead to bring together, working it as little as possible. Shape into a disc and roll out onto a lightly floured surface to 5 mm thick and large enough to generously fit a 23 cm loose bottomed, fluted tart tin. roll the pastry around the rolling pin, then lift and unroll it into the tin. press the pastry well into the sides and corners of the tin using your knuckles. Cover loosely with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6 and place a flat baking sheet in the oven to heat up.

Line the pastry with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Slide the tart tin onto the heated baking sheet in the oven and blind bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans, trim the pastry with a sharp knife and bake for a further 7 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 180C/gas 4.

Meanwhile gently heat the honey, sugars and butter in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the mixed spice, vanilla, salt, lemon juice and crumbled walnuts. Stir in the beaten eggs until the mixture has emulsified and spoon into the baked tart case. Top with the whole walnuts and slide back into the oven for 20-25 minutes until nut brown and set. Allow to cool before removing from the tin.

Serve in slices with softly whipped cream or ice cream

Home Cook by Thomasina Miers, published by Guardian and Faber Publishing
Photography by Tara Fisher

Shrove Tuesday

I love, love, love pancakes, bit fat juicy ones, thin crispy lacy ones, teeny weeny piklets, soft spongy crumpets, blousey Dutch babies…
Pancake batter is totally magical, one can make a million variations by just changing the proportions of egg and flour to liquid.
Half milk and water will give you a lacier crepe, less liquid will result in a thickish pancake. Use buttermilk instead and you can turn out a stack of fluffy American pancakes.

Everyone has their favourites, but simple pancakes conjure up the happiest memories of Pancake Tuesdays of our childhood. Mummy made a huge bowl of pancake batter and then cooked pancake after pancake for what seemed like hours. There were nine of us so we took turns to have the next one straight from the pan. We brushed the speckled pancakes with melted butter, sprinkled on some castor sugar and squeezed some lemon juice to zip up the flavour, rolled them up and then ate them slowly cut into little slices until it was our turn again. When my own children were little, pancakes were our quintessential fast food made in minutes when we arrived home from a shopping trip or an afternoon at the beach. Just pop a pan on the Aga, shoot a mug of white flour into a blender, add 3 eggs and 15 fl oz of milk, a dessertspoon of castor sugar. Whizz, bang – batter made. Melt a little butter in the pan, pour in a small ladel full of batter, tilt the pan to cover the base, cook on the highest heat for a minute or two until its easy to flip over. Slide it onto a hot plate, then fill or top with your favourite choice – chocolate spread is right up there, soft and easy to spread but now we know that the well-known brand is made with controversial palm oil you may want to make your own with good quality hazelnuts and chocolate.

Kumquat compote, a homemade lemon curd and crème fraîche are so morish. Honey, butter is also hard to beat but orange butter and freshly squeezed lemon juice are a quintessential favourite. Ring up the pals and arrange a pancake party – fun and delicious for all the ages from nine to ninety.
Here are some of my favourite recipes

 

Hot Tips

Date for the Diary
The Weston A. Price Foundation will be hosting their third conference at Thomond Park Stadium in Limerick on March 25th & 26th March 2017. ‘Changing Our Minds’ will focus on the nutritional foundations of a healthy mind and ways in which we can make profound positive changes to our health.
Contact Deirdre McMahon deirdremacmahon@gmail.com

Fairtrade Fortnight
From February 27th to March 12th 2017. Join your friends, neighbours, colleagues and communities to put Fairtrade products in your shopping basket whenever possible. Everything tastes better when you can enjoy it knowing that those who laboured to produce the food are fairly treated and compensated.
Check out http://www.fairtrade.ie/ for the Fairtrade Fortnight Action Guide.

Slow Food East Cork Event Fair Trade Nicaraguan Chocolate
Heydi Mairena from Jinotega in Nicaragua will share the story of her fair trade artisan Quetzalcoatl chocolate on Wednesday March 1st 2017 at 7pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. www.slowfoodireland.com

Posh Shrove Tuesday Pancakes with Orange Butter

Every Shrove Tuesday we make pancakes at the School, the students queue up to eat them hot from the pan, with much swapping of stories about how mothers made them – this year one was heard to remark ruefully – ‘my mother’s pancakes never tasted like these- these are delicious! In fact these are very nearly as good as Crepes Suzette but half the bother.

Serves 6 – makes 12 approx.

