Category Archives: Saturday Letter

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.

New Year Resolutions

Wonder how many of your New Year resolutions you’ve managed to keep so far – I’ve been hopeless about lots of things but this year I am determined to encourage as many people as I possibly can to grow some of their own food. Join the now worldwide renaissance in urban as well as rural farming and gardening.

It’s extraordinary what’s going on, particularly in the US where many people are further down the road of desperation than we are.
There’s a grass roots revolution, people are growing up walls, down walls, in window boxes, hanging baskets, on roofs, balconies, even on fire escapes although that’s not encouraged for obvious reasons. The ‘Grow Food not Lawns’ Movement attracts more devotees all the time.

Here in Ireland, allotments are in peak demand and the sales of polytunnels have skyrocketed. Once you’ve planted a few seeds and waited for the plants to grow into something delicious to eat – life changes. We appreciate the work of the growers and gardeners so much more plus one has the reassurance that the herbs, vegetables and fruit haven’t been sprayed with a cocktail of pesticides.

So if you haven’t already, got the bug, don’t worry, it’s not too late for this year – you’ve got several weeks to cogitate. Maybe get together with a few pals who live close by and make a plan. Each agree to grow 5 or 6 vegetables and then share. My best Top Tip is don’t be over ambitious, start small but you could be preparing the soil now. Put a layer of compost and maybe some powdered seaweed on top of the ground and let it sit until the weather warms up. The soil temperature needs to be 7°C before you sow seeds, otherwise they won’t germinate.

Well this is a cooking column but as we all know good nourishing food starts (whether its veg or meat) in rich fertile soil….but you could even start with a seed tray on your window sill, I live in the middle of a farm and I feel so blessed to have space to grow and produce quite a lot of our own food and it’s surprising how much is in the garden still in the depths of winter. All the gutsy hardy perennial herbs, rosemary, thyme, sage are thriving and ever more exciting the new seasons chives are already well above the ground, much earlier than usual – one of the bonus’s of climate change.

We also have lots of leeks, a few Brussels sprouts, masses of knobbly Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, kale, chard…. Our carrots are finished but we have lots of cabbage that would never make it onto a supermarket shelf . A few slugs have discovered them but some careful washing in salted water sorts that out and they are sweet and delicious after a few nights frost. As are the black radishes, celeriac and swede…..turnips which are having their moment. Can you imagine the humble swede is becoming cool and swede chips are featuring on lots of menus.

Well that long list is certainly enough to rustle up lots of tasty meals either vegetarian or vegan and to serve as an accompanying dish to meat or fish. Think I’ll start with this Leek Framiche, like a quiche but super delicious.

Hot Tips
Date for the Diary:-
Pop up Dinner with our Winter 12 Week Certificate students on Saturday March 11th 2017. Welcome Aperitif at 6.30pm; three course dinner at 7pm. Tickets are €40 for Slow Food members, €45 non Slow Food members. Further details in a few weeks’ time.

Cooking for Baby and Toddlers: Natural and Wholesome Food
Everyone wants to feed their baby nourishing and wholesome food. Yet it’s difficult to know how and when to start offering solids. Many of us lack the confidence to make our own baby food Darina Allen is happy to pass on the tips and advice gleaned over years of feeding children and grandchildren totally without packets, cans or jars! An invaluable half-day course covers everything – choosing the ingredients, recipes, preparation tips, menus, storage, health and nutrition – the lot. Not only will it save you a small fortune but also it will be infinitely better for your baby. You’ll soon discover that making your own, nourishing baby food is quick, easy and surprisingly good fun. Also, by giving your baby lots of variety you’ll ensure that as they grow up they don’t become fussy eaters. This course is subsidised by the Ballymaloe Cookery. If you need to bring a child minder with you they are very welcome to take a walk around our gardens free of charge while you are attending the course.
Friday March 3rd 2017 at 2.30pm. www.cookingisfun.ie

Leek Flamiche

There are many variations on this theme, some have no cheese, others no bacon. Similar leek tarts and pies are made in Belgium, France and many parts of the UK, including Wales and Cornwall. One can use the filling to make into a gorgeous pie with pastry underneath and on top, or just on top. Either way it is delicious.

Serves 6-8
A pre-baked 22.5cm tart shell (see p.00) made with 225g shortcrust pastry –
Made with 175g flour
75g butter
1 egg yolk and a little water

450g white part of leeks, sliced in 1cm thick rings
50g butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 eggs or 1 large egg and one egg yolk
300ml cream

100g rindless streaky raw bacon or cooked ham cut into lardons
75g Gruyère cheese, grated

22.5cm tart tin with removable base.
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat. When it foams, add the sliced leeks. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss, cover and cook gently until soft and tender but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Drain if necessary and allow to cool. Cut the bacon or bacon or ham into 5mm lardons. Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add bacon and cook for 5-6 minutes or until slightly golden and cooked through. No need to re cook ham.
Meanwhile whisk the eggs and cream together, stir in the cooled leeks and ham or bacon and most of the grated cheese. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spoon into the pre-baked tart shell, sprinkle the remainder of the grated cheese on top and bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes or until just set in the centre and golden on top. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm.

Salad of Jerusalem Artichokes with Smoked Almonds and Preserved Lemon Dressing

Everyone loves this combination but if you’d rather have cooked artichokes, roast them in slices before combining the salad.

Serves 4

Salad
4 good handfuls of perky bitter lettuce leaves
2 small Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean
a little freshly squeezed lemon juice
110g (4oz) of smoked almonds, rough chopped *(see note at end of recipe)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dressing
3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey or agave syrup
a good pinch of sea salt
1/2 preserved lemon, seeds removed and finely chopped (see last week’s column)

Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together, add the preserved lemon.

Wash and dry the salad leaves.

Next, use a mandolin to slice the artichokes paper thin – otherwise slice with a very sharp knife. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the artichokes to prevent them from discolouring whilst also adding some flavour.

Put the salad leaves into a bowl, add the artichoke slices and roughly chopped almonds. Pour over enough of the dressing and toss to coat the leaves. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately.

Note
* To Smoke Almonds
We hot smoke a lot of different ingredients in a biscuit tin over a gas jet. Just scatter 2 heaped tablespoons of apple wood chips on the bottom of the tin. Put a rack on top. Place the almond on top of the wire rack. Pop on top of the gas on a high heat until the wood chips start to smoke and cover the box. Lower the heat and smoke for 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and continue to smoke for a further 1 minute.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Chorizo Crumbs

Serves 8-10

Jerusalem artichokes were a sadly neglected winter vegetable, but many people have discovered them in recent years. We love the flavour and of course they are brilliantly nutritious – packed with inulin. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants!

50g (2oz) butter
560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped
1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock
600ml (1 pint) creamy milk approx.

Chorizo Crumbs

Makes 175g (6oz)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
125g (4 1/2oz) chorizo, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
100g (3 1/2oz) coarse breadcrumbs

First make the chorizo crumbs. Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo. Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to run and the chorizo begins to crisp. Careful it’s easy to burn the chorizo, drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan.

Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden. Drain and add to the chorizo. (You’ll have more than you need but they’ll keep in a covered box in your fridge and are great to sprinkle over gratins, stews, etc)

Next make the soup. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onions and artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk, and adjust the seasoning.

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Scatter with a spoonful of chorizo crumbs.

Note
This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required.

Gillian Hegarty’s Chickpea, Swiss Chard and Tomato Stew

Gillian Hegarty, originally of Ballymaloe House originally brought this recipe from Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers from the River Café. Perfect for a winter evening.

Serves 6 – 8

175g (6oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 large garlic clove, peeled
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
900g (2lb) Swiss chard leaves, washed and large stems removed (set aside to use in the recipe)
1 head of celery outer stalks removed peeled and diced finely
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 dried chillies, crumbled
3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons of fresh picked thyme leaves
225ml (8fl oz) white wine
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
3 handfuls flat leaf parsley chopped
extra virgin olive oil

Drain the chickpeas and place in a saucepan with water to cover, add the garlic, and 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of olive oil. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. Keep in their liquid until ready to use. Blanch the chard leaves and chop coarsely. Chop the chard stalks into half inch pieces.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onion and fry for a minute then season with salt and pepper. Put the lid on and cook for a further 20 minutes stirring frequently until they have completely collapsed.

Add the carrot, chard stalks and celery cook slowly for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Season with salt, pepper and chilli. Add the garlic and thyme leaves. Cook for a further 5mins with the lid off. Pour in the wine and reduce almost completely. Add the tomato sauce and reduce until very thick. Add the chickpeas and mix. Season and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the chopped chard leaves at the very end to retain the colour and freshness.

Chop the parsley just before you are about to serve, Stir into the chickpeas, Drizzle with about 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil.

Salad of Shaved Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts with Red Onion, Raisins and Parmesan

This is a refreshing salad that can be served as a light starter or as part of a selection of salads. It goes particularly well with cold ham or cured meats such as salamis and chorizos. I also like it with spiced beef or coarse terrines.

Serves 6 – 8

50g (2oz) raisins soaked on boiling water for 1 hour
1 small cauliflower
12 Brussels sprouts peeled
225g (8oz) red onion
50g (2oz) roasted, peeled and chopped hazelnuts
2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
8 tablespoons Caesar Dressing (see recipe)
50g (2oz) grated parmesan
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds optional

Trim the outside leaves and tough stalk off the cauliflower and break it into florets. Slice the cauliflower florets thinly, 1/2cm (1/4 inch), by hand or with a mandolin and place in a large bowl. Slice the peeled red onion and sprouts even more thinly and add to the cauliflower. Add in the drained raisins. Dress the salad with half of the olive oil and the Caesar dressing and toss thoroughly but gently. Add in 3/4 of the grated parmesan and mix again. Taste and correct seasoning add salt and pepper as necessary. Spread out in a large shallow bowl or plate and sprinkle on the hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds if using.

A final drizzle of oil and the remaining parmesan sprinkled over the salad and it is ready to serve. The salad can sit for an hour before serving.

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 x 2oz (50g) tin anchovies
1 clove garlic, crushed
a generous pinch of English mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
6fl oz (175ml) sunflower oil
2fl oz (50ml) extra virgin olive oil
2fl oz (50ml) cold water

I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together. As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

Chinese New Year

All over the world Chinese communities are ramping up to celebrate Chinese New Year which begins today – Saturday January 28th and lasts until February 15th 2018.

This is the Year of the Rooster – the date changes every year because it is connected to the lunisolar Chinese calendar.
Each New Year is characterised by one of 12 animals which appear in the Chinese Zodiac. The latter is divided into 12 blocks or houses but each lasts a year rather than a month. People who are born in the year of the Rooster are said to be honest, energetic, intelligent, resourceful, flamboyant, flexible, diverse and confident, contagious, charming….

Huge colourful noisy parades with traditional lion dances, bell ringing, fireworks, music….. take place all over the world and the celebrations last for at least two full weeks.
Traditionally, it’s a very special time of the year for Chinese families.

On New Year’s Eve they gather together all over the world for a reunion dinner and ‘spring clean’ their houses to sweep away bad fortune for the coming years. Lots of presents, for everyone traditionally children would be given red envelopes stuffed with ‘lucky money’ and positive good wishes on New Year’s Day. You’ll be amused to hear that nowadays they are more likely to have a red envelope app so their relatives can transfer money digitally….

There are many superstitions and customs associated with New Year, several associated with food. An empty rice jar is considered to be a bad omen for the coming year. Porridge should not be eaten for breakfast on Chinese New Year Day – it’s considered to be the food of the poor and doesn’t bode well for the future either.

As with all celebrations, food is an integral part of Chinese New Year. There are many simple recipes that can be made at home some in minutes with easily available ingredients. But, I absolutely love to visit the Chinese shops and supermarkets in many of our cities. In Dublin one my favourites is the Asia Market in Drury Street which has recently had a makeover. I’m intrigued with the many ‘strange’ ingredients that I’m unfamiliar with and bombard the always busy staff with questions about what to do with’ this and that’ and always leave the shop with bags full of beautiful fresh vegetables, tropical fruit and lots of jars and bottles of exotic sounding ingredients to experiment with.

They’ve also got quite a range of Chinese porcelain, bamboo steamers, clay pots and cool utensils. In Cork there are several tempting Chinese shops that I also enjoy rummaging in, like Jia Jia Market on Cornmarket Street and Asian Foods on North Main Street.

If you were born in the Year of the Rooster your lucky numbers are 5, 7, 8, lucky colours brown, gold and yellow, lucky flowers gladiola and cockscomb and lucky direction south, southwest.
So now you know, let’s all celebrate together and Happy New Year of the Rooster. Here are some more of my favourite Chinese recipes.

HOT TIPS
Masterclass in Wild Fowl with Slow Food Galway
On Sunday February 5th 2017, at the Cáit Curran Síol 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.

Top Favourite Utensils
Chinese Steamer – no house should be without a Chinese bamboo steamer. They have two or three tiers and cost tuppence halfpenny! Even if you never cook a dumpling, steam a fish or a boa bun in your life they are brilliant for steaming vegetables or even potatoes and look chic on the table to serve poppadums, bread or floury steamed potatoes.
Available in several sizes from Asian shops.

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

Stevie Parle’s Chinese Lettuce Cups

A past pupil of the Ballymaloe Cookery School who has recently opened his fifth restaurant Palatino in London

A great starter or canapé

Serves 4-6

50g/2oz of vermicelli noodles
Vegetable oil
½ red onion, chopped
1 red chili, deseeded and sliced
½ small bunch of coriander, roots chopped and leaves separated
A thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
350g/12oz pork mince
½ teaspoon of crushed white pepper
2 tablespoon hoisin
1 tablespoon soy
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 castelfranco or soft lettuce, separated into leaves
3 spring onions, shredded
2 handfuls of peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Bring a pan of water to the boil, pour over the vermicelli and leave to soak for five minutes. Pour into a sieve and rinse under cold water. Chop into small lengths and put to one side.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok over a medium heat. Add the onion, chilli, coriander roots, ginger and garlic and stir fry until softened. Remove from the pan, then add another small splash of oil to the pan and turn up the heat.

Lightly season the pork, then add to the hot pan and fry for a few minutes until cooked through. Return the ginger, etc, to the pan and add the noodles, white pepper, hoisin, soy, sugar, vinegar and sesame oil.
Cook for another minute, then take off the heat and stir in the coriander leaves. Check the seasoning and adjust to suit your tastes. Place a heaped tablespoonful into the centre of each lettuce leaf, then top with the spring onions and peanuts.

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Cold Chicken with a Spicy Sichuanese Sauce

Serves 2-4

About 3/4 lb (300–350g) cold, cooked chicken, without bones
3 spring onions
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

For the Sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinkiang (brown rice) vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon chicken stock
3–4 tablespoons chilli oil with 1/2 tablespoon of its sediment (or more, if you wish)
1/4–1/2 teaspoon ground, roasted Sichuan pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Cut or tear the chicken as evenly as possible into bite-sized strips or slivers and place them in a deep bowl. Cut the spring onions at a steep angle into thin slices. Mix them and the salt with the chicken.
If using sesame seeds, toast them gently in a dry wok or frying pan for a few minutes, until they are fragrant and starting to turn golden, then tip out into a small dish.
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
When you are ready to eat, pour the sauce over the chicken, and mix well with chopsticks or salad servers. Arrange on a serving dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Taken from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, by Fuchsia Dunlop

Kenneth Lo’s Egg Fried Rice

Simple as it is, this is a satisfying dish to eat even with only a very limited amount of accompaniments, such as some chopped pickles, or just a tablespoon or two of soy sauce.
Serves 2-3, with at least one other dish

1 onion
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 spring onions
3½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ bowls of cooked rice, cold
Slice and coarsely chop the onion. Break the eggs into a cup, add the salt and beat with a fork for 10 seconds. Clean and cut the spring onions into fine shavings.
Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok. When hot, add the chopped onions and stir fry in the hot oil for 45 seconds. Pour the salted beaten egg into one side of the pan or wok, and add the rice on the other side. When the eggs are about to set, scramble them, then bring them over and mix evenly with the rice which is being stir-fried in the same pan. Sprinkle the contents with half the spring onion shavings. Turn and stir the ingredients together.
Serve by transferring the contents into a large serving bowl or into individual bowls, and sprinkle the top of the fried rice with the remainder of the spring onion shavings.

From New Chinese Vegetarian Cooking by Kenneth Lo

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Fish Fragrant Aubergines

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as part of a Chinese meal

600 g aubergines
salt
cooking oil for deep-frying (400ml will do if you are using a round-bottomed wok)
1½ tablespoons Sichuanese chilli bean pastep, or Sichuan pickled chilli paste, or a mixture of the two
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
150 ml stock
2 teaspoons caster sugar
¾ teaspoon potato flour, mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
4 tablespoons spring onion greens, finely sliced

Cut the aubergines lengthways into three thick slices, then cut these into evenly sized batons. Sprinkle them with salt, mix well and leave in a colander for at least 30 minutes to drain.
In a wok, heat the oil for deep-frying to 180C. Add the aubergines in batches and deep-fry for 3-4 minutes until slightly golden on the outside and soft and buttery within. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Drain off the deep-frying oil, rinse the wok if necessary, then return it to a medium flame. When the wok is hot again, add 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the chilli bean paste and stir fry until the oil is red and fragrant, then add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir fry until you can smell their aromas. Take care not to burn these seasonings; remove the wok from the heat for a few seconds if necessary to control the temperature (you want a gentle, coaxing sizzle, not a scorching heat).
Add the stock and sugar and mix well. Season with salt to taste if necessary. Add the fried aubergines to the sauce and let them simmer gently for a minute or so to absorb some of the flavours. Then stir the potato flour mixture, pour it over the aubergines and stir in gently to thicken the sauce. Add the vinegar and spring onions and stir a few times, then serve.

From Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Beef with Cumin

You may use prime steak if you wish, but I usually make do with braising steak.
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as part of a Chinese meal

340 g beefsteak, trimmed
400 ml groundnut oil, for frying
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
2 fresh red chillies, seeds and stalks discarded and finely chopped
2-4 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
salt
2 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
For the marinade
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato flour
1 tablespoon water

Cut the beef across the grain into thin slices, ideally 4 x 3 cm. Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.
Heat the groundnut oil to about 140C. Add the beef and stir gently. As soon as the pieces have separated, remove them from the oil and drain well; set aside.

Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil. Over a high flame, add the ginger, garlic, fresh chillies, chilli flakes and cumin and stir fry briefly until fragrant. Return the beef to the wok and stir well, seasoning with salt to taste.
When all the ingredients are sizzlingly fragrant and delicious, add the spring onions and toss briefly. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.

From Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

New Food Trends

What will we be eating in 2017?

Well for most of us it will probably be more of the same but my top tip for what it’s worth is – eat a wide variety of real food and no food products – real food are not the same as food products. We need lots of bio diversity to feed and nourish our gut biome – the health of our gut flora has a phenomenal impact on both our mental and physical health.
When I say real, I mean unprocessed, unpasteurised organic, chemical free, vegetables directly from our garden or from a real farmer or gardener in your local Farmers or Country Market. Today I want to give a glimpse into trends and the food scene for 2017.

Flexitarian
There is a significant rise in the number of part time vegetarians – people who are reducing their meat consumption because of health, sustainability and animal welfare concerns. The rise and rise of vegan diets continues to confound the sceptics…..

Free from…..everything…..
Continues to gain market share even among those who do not have allergies or intolerances – the perception is its healthier – this epidemic of faddism is dangerous for our health, the more we removed from our diet the less diversity we have in our systems.

Sports Nutrition is moving main stream, energy balls, power drinks…. The virtuous triangle of great food, exercise and great sleep rings true. Bone Broths are huge. Turmeric, climbs and climbs, it contains, curcumin, a super healthy compound, you see it in health sports drinks as well as food. Flavoured waters are exploding. Watermelon water is set to take over from coconut water in 2017. Kombucha, water and milk kefir and raw organic jersey milk and cream are virtually mainstream but there are increasingly bizarre flavours, birch water, cactus water and then there are drinkable meals and regional cocktails.

Less Processed Food
Consumer demand for less processed foods is forcing companies to remove artificial ingredients and to reduce sugar and salt in their products. What was formerly alternative is moving towards main stream.

Rise and Rise of Online Shopping
Traffic chaos in towns and cities is fuelling the phenomenal increase in online shopping and home deliveries.

Organic, Antibiotic Free, Hormone Free, GM Free….
Demand is steadily rising as consumers become more aware and educated through the internet, media, films and Utube. Healthy Kids Meals is attracting a huge R & D budget as the obesity challenge deepens.

The Home Delivery Revolution – Meal Kits
Technology continues to play a greater role. Home delivery is well established in most major cities. The trend for ‘dining in’ instead of ‘dining out’ is beginning to cause concern to restaurateurs.
Meal Kits with all the ingredients prepped in a box complete with step by step instructions for how to finish the dish at home ticks all the boxes for busy commuters and parents who want the convenience and feel good factor without the hassle and waste. What’s not to like about that…. Drones may soon be delivering our meal kits and takeaway food….. Both Google and Virginia Tech are trialling this in the US.

Chefs getting more involved with farmers….
Either buying or renting land themselves or partnering with farmers so they can use what freshest and best in season and have the option to use all parts of the plant or animal. Artisan Butchery – house made charcuterie; chefs are using more unsung cuts of meat and experimenting with grass fed jerky, seafood jerky, pickles, artisan condiments Fermented foods will get even bigger.
Fine dining continues to lose out to casual neighbourhood places doing edgy reasonably priced food.

Clean labels
In response to growing consumer unease, food manufactures are scrambling to produce simpler products with fewer more natural sounding ingredients and greater transparency. The clean food frenzy is also running out of puff and credibility. Low fat, carbohydrates and sugar rich foods are the villains of 2016 and 2017.

Plant Proteins
Perhaps the strongest food trend of all, not just vegetables but also expect to see more and more fungi and algae. (low cal, high in nutrients). Yoghurt with vegetables of course
Brussel Sprouts are having their moment; move over kale, beets are all the rage – the flavour of 2017. Kaleina, a mini version of kale and swede turnip chips are already with us. Meat and fish substitutes abound. A veggie burger that bleeds launched in 2016 is only the beginning. The term ‘plant butcher’ has already been coined according to the sustainable food focused media.

Insect Protein
Bugs will be the next big thing in protein. I’ve seen this coming for a number of years now; I’ve eaten ants in Copenhagen. Grasshoppers in Mexico and Tarantulas in Loas but despite the convincing nutritional arguments I can’t see it coming ‘main stream’ in this decade.

The sous wide craze is waning at last (cooking food in a plastic bag in a temperature controlled water bath). Have to say, I was never convinced and am so delighted to see this particular practice slipping out of favour in favour of cooking over fire.

Cooking over Fire
We can’t get enough of charred, blackened, torched and smoked food not just fish but meat, vegetables, drinks, even cordials and cocktails……

Souping
Is the new juicing….did wonder about that craze, surprise, surprise! turns out that soup contains the fibre, seeds, rind and pulp that juicing often discards.

Hot, Hotter, Hottest……our appetite for heat continues, chillies and ever hotter sauces, Sri Racha is now virtually looked on as a sauce for wimps but we are also loving and having fun with Shichimi ogarashi from Japan. Sweet and spicy, Gochujang from Korea, Sambal Oelek from Indonesia, Harrissa from North Africa, Tsire, a spice mixture from West Africa, Zhoug a Yemeni green chilli sauce and spicy Berbere from Ethiopia….

Heirloom varieties beyond Tomatoes, Apples and Potatoes…
Ancient grains, chilies and pulses, Kamut, Einkorn, Teff from Ethopia, Amaranth the ancient grain of the Aztec, Sorghum is the new quinoa. Sorghum is an ancient cereal grain and is used for food, fodder and the production of alcoholic beverages. It is regarded as the fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world. Some of the health benefits of sorghum include its ability to prevent certain types of cancer, help control diabetes, improve digestive health. And who knew that porridge would become so cool, we’ll see porridge served at breakfast, lunch and any time in between with sweet and savoury toppings.

Food Trucks and Shacks
Street inspired foods – authentic ethnic both in cafés, restaurants and in food truck, pierogi, boa buns, multi ethnic dumplings, Japanese crepes – Okonomi yaki.
Sprouting Seeds (I remember that well) is predicted to be another strong food trend. Not just seeds but nuts, beans and grains. This hugely increases the nutritional value and creates enzymes that make plant proteins, essential fatty acids, starches and vitamins more available to the body.

Bowl Food, another hot trend. We love serving food in bowls everything from ramen to noodles, pasta, curries, conghee, tagines, rendang….. Check out Bowls of Goodness by Nina Olsson published by Kyle Books

Build your own Pizza
Pizzerias are inviting customers to build their own pizza from a range of toppings laid out like a salad bar. Can certainly see the appeal of this….

Quest for less Familiar Flavours
Expect to see more Eastern European food, Georgian, Middle Eastern, African flavours particularly Ethiopian….Poke pronounced po-kay is sweeping across the US, cubed fish or shellfish often yellow fin tuna or octopus with soy sauce, cucumber, spring onions, sesame oil served over rice. The taco craze continues unabated for 2017.
So there you have it and a few of the hot trends for 2017 but there’s much much more….

Hot Tips
Ballymaloe Good Living Day and Ballymaloe Relish 5k Lucky Run
Join us for a day- long event devoted to wellness of mind, body and spirit. The objective of the Ballymaloe Good Living Day is for visitors to learn at least one new life enhancing ide or thought to carry through 2017 and beyond. Don’t miss many inspiring talks – Communicating the Sugar Message, Life Begins in the Garden, Mindfulness and Stress Management, Change your Food, Change your Life with myself at 11am…. http://www.ballymaloegrainstore.com/portfolio/ballymaloe-good-living-day

Saturday Pizza Masterclass
Imagine, the perfect pizza. Its base is made from a delicious sourdough with a thin bottom and a crunchy crust. Its topping is homemade tomato sauce, the freshest buffalo mozzarella and a few leaves of basil or perhaps wild mushrooms, chorizo and homemade goat’s cheese, shrimps from Ballycotton, local smoked salmon or maybe even fresh broccoli from the garden. This three-hour masterclass will take you through all the basics (choosing ingredients, making dough, getting the best results from your oven) before explaining how to create both traditional and contemporary pizzas. We’re talking everything from the classics (Margherita, Pepperoni and Calzone) to modern gourmet masterpieces – think Shrimp with watercress and dill-mayo and Homemade Cottage Cheese with mint, caramelized red onion and salsa verde!
Friday February 10th 2017 from 2.30-5pm. www.cookingisfun.ie

Nina Olsson’s Bowl of Miso Happy Soup

Miso soup with ginger, tofu, soba noodles and shiitake mushrooms

This easy-to-make soup is the perfect, light comfort food all year around. Miso is a big deal in Japan where it’s a staple of daily life. The uses for it are endless and its rich flavour makes it a great addition to any kitchen. Miso paste is made from fermented soya beans and is available in different varieties – lighter miso is milder in taste and has been fermented for less time than the darker variety.
Miso soup is popular for fasting and weight loss as it contains very few calories. It’s also a perfect restorative soup when you want to recharge with something light. This recipe delivers the lightness of miso soup while adding a little extra texture and flavour.

Serves 4

Dashi (Makes 1 litre)
1 strip of kombu seaweed
1 litre water

Miso Soup
250g soba noodles
drizzle of rapeseed oil
75g shiitake mushrooms
150g firm tofu, cut into small cubes
salt
few pinches of shichimi togarashi or chilli flakes
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons shoyu
75g broccolini or broccoli florets
75g miso paste (I use white or yellow)
1 tablespoon lime juice
drizzle of sesame oil

Toppings (Optional)
cucumber, cut in thin sticks
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
handful of sesame seeds
handful of fresh herbs (chives or coriander fit perfectly)

To make the dashi, soak the kombu in the water overnight in the fridge, or for a minimum of 1 hour. Transfer to a large saucepan, bring to a simmer then remove the kombu. Strain the liquid through a sieve and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Cook the soba noodles according to the packet instructions. Rinse in cold water and drain.

Heat a frying pan over a medium–high heat and add a drizzle of rapeseed oil. Stir-fry the shiitake mushrooms over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes then remove from the pan. Clean the pan and add another drizzle of rapeseed oil, then stir-fry the tofu cubes until golden and sprinkle with salt and a little shichimi togarashi. Remove from the heat.

Bring the dashi to the boil in a soup pot, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Add the ginger, shoyu, mushrooms and broccolini and simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Separate 200ml of the dashi broth and dissolve the miso in it. Pour the concentrated miso dashi back into the pot with the rest of the dashi and add the lime juice and sesame oil. Taste and adjust the flavour with additional miso paste, if needed.

Pour the miso soup into four bowls then add the tofu cubes and soba noodles. Top with cucumber, spring onions and sesame seeds, chives
or coriander.

Taken from Nina Olsson’s Bowls of Goodness

Butchine’s Buttermilk Chicken Bun

Serves 6

350 ml buttermilk
500 g chicken thighs, boneless (6 pieces)
Oil for frying or beef dripping
100 g plain white flour
1 teaspoon oregano or marjoram
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix the buttermilk and chicken in a bowl. Cover and allow to marinade for at least 2 hours, better still overnight.
When ready to cook:- heat the oil in a deep fry to 175C. mix the flour, oregano, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, sea salt, freshly ground pepper in a shallow dish. Remove the chicken pieces one at a time, shake off excess buttermilk. Quickly coat in seasoned flour. Fry in the oil until fully cooked through and golden brown 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, split a bun, spread a good dollop of guacamole and a leaf of lettuce on the side and some chipotle mayonnaise on the other, some shredded lettuce plus a crisp streaky rasher on the other.
When the chicken is cooked through, drain on kitchen paper. Lay on top of the bacon and top with the other bun. Press together and enjoy right away.

Mackerel Poke

Pronounced poh-kay – this is a Hawaiian version of sashimi or ceviche. It would be made with really fresh raw tuna, raw mackerel is also delicious.

Serves 8

Sushi Rice

450g (1lb) sushi rice ‘No 1 Extra Fancy’
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water

Vinegar Water
50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 1/2 American tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons) sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
juice of 2 limes

4 super fresh mackerel – 8 fillets or 800g (1 3/4lbs) tuna cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes
1 small cucumber, diced
2 avocados, roughly cubed

8 spring onions, sliced at an angle
toasted sesame seeds, black and white
4 sheets of nori seaweed, snipped into strips
fresh coriander leaves

First cook the sushi rice. Rinse the rice for 10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.

‘Wake up’ the rice by sitting it in 600ml (1pint/2 1/2 cups) cold water for 30 to 45 minutes. In the same water, bring to the boil and then cook for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Do not stir, do not even take off the lid. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds before turning the heat off. Remove the lid, place a tea towel over the rice, replace the lid and sit for 20 minutes.

Next make the vinegar water. Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together in a bowl until dissolved. Turn the rice out onto a big flat plate (preferably wooden). While the rice is still hot pour the vinegar solution over the rice and mix the rice and vinegar together in a slicing action with the aid of a wooden spoon. Don’t stir. You must do it quickly preferably fanning the rice with the fan. This is much easier if you have a helper. Allow to cool on the plate and cover with kitchen paper or a tea towel. (It will soak up the liquid as it cools.)

Scoop out into a timber or flat plate. Sprinkle with rice vinegar, toss and allow to cool.

Whisk the sesame oil, mirin, soy sauce, lime juice in a bowl. Add the diced mackerel or tuna. Toss in the dressing. Add the diced cucumber and cubed avocado. Toss gently.

Divide the rice between shallow bowls (or boxes for street food). Fill with the mackerel mixture. Sprinkle with spring onions, sesame seeds, some nori seaweed shards and garnish with coriander leaves. Drizzle any remaining dressing over the top and serve right away.

Agnes’ Pierogi and Uszka

Pierogi and Uszka are plump little Russian dumplings with delicious fillings. Pierogi are larger than Uszka. Serve with some cream.

Serves 5 approx. Makes approx 25 pierogi or 30-35 uszka.

Dough
300g strong white flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon oil
Approx.300ml water

First make the dough: Sieve the flour into a bowl, add salt. Boil the water. Let it cool down a little. Mix egg yolk into the flour. Add oil to the hot water and pour into the flour. Mix to a dough. Cover and leave to rest for 15mins. Meanwhile make the filling of your choice.
Potato and cheese filling:

50g grated onion
50g butter
450g cold mashed potatoes (750g whole potatoes)
225g cream cheese or more
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in salted water, peel and mash, add salt, freshly ground pepper and 25g butter.
Cook the onion in the remaining 25g butter until pale golden for 8-10 minutes. Combine with the potatoes and cheese. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Meat filling (left over roast meat is ideal)

250g chicken, lamb or pork, chopped
225g onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

To make the meat filling: Cook the meat until tender. Chop the onion and garlic finely. Cook uncovered in olive oil until just coloured. Whizz the meat in a food processor, add the onion, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, mix well.

Mushroom and Cabbage stuffing
1 x 500g jar sauerkraut, one can also use fresh white cabbage, thinly shredded
50g dried mushroom (use porcini or shiitake mushrooms), chopped
225g onion, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Next make the dried mushroom filling: Soak the mushrooms in cold water for a few hours before cooking. Chop the cabbage finely. Rinse and cook in until almost tender. Cook the mushroom in one tablespoon olive oil until tender. Chop the onion and sweat in olive oil until golden. Drain the mushroom and chop finely. Mix mushroom, cabbage and onion together, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Caramelized Onions
450g onions, sliced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

First start the caramelized onions because they take a long time to cook, heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan, toss in the onions and cook over a low heat for whatever length of time it takes for the onions to soften and caramelize to a golden brown, 30-45 minutes.

To make the pierogi: Roll dough to a thickness of 5mm, stamp out circles with a glass or scone cutter (6 cm). Use a smaller cutter for uszka. Put a teaspoon of stuffing in the middle of each circle and seal the edges to make crescents or half moon shapes.

To cook the pierogi: Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, cook the pierogi or uszka for few minutes till tender. (They will rise to the top of the saucepan when cooked through – 7 mins.) Melt some butter in a pan and fry pierogi until golden on the both sides.

Serve with a blob of crème fraiche and caramelized onion rings on top.

Trine Hahnemann’s Winter Apple Layer Cake

Danes have a special love for layer cakes, especially homemade ones; there are a lot of family recipes! These crisp layers are a classic Danish way to make the layer cake at home, and I always make this in winter. The cream for this is partly inspired by my favourite Danish author Karen Blixen – she has described the cake as part of her dinner party repertoire.

SERVES 8

For the apple sauce
600g/1lb 5oz Bramley apples
40g/¼ cup caster (granulated) sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
For the layers
175g/¾ cup minus 1 tsp soft butter
175g/¾ cup caster (granulated) sugar
1 egg
175g/1⅓ cups plain (all-purpose) flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
For the cream
100g/3½oz hazelnuts
400ml/generous 1½ cups double (heavy) cream
100ml/scant ½ cup single (light) cream
2 tsp icing (confectioners’) sugar

Peel and dice the apples and put them into a pan with the sugar and lemon juice. Let them simmer for 15–20 minutes until you have a smooth sauce. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Draw a 20-cm/8-in circle using a pencil on 7 sheets of baking parchment. Turn these over and arrange on as many baking sheets as necessary to fit (you may have to bake these in batches).
Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then beat in the egg. Mix the flour and spices together and fold into the creamed mixture. Using a spatula, spread the mixture as evenly as possible inside each visible circle on the pieces of baking parchment.
Bake in the oven, in batches if necessary, for 6–8 minutes or until the edges start to take on some colour. Set aside to cool on the sheets of baking parchment on a wire rack.
While the layers are cooling, roast the hazelnuts. Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven, then wrap them in a clean tea towel and give them a good rub, so the skins come off. Roughly chop them.
Whip both creams together with the icing (confectioners’) sugar and stir in two-thirds of the chopped hazelnuts.
Assemble the cake just before serving, and no sooner as it goes soft very quickly. Place a crisp layer on a serving plate and add some apple sauce, then add another crisp layer, then some cream. Repeat this layer pattern twice, then add the last crisp layer and some apple sauce on top. Sprinkle the remaining chopped hazelnuts on top and serve right away.
Taken from Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hahnemann (Quadrille, £25)
Photography by Columbus Leth

Watermelon Lemonade

4 ozs (110 g/½ cup) sugar
4 fl oz (110 ml/½ cup) water
600 g (20 ozs/4 cups) cubed watermelon
675 ml (24 fl ozs/3 cups) cold water
110 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) fresh lemon juice

Place the watermelon into a blender. Cover and puree until smooth, then strain through a fine mesh sieve.
Next bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cold water and lemon juice. Put lots of ice cubes into 12 glasses, scoop 2 or 3 tablespoons of watermelon puree over the ice, then top with the lemonade. Gently stir before serving.