CategorySaturday Letter

Slow Food Grandmothers Day

On Sunday 30th September, we celebrate Slow Food Grandmothers Day at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Grandparents from all over will gather their grandchildren around to share their favourite memories and experiences and to pass on some of their valuable life skills, to have fun and show them how to bake a cake, sow a seed, knit a scarf…

Grandparents are the guardians of inherited wisdom – this is the perfect opportunity to pass these skills onto our grandchildren.

Slow Food International has celebrated Grandmothers Day since 2009.

Now that I’m a grandmother 11 times over I’m even more aware of the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

It’s even more important than ever nowadays. Years ago at a time when many families lived in multi-generational groups the skills were effortlessly passed from generation to generation this situation is more unusual nowadays. The myriad of pressures of modern living mean that both parents are working.

 

We hope Slow Food Grandmothers’ Day will encourage grandmothers to get together not only once a year but once a month with their grandchildren to have fun together in the kitchen.

From 12 noon to 5.30pm Sunday 30th September we’ll have all sorts of events…

Rebecca O’Sullivan of Granny Skills, Australia will demonstrate how to make flower petal tote bags and edible skin care. She will also talk about how to use edible flowers and herbs for health.

 

Maria Walsh, our Dairy Queen and Lydia Hugh-Jones will show us how to make butter and have a ‘disco butter making’ session with the children.  Maria also plans to pass on her knowledge of how to make tinctures, teas and natural cleaners. Penny Porteous will introduce us to ferments and demonstrate how to make kombucha and kefir.

There will also be a talk on bees to encourage young bee keepers.

 

Karen O Donoghue of GIY, co-star of Grow Cook Eat on RTE will show how to sow seeds in pots to take home.

Bill Frazer will talk about heritage apples and provide tempting tastings.

Rupert Hugh-Jones will set up an apple press so bring along some of your windfall apples (and bottles) to make your own apple juice.

 

Granny Rosalie Dunne will show us how to make glamorous and crazy hats.

 

Saturday Pizzas will be open on Sunday for this special Grandmothers Day and there will be lots of food stalls.

 

Guided walks around the organic farm and gardens, a foraging walk for children and grandparents with Pat Brown and Lydia Hugh-Jones to teach them to recognise wild and edible foods, a treasure hunt with your granny and much, much more.

Check out our Grandmothers Day competition on page ?????? today.

Here are some favourite recipes from our local grannies.

Macaroni with Cheddar Cheese

Macaroni cheese is one of my grandchildren’s favourite supper dishes. We occasionally add a few cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni. The little ones are deeply suspicious of green bits in the sauce so you may want to omit the parsley

Serves 6

225g (8oz) macaroni

3.4 litres (6 pints) water

2 teaspoons salt

50g (2oz) butter

50g (2oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

850ml (1½ pints) boiling milk

1/4 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

150g (5oz) grated mature Cheddar cheese

25g (1 oz) grated Cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top

 

1 x 1.1 litre (1 x 2 pint) 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.

 

 

 

Scalloped Potato with Steak and Kidney

I’m sure all of you have a favourite recipe that you might ask your grandmother or mother to cook, have bubbling on the stove or in the tin when you came home for the weekend from college or after a hard week at work. Mine was scalloped potato, a layered casserole of beef, kidney and potatoes. We ate plates and plates of this comforting dish with lots and lots of butter.

Serves 4–6

1 beef kidney, about 450g (1lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper

450g (1lb) well-hung stewing beef (I use round, flank or even lean shin)

1.3kg (3lb) ‘old’ potatoes – Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks, thickly sliced

350g (12oz) onions, chopped

50g (2oz) butter, or more

370ml (13fl oz) beef stock (see recipe) or hot water

Garnish

freshly chopped parsley

large, oval casserole, 2.3 litre (4 pint) capacity

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/ gas mark 2.

Remove the skin and white core from the kidney and discard. Cut the flesh of the kidneys into 1cm (1⁄2 in) cubes, put them into a bowl, cover with cold water and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt. Cut the beef into 5mm (1⁄4 in) cubes. Put a layer of potato slices at the base of the casserole. Drain the kidney cubes and mix them with the beef slices, then scatter some of the meat and chopped onions over the layer of potato.

Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, dot with butter, add another layer of potato, more meat, onions and seasoning and continue right up to the top of the casserole. Finish with an overlapping layer of potato. Pour in the hot stock or water. Bring to the boil, cover and transfer to the oven, and cook for 2–21⁄2 hours or until the meat and potatoes are cooked. Remove the lid of the saucepan about 15 minutes from end of the cooking time to brown the top slightly.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve in deep plates with lots of butter.

 

 

 

Ballymaloe Sausage Rolls with Bramley Apple Sauce

Makes 8 – 16 depending on size

Homemade Sausages or best quality bought

Homemade Sausages:

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 (2½oz) 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)

 

450g (1lb) Puff Pastry

 

First make the homemade sausages. 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.

 

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

 

Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 4mm (1/6 inch) thick.  Lay the sausage along the wider side 5cm (2 inch) from the edge.  Brush with egg wash or water.   Fold over the excess pastry, press to seal and cut along the edge.  Flake the edge with a knife or seal with a fork. Brush the top of pastry with egg wash and prick the surface with a fork at 1” (2cm) intervals.  Cover and chill.  Repeat with the remainder.  Before cooking cut into 8’s or 16’s .

 

Cook for 20-25 minutes depending on size.  Serve with Bramley Apple Sauce.

 

 

 

Great Grandmother’s Butter Sponge with Summer Berries

This is the best sponge cake you’ll ever taste. The recipe has been passed from my great grandmother through the generations in our family and now I delight on passing it on to my grandchildren and their friends.

175g (6oz) flour

175g (6oz) castor sugar

3 eggs, organic and free-range

125g (4½oz) butter check

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon baking powder

 

Filling

110g (4oz) homemade raspberry jam or 110g (4ozs) strawberries, sliced or raspberries

300ml (10fl oz) whipped cream

 

castor sugar to sprinkle

 

2 x 7 inch (18cm) sponge cake tins

 

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/regulo 5.

 

Grease the tine with melted butter, dust with flour and line the base of each with a round of greaseproof paper. Cream the butter and gradually add the castor sugar, beat until soft and light and quite pale in colour. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well between each addition. (If the butter and sugar are not creamed properly and if you add the eggs too fast, the mixture will curdle, resulting in a cake with a heavier texture). Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in gradually. Mix all together lightly and add 1 tablespoon of milk to moisten.

 

Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 tins, hollowing it slightly in the centre. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked – the cake will shrink-in slightly from the edge of the tin when it is cooked, the centre should feel exactly the same texture as the edge.  Alternatively a skewer should come out clean when put into the centre of the cake. Turn out onto a wire tray and allow to cool.

 

Sandwich together with homemade raspberry jam and whipped cream. Sprinkle with sieved castor sugar. Serve on an old fashioned plate with a doyley.

 

 

Blackberry, Apple and Sweet Geranium Jam

We’ve had lots of fun for the last few weeks picking blackberries and making jam with the children – what a fantastic crop this year. The grandchildren love chopping some of the sweet geranium leaves into the jam to give it a haunting lemony flavour.

 

 

Makes 9-10 x 450 g jars approx.

 

All over the countryside every year, blackberries rot on the hedgerows.  Think of all the wonderful jam that could be made – so full of Vitamin C!  This year organise a blackberry picking expedition and take a picnic.  You’ll find it’s the greatest fun, and when you come home one person could make a few scones while someone else is making the jam.  The children could be kept out of mischief and gainfully employed drawing and painting home-made jam labels, with personal messages like “Lydia’s Jam – keep off”!, or “Grandma’s Raspberry Jam”. Then you can enjoy the results of your labours with a well-earned cup of tea.

 

Blackberries are a bit low in pectin, so the apples help it to set as well as adding extra flavour.

 

2.3 kg blackberries

900 g cooking apples (Bramley, or Grenadier in season)

1.8kg sugar (use 225g) less if blackberries are sweet) – since Ireland has gone over to cane sugar which appears to be more intensely sweet we reduced the sugar to 1kg.  The intensity of sugar varies in different countries.

8-10 sweet geranium leaves

 

Wash, peel and core and slice the apples.  Stew them until soft with 300ml of water in a stainless steel saucepan; beat to a pulp.

 

Pick over the blackberries, cook until soft, adding about 150ml of water if the berries are dry.  If you like, push them through a coarse sieve to remove seeds.  Put the blackberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan or preserving pan with the apple pulp and the heated sugar. Destalk and chop sweet geranium leaves and add to the fruit.  Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.

 

Boil steadily for about 15 minutes.  Skim the jam, test it for a set and pot into warm spotlessly clean jars.

 

 

 

 

Jam Tarts and Starlets

 

One of course can make jam tarts from start to finish, but I usually make these with the trimmings when I’m making other pies and tarts, I can’t bear to waste any scraps. When the grandchildren are around, get them involved, they love making jam tarts so it teaching the children about the important of not wasting s scrap of any precious scraps of food.

Makes about 36

 

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry OR ‘Break all the Rules’ Shortcrust Pastry OR Shortbread Biscuit mixture

 

homemade jam of your choice or Lemon Curd

 

1–2 shallow non-stick bun trays

 

6cm (21⁄2in) round or 8.5cm (31⁄2in) star-shaped cutter

 

Make the pastry as directed in the recipe. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour; or better still make the pastry the day before.

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

Roll the pastry out thinly to about 2.5mm (1⁄8 in) and stamp into rounds or star shapes. Use to line the bun trays.

Put a small teaspoon of jam or lemon curd into the tartlets and bake for 14–18 minutes, until the pastry is a pale golden colour.

Alternatively, bake the empty tartlets (no need to use beans). Leave them to cool. Fill the centres with a teaspoonful of jam or lemon curd.

School Days

Recipes
  1.  

Yet, another special day, one more of our little dotes had her hair brushed, (no mean feat), donned her school uniform, shiny new shoes and school bag for the very first time, always a bitter sweet moment and an anxious one.

She’s really excited now but how will she take to school? Her big sister and brother will take special care of her so she will hopefully settle in a couple of days….

In the UK and US children are provided with a school lunch, a subject of much controversy.

Jamie Oliver did much to highlight the poor quality of the school food in the UK. A few schools do a brilliant job and where extra effort is made, the teachers find a tangible difference in the children’s behaviour and concentration levels in the classrooms. Some are convinced that this results in happier kids who miss less school days through colds and flus.

One way or another, school lunch is vitally important for children’s health and wellbeing yet it seems to be very low on many governments list of priorities. In the US, Alice Waters original Edible School Yard Project in Berkley in California has been an inspiration for many more initiatives across the country and indeed the world.