Basic Pancake Batter
175g (6oz/generous 1 cup) white flour, preferably unbleached
A good pinch of salt
1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) castor sugar
2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range
425ml (scant ¾ pint) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) melted butter

Orange Butter
175g (6oz/1½ sticks) butter
3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
200g (7oz/scant 2 cups) icing sugar
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Grand Marnier (optional)

Freshly squeezed juice of 5 oranges

8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crepe pan

First make the batter. Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour from the sides. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of castor sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).
Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so – longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the pancakes stir in 2 tablespoons melted butter. This will make all
the difference to the flavour and texture of the pancakes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.
Next make the Orange butter.
Cream the butter with the finely grated orange rind. Then add the sifted icing sugar and beat until fluffy, add the orange liqueur if using.
Make the pancakes in the usual way.
Heat a non stick pan until very hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base when you tilt and swirl the pan. Put the pan back on the heat, loosen the pancake around the edge with a non metal slice. Flip over, cook for a few seconds on the reverse side. Slide over onto a plate. Repeat until all the batter has been used up.
Pancakes and orange butter can be make ahead and finished later. The pancakes will keep overnight covered in a fridge. They will peel apart easily – no need to interleaf them with greaseproof paper.
To Serve
Melt a large blob of the Orange butter in the pan, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and toss the pancakes in the foaming butter, fold in half and then in quarters (fan shapes). Serve 2 per person on warm plates. Repeat until all the pancakes and butter have been used.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Spread

You’ll never go back to the well known brand

Makes 2 small jars

250 g (9 oz) hazelnuts
150 g (5 oz) icing sugar
45 g (1.5 oz) cocoa powder (we use Valrhona)
4 tablespoons hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salt, between 1/8 and ¼ teaspoon

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

Spread the hazelnuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes or until the skin start to loosen and the nuts are golden and evenly roasted. Rub the skins off the hazelnuts and discard.

Cool and transfer to a food processor. Whizz the hazelnuts for 2-5 minutes or until the oil begins to separate from the soft paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder, hazelnut oil, vanilla extract and salt to taste. Keep whizzing until the spread is loose, glossy and spreadable texture. Taste, it may need another pinch of salt or another tablespoon of hazelnut oil.
Spoon into little jars, cover and use within a month but usually it doesn’t last that long!

Reynard’s Dutch Babies

Makes 4
3 free range eggs
175ml (6fl ozs/3/4 cup) milk
75oz (3oz/1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
salt to taste
3/4 tablespoons (1 American tablespoons) clarified butter

Topping
4 slices cooked ham
75-110g (3-4ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated
maple syrup (optional)
2 teaspoon thyme leaves
freshly ground pepper

We use small, 15cm (6 inch) cast iron pans for ours.
Preheat an oven to 230°/450°F/Gas Mark 8.
Whisk all the ingredients together for the batter. Melt a scant tablespoon of clarified butter in each of the cast iron pans over a high heat, pour 1/4 of the batter into the hot pan. Transfer into the preheated oven, they will bubble up. Reduce temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add a slice of cooked ham and a good sprinkle of grated Gruyére cheese. Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the cheese melts. Slide onto a warm plate.

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

Drop Scones with Loads of Toppings

These can be sweet or savoury, just omit the sugar.

Makes 12

110g (4ozs/1 cup) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
25g (1oz/1/8 cup) caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
110ml (4fl ozs/1/2 cup) milk
drop of sunflower oil, for greasing

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

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

Remove from the pan to a wire rack. Serve warm with whichever topping you fancy.

Kumquat Compote and Crème Fraiche and Shredded Mint
Blood Orange, Labne, Roast Rhubarb and Pistachios
Labne, Pomegranates and Mint
Blueberries, Lemon Cream and Mint Leaves
Dulce de Leche, Bananas, Pecans and slivered almonds
Roast cherry tomatoes and Rocket Leaves
Blackberries, Lemon Curd, Cream and Blueberries

American Buttermilk Pancakes with Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup

Serves 4-6 depending on the size or helping

Makes 14 – 3” pancakes

We love to cook American pancakes on the Aga for Sunday brunch – it’s so difficult to know when to stop!

250ml (8 flozs/1cup) buttermilk
1 free-range egg, preferably organic
15g (1/2 oz/1/8 stick) butter, melted
150g (5oz/generous 1 cup) plain white flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bread soda

To Serve
butter
12-18 pieces crispy bacon
Maple syrup or Irish honey

Mix the buttermilk, egg and melted butter in a large bowl, until smooth and blended. Sieve the flour, salt and baking soda together, stir into the buttermilk until the ingredients are barely combined, don’t worry about the lumps. Do not over mix or the pancakes will be heavy.

Heat a heavy iron or non-stick pan until medium hot. Grease with a little clarified butter. Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of batter onto the pan, spread slightly with the back of the spoon to a round about 7.5cm (3inch) across. Cook until the bubbles rise and break on the top of the pancake (about a minute). Flip over gently. Cook until pale golden on the other side. Spread each with butter.

Serve a stack of three with crispy streaky bacon and maple syrup.
OR:

Loganberry jam, sour cream and sausages
Serve pancakes with loganberry jam, sour cream and sausages

Cornmeal Pancakes

Substitute 25g (1 oz/1/4 cup) of cornmeal for 25g (1 oz/1/4 cup) of flour in the above recipe.

Russian Fluffy Pancakes

Julija Makejeva, who works with us at the Cookery School, taught me how to make these pancakes, known as oladushki in Russian.

Serves 6

225ml (8fl oz) buttermilk
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda or bread soda)
2 organic eggs, whisked
scant 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons caster sugar
250g (9oz) white flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Put the buttermilk into a bowl, sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda on top and leave for 3–4 minutes to allow the mixture to bubble.
Whisk the egg, salt and caster sugar into the buttermilk mixture. Slowly add the flour to the batter, whisking all the time, until the mixture has an even consistency. The batter should be very thick and reluctantly fall off the spoon.
Heat a wide frying pan on a medium heat. Add the vegetable oil. Pour a tablespoon of batter into the pan and repeat – you should be able to fit about 5 more pancakes in the pan, spaced evenly apart. Fry until golden brown on one side, flip over once bubbles have appeared on the surface and popped. Repeat the process until all of the batter is used. Serve with sour cream mixed with raspberry jam or sour cream sprinkled with brown sugar.

Marrakesh

Exotic, crazy, colourful Marrakesh, so many intriguing cultural experiences but for the cook it’s a brave new world of tagines, cous cous, pastilla, meschoi, briouts, tangia, rfusa……

At first, the experience is virtually overwhelming. The souks and medina cover an area of approximately 19km and are not for the fainthearted. Acres of stalls selling everything you can imagine and much that you can’t. I armed myself with a map and the phone number of the manger of the Riad where I was staying so they could come and rescue me if and when I got hopelessly lost.

Before you venture into the Medina, sit down with a glass of frothy mint tea and a plate of Moroccan pastries and plan your adventure. I only had five days but I was determined to make the most of every moment.

I’d chosen to stay at a beautiful chic riad owned by Jasper Conran, with just five elegant bedrooms surrounding an inner courtyard garden with orange and banana trees, a date palm and a trickling fountain in the centre even a 10 metre lap pool for those who might like a refreshing dip even in Winter. The food was delicious – breakfast, lunch and dinner –Bouchra is the cook (dada) here. The elegant dining room has tall metal windows, huge mirrors and portraits of Indian maharajah. Billie Halliday crooned and the candles flickered as I enjoyed my first dinner at a low round table by the fireside. Three little Moroccan salads, zaalouk (aubergine), taktouta (red and yellow pepper), cooked carrot and cumin and then a superb lamb tagine with artichoke hearts, fennel and cooked to melting tenderness so all the flavours melded together. The dessert was layers of flaky warka with pastry cream and a chocolate caramel sauce. We’d hit the jackpot. ….

Breakfast was another little feast, four different Moroccan breads and lacy Beghrir, the tender Moroccan pancakes. I was determined to learn how to make at least these light lacy pancakes. I cheekily knocked on the kitchen door; Bouchra welcomed me into her kitchen and over the next few days showed me how to make a whole range of breads. Many, ingenious variations on the well-known Moroccan flat bread – M-semen. Some were cooked on the griddle others, shallow fried then drizzled with honey and sprinkled with coconut. Some were savoury to enjoy with eggs or B-Sara (buttara), the thick lentil and bean soup often eaten for breakfast. Others were light, flaky and slathered with honey butter. Then there are all the tagines which take their name from the earthenware pot with the conical lid in which they are served and if you are lucky also cooked. These can be vegetarian or made from seafood, chicken, beef, lamb or rabbit with seasonal fresh vegetables and fresh or dried fruit, olives and maybe nuts.

Tagine Royale with dates or prunes, almonds and apricots, is one of the best loved of all. But there’s also chicken with preserved lemon and green olives or with caramelised onion and raisins or with caramelised onion and tomato. I ate superb versions of these at Al Fassia on 55 Boulevard Mohamed Zerktouni in the Ville Nouvelle, owned by the Marraskhi sisters and almost entirely run by women. The food is superb but you must book ahead. I managed to do it on the internet from Ireland and confirmed when I arrived in Marrakech. Don’t miss the pasilla with pigeon and the mezze made up of fifteen Moroccan salads, I had both lunch and dinner, sounds beyond greedy but I simply couldn’t taste as many dishes are I wanted in one sitting.

Cardoons were in season during my visit and they too make a wonderful addition to a tagine.

Close to the L-hotel Marrakesh riad on Derb Sidi L’ahcen St there were lots of little shops and stalls piled high with freshly harvested vegetables and fruit, others offered an enormous variety of spices, olives of every hue and preserved lemons, an essential flavouring in so many Moroccan dishes.

Lots of little butcher shops too. Everything was very fresh– there doesn’t seem to be a tradition of hanging meat and every scrap of the animal is sold and used, heads, feet and all the offal and entrails. Street food of every hue, apart from M-semen, round or square, flat bread, cooked on a griddle and served with butter and honey. One stall just sold goats feet to add to tangia, a stew cooked in an earthenware pot in the underground woodfired ovens that heat the water for the famous hamman (baths).

The flavour and texture of the slow cooked meat that emerges from the earthenware pots is rich and delicious and continues a long tradition.

You’ll find a little cluster of cafes that serve tangia and meschoi, meltingly delicious slow roasted lamb falling off the bones served with cumin and salt on Meschoi alley on the East side of Djemaa El Fna just around the corner from the olive and pickled lemon souk.
For Harira and Bsara head for Djemaa El Fna, Marrakesh’s central square, a crazy open theatre. There are snake charmers, henna tattoo artistis, colourful water sellers in fringed hats that make more money from having photos taken than they do from selling water. At night the square ramps up several notches, over 100 chefs arrive with their grills, utensils and set up their stalls. Musicians tune their instruments and the fun begins in earnest. Everywhere vendors are trying to entice you to try their specialities. The adventurous shouldn’t miss the snails and sheep’s head and other miscellaneous parts. Slide onto a bench beside a stall and enjoy every second of the spectacle and the food – unlikely to be a gastronomic experience but the atmosphere is unforgettable. www.l-hotelmarrakech.com

Here are a few recipes to give you a flavour of Morocco.

Hot Tips

For Moroccan ingredients and lots of other good things seek out Mr Bell’s stall in the English Market. Tel: 021 4318655

Masterclass in Wild Fowl with Slow Food Galway
On Sunday February 5th 2017, at the Cait Curran Siol Centre, Moycullen, Eoin Warner will give a short talk and slide show as well as bringing a selection of wild birds. There will be hands on experience in plucking and preparing the wild fowl, followed by lunch of game casserole and other dishes.
Phone Kate 087 931 2333 or www.slowfoodireland.com for further information.

Pizza, Calzone, Panzerotti, Piadina…..
Sadly, this wonderful dish has had its reputation besmirched by fast and frozen food manufacturers. However, in the space of a single morning (including a pizza-orientated light lunch) you will learn how to prepare indescribably delicious, melt-in-the-mouth pizza! We shall cover everything from different sorts of pizza bases to innovative toppings, how to cook first class pizza in a domestic oven or a wood burning oven to the importance of using the right olive oil. Plus, we will look at all the other exciting things you can make with the same dough including a Calzone, Piadini, Sfinciuni, Foccacia with Maldon Sea Salt and Rosemary, Carta Musica as well as Dough balls with garlic butter. Friday February 17th, 2017 www.cookingisfun.ie

Moroccan Mint Tea

How this frothy mint tea transports one straight to Morocco – seek out little decorative Moroccan glasses, so pretty.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons Chinese green tea
4 tablespoons chopped mint, preferably spearmint
900ml water
sugar, to taste

To decorate
4 lemon slices, (optional)
4 small mint sprigs

Heat a teapot with boiling water. Add the tea and mint to the pot. Fill with boiling water. Allow to infuse and stand for 5 minutes.
Pour the tea from a height into Moroccan glasses edged with gold. Add sugar to taste (remember, in Morocco tea is supposed to be very sweet).
Variation: Iced Mint Tea

Add the sugar to the pot with the tea and mint. After steeping, pour the tea through a strainer over cracked ice, so it cools quickly. Serve in cold glasses with ice cubes, decorated in the same way.

Claudia Roden’s Preserved Lemons.

There are several methods. These come from ‘Tamarind and Saffron’ published by Penguin Books in 1999.

Claudia Roden’s Lemons preserved in salt and lemon juice
In this method, considered most prestigious, no water is used. 65g(2 ½ ozs) of salt is required for 500g(1lb) of lemons. This works out at about 75g(3ozs) or 4 tablespoons of salt for 4 lemons.

4 lemons
4 tablespoons sea salt
juice of 4 more lemons or more.

Wash and scrub the lemons. The classic Moroccan way is to cut each lemon in quarters but not right through, so that the pieces are still attached at the stem end, and to stuff each with plenty of salt. Put them into a glass jar, pressing them down so that they are squashed together, and close the jar. Leave for 3-4 days, by which time the lemons will have released some of their juices and the skins will have softened a little. Press them down as much as you can and add fresh lemon juice to cover them entirely. Close the jar and leave in a cool place for at least a month, by which time the lemons should be ready. The longer they are left the better the flavour. (If a piece of lemon is not covered it develops a white mould which is harmless and just needs to be washed off.)
Before using, rinse to get rid of salt.

Lemons boiled in brine and preserved in oil.
This is a brilliant stand by recipe which yields tender preserved lemon almost immediately

With a sharp knife make 8 fine-superficial, not deep-incisions into the lemon skin from one end of the lemon to the other. Put the lemons in a large pan with salted water (the same proportion of salt as above-for instance 8 tablespoons for 8 lemons) to cover. Put a smaller lid on top of them to keep them down as they float, and boil for about 25 minutes or until the peels are very soft. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, pack the skins into a glass jar and cover with sunflower or light vegetable oil.

Tagine of Chicken with Green Olives

Serves 6

1 free range and organic chicken, jointed
2 onions chopped
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons coriander leaves
1 small cinnamon stick
1/2 preserved lemon, cut into dice (see recipe) (optional, depending on size, leave whole)
175g (6oz) green olives, rinsed and stoned
juice of 1/2 lemon

Marinade
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
pinch of saffron strands
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin, toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

coriander leaves
couscous

First prepare the marinade. Mix the garlic, saffron, ginger, cumin, paprika, salt, freshly ground pepper and the olive oil in a bowl. Spread over the chicken, transfer the meat to a shallow dish, cover with cling-film and leave overnight to marinate in the fridge.

Next day, transfer the chicken and the marinade to a casserole. Add the onions, parsley, coriander and cinnamon stick and half cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, turning the chicken pieces frequently in the liquid. Add more water if it starts to reduce. Cook for a further 15 minutes, partly covered, until the chicken is tender and almost falls from the bone. Add the preserved lemons and the olives and continue cooking for a further 5-6 minutes so the flavours combine.

Transfer the chicken pieces, lemon and olives to a serving dish and cover to keep warm. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Boil the sauce uncovered until it is about 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup). Add the lemon juice and season to taste with more salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately with lots of fresh coriander and couscous.

Brother Hubbard’s Semolina Pancakes (Beghrir)

Makes about 8 pancakes

250ml milk
250ml water
2 eggs
10g dried fast action yeast
½ tsp salt
250g fine semolina (the finest grade, almost flour-like)
sunflower or Irish rapeseed oil, for cooking

Put the milk and water into a pot set over a medium heat. Heat this for a few minutes, stirring – you want to get it to the point that it should be just a little warmer than your body temperature. Remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl.
Crack the eggs into the bowl, then add the yeast and salt. Whisk well. Still using the whisk, whisk in the semolina – a good energetic go will do it. The mix will get a little thicker. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside to rest in a warm place, such as beside your oven or in a cosy corner of your kitchen. After a while, you will see the batter bubble up as the yeast works its magic. The batter should be ready after 20–30 minutes, once it’s good and frothy with lots of bubbles.
Place a non-stick medium frying pan (ideally 15–18cm diameter) on a medium-high heat and let it get fully heated. When it’s hot, add a tiny splash of oil and swirl it around the pan, then turn the heat down to medium.
Gently stir the pancake batter with a medium ladle, then add one
ladleful to the pan or enough of the batter to cover the pan with 3–4mm depth of batter, swirling gently so the surface is fully covered. Cook for 1–2 minutes. You will see bubbles form in the batter and then it will set as the wet texture on the surface gradually disappears towards the centre of the pancake. When it’s set, lift it up and flip it over to sear for a few moments – this side should almost be undercooked. Give the pan a shake so the pancake moves from side to side. Take off the heat and remove the pancake onto a plate. Keep covered with a cloth while you cook the remaining pancakes, stacking the cooked ones together under the cloth so they stay warm.

Brother Hubbard’s Sweet Beghrir Pancakes with Rose Mascarpone, Berry and Rose Compote and Fresh Mint

A real delight on the plate – the tang of the mascarpone works beautifully against the sweet burst of the berries!
Serves 4

1 batch of beghrir pancakes (see master recipe)
½ batch of berry and rose compote (see recipe)
1–2 sprigs of fresh mint
a few tablespoons of praline (optional) or toasted chopped nuts

Rose Mascarpone Cream
1 x 250g tub of mascarpone
approx. 2 dessertspoons honey
½–1 tsp rosewater or orange blossom water or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod

Make the pancakes as per the master recipe and warm up the berry compote.
To make the mascarpone cream, put the mascarpone into a bowl and gently stir in enough honey to give the mix a light sweetness and ½ teaspoon of rosewater. Stir well and taste, adding more of either ingredient if desired. However, this should not be overly sweet, as you want the creaminess and acidity of the mascarpone to cut through the warm berry compote.

When ready to build the plates, place the warm pancakes on a warm plate, overlapping in the middle (like a Venn diagram). Divide the mascarpone across the plates, placing a dollop on the centre of each pancake (2 dollops per plate). Divide the compote across the plates, placing a large spoonful of the warm compote around the mascarpone. Tear some mint leaves over and serve immediately with some praline sprinkled over, if using, or even just some toasted chopped nuts.

Brother Hubbard’s Berry and Rose Compote

A very easy and versatile recipe, this compote will hold in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Makes 1 large jar

500 g mixed berries
200 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon rosewater

Put the berries and sugar into a large pot. Put on a medium heat and slowly cook, stirring regularly until the sugar has dissolved and the compote has slightly thickened.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Stir in the rosewater, then taste and add a little more if you feel it needs it. However, please note that whenever you use rosewater, it should not be overpowering – a little goes along way, as you all you ever want is a hint of rose. Brother Hubbard, Garrett Fitzgerald

Moroccan Snake

One of the glories of Moroccan confectionery, great for a party. Individual “snakes” can be made with a single sheet of filo.

Serves 10-15 people

1 packet best quality filo pastry

Filling
1 lb (450g) ground almonds
11oz (325g) castor sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3-4 fl oz (75-110ml) orange flower water

3-4oz (75-110g) melted butter

Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl to form a paste.

To Assemble
Lay one sheet of filo on the work top, brush with melted butter. Take a fist full of the paste and make into a snake about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick. Lay this along the long side of the sheet of filo, about 1 inch (2.5cm) in from the edge. Roll up and bend into an accordian shape and then roll up into a ‘snail’. Put a sheet of tin foil on a baking sheet and lay the snail on top, continue with the rest of the filo and paste. Press the ends together to seal the joining and continue to make the snake. Brush with egg wash and then with melted butter. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for approx. 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Dust with icing sugar and perhaps a little sweet cinnamon.

Valentine’s Day

Are we all ‘loved up’ and ready to celebrate? Here it comes again, can’t have escaped your notice that St Valentine’s Day is right around the corner – every year the excitement ratchets up another notch, creative marketing teams have been brain storming for quick cool ways to engage a public who are increasingly tiring of overt consumerism.

If you are short of ideas beyond a bunch of red roses and a glass of fizz, take to the internet to be inspired and amused. You can’t imagine how many creative suggestions you’ll find for ways to enthusiastically celebrate Valentine’s Day.
How about an early morning visit to Dublin Zoo, collect a romantic breakfast picnic, wander around and enjoy a talk on the courtship and romantic rituals of some of the animals. A romantic hike up Croagh Patrick or the Knockmealdown mountains…..

You could rent a bicycle made for two for a romantic cycle and a giggle. Go along to a comedy show together and nibble some popcorn. If none of these ideas appeal how about whale or dolphin watching or ice skating followed by cocktails and a romantic dinner for two.

But if the whole palaver of Valentine’s Day sends shivers down your spine and if you are a singleton or haven’t been planning to spend the day canoodling with a loved one you could check out the growing Valentine’s day back-lash. There’s a myriad of exciting anti Valentine shindigs planned. Lots of parties and events to chase away the singleton blues.

One way or other have fun. If you’re not ‘coupled up’ how about making Valentine’s Day your own – send a family member some flowers, send a Valentine’s day card or leave a little pressie for that little old lady or man with the dog who live close by or create a celebration by cooking a wonderful meal for your friends – the very best way to warm the hearts and tummies of your ‘besties’ including your very special loved one. Of course a romantic dinner in a gorgeous restaurant is a wonderful way to spend the evening if you haven’t booked by now you may well be too late to secure a table but believe me rustling up a delicious cosy brunch, lunch or dinner could well be the best way to bring on a proposal if you’ve been waiting on that magic question or keep the home fires burning. Happy Valentines’ Day

Here are a few suggestions

Hot Tips
Smoked Chilli Flakes
I’m super excited by some smoked chilli flakes that I found on Frank Hederman’s, Belvelly Smokehouse stall at the Midleton Farmers Market on Saturday last. Sprinkle some over grilled chicken breast. Add a pinch to a tomato fondue, a stew, tagine or chowder to introduce a perky smoky flavour.

Ballymaloe House
Now reopened following winter renovations. Check out their special breakaways – Valentine’s Getaway, Hello Spring, Ballymaloe Spring Breather….www.ballymaloe.ie. Tel: 021 4652 531

Avocado Toasts with Lime and Coriander

Enjoy a romantic brunch, avocado toasts are everyone’s favourites, there are so many variations on the theme – combine with scrambled egg for a more substantial brunch.

Much more than the sum of its parts!

Serves 2

1 ripe Hass avocados

Dressing
1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 slices of sourdough, toasted or pan-grilled

Garnish
Maldon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh coriander

Whisk the lime juice and extra virgin olive oil together.

Just before serving.
Toast or grill the bread.

Stone and peel the avocado and slice into chunky segments. Place the avocado on top of the toast – allow 1/2 per person. Drizzle with the dressing. Garnish with coriander and a few flakes of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

Oyster Stew with Hot Buttered Toast

We’ve always been told that oysters are an aphrodisiac, I love them au natural and without question natural Irish oysters are the best in the world. However this oyster stew given to me by one of my favourite American cooks, the late Marion Cunningham, is super easy to make and delicious to share.

Serves 2
8 fl ozs (250ml) milk
8 fl ozs (250ml) cream
14 shelled oysters (7 ozs/200g approx. after shelling) with their liquor reserved
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 oz (15g) butter, optional
To serve
lots of hot buttered toast

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan, but don’t let it boil. Add the oysters and their strained liquor. Simmer just until the edges of the oysters curl a little. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the butter and serve very hot with lots of hot buttered toast.

Cod Chraymeh

We found this recipe in Observer Food Monthly by Tomer Amedi and loved it. I’ve adapted it ever so slightly and reduce the quantity to serve two for a delightful one pot wonder.

Serves 2

1½ tablespoons olive oil
1 red chilli, depending on hot you like it, sliced
1 red pepper, cored, deseeded and cut into 1½ cm fingers
1 yellow pepper, cored, deseeded and cut into 1½ cm fingers
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1½ teaspoons hawaij spice mix (see recipe), optional
40 ml (1½ fl oz/2½ tablespoons) of Aniseed flavoured spirit, such as arak, pernod or ouzo, optional
75 ml (2½ fl oz) water
200 g tin good quality chopped tomatoes
A pinch of sugar
2 x 200 g (7 oz) cod fillets, skinned
Salt to taste
1 large bunch of coriander, chopped
Lemon juice, a squeeze

For the Hawaij Spice Mix
2 tablespoons black peppercorns or 1 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted or 1 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1tablespoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cloves, 10 cloves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon dried coriander leaves

2 tablespoons Labne, to serve
Fresh coriander leaves

To make the hawaij spice mix, toast the seeds for 2-3 minutes in a dry pan over a medium heat, then grind all the ingredients in a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar. This will keep in an airtight container for 1-2 months.

Heat a large saucepan or a wide shallow pan over a medium heat, add the oil, chillies and peppers and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the aniseed flavoured spirit, if using and crank up the heat to allow the alcohol to evaporate, then add the water and stir for a while.

Next add the tomatoes and sugar, then leave the stew to simmer for a further 10-15 minutes.

Season the cod fillets with salt, then gently slide them into the stew. Add half the coriander and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Add the squeeze of lemon juice, give the stew a good shake and check for salt, then turn the heat off and leave it to rest for 5 minutes before you serve, topped with the rest of the coriander and add a blob of labne.

Risotto with Shrimps and Lemon Thyme

Few dishes are more comforting than risotto, here we add the lovely little shrimps from Ballycotton but of course you could add scallops or mussels if you prefer or enjoy a vegetarian version. Follow with a salad of organic leaves. There’s ample here for four helpings so save the remainder for a second meal or make arancini.

Serves 4

½ l-3/4 litre broth or homemade chicken stock
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
10 g butter
½ onion, finely chopped
200g Carnaroli or Arboria rice
10 g butter
11/2 teaspoons lemon thyme leaves
110 g cooked and peeled shrimps
25 g freshly grated Parmesan
Sea salt

First bring the broth or stock to the boil, turn down the heat and keep it simmering. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the rice and stir until well coated (so far the technique is the same as for a pilaff and this is where people become confused). Cook for a minute or so and then add 150 ml of the simmering broth, stir continuously and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 150 ml of broth. Continue to cook, stirring continuously. The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if it’s too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside. If it’s too slow, the rice will be gluey. It’s difficult to know which is worse, so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously. The risotto should take about 25-30 minutes to cook. Add the lemon thyme leaves.

When it is cooking for about 20 minutes, add the broth about 4 tablespoons at a time. Watch it very carefully from there on. The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly ‘al dente’. It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick. The moment you are happy with the texture, stir in the warmed shrimps and the remaining butter and Parmesan. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve immediately. Risotto does not benefit from hanging around.

Taste, carefully – you may not need all the cheese. Follow with a salad of organic leaves.

Arancini
Arancini are crispy rice balls usually made from left over risotto (spread the risotto onto a baking tray to cool), coated in bread crumbs and then deep fried. The name literally translated means ‘little orange’. There are regional variations in shape, the Sicilian version tends to be more conical rather than round. Flavour the risotto as desired – they can be plain or flavoured with a myriad of tasty additions – ragu, wild mushrooms, mozzarella, aubergines, wild fennel, shellfish, pistachio…..they sometimes have a little surprise filing in the centre though not always. Scoop up a fist full of cold mixture, shape into a round slightly oval or conical shape. Dip in breadcrumbs and deep-fry in hot oil until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.

White Chocolate Mendiants with Dried Cherries and Pistachios

A fresh cherry with stalk attached is also pretty good.

Makes 28

110g white chocolate (we use Valrhona)
12g dried cherries
12g shelled pistachios
50g dark chocolate

parchment paper

Put the white chocolate into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Just as soon as the water comes to the boil, turn off the heat and allow the bowl to sit until the chocolate has melted.

Put teaspoons of the melted white chocolate a little apart onto the parchment paper. Shake gently to level, then shape in heart shapes, quickly dot a few dried cherries and coarsely chopped pistachios on top. Allow to set.

Meanwhile, melt and cool the dark chocolate. Peel the medallions of white chocolate off the paper and brush the bases with dark chocolate. Allow to set and cool on the parchment paper. They look wonderfully festive served on a gold doyley on a chilled plate.

Coeur a la Crème with Summer or Autumn Fruits

Serves 4

A most exquisite summer pudding. You may use one large mould or individual moulds. In France they are traditionally heart-shaped. The moulds must be well perforated to allow the cheese to drain. Also delicious with a compote of blackcurrants, Kumquat compote, green gooseberry and elderflower compote. Save some for another meal. A heart shaped dessert that melts in the mouth.

225g (8oz) unsalted cream cheese or homemade cottage cheese
300ml (1/2 pint/1 1/4 cups) softly whipped thick double cream
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) castor sugar
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Accompaniment
Berries, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackberries……
300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) cream, softly whipped
castor sugar

Garnish
mint leaves

Press the cheese through a fine meshed nylon sieve and blend it gently with the double cream. Stir in the sugar and lightly but thoroughly fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Turn the mixture into muslin lined heart shaped moulds. Stand them on a wide plate, cover with a large plastic bag and leave in the refrigerator overnight to drain.

Just before serving, turn the moulded cheese hearts out on to white plates. Scatter a selection of summer fruits around the cheese hearts.

Serve with a fresh strawberry coulis, raspberry coulis or blackcurrant coulis, softly whipped cream and castor sugar.

Note: If you have not got the traditional heart shaped moulds, one can make Coeur a la Crème in a muslin lined bread basket or even a sieve.

Strawberry Coulis

450g (16ozs) fresh strawberries
70g (2 1/2ozs/1/2 cup) icing sugar
lemon juice

Clean and hull the strawberries, add to the blender with sugar and blend. Strain through a nylon sieve. Taste and add lemon juice if necessary, it should taste deliciously bitter sweet. Store in a fridge.

Stock Syrup

Makes 825ml (825 ml/3 1/2 cups)

350g (12oz/1 1/2 cups) sugar
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water

To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.

Valentine’s Chocolate and Almond Cake with Raspberries and Chocolate Curls

Serves 10
150g (dark bitter chocolate or baking chocolate such as the Menier Chocolat Patissier, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons water
150g (5oz/1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, separated
100g (3 1/2oz/scant 1/2 cup) caster sugar
100g (3 1/2oz) ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) rum

Topping
50g (2oz) dark bitter chocolate, broken into pieces
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) water
50g (2oz/1/4 cup) caster sugar
25g (1oz/1/4 stick) unsalted butter

Chocolate Curls, see below
1 lb (12 oz) fresh raspberries

9 inch tin, preferably heart shaped

butter, to grease the cake tin
flour, to dust the cake tin

Heat the chocolate with the water in a Pyrex bowl or small pan that is sitting on top of a pan containing water over a low heat so that the top pan or bowl does not touch the boiling water (this is a double boiler), until almost melted. Add the butter and let them both melt.

In a bowl mix the egg yolks, sugar, ground almonds, baking powder and rum very well. Add the melted chocolate and butter and mix vigorously. Beat the egg whites until stiff with an electric mixer and fold them into the mixture.

Grease a 23cm (9 inch) (in diameter (preferably non-stick) with butter and dust it with flour. Pour in the cake mixture and bake in an oven preheated to 160°C/310°F/Gas Mark 3 for about 35 minutes until firm. Turn out when it is cool.

For the optional topping, melt the chocolate with the water in the small bowl or pan over boiling water, as above. Add the sugar and the butter, let them melt and mix well. Spread over the cake. Top with fresh raspberries and chocolate curls. Sprinkle with a little icing sugar. Decorate with fresh mint leaves and serve with lots of softly whipped cream.

Chocolate Curls

Makes enough to cover 1 x 18cm (7 inch) cake

300g (11oz) dark, milk or white chocolate, in drops or chopped into pieces

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of water on a medium heat and bring to a rolling boil, then turn off the heat. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly, stirring occasionally.

Place a baking tray or roasting tin upside down on your work surface. Once the chocolate has completely melted, pour it over the upside-down try or tin and, using a palette knife, spread it out so that it’s 3-4mm (1/8 inch) thick and about the size of an A4 sheet of paper.

Place the chocolate somewhere cool (but not the fridge as this will be too cold – see tip below) and allow it to slowly set. The chocolate is set when it is no longer shiny – it should become matt in appearance.

Using a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler or a cheese slier, run along the top of the chocolate and shave off curls. Either place the curls directly onto the cake or, if you’d like to make them ahead of time, transfer them onto a plate or into an airtight box and place somewhere cool (but not the fridge). Stored in an airtight container, they will keep for up to two weeks.

Tip
It’s important that the chocolate is completely set before using it, yet not too cold. If it’s too cold, it will not ‘curl’, but if it’s not sufficiently set the curls will collapse.

Gluten Free Recipe of the Week
Raspberry and Nut Brownies

For Valentine’s Day we stamped out two heart shapes from the tin, added a blob of softly whipped cream, piled some fresh raspberries on top and garnished it with a few fresh mint leaves. It looked adorable and tasted moist, rich and delicious. Can be an irresistible nibble or a gorgeous pud with a blob of crème fraiche.

Makes 24 medium or 18 large squares

175g (6 ozs) butter, cut into dice
150 g (5ozs) caster sugar
150 g (5 ozs) soft brown sugar
175g (6oz) dark chocolate, broken into pieces
100g (4oz) Doves gluten free self-raising flour
100g (4oz) hazelnuts chopped
3 organic eggs
110 g (4 ozs) raspberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4

20cm x 30cm (8 x 12 inch) swiss roll tin (deep tin)

Line the swiss roll tin with silicone paper.

Put the butter, sugar and chocolate in a saucepan on a gentle heat stirring until it’s smooth and melted. Remove the pan from the heat, cool a little.

Sieve the flour, add the chopped nuts. Beat the eggs and add to the chocolate. Next add the chocolate mixture into the flour, mix well and pour into the prepared tin. Scatter the raspberries over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until almost firm in the centre. Cool in the tin, then turn out and cut into heart shapes.