Each school has a school garden where the children learn how to grow some of their own food, then cook it and sit down at the table with their friends to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

They love the experience, learn lots of skills and get credits for eating school lunch- what’s not to love about that model.

 

Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden project is similar and has been rolled out into over 650 schools in Australia and still counting….

I have visited both these projects and several others,  and have been blown away by the enthusiasm of both children and teachers, as well as the deeply grateful parents.

Most recently at the MAD food Symposium in Copenhagen I attended two sessions on school food given by Dan Giusti who was originally sous chef in Noma (the top restaurant in the world). After years of feeding 45 or 50 privileged guests a night, he felt the need for a change and yearned to feed more people. So after much thought and consideration, he decided to create a school lunch project called Brigade, www.chefsbrigaid.com based in a small town in Connecticut called New London where 1 in 4 children are below the poverty line. Many are certified homeless so the food they eat on Friday  at school is most probably the last meal they will eat until the following Monday…..

The challenge for Dan and his team  on the Brigaid project is not easy. There are 85 pages of government nutritional guidelines, allergies, ethnic preferences, logistics…

Plus the budget for each child’s food is $3.31, which must include a glass of milk and cover other expenses so  $1.25 in real terms.

In that case one has to let go of deeply held preferences for local sustainable produce and do ones very best within the restrictions. Dan has gradually changed the system to do ‘from scratch’ cooking and uses plates as opposed to disposable moulded plastic containers. The kids have become much more engaged and now it will be rolled out in some schools in the South Bronx in New York City, where a million kids get a free school lunch every day.

I asked Dan what was the kids favourite lunch – he told me barbequed bone-in chicken with warm corn bread and potato salad.

So back to the reality in Ireland – where like everywhere else much depends on the quality of our children’s school lunch. It’s a constant concern and hassle for parents, it needs to be nutritious, delicious and not too nerdy. It’s quite a tight rope to navigate. If it is too different from the norm, we run the risk of our kids being teased or ridiculed by their friends which may be ‘water off a ducks back’ to parents but can devastate a child and may well result in them skipping lunch altogether.

It’s fun to involve older children in making their own packed lunches, many are now becoming very adventurous, hummus, wraps, dips, chunky soups, yoghurts, rice bowls and salad jars are becoming the norm but ham sandwiches are still the favourite so the quality of bread is super important, ditch the processed ham for a piece of thinly sliced home-cooked bacon and a piece of good cheddar. A  mixture of nuts or spiced seeds make a delicious nibble, chunks of melon with berries tossed in honey, lemon juice and a shred of mint – delicious.

A little rainbow salad in a jar or hummus pots are easy to transport and eat. A grated carrot and apple salad is another winner and if your child likes avocado, it’s a brilliant option or you might like to try a guacamole dip. Alternatively, sticks of raw vegetables and a little pot of aioli (garlic mayo) may make an irresistible nibble. A hard-boiled egg is full of protein, a super easy option and also great with a dollop of mayo.

When the weather gets a little colder, think how your child would enjoy a warm glass of soup and a little buttered brown scone.

One Dad who take his kids foraging on a regular basis, told me how they love to have wild sorrel and sprigs of purslane and pennywort in their salad – how wild and cool is that and super nutritious. Fortunately their school friends and teachers are curious rather than dismissive, so gently does it.

Dan Giusti made another interesting observation, when they sliced the apples particularly for younger children, they ate the slices rather than throwing away the apple after taking a bite or two- obvious when you think about it (slice and tightly wrap the  apple or half apple again)

Here are a few suggestions that I hope will prove enticing…

 

 

 

Hummus Bi Tahina

Hummus bi Tahina is a very inexpensive and delicious source of protein, this recipe makes quite a lot but you could half it. It can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days

 

Serves 4-8 (depending on how it is served)

 

170g (6oz) chickpeas, cooked, save the cooking liquid

freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons, or to taste

2-3 large or small cloves garlic, crushed

150ml (5fl oz) tahini paste (available from health food shops and delicatessens)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

salt

 

Accompaniment

pitta bread or any crusty white bread, raw vegetables cut in to batons.

 

Drain the chickpeas, save the cooking liquid. Whizz up the remainder in a food processor with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little cooking water if necessary. Add the crushed garlic, tahini paste, cumin and salt to taste. Blend to a soft creamy paste. Taste and continue to add lemon juice and salt until you are happy with the flavour. Pop a lunch-box sized serving into little jars. Layer up the hummus with a selection of fresh vegetables in the jar, could be diced carrot, diced cucumber, maybe a few peas whatever you have to hand but make sure it tastes delicious

 

Rachel’s Bulgur Wheat Salad

Rachel likes to serve this bulgur wheat salad with roast chicken as an alternative to roast vegetables. It does a great job of soaking up the chicken juices and the ruby-like pomegranate seeds bring their gorgeous sweet-sour flavour. Any leftover chicken and salad can be simply mixed together for a divine school lunch the next day.

 

200g (7oz) bulgur wheat

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 pomegranate, seeds and any juices, see tip below

1 tablespoon chopped mint

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

50ml (2fl oz) olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Cover the bulgur wheat in boiling water and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes until just soft. Drain well.

 

Mix the lemon juice and zest, pomegranate seeds and any juice, herbs and olive oil. Stir through the bulgur wheat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Rachel’s Tip: There is a smart trick to quickly removing the seeds of a pomegranate without removing much pith and avoiding any fiddly peeling. Cut the pomegranate in half, then hold in the cupped palm of your hand, cut side down over a large bowl. Use the back of a wooden spoon to hit the pomegranate and let the seeds fall through your fingers. Keep hitting the back of the pomegranate and you’ll soon have a bowl full of pomegranate seeds. Remove any small bits of pith then repeat with the other half.

 

 

 

See-in-the-Dark Soup

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 6 approx.

 

This soup may be served either hot or cold, don’t hesitate to put in a good pinch of sugar, it brings up the flavour.

 

450g (1lb) carrots, preferably organic, chopped

45g (1½oz) butter

110g (4oz) onion, chopped

140g (5oz) potatoes, chopped

140g (5oz) sweet potatoes, chopped

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

sprig of spearmint

1.1Litre (2 pints) home-made light chicken or vegetable stock

62ml (2½fl oz) creamy milk, (optional)

3 teaspoons freshly chopped spearmint

Garnish

a little lightly whipped cream or crème fraiche

sprigs of spearmint

 

Melt the butter and when it foams add the chopped vegetables, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a sprig of mint, cover with a butter paper (to retain the steam) and a tight fitting lid. Leave to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes approx. Remove the lid, add the stock and boil until the vegetables are soft. Pour the soup into the liquidiser. Add 3 teaspoons of freshly chopped mint, puree until smooth. Add a little creamy milk if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning

Garnish with a swirl of lightly whipped cream or crème fraiche and a sprig of fresh mint.

Tip: Buy unwashed local carrots whenever possible, they have immeasurably better flavour and keep longer  Heirloom seeds are said to have more  vitality and food value than F1 hybrids.

 

A Little Brown Soda Bread Loaf

The buttermilk in the shops is low fat but if you have access to rich, thick buttermilk, there is no need to add butter or extra cream.

 

This little loaf of brown soda bread is mixed in minutes and then just poured into a tin.  A few seeds can be sprinkled over the top or added to the dough for extra nourishment. Why not weigh up x 5 times the amount of flour and salt (but not bread soda).  Mix well and each time just scoop out 450g (16oz), add bread soda and buttermilk – mix and pour into the tin.

Makes 1 loaf

 

225g (8oz) brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda) sieved

450ml (16fl oz) buttermilk plus 2 tablespoons cream

A selection of sesame, pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds (optional)

 

1 loaf tin 13x20cm (5x8inch) approx. brushed with sunflower oil

 

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

 

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl, (if using cream, add to the buttermilk).  Make a well in the centre and pour all of the 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. When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it into the oiled tin – slide a knife down the centre of the loaf.  Sprinkle with a mixture of sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and poppy seeds.

 Bake in the preheated oven for 60 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.

Note:One could add 12g (1/2oz) fine oatmeal, 1 egg, and rub in 25g (1oz) butter to the above to make a richer soda bread dough.

 Note:  Bread should always be cooked in a fully pre-heated oven, but ovens vary enormously so it is necessary to adjust the temperature accordingly.

 

Guacamole

Easy even for the kids to make, a delicious dip for home made crisps, corn chips or raw vegetable sticks
1 ripe avocado

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon fresh coriander or flat parsley

 

Scoop out the flesh from the avocado.  Mash with a fork, add lime juice, olive oil, chopped coriander, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Homemade Potato Crisps or Game Chips

 Making chips at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce

a ton of crisps and nothing you buy in any shop will be even half as delicious. A mandolin is well worth buying for making chips – but mind your fingers!  When these are served with roast pheasant they are called game chips

Serves 4

450g (1lb) large, even-sized potatoes

extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying

salt

 

Wash and peel the potatoes. For even-sized crisps, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth. Slice them very finely, preferably with a mandolin. Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together). Drain off the water and dry well.

 

In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil or dripping to 180ºC/350ºF. Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until they are all cooked.

 

If they are not to be served immediately, they may be stored in a tin box and reheated in a low oven just before serving.

 

Stewed Bramley Apple Pots

The trick with stewed apple is to cook it covered on a low heat with very little water. Pop it into little pots and maybe top with a dollop of cream and a sprinkling of soft dark brown sugar…

Also great with flapjack dips… see below
Serves 10 approx.

 

450g (1 lb) cooking apples, e.g. Bramley Seedling or Grenadier

1-2 dessertspoons water

55g (2 ozs) sugar, depending on how tart the apples are

 

Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut the pieces into two and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan with sugar and water. Cover and cook over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, beat into a puree, stir and taste for sweetness. Serve warm.

Flapjacks

These nutritious oatmeal biscuits keep very well in a tin. Children love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter, because the flavour is immeasurably better. This is the recipe that I use when I want to prove to people who swear they can’t boil water that they can cook. We often drizzle them with melted chocolate as an extra treat. Makes about 24

 

350g (12oz) butter

1 tablespoon golden syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

225g (8oz) caster sugar

450g (1lb) rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)

 

Swiss roll tin 25 x 38cm (10 x 15in)

 

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

Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and vanilla extract, stir in the sugar and oatmeal and mix well. Spread evenly into the Swiss roll tin.

Bake until golden and slightly caramelised, about 30 minutes. Cut into squares while still warm – they will crisp up as they cool.

 

Variation

Oatmeal and coconut flapjacks

substitute 50g (2oz) desiccated coconut for 50g (2oz) oatmeal in the above recipe.

 

Rachel’s Drop Scones

Makes 12

110g (4ozs) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz/1/8 cup) caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 egg

110ml (4fl ozs/) 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 and serve warm with butter and jam, apple jelly, lemon curd or if you are like my children, chocolate spread! (If you wish, wrap the drop scones in a clean tea towel to keep warm while you make the rest.)

 

Ambling though the Burren

For me, ambling slowly through the Burren in Co. Clare is almost a spiritual experience – the prehistoric landscape feels sooo ancient,  I can virtually feel the spirit of those who chipped away patiently to build the drystone walls that still provide enduring shelter for the little fields.

It’s like driving through the Garden of Eden, fields of wild flowers interspersed with an occasional elderberry or hawthorn bush scattered here and there, a flock of sheep grazing contentedly, even a few cattle.

Can you imagine how delicious the meat of the animals reared on this bio-diverse pasture must be.  Looks like there will be lots of sloes and hazelnuts too, the blackberries are just ripening on the brambles pleading to be picked.

We’re on our way to Ennistymon to eat at Little Fox, a newly opened, super cool café on a corner of Main Street.  A short menu of delicious food, a red lentil and turmeric soup with masala yoghurt and toasted seeds was delicious as were all the salads and the Gubeen sambo on flatbread

Just across the road is a cheese shop called The Cheese Press owned by the inimitable Sinead Ni Ghairbhith. Locals get 30 cents off their coffee if they bring their own cup to reduce plastic use.

Just across the street, a little further up,  Pot Duggan’s is also rocking so set aside a little time to visit Ennistymon and beautiful Co. Clare.

Then on to Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon to visit a variety of inspirational farms.  First, Ronan Byrne aka The Friendly Farmer who rears free-range turkeys and geese and has a farm shop on his 35 acre farm at Knockbrack close to Athenry. Ronan also sells at the Moycullen Farmers Market on Friday and the Galway Farmers Market on Saturday where his growing number of devotees often queue up to buy his produce.

Near Ballymote in Co Sligo, we came upon Clive Bright’s enterprise,

 

known as Rare Ruminare, Clive has a most beautiful herd of Hereford and Shorthorn cattle which he ‘mob grazes’ on lush,  organic pastures on his family farm near Ballymote in Co  Sligo. Loved his paintings too –detailed drawings of insects and plant life, beautifully observed.

 

From there we popped in to Drumanilra Farm Kitchen Café in Boyle and met owners Liam and Justina Gavin whose beautiful farm overlooks Lough Kee,  I won’t easily forget the few minutes I spent leaning on a farm gate watching Drumanilra’s herd of gentle Dexter cattle grazing naturally and contentedly on the nourishing pasture.  These cattle will have an honourable end on a plate in the café in their much sought after Dexter burgers or for local people to buy in the farm shop, look out for their rashers and sausages too.

 

Clive Bright’s Hereford and Shorthorn meat can be bought in chilled boxes insulated with lambs’ wool, directly from www.rareruminare.  I can certainly vouch for the flavour having eaten Clive’s beef cheeks for lunch – this young farmer cooks brilliantly as well.

We covered a lot of ground over a couple of days…. On our way south, we detoured to Birr to catch up on Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni, Hannah Ward at Woodfield Café just outside the town.  Another cool café – delicious brunch and a wander around the tempting Woodfield Garden Centre at the rear.  A lovely surprise to find Mueller, O’Connell sourdough bread from Abbeyleix for toasted bacon and Mossfield cheese sandwiches.

Our next stop, the Eco-Village at Cloughjordan in Co Tipperary to meet Joe Fitzmaurice in his Riot Rye bakery, wonderful smells….we had the opportunity to watch Joe shaping and baking his sour dough loaves in the  wood-burning oven – beautiful crusty bread to nourish his community which for him is a major priority. Check out his sour bread classes, www.riotrye.ie.

Just outside the town we found Mimi and Owen Crawford whose rich and beautiful organic raw milk and butter, people flock to buy at Limerick Milk Market and locally.

They also rear and sell their own plump Ross free-range organic chickens, lamb, bacon and pork.  Their small 20-acre holding is super-productive with a little tunnel and vegetable patch bursting with fresh product.

That was the last stop on this short reconnaissance

trip – so many inspirational people.  We ran out of time to visit Sodalicious in Limerick, a recent start-up owned by another Ballymaloe Cookery School allumni Jane Ellison – we hear it’s worth a detour.

 

Orange Lentil Soup with Turmeric, Masala, Yoghurt and Toasted Seeds and Coriander

Serves 6

 

225g (8oz) onions – chopped

extra virgin olive oil or butter

2 teaspoons turmeric, peeled and freshly grated

225g (8oz) orange lentils

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 pints of vegetable of chicken stock

6 tablespoons yoghurt

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds

2 teaspoons sunflower seeds

1 teaspoon each of black and white sesame seeds

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

fresh coriander leaves

 

 

Bring a saucepan of the chicken or vegetable stock to the boil.

 

Meanwhile heat the oil and/or butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the freshly chopped onion, toss, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured.

 

Uncover, add turmeric, cook for a minute or two, add the lentils. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the boiling stock. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the lentils are soft.

 

Meanwhile, toast the seeds by stirring continuously on a dry pan over a low to medium heat until they smell toasty, 3-4 minutes, turn into a bowl,  add 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and cool.

 

Heat the cumin and coriander in a dry pan over a medium to high heat until it starts to smell aromatic. Turn into a mortar and grind to a fine powder. Add to the natural yoghurt, add salt to taste.

 

Whizz the soup to a coarse puree. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Correct the seasoning.

 

Ladle into wide soup bowls, drizzle some masala yoghurt on top. Sprinkle with an assortment of seeds and some fresh coriander leaves and serve

 

Braised Beef Cheeks with Colcannon and Swede Turnips

 

Gary Masterson from Fire and Ice Café in Midleton served delicious beef cheeks with a gutsy red wine sauce and sea spinach at a Winter Slow Food event – perfection.  He shared the recipe with us.

 

Serves 6

 

6 beef cheeks

dripping or oil

1 head garlic, cut in half

2 onions, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 celery sticks, chopped

4 ripe tomatoes, cut in half

sprig of thyme and a bay leaf

1 bottle full bodied red wine

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

hot chicken or veal stock

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Scallion or Parsnip Champ

 

Marinate the beef cheeks in half the red wine, vinegar, chopped vegetables and herbs for a minimum of 12 hours, up to 48 hours if you are organised enough.

 

Before cooking, take the meat out of the marinade and pat dry.  Heat a frying pan, add the dripping, season the beef cheeks with the salt and freshly ground pepper and sear the cheeks in the hot oil, allowing them to colour on both sides.  Remove from the pan and transfer to a casserole.  Add the vegetables to the oil and sauté until brown, then deglaze the pan with the marinade, scraping off all the flavour from the bottom.  Bring to the boil and skim off any impurities that rise to the top as it boils.  Reduce by half and pour over the beef and add the other half of the wine and enough hot stock to cover the cheeks.  Cover the casserole and cook in a low oven at 130°F/250°F/gas mark 1/2 for 3-4 hours or until the meat is soft and meltingly tender.

 

When cooked, remove from the sauce and keep aside.  Strain the sauce, pushing hard through the sieve to extract as much flavour as possible from all the vegetables.  If the sauce is too thin, put back into the saucepan and reduce until the required consistency is reached.  Check the seasoning, it may also need a touch of sugar and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.  Gently reheat the cheeks in the sauce and serve in bowls with a few crispy smoked bacon lardons on top.

 

We like to serve with Colcannon and Swede turnips.

 

Reynard’s Buckwheat Pancake with Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 6

 

Buckwheat Batter

25g (1oz) butter

65g (2 1/2 oz) buckwheat flour

50g (2oz) plain white flour

1 large free range egg

175ml (6fl oz) milk

110ml (4fl oz) cold water

a pinch of salt

2 tablespoons sugar

 

To Serve

best quality organic chocolate and hazelnut spread

toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Maldon sea salt (optional)

 

First make the batter.

Melt the butter on a low heat – cool.  Sieve both flours and a pinch of salt into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre, add an egg, gradually whisk in the milk and water drawing in the flour from the outside.  Finally whisk in the melted butter. Cover and allow to rest for 15- 30 minutes.

 

Heat a non-stick pan on a high heat.  Pour in a small ladle-full of batter just enough to cover the base of the pan.  Cook for about a minute, flip over and cook for a further 30-45 seconds.  Slide onto a hot plate.

 

Spoon a couple of generous tablespoons of chocolate spread onto the centre.  Fold in the four edges, once, twice to form a square with chocolate in the centre.  Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts and a few flakes of Maldon sea salt.

Buckwheat Pancakes with Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche and Crispy Capers

 

Buckwheat is deliciously nutty, rich in minerals and B vitamins and naturally gluten-free.

 

Serves 8

 

8 buckwheat pancakes (see recipe)

16 thin slices of smoked salmon (approximately 225g/8oz)

8 tablespoons of crème fraîche (see recipe)

56 capers, drained and fried until crisp in a little hot oil

4 tablespoons of finely chopped scallions or chives, cut at an angle

Freshly ground black pepper

 

To serve: place the pancakes on warm plates, divide the smoked salmon between the pancakes.

 

Drizzle 1 tablespoon crème fraîche over each pancake.

 

Sprinkle 7 capers and 1/2 tablespoon of chopped scallions or chives over the crème fraîche.

 

Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

 

Buckwheat Pancake Batter

 

Makes twelve 18cm (7 inch) pancakes

 

2 tablespoons butter

225ml (8fl oz) milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

60g (21/2oz) rice flour

21/2 tablespoons buckwheat flour

11/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 small free-range eggs

40ml (11/2fl oz) sparkling mineral water

 

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

Add the milk, salt, and sugar, stir well, and turn off the heat.

 

Put both flours in a mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the vegetable oil and eggs. Mix the eggs and oil with a whisk, gradually bringing in flour from the sides until it begins to thicken. Add the milk mixture little by little until all has been incorporated and the batter is smooth. Whisk in the water.

 

Pour the batter through a medium strainer into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.  (This resting time will allow the batter to relax and the flour to absorb the liquids fully.) Pancake batter may be made a day ahead and refrigerated.

 

To cook: Heat a 15-18cm (6-7in) frying pan.

 

Add a very little oil. When the pan is hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan.

Allow to cook on one side for a minute or two, flip over onto the other side and continue to cook, until speckled and slightly golden.

 

Slide onto a plate, repeat with the other pancakes.

 

Stack one on top of the other, they can be peeled apart later but are best eaten fresh off the pan.

 

 

Wild Blackberry and Rose Petal Sponge

When the first blackberries ripen in the autumn we use them with softly whipped cream to fill this light fluffy sponge.   The recipe may sound strange but the cake will be the lightest and most tender you’ve ever tasted.

 

Serves 6-8

melted butter, for greasing

140g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

3 organic eggs75ml water

225g granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

 

Filling

 

110ml cream

2 teaspoons icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

½ teaspoon rosewater, optional

225-350g wild blackberries

 

pale pink rose petals, fresh or crystallized

 

2 x 20.5cm sandwich tins

 

Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas mark 5.

Brush the cake tins evenly with melted butter and dust with flour.  I usually take the precaution of lining the base with a circle of greaseproof paper for guaranteed ease of removal later.

 

Separate the eggs. In a food mixer whisk the yolks with the sugar for 2 minutes, then add in the water. Whisk until light and fluffy, 10 minutes approx. Fold the sieved flour and baking powder into the mousse in batches. Whisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Gently fold them into the fluffy base. Pour into prepared sandwich tins and bake in a moderately hot oven 190C/Gas mark 5 for 20 minutes approx.  Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

 

Whip the cream, add the icing sugar and a few drops of rosewater.

 

Sandwich the sponge together with whipped cream and blackberries. Sieve a little icing sugar over the top. Sprinkle with fresh or crystallized rose petals – it will look and taste enchanting.

 

 

 

Purslane

Do you know about purslane? I’m crazy about it. For those who are not familiar, it’s a little succulent that spreads like wildfire and is considered by many gardeners to be just a weed. But if it has been romping around your greenhouse or tunnel since June, don’t just moan, harvest and eat it instead. It’s super tasty, will still be in season until September and there are a million things you can do with it.

Its juicy leaves are delicious raw in salads, or lightly tossed as a vegetable or ‘side’. Purslane also pickles well and can be used in ferments or added to a soup or stew. For the purpose of identification you may want to know that the Latin name is Portulaca Oleracea. A hugely nutritious and highly esteemed vegetable, from Iran to the Cacuses as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean, Mexico and India. Purslane is a powerhouse of nutrition, lots of Omega three fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. It has notable amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium as well as vitamins A B C and E in fact it has six times more Vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. Those who have difficulty snoozing may like to know that purslane has high levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep…

In his ground breaking book ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michal Pollan called purslane one of the two most nutritious plants on the planet (the other being Lambs quarters).

Interestingly both of these plants are considered by many to be a nuisance in the garden. Purslane has pinkish stems; its leaves are crunchy and slightly mucilaginous with a flavour reminiscent of lemon and freshly ground pepper.

In urban areas it even grows up through cracks in the footpaths or at the base of walls.

Purslane has been grown since ancient times and thrives in hot climates so no doubt it will be considered to be even more important in the future.

Meanwhile seek it out and enjoy it often in as many ways as possible, here are a few ideas to get you started….
 

 

Jacob Kennedy’s Tomato and Purslane Salad

 

Serves 4 as a starter or side

 

500 g (18oz) delicious tomatoes

½ small red onion

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (optional)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

100 g (3½ oz) picked purslane leaves and tips

 

Quarter the tomatoes and slice the red onion very thinly across the grain. Macerate these with the vinegar, oil and plenty of salt and pepper for 5 minutes, then toss in the leaves and have a crust of bread on hand to mop the bowl afterwards.

 

 

Rory O’ Connell’s Purslane, Avocado and Cucumber Salad

 

The contrast of textures and flavours in this simple salad is really delicious.  The crisp cucumbers complement the creamy avocado and the juiciness of the succulent purslane. Rory sometimes adds a few green grapes for an extra touch of sweetness.

 

 

Serves 6-8

 

3-4 handfuls of purslane

2 avocados

1 cucumber

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

 

 

Dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Forum Chardonnay wine vinegar

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

 

 

Top, tail and halve the cucumber.  Unless it’s very fresh scoop out the seeds, a melon baller or ‘pointy’ teaspoon is good for this.   Cut into 1cm diagonal slices and transfer to a wide bowl.

Halve the avocado, remove the stone, peel and cut into haphazard dice, about 7mm.  Add to the cucumber.   Season with flaky sea salt and add some freshly cracked pepper.  Add the sprigs of purslane.  Drizzle with dressing.  Toss gently.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Arrange on individual plates and serve as soon as possible.

 

Purslane Soup from Naomi Duguid

 

Springtime in Kurdistan means “paipina”, a thick soup of lentils (nisik in Kurdish) Purslane is a wild green with small, thick, succulent leaves and reddish stems. It’s often treated as a weed in North America, but it’s a much-valued vegetable from Iran to the Caucasus, as well as in the eastern Mediterranean region, where it’s used raw in salads. Some farmers are starting to cultivate it in North America, so it should soon become easier to find.

 

Serves 8

 

225g (8oz) brown lentils, rinsed and picked over

55g (2oz) finely chopped onion

100g (3½oz) Arborio or other short-grain rice, washed and drained

1.5 to 1.8 litres (2½ to 3 pints) water or unsalted light chicken or vegetable broth, or as needed

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon turmeric

2 to 3 teaspoons sea salt, to taste

285g (10½ oz) finely chopped purslane leaves and stems

freshly ground black pepper

 

Accompaniments

Flatbreads

Fresh goat’s- or sheep’s-milk cheese

A generous Herb Plate: tarragon, chervil, mint, lovage, and scallion greens (use two or more)

 

 

Place the lentils, onion, and rice in a large pot, add 7 cups of water or broth, and bring to a vigorous boil. Skim off any foam, cover, reduce the heat to maintain a low boil, and cook until the lentils are tender, 35 to 45 minutes; add more water or broth if needed.

 

Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, turmeric, and 2 teaspoons salt, then add the purslane and stir thoroughly. Cook until the purslane is very soft and flavours have blended, about 30 minutes; add more liquid if the soup gets too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle with black pepper. Put out the flatbreads, cheese, and herb plate, and invite your guests to sprinkle a little cheese onto their soup.

 

 

Summer Purslane with Tahini and Sesame seeds

 

Serves 2

 

Dressing:

½ or 1 small garlic clove

2 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon local honey

2 tablespoons of tahini

Water as needed…

350g (12oz) fresh purslane

 

To serve:

sesame seeds

 

Peel and grate the garlic on a micro-plane, put into a bowl with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey. Stir to dissolve.

 

Bring a saucepan of water to a fast rolling boil. Drop the sprigs of purslane into the pan and cook for just 30 seconds. Drain and refresh under cold water. Drain again and dry gently.

Lay on a serving plate.

Put the tahini into a bowl. Stir in the lemon mixture. It will thicken at first but go on stirring and add a little water if necessary. It should be a thick pouring consistency.

Drizzle a little tahini dressing over the purslane. Sprinkle with a sesame seeds, (optional).

Serve as a side or as an accompaniment to grilled meats or aubergines.

 

Note: Roast Hazelnut dressing or tomato and chilli jam is also delicious drizzled over purslane.

 

Kemp Minifie’s Purslane and Avocado Tacos with Pico de Gallo  

Purslane has long been considered a weed, but it is increasingly showing up for sale in bunches at farmers markets. Meanwhile, Mexicans have known about its healthful properties for hundreds of years and they eat it both raw and cooked. In Mexico it’s called verdolagas. Cooking mellows its tang and shrinks it, which means you can eat more of it! Paired with avocado and a tomato relish, this is a super-healthy vegetarian snack or main dish.

 

For Pico de Gallo:

600ml (1 pint) grape tomatoes, quartered

50g (2oz) chopped white onion

1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste

2 teaspoons minced fresh Serrano chilli, or to taste

(1oz) chopped coriander

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

For Tacos:

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

450g (1 lb) purslane, including tender upper stems, chopped

8 fresh corn tortillas

2 avocados

(3oz) crumbled cotija cheese or to taste

 

coriander sprigs and lime wedges for serving

 

12-inch heavy skillet

 

 

Makes 8 tacos (4 servings)

 

Make Pico de Gallo:

Combine tomatoes, onion, lime juice, chilli, and coriander in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let it stand while assembling the tacos.

 

Cook garlic in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until pale golden. Add purslane with salt to taste and cook, stirring, until wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a sieve set over a bowl and let it drain.

 

Have a folded kitchen towel ready for the tortillas. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot, then heat a tortilla, keeping the others covered, flipping it occasionally with tongs, until it puffs slightly and gets brown in spots, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer tortilla, as toasted, to towel, enclosing it, and repeat with remaining tortillas. Keep them warm in towel.

 

Quarter avocados lengthwise and remove pit, then peel. Cut each section into thin slices (lengthwise or crosswise, it doesn’t matter) and season with salt.

 

Assemble tacos by spooning some purslane into a folded taco and topping it with avocado slices, cotija cheese, coriander sprigs, and pico de gallo. Serve with lime wedges.

 

 

 

Summer Purslane, Tomato, Cucumber and Sumac Salad

A little sliced red onion is also delicious added to this salad. Omit the sumac if difficult to source.

 

 

Serves 2-4

2 generous fistfuls of purslane sprigs

½ – 1 cucumber, seeded and diced 1.7cm (2/3  inch)

4 ripe tomatoes roughly chopped in a similar size

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

½ – 1 fresh chilli seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon local honey

1 – 2 tablespoons sumac

 

Wash the purslane spring and drain. Put in a wide bowl with the cucumber and tomato dice. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

 

 

Put the chili into a bowl with lemon, extra virgin olive oil and honey.

Whisk with a fork

 

Drizzle over the salad. Toss gently and taste. Sprinkle with sumac and serve.

 

Note: You can imagine how a few slices of avocado are also a yummy addition.

 

 

 

Pickled Purslane

 

Use this tasty pickle in salads or with goat cheese; pan grilled fish, lamb chops or even a burger.

 

Makes 4 x 7oz jars

 

250g (9oz) purslane

200g (7oz) cider white wine vinegar

10g (1/2oz) pure salt

1 teaspoon sugar or a dessertspoon honey

2 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced

1 organic lemon,

600ml (1 pint) water approx.

 

4 sterilised glass jars and lids (160°C/310°F/Mark 3, for ten minutes in the oven)

 

 

Wash the purslane under cold water. Drain.

 

Put the vinegar, salt, sugar or honey and sliced garlic into a stainless steel saucepan

Bring to the boil for a minute or two; add the juice of the lemon.

 

Meanwhile bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the purslane in batches for just 30 seconds. Drain, but save the liquid. Add the purslane to the hot pickle. Spoon into the hot jars, divide the liquid pickle evenly between the jars and top each one up with the purslane blanching water if necessary.

 

Cover and seal the jar immediately with a sterilised lid. Cool and store in a dark place. Use in two days or within 2 months.

 

 

 

 

KAUKASIS by Olia Hercules

 

 

For some time now I’ve become more and more intrigued by the food of the Caucasus  – Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia…..

I haven’t managed to get there yet, but it’s high on my list of places to visit just as soon as I can. My interest has been sparked by Olia Hercules, a beautiful, enchanting young cook who was born in Ukraine and came to London via Cyprus. She writes evocatively about the food of her homeland and the surrounding countries, rich beautiful peasant food, the sort of food I love to eat.

In this part of the world, where the home cooks have learned the skills from their parents, grandparents and great grandparents, they value every morsel of food and know how to use every scrap of seasonal produce deliciously. Foraging, pickling, fermenting and preserving is an innate part of their food culture. I long to taste some of the dishes Olia described so evocatively in her books – the result of many research trips to the Caucuses where she visited peoples’ farms and went into their kitchens to learn from traditional  home cooks. No fluffs or foams or skid marks going on here but beautiful real food, sometimes utterly traditional and other recipes where Olia has created a delicious twist on the original.  I met her recently at the Oxford Food Symposium where she cooked a delicious dinner Wild East Feast.

I’ve invited her to do a guest chef appearance here at The Ballymaloe Cookery School. I’ll keep you posted as soon as we finalise the date. I’m also hoping that she will do a Pop-Up dinner at Ballymaloe House in the Autumn and perhaps an East Cork Slow Food Event – all to be confirmed – you can see I’m smitten by this young cook whom the Observer Food Magazine named Rising Star of the Year in 2015 when her first cookbook Mamushka was published. Several of the recipes that follow come from her second book Kaukasis published by Octopus Books. I’ve especially picked delicious Summery recipes to use the bounty of fruit and vegetables that nature is providing for us at present.

 

Olia Hercules’s Tomato and Raspberry Salad

This salad came about when Ének, a first-generation Hungarian who had settled in Georgia, picked out some extremely good tomatoes at a market in Tbilisi. Inspired by Hungarian-rooted chefs from Bar Tarrine in San Francisco who do a version of this salad with sour cherries, she made one with raspberries, toasty unrefined sunflower oil and some green coriander seeds and flower heads. I know tomatoes and raspberries sound like a combination that should just be left alone, but it actually really works if you use excellent tomatoes, although not with hard, flavourless supermarket tomatoes. The tomatoes need to be ripe, sweet, flavoursome and juicy fruit so that they almost equal the raspberries in texture and juiciness. Strong, savoury, soft herbs also go very well here. Try marjoram or oregano mixed with mint or coriander leaves, dill or tarragon —you are going for intensity here. And make sure you season it really well with good flaky sea salt.

 

Serves 4 as a side

4 large super-ripe tomatoes

10 firm yellow, green and red cherry tomatoes

8 raspberries

5 black olives, pitted and torn

3 tablespoons unrefined sunflower oil

a few coriander flower heads or 3 sprigs of marjoram, leaves picked

1 sprig of mint, leaves picked and large ones torn

4 sprigs of dill, chopped

1/4 mild onion, thinly sliced

sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

 

 

Cut the tomatoes into sections. Your tomatoes should be so ripe that you will end up with loads of juice on your chopping board. Don’t throw it away but add it to a bowl to use as part of the dressing.

 

Pop the tomatoes on to a serving plate and scatter over the raspberries and olives.

 

Whisk the unrefined sunflower oil into the reserved tomato juices and pour over the salad Season generously with some salt and pepper, and sprinkle over the herbs and onion. The juices remaining at the bottom of the salad are made for bread-mopping.

 

Tip:  If you can’t find the correct sunflower oil, try another nutty oil. Mix a little sesame oil with some avocado or rapeseed oil, or try walnut oil if you can find the good stuff.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books

 

 

Olia Hercules’s Savoury Peach & Tarragon Salad

We are used to tarragon in creamy sauces in the West but mainly just with chicken, and it remains such an under-used herb, often declared as too strong and dominant. But Georgians love it and it finds its way into many, many dishes. We made this in Tbilisi in June, inspired by the gorgeous local produce. A savoury salad made only with fruit may seem unusual, but it works. Sour gooseberries or grapes combined with sweet peaches (or nectarines) along with savoury tarragon and salt makes a dream accompaniment to some grilled pork or iamb chops, or roasted meaty summer squashes.

 

 

Serves 2 as a side

 

2 peaches, stoned and sliced

50g (1¾ oz) gooseberries or grapes (or 4 tart plums, stoned and sliced)

1/2  small bunch of tarragon, leaves picked (or a few fennel fronds)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 small red chilli, deseeded and diced

1/2, teaspoon caster sugar or honey

1 small garlic clove, grated

sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

 

Arrange the peaches and gooseberries or grapes on a plate. Mix the tarragon leaves with the lemon juice, fresh chilli, sugar or honey, garlic, some salt and a generous pinch of pepper then pour the dressing over the fruit and serve.

 

Variation: Mix a handful of pumpkin seeds with ½ tablespoon of maple syrup, a pinch of chilli flakes and some salt, spread them out on to a lined baking sheet and roast in the oven at 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4 for 5 minutes. Remove from

The oven, leave to cool, then use as a savoury topping.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books

 

 

Olia Hercules’s Courgettes & Garlic Matsorii

This dish is simplicity itself. It used to be made with mayonnaise throughout the ex-Soviet Union, but thank goodness that’s all over and we can now use traditional premium dairy. As with all simple recipes, this is particularly tasty if you can source great home-grown or good-quality courgettes and make your own matsoni. If your courgettes are not the greatest, try using a mixture of all the soft herbs you like best to give them a bit of a lift. But if you have amazing vegetables and your own homemade yogurt, use just a little dill and let them sing their sweet, gentle song. And I love borage for its subtle cucumber flavour overtones.

 

Serves 4 as a side

2 large courgettes

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

100 (3½ oz) Homemade Matsoni or good-quality natural yogurt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon of your favourite mixture of soft herbs, roughly chopped

sea salt flakes

 

Slice the courgettes lengthways into 5mm (14 inch) strips.

Hear the oil in a large frying pan and fry the courgette slices on each side until deep golden. Remove and drain them on kitchen paper.

Mix the matsoni or yogurt with the garlic and add some salt, then taste – it should be really well seasoned, so add more salt if necessary. Drizzle the mixture over the courgettes and sprinkle over the herbs.

Variation

Try lightly coating the courgettes in flour before frying – it will give them a bit more body. Buckwheat flour adds a nice nuttiness to the flavour.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books

 

 

 

 

Olia Hercules’s Herb Kükü OPTIONAL     

“I tried an Azerbaijani herby omelette called kükü I announced excitedly. “That dish was originally Iranian!” was Sabrina Ghayour’s response – there is no escaping her intensely Persian focus. While I agree with her that this dish definitely has Persian roots, it is also treasured in neighbouring Azerbaijan. I really love the name (it sounds so playful), love how herby it is (it’s mostly herbs held together by a little egg) and love the sprinkling of sumac on top. You can fry it in oil if you wish, but I do love soft herbs cooked in butter – there is so much satisfaction to be had from a combination of fresh, fragrant flavour, creamy dairy and eggs. Play around with the combination of soft herbs; there are endless variants to enjoy – I often use watercress, spring onion, sorrel, spinach or wild garlic. Serve with flatbreads, a simple tomato salad and some natural yogurt with chopped cucumber, chilli, salt and a tiny bit of garlic.

 

Serves 4

150g mixture of soft herbs, such as coriander, dill, purple or green basil, tarragon and chives

4 eggs

1 garlic clove, finely grated

3 spring onions, finely chopped

20g (3/4oz) Clarified Butter or ordinary butter and a drop of vegetable oil

½ teaspoon ground sumac

sea salt flakes

23cm (9 inch) diameter frying pan

 

Remove any tough stalks from your mixture of herbs, then finely chop the softer stalks together with the leaves.

Whisk the eggs with some salt and the garlic, then stir in all the chopped herbs and spring onions.

Heat the Clarified Butter in a 23cm (9 inch) diameter frying pan and add the herby eggs. Cook, without touching it, over a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until the eggs are just set and the underside develops a golden crust.

Now comes the tricky bit. To flip the kükü, cover the pan with a big plate, turn it upside-down plate, then slide the kükü back into the pan. Continue cooking for 1 minute until other side is golden then remove from the heat and slide it on to a serving plate. Sprinkle the sumac on the top and serve.

 

VARIATION You can also add a handful of lightly toasted and crushed walnuts to the kuku. For a winter version of the dish, use thinly sliced Swiss chard or beetroot tops or sweet white cabbage instead of the herbs.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books

 

 

Olia Hercules’s Tarragon & Cucumber Lemonade

Instead of cola and fizzy orange drinks, us ex-Soviet children grew up drinking a fizzy fluorescent green pop called “tarkhun”, meaning “tarragon”. It was poisonous-green, very sweet yet somehow delicious. Tarragon is extremely popular in Georgia – they do not shy away from its strong flavour. I do love the addition of cucumbers like they do in the Pheasant’s Tears restaurant in Signagi, a town in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia,  which makes this summer drink even fresher.

Makes about 3 litres (51/4 pints)

500ml (18fl oz) water

200g (7oz) caster sugar

finely grated zest and juice of 4 (preferably Sicilian) lemons

2 bunches of tarragon

2 cucumbers, sliced

2 litres (31/2 pints) cold sparkling mineral water

 

Put the still water into a saucepan with the sugar and heat over a low heat, stirring often, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to cool completely, then stir in the lemon zest and juice.

Blitz the tarragon (reserving a few sprigs) and half the cucumber in a blender or food processor (easier and less splashy than using a pestle and mortar, although you can do it that way). Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.

Mix the lemony cordial with the tarragon and cucumber juice and dilute it as you would with any cordial – topped up with sparkling or still water. This is not too bad with a dash of gin, too.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books

 

 

Olia Hercules’s Buckwheat Ice Cream

1 really, really wanted to use Marina’s pine cones in a dessert of my own, as they are just so unusual, a chef’s dream. But because they are so tannic and taste so strongly of pine, only a tiny bit could be used. I also really wanted to make buckwheat ice cream, as when we were children, mum used to boil buckwheat in salted water and then dress it with melted butter and sugar. That flavour was haunting me, just like I imagine the cereal milk would for those who grew up eating sweet cereal. My friend Alissa and I threw a Kino Vino supper club during Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky Week in London, showing his 1975 film called Mirror, followed by a feast inspired by the movie. One of the last scenes depicted a buckwheat field bordering a malachite-hued pine forest. Bingo. The two came together. So this is my poetic nostalgic dessert, although don’t worry about trying to find pine cones, as I’ve suggested using fresh bay leaves instead here to add savouriness.

 

Serves 6-8

100g (3 ½ oz) raw buckwheat groats (or use ready-toasted)

10 fresh bay leaves, crushed

250m1 (9fl oz) milk

250g (9oz) double cream

generous pinch of salt

150g (5½ oz) caster sugar (optional)

4 egg yolks

100-150g (3½ -5½ oz) granulated sugar poached rhubarb, to serve

You will also need (ideally) an ice-cream machine and a large piece of muslin

 

 

If using raw buckwheat, heat a large, frying pan over a medium heat, toss in the buckwheat and toast, wiggling the pan about from time to time, until it becomes golden but not burnt. Taste it and check that it is crunchy and edible – it’s very important that you get this right. Leave the buckwheat to cool.

 

Wrap the crushed bay leaves and buckwheat in the muslin and tie securely. Add it to the milk and cream in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the salt and taste the mixture – you should be able to detect the salt ever so slightly. If you intend to serve the ice cream with something tart, add 150g (5½ oz) caster sugar.

When the milk mixture is almost boiling, turn the heat off and leave to infuse for an hour.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a large heatproof bowl.

Remove the muslin and squeeze out all the flavour, then discard. Bring the milk mixture back up to almost boiling. Pour it on to the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly, then pour back into the pan and cook over a low heat, stirring, for about 5 this mixture minutes or until slightly thickened.

Cover the surface of the custard with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming and leave the custard to cool.

Churn the ice cream in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturers instructions, then serve with some simple poached rhubarb.

Tip If you don’t have an ice-cream machine, create a semifreddo with the custard. Make the custard as instructed above and leave to cool, then fold  through  egg whites, whisked until firm peaks form. Freeze for 2 hours and serve slightly soft.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books

 

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Edible flowers 

 

 

Corn flowers, primroses, forget-me-nots, day lilies, marigolds, roses, lavender, nasturtiums, dahlias, chrysanthemum…

I love to scatter flower petals over desserts, cakes and biscuits. Judiciously used they also add a little magic to starter plates and salads. Of course the flowers must be edible but a wide variety of blossoms are, as well as the flowers of broad beans, scarlet runners, sun chokes, peas and sea kale, but remember they will  eventually grow into the vegetables so pick sparingly.

 

The canary yellow zucchini and squash blossoms are also irresistible not just to tear into salads but also to dip into a tempura batter – stuffed or unstuffed.

 

Even the cheery little nasturtium flower with its peppery taste are both cute and delicious stuffed with a little herby cream cheese. We also chop the gaily coloured nasturtium blossom and add them into a lemony butter to serve with a piece of spanking fresh fish.

 

Fennell and dill flowers have a delicious liquoricey, aniseed flavour. They too add magic to fish dishes and broths but also to some pastas and of course salads.

Dahlia flowers are gorgeous sprinkled over salads, I particularly love them scattered over an heirloom tomato or potato salad.

 

Thyme flowers are various shades of blue and purple – we love to use them to garnish little pots of pate or to sprinkle over a bowl of silky onion and thyme leaf soup.

Sage and hyssop flowers are even more intensely blue and they two give a vibrant and perky flavour to salads and summer vegetable dishes.

The kombuchas and water kefirs that we serve at the school every day also include edible flowers which introduce the yeast of the area into the gut enhancing drink.

 

This freekeh salad makes a wonderful vehicle for a variety of edible flowers. Pomegranate molasses is now widely available and now has become a favourite ingredient for those of us who have developed a passion for Middle Eastern flavours.

 

Heritage Tomato Salad with Flowers, Za’atar and Freekeh

This is a pretty salad with lots of edible flowers from the garden and the tomatoes are particularly good. Freekeh is a Lebanese wheat. It’s picked while still under ripe and set on fire to remove the husk, which smokes and toasts the grain.

 

Serves 4

 

100g (3½ oz) freekeh or farro

sea salt

extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

12 cherry tomatoes

2 teaspoons za’atar

lots of edible flowers, perhaps marigolds, cornflowers, violas, rocket flowers, or borage (remove furry calyx from behind the flower), chive or coriander or fennel blossom depending on what’s available in Summer.

 

Put the freekeh or farro into a saucepan with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 4-6 minutes, depending on the freekeh (some are broken grains, others whole). It should be soft but still slightly chewy. Drain, season with salt and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

 

In a little bowl, whisk the pomegranate molasses with 3 tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil to emulsify.

 

Cut the tomatoes into wedges. Season with salt and a little extra virgin olive oil. Lay the tomatoes on a plate, scatter with the freekeh, then sprinkle over the za’atar and edible flowers. Finish the plate by drizzling with the pomegranate molasses mixture.  Taste and add a few more sea salt flakes if necessary.

 

Note

Freekeh cooking times vary quite dramatically depending on the type and age of the freekeh.

Onion, Thyme Leaf  and Thyme Flower Soup

Sprinkle thyme flowers over the top to add a little “je ne sais quoi”

 

Serves 6 approximately

 

450g 1lb (1lb) chopped onions

225g (8oz) chopped potatoes

45g (1 1/2oz) butter

1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 litre (1 3/4 pints) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

150ml (5fl oz) cream or cream and milk mixed, approx.

 

Garnish

fresh thyme leaves and thyme or chive  flowers

a little whipped cream (optional)

 

Peel and chop the onions and potatoes into small dice, about one third inch.  Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. As soon as it foams, add the onions and potatoes, stir until they are well coated with butter. Add the thyme leaves, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Place a paper lid on top of the vegetables directly to keep in the steam. Then cover the saucepan with a tight fitting lid and sweat on a low heat for 10 minutes approx. The potatoes and onions should be soft but not coloured. Add the chicken stock, bring it to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are cooked, 5-8 minutes approx. Liquidise the soup and add a little cream or creamy milk. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

 

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen garnished with a blob of whipped cream, sprinkle with thyme leaves and thyme or chive flowers.

 

 

Stuffed Nasturtium Flowers

Nasturtiums are the flower that keeps on giving – super easy to grow. This charming little bite, also good served with a little smoked mackerel alongside, a delicious little starter or a nibble to go with a glass of wine.

Children love helping to fill the flowers.

 

Serves

 

12 whole nasturtium flowers, freshly picked (+ 1 for tasting)

110g (4oz) fresh ricotta or goat cheese

2 teaspoons of chopped chives

1 teaspoon lemon thyme

1 teaspoon chervil, chopped

a little honey, optional

½ teaspoon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Garnish

2 chive blossoms

12 pickled nasturtium capers

 

Mix the freshly chopped herbs gently with the cheese.  Taste, add a little honey and seasoning if necessary.

Open a flower, use a piping bag or teaspoon to fill the centre.  Almost cover with the petals.  (Taste to make sure the balance of flavours is good)

Tweak if necessary and continue to stuff the remainder of the flowers.

Cover a serving plate with nasturtium leaves, lay the flowers on top.

Garnish with a sprinkling of chive blossom and nasturtium capers.

 

Pan-grilled Fish with Vietnamese Cucumbers and Fennell Flowers

 

Pan-grilling is one of my favourite ways to cook fish, meat and vegetables.  Square or oblong cast-iron pan-grills can be bought in virtually all good kitchen shops and are a ‘must have’ as far as I am concerned.  In this recipe you can use almost any fish – mackerel, grey sea mullet, cod, sea bass, haddock – provided it is very fresh.

 

Serves 8-10

 

8 x 175g (6oz) of very fresh fish fillets

seasoned flour

small knob of butter (soft)

 

Accompaniment

Vietnamese Cucumbers (see below)

Fennell flowers

 

Heat the pan grill. Dry the fish fillets well. Just before cooking but not earlier dip the fish fillets in flour which has been well seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Pass the floured fillet between the palms of your hands to shake off the excess flour and then spread a little soft butter evenly over the entire surface of the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes (time depends on the thickness of the fish). Turnover and cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with the Vietnamese cucumbers and fresh herbs on the side.

Sprinkle a few fennel flowers on top.

 

Tip

Be sure to wash and dry the grill-pan each time between batches.

 

 

Vietnamese Cucumbers

 

Serves 8-10

 

4 cucumbers

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fish Sauce (Nam pla)

2.5cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and cut into fine julienne

2 tablespoons palm sugar

1-2 Serrano or Jalapeno or fresh Thai chillies

juice of 2 or 3 limes

 

fistful of fresh mint sprigs

fistful basil sprigs

thinly sliced scallions or onion

 

Peel the cucumbers, cut them lengthwise in half, and remove the seeds with a spoon if they are large.  Slice the cucumbers into thickish half-moons and put them in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle lightly with fish sauce, then add the ginger and palm sugar.  Toss well, and let the cucumbers sit for 5 minutes or so.

 

Add a good spoonful of the chopped Serrano or Jalapeno chillies (seeds removed, if desired) or finely slivered Thai chillies.  Squeeze over the juice of 2 limes and toss again, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serving.

 

Just before serving add a fistful of roughly chopped mint and basil leaves.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with lime juice as well as salt and pepper.  Garnish with thinly sliced scallions or paper-thin slices of onion.

 

 

 

Honey and Lavender Ice-Cream

Honey and lavender is a particularly delicious marriage of flavours. We make this richly scented ice cream when the lavender flowers are in bloom in early Summer.  Lavender is at its most aromatic just before the flowers burst open.  Serve it totally alone on chilled plates and savour every mouthful.

 

Serves 8-10

 

250ml (9floz) milk

450ml (16floz) cream

40 sprigs of fresh lavender or less of dried (use the blossom end only)

6 organic egg yolks

175ml (6floz) pure Irish honey, we use our own apple blossom honey, although Provencal lavender honey would also be wonderful

Garnish

sprigs of lavender

 

Put the milk and cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the lavender sprigs, bring slowly to the boil and leave to infuse for 15-20 minutes. This will both flavour and perfume the cream deliciously.  Whisk the egg yolks, add a little of the lavender flavoured liquid and then mix the two together.  Cook over a low heat until the mixture barely thickens and lightly coats the back of a spoon (careful it doesn’t curdle).  Melt the honey gently, just to liquefy, whisk into the custard.  Strain out lavender heads.

 

Chill thoroughly and freeze, preferably in an ice-cream maker.

 

Serve garnished with sprigs of fresh or frozen lavender (see recipe)

Frosted Lavender

Frosted lavender sprigs are adorable and delicious to use for garnish.  Pick lavender in dry weather while the flowers are still closed.  Whisk a little egg white lightly, just enough to break it up, brush the entire lavender sprig with the egg white, sprinkle all over with sieved, dry castor sugar.  Lay on a sheet of silicone paper.  Allow to dry and crisp in a warm spot – hot press or near a radiator until dry and crisp.  Store in an airtight tin.

 

Honey Mousse with Lavender Jelly

JR Ryall, head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House, loves to make this dessert in June using the lavender from the walled garden at Ballymaloe, just before the flowers open.  Using only the best quality local Irish honey will make this feather light mousse truly unforgettable.

 

Serves 6

 

For the honey mousse:

 

1 egg

1 teaspoon gelatine

1½ tablespoons cold water

350ml (12 fl oz) whipping cream

75g (30z) best quality local Irish honey

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, to taste

 

Whip the cream to soft peaks and keep in the fridge.  Sprinkle the gelatine over the cold water in a small bowl and allow to ‘sponge’.  Once fully rehydrated, melt the gelatine by placing the bowl over hot but not boiling water.  Add the honey and Grand Marnier to the melted gelatine and stir until the mixture is an even consistency and allow to return to room temperature.   Whisk the egg to a pale mousse, using an electric mixer, then gently fold the mousse into the whipped cream.   Now fold the cream mixture into the honey and gelatine in three stages.   Pour the mousse into its serving dish and chill until set.   Now prepare the lavender jelly.

 

For the Lavender Jelly

 

6 fresh lavender heads

225ml (8fl.oz) water

110g (4oz) sugar

1½ teaspoon gelatine

2½ tablespoon cold water

 

Put the sugar and the 225ml/8fl.oz water in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Once the syrup has boiled remove the saucepan from the heat and drop in the lavender heads.  Enjoy the wonderful lavender perfume as the syrup cools to room temperature.   Meanwhile sprinkle the gelatine over the 2½ tablespoon cold water in a small bowl and allow to ‘sponge’.   Once fully rehydrated, melt the gelatine by placing the bowl over hot but not boiling water.   Strain the cooled syrup through a sieve, add to the melted gelatine and mix well.   Arrange 6 lavender heads on top of the set mousse and carefully spoon over enough liquid jelly to cover the lavender and chill until the jelly is set.

 

 

 

 

 

“NO SHOWS”

Recipes
  1. Globe Artichokes with Melted Butter   Serves 6   In season:   Whole Globe artichokes are quite fiddly to eat. First you pull off each leaf separately and dip in the sauce. Eventually you are rewarded for your patience when you come to the heart! Don’t forget to scrape off the tickly ‘choke’; then cut the heart into manageable pieces, sprinkle with a little sea salt before you dip it into the remainder of your sauce.  Simply Delicious!   6 globe artichokes 1.1 litres (2pints) water 2 teaspoons salt 2 teaspoons approx. white wine vinegar   Melted Butter 175g (6oz) butter 1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed   Some restaurants do very complicated preparation but I merely trim the base just before cooking so the artichokes will sit steadily on the plate, rub the cut end with lemon juice or vinegar to prevent it from discolouring.   Have a large saucepan of boiling water ready, add 2 teaspoons of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt to every 2 pints of water, pop in the artichokes and bring the water back to the boil. Simmer steadily for about 25 minutes. After about 20 minutes you could try testing to see if they are done.  I do this by tugging off one of the larger leaves at the base, it should come away easily, if it doesn’t continue to cook for another 5 – 10 minutes. Remove and drain upside down on a plate.   While they are cooking simply melt the butter and add lemon juice to taste.   To Serve Put each warm artichoke onto a hot serving plate, serve the sauce or melted butter in a little bowl beside it.  Artichokes are eaten with your fingers, so you might like to provide a finger bowl. A spare plate to collect all the nibbled leaves will also be useful.   Bocconcini, Olive, Heriloom Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto on Skewers   Bocconcini are baby mozzarella – great fun for salads, finger food and some pasta dishes however they need a little bit of help from the flavour perspective.  Pesto is an obvious choice.   Makes 20   20 bocconcini Extra virgin olive oil Pesto (see Hot Tips)   20–40 basil leaves 20 Kalamata olives 20 heirloom cherry tomatoes   bamboo cocktail sticks or short satay sticks   Drain the bocconcini and pop them into a bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a generous tablespoon of homemade pesto. Toss to coat. Cover closely, leave to marinade for at least 5 minutes.

We need to talk about ‘no shows’. Some may not even understand the term used by restaurants when guests who have booked a table do not show up on the night or cancel at the last minute when it’s too late to refill the table.

We are fortunate that this is a rare occurrence at Ballymaloe House but this practice is rampant around the country and appears, as on restauranteur put it , to have become ‘a national sport’. I’m quite sure those who lightly book two or three restaurants on the same night and then decide after a few drinks where they’ll actually go don’t realise the devastating impact they are having on the restaurant industry where the margins are very tight and no shows can and do make the difference between profit and loss, survival or not.

The Restaurant Association of Ireland in support of its members earlier this year urged them to take non-refundable deposits which would be deducted from the final bill in an effort to raise awareness of the impact of ‘no shows’. This decision was made after an average of 15% to 20% of bookings over the Christmas period turned out to be ‘no shows’. This is not just an Irish phenomenon, restaurants in the US and UK are also experiencing similar challenges and are responding by charging non-refundable booking deposits.

This practice seems to enrage many Irish customers yet, where else can we expect to book something without paying – a theatre or concert ticket – no way…

The BBC Radio 4 Food Programme recently did an entire segment on the problem with several chefs, owners and restaurant critics discussing the impact. Interestingly, the problem seemed to be considerably less among the restaurants who answer the phone rather than take bookings on a ‘booking engine’ or ‘answering machine’. Not surprisingly personal contact, a friendly human voice and a little chat, creates a bond and somehow seems to make it more difficult for customers not to show up. Some restaurants don’t even have a telephone number any longer so you must book on line. At a time when costs are soaring, business rates are increasing dramatically, particularly in cities, investment and growth in the industry is slowing down and there are acute labour shortages, no shows, are the last straw for many hard pressed restaurateurs.

 

Some restaurants in cities have opted to have a no-booking policy, guests just show up, take their chance and must be prepared to queue, that at least eliminates the ‘no show’ problem, but only works in a densely populated area where there are enough customers who are prepared to queue and the food must be worth the wait….

In just one small seasonal restaurant in West Cork last Summer, there were over 60 ‘no shows’ during the month of August which eliminated the profit for the entire month. Sadly several were regulars who would have been quite affronted at the suggestion that they should pay a non-refundable booking deposit.   In our busy lives we often don’t realize the impact of our actions – but this is not OK….

Of course plans change for a variety of reasons, some totally unavoidable but at the very least, let’s pick up the phone and cancel at the earliest opportunity so the restaurant has the opportunity to refill the table. Few restaurants will hold a deposit in the case of unexpected death or a misfortunate accident.

 

So now for something more cheerful – some of the dishes we have been enjoying with the delicious fresh summer produce from the garden, glasshouses and local area.

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Hummus with Spiced Lamb, Pinenuts and Coriander

Serves 6-8 (depending on how it is served)

450g (1lb) lamb, shoulder or fillet

 

Marinade:

1 garlic clove, crushed

extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon sumac

½ teaspoon marjoram or oregano, coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

A pinch of Aleppo pepper (pul biber) or cayenne pepper

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

 

Hummus 

170g (6oz) chickpeas, cooked, save the cooking liquid

freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons, or to taste

2-3 large or small cloves garlic, crushed

150ml (5fl oz) tahini paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

salt

 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, for frying

30g Italian pine nuts

 

To garnish:

fresh coriander leaves, coarsely, chopped

1-2 teaspoons sumac

extra virgin olive oil

a few fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)

Chop the lamb fillet into 1cm-thick pieces.

Mix all the ingredients of the marinade in a bowl.

Add to the marinade and allow to soak up the flavours for 30 minutes to an hour.

 

Meanwhile make the hummus, drain the chickpeas, save the cooking liquid. Whizz up the remainder in a food processor with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little cooking water if necessary. Add the crushed garlic, tahini paste, cumin and salt to taste. Blend to a soft creamy paste. Taste and continue to add lemon juice and salt until you are happy with the flavour.

 

 

Toast the pine kernels over a gentle heat in a frying pan or under a grill tossing regularly. Set aside

 

Heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the lamb for 3-4 minutes over a medium heat until it is just cooked through.

 

When you are ready to eat, transfer the hummus to individual serving bowls, use the back of a spoon to make a shallow well in each. Spoon the lamb over, finishing with a sprinkling of coriander, the toasted pine nuts and a pinch of sumac. Serve with pitta bread or any white crusty bread, we love to use the Alsham Bakery Syrian flat bread, made in Cork city.

 

Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a few fresh pomegranate seeds over the top if you like.

Globe Artichokes with Melted Butter

 

Serves 6

 

In season:

 

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

 

6 globe artichokes

1.1 litres (2pints) water

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons approx. white wine vinegar

 

Melted Butter

175g (6oz) butter

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed

 

Some restaurants do very complicated preparation but I merely trim the base just before cooking so the artichokes will sit steadily on the plate, rub the cut end with lemon juice or vinegar to prevent it from discolouring.

 

Have a large saucepan of boiling water ready, add 2 teaspoons of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt to every 2 pints of water, pop in the artichokes and bring the water back to the boil. Simmer steadily for about 25 minutes. After about 20 minutes you could try testing to see if they are done.  I do this by tugging off one of the larger leaves at the base, it should come away easily, if it doesn’t continue to cook for another 5 – 10 minutes. Remove and drain upside down on a plate.

 

While they are cooking simply melt the butter and add lemon juice to taste.

 

To Serve

Put each warm artichoke onto a hot serving plate, serve the sauce or melted butter in a little bowl beside it.  Artichokes are eaten with your fingers, so you might like to provide a finger bowl. A spare plate to collect all the nibbled leaves will also be useful.

 

Bocconcini, Olive, Heriloom Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto on Skewers

 

Bocconcini are baby mozzarella – great fun for salads, finger food and some pasta dishes however they need a little bit of help from the flavour perspective.  Pesto is an obvious choice.

 

Makes 20

 

20 bocconcini

Extra virgin olive oil

Pesto (see Hot Tips)

 

20–40 basil leaves

20 Kalamata olives

20 heirloom cherry tomatoes

 

bamboo cocktail sticks or short satay sticks

 

Drain the bocconcini and pop them into a bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a generous tablespoon of homemade pesto. Toss to coat. Cover closely, leave to marinade for at least 5 minutes.

Note; The pesto will discolour if the bocconcini are tossed too far ahead.

 

 

Buffalo Mozzarella with Caponata

Love this as a starter with some crusty sourdough.  We use the fresh tender Irish mozzarella made near Macroom in West Cork.

Serves 4

 

4 buffalo mozzarella

4-6 tablespoon Caponata, see below

6-8 leaves fresh basil

Extra virgin olive oil

Flaky sea salt

 

 

To serve:

 

Cut each of the mozzarella into quarters. Arrange four wedges on a large plate.   Spoon a generous tablespoon of caponata on top.   Drizzle extra virgin olive oil.   Sprinkle with a chiffonade of basil and a few flakes of sea salt.   Serve immediately with good crusty bread.

Caponata

 

Serves 4-6

 

1 large aubergine, dice in 1/2- 3/4inch (1cm-2cm) but not peeled

salt

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5-6 stalks of celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 x 400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes

1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2-1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander

1 teaspoon capers

12 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat parsley, chopped

salt and pepper

 

Cut the aubergine into 1-2cm (1/2-3/4inch) dice. Sprinkle with salt. Leave to drain for 30 minutes approximately. Rinse and gently dry with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper.
Heat 4 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil in a wide sauté pan. Add the celery and cook slightly until browned. Transfer to a plate. Add the aubergine to the pan; add more oil if necessary, sauté until golden and tender, sauté. Leave to cool.

 

Add another tablespoon oil to the pan and sauté the onion until golden. Chop the tomatoes and add with the juice. Simmer for 15 minutes or so until thick. Add sugar, wine, vinegar and coriander. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Stir in the capers, olives, parsley, aubergine and celery. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, pour into a serving dish.

Serve warm or cool.

 

Carpaccio of wild salmon with fennel flowers and pollen

A rare and special treat enjoyed during the few weeks a year when we can get a precious wild salmon.

 

Serves 4

 

175g spanking fresh wild salmon

homemade mayonnaise

freshly squeezed lemon juice

extra virgin olive oil

fennel pollen

fennel flowers

fennel fronds

freshly cracked pepper

 

 

Chill the salmon for several hours or pop into the freezer for 30 minutes.

Chill the plates.

 

Just before serving:

Slice the salmon as thinly as possible.  Spread a very little homemade mayonnaise on the base of each chilled plate.   Lay a single layer of salmon on top.  Sprinkle with a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a tiny drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Sprinkle some fennel pollen over each plate.  Snip some fennel flowers and fronds on top and finally a little sprinkling of freshly cracked pepper.

Serve as soon as possible with Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread – sublime.

 

 

 

 

 

Loganberry Jellies with Fresh Mint Cream

 

Makes 9-10

Syrup

200g (7oz) sugar

225ml (8fl oz) water

4 sprigs fresh mint

1 dessertspoon Framboise

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

 

3 teaspoons gelatine

3 tablespoons water

 

450g (1lb) fresh loganberries

Mint Cream

15 mint leaves approximate

1 tablespoon lemon juice

150ml (5fl oz) cream

mint leaves and loganberries for garnish

 

9-10 round or oval moulds – 75ml (3fl oz) capacity

(2 1/2 x 1 1/4 inches/6.6 x 3cm)

 

Make a syrup by bringing sugar, water and mint leaves slowly to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, allow to cool, add the Framboise and lemon juice.

 

Meanwhile brush the inside of the moulds with non-scented oil, I use light peanut or sunflower oil

 

Sponge the gelatine in the water, then place the bowl in a pan of simmering water until the gelatine completely dissolved.

 

Remove the mint leaves from the syrup, then pour the syrup onto the gelatine.  Add the loganberries and stir gently. Fill immediately into the lined moulds. Smooth them over the top so they won’t be wobbly when you unmould them onto a plate.  Put them into the fridge and leave to set for 3-4 hours.

 

 

Meanwhile make the Mint cream.

Crush the mint leaves in a pestle and mortar with the lemon juice, add the cream and stir, the lemon juice will thicken the cream.  If the cream becomes too thick, add a little water.

 

To Serve

Spread a little mint cream on a chilled a white plate, unmould a loganberry jelly and place in the centre. Place five mint leaves on the mint cream around the jelly. Decorate with a few perfect loganberries, repeat with the other jellies.  Serve chilled.

 

HOT TIPS

 

Preserve your gluts…

Basil Pesto Homemade Pesto takes minutes to make and tastes a million times better than most of what you buy.  The problem is getting enough basil, those of you grow your own will have plenty of basil this year.  If you have difficulty, use parsley, a mixture of parsley and mint or parsley and coriander – different but still delicious.

Serve with pasta, goat cheese, tomato and mozzerella.

4ozs (110g) fresh basil leaves

6 – 8fl oz (175 – 225ml) extra virgin olive oil

1oz (25g) fresh pine kernels (taste when you buy to make sure they are not rancid)

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2oz (50g/) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiana Reggiano is best)

salt to taste

 

Whizz the basil with the olive oil, pine kernels and garlic in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar.  Remove to a bowl and fold in the finely grated Parmesan cheese. Taste and season.

 

Pesto keeps for weeks, covered with a layer of olive oil in a jar in the fridge. It also freezes well but for best results don’t add the grated Parmesan until it has defrosted. Freeze in small jars for convenience.

The Currants are in….

The Currant and Berry garden here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School is bursting with ripe, juicy organic fruit and so are the Farmers Markets. Check out the Country Markets too and try to find chemical free fruit if at all possible. We can no longer say that we don’t know the damage that pesticides and herbicides are doing to our health and the environment….

So let’s make the most of these few weeks, sadly because strawberries are available from January to December as are raspberries, they are no longer considered quite the treat they were. Neither do they generate the excitement they used to, that’s unless they are the naturally smaller, intensely flavoured home-grown berries from your garden. When you taste one of these you remember or discover what they can taste like, although the dry conditions this year made it really challenging. In this column I’m going to concentrate on currants, black, white and red…

The latter can also be found in the shops pretty much year round coming in from as far away as Peru all over the world but black and white currants are a rarer treat as are gooseberries. Blackcurrant fool is one of my all-time favourite puddings made in minutes, sublime made with freshly picked currants but also pretty good made with frozen berries. All the currants freeze brilliantly so buy as much as you can and freeze them in convenient amounts. Don’t bother to string them, just shake the bags when they are frozen and all the strings will fall off. I discovered this a few years ago when I was too busy to string the currants before they went into the freezer….

Red and white currants have a deliciously sweet flavour and are very high in pectin so are excellent for jams or jellies. Redcurrant jelly is super versatile; use it to glaze tarts, to serve with pâtés or terrines, as a base for Cumberland sauce, good with lamb and a glazed ham too. I love this recipe for redcurrant jelly, a real gem that gives me double value from each batch of redcurrants. I use the redcurrant pulp, left over from the jelly making process to make a redcurrant bakewell slice or to add to strawberry jam to enhance the pectin content. Also delicious sugared on this frosted redcurrant and lemon verbena cake. White currants can be used in similar recipes – they too, make a sublime white currant jelly, which I particularly love, with a soft goat’s cheese and rocket or purslane leaves. White currants are also enchanting frosted.
This Blackcurrant and Rose Geranium Slice can be a pudding or an irresistible nibble to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.

Try poached blackcurrants with beetroot and duck breast, it’s a surprisingly good combination and best of all sprinkle them onto softly whipped cream in a meringue roulade. The tartness of the currants makes a perfect foil for the sweetness of the meringue and last but not least, if you have a few currants left over make some blackcurrant whiskey for Christmas, a delectable recipe from Darina Allen’s Irish Traditional Cooking, which I will include in a another column.

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Duck Breast with Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad

 

Beetroot and blackcurrant are as surprisingly good combination – they complement the duck deliciously

Serves 4-6

 

4 duck breasts

extra virgin olive oil

red wine vinegar

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad (see recipe below)

flat parsley

First make the Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad, see below.

Fifteen minutes or more before cooking, score the fat on the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern.  Season on both sides with salt and allow to sit on a wire rack.

When ready to cook, dry the duck breasts with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper.

Put fat side down on a cold pan-grill, turn on the heat to low and cook slowly for 15-20 minutes, or until the fat has rendered and the duck skin is crisp and golden.

Flip over and cook for a couple of minutes, or transfer to a preheated moderate oven, 180C/Gas Mark 4, until cooked to medium rare or medium, 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the duck breasts.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes or more.

Put a portion of the beetroot, blackcurrant and dahlia salad. Thinly slice, cut or dice (8mm), the duck breasts and arrange or scatter on top.  Sprinkle with sprigs of flat parsley and dahlia petals.

Add a few flakes of sea salt and serve.

Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad

Such an obvious combination but one I hadn’t tried until I tasted it in Sweden. We already love the marriage of raspberries and beetroot. This recipe can be served as a starter or an accompanying salad.

Serves 8

450g (1lb) cooked beetroot

200g (7oz) sugar

450ml (16fl oz) water

1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)

225ml (8fl oz) white wine vinegar

¼ – ½lb blackcurrants

Syrup

Wine coloured dahlias and maybe a few marigold petals.

Roast or boil the beetroot. Leave 5cm (2 inches) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 1-2 hours depending on size. Beetroot are usually cooked if the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger.  If in doubt test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.

Meanwhile, make the pickle. Dissolve the sugar in water, bringing it to the boil. Add the sliced onion and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the vinegar, pour over the peeled sliced (diced or cut into wedges) beet and leave to cool. Add the blackcurrants bring back to the boil and then turn off the heat.

Note: The onion can be omitted if desired.

Allow the pickle to cool completely.

To serve:- surround the plate with blackcurrant leaves. Pile the salad into the centre, decorate with flowers and serve.

 

Blackcurrant and Lemon Verbena Sugar Squares

Makes 24

 

6ozs (175g) soft butter

5ozs (150g) castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

6ozs (175g) self-raising flour

2 tablespoons freshly chopped sweet or rose geranium

8ozs (225g) blackcurrants

2ozs (50g) castor sugar

1 tablespoon of freshly chopped lemon verbena

10 x 7 inch (25.5 x 18 cm) Swiss roll tin, well-greased

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

Put the butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour and chopped sweet geranium into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the well-buttered tin. Sprinkle the blackcurrants as evenly as possible over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Allow to cool slightly, sprinkle with caster sugar whizzed with leaves of lemon verbena. Serve in squares.

 

Almond Cake with Frosted Currants

We serve tiny slices of this delicious moist cake with a cup of China tea or Expresso coffee.  A mixture of frosted red, black and white currants are so beautiful adorning this simple cake.   If you only have one type of currant it will still be pretty and delicious.

Serves 10

110g ground almonds

110g icing sugar

75g plain white flour

3 egg yolks, free-range if possible

125ml melted butter

Filling: 2-3 tablespoons Redcurrant or Blackcurrant Jelly (see recipe) optional

 

Icing

175g icing sugar

1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice – sieved

Decoration

9-12 bunches frosted red, black and white currants (see below)

Candied angelica

18cm round tin with shallow sides – A pop up base is handy but is not essential.

Preheat the oven to 180C/regulo 4

Grease the tin evenly with melted butter and dust with a little white flour.

Mix the ground almonds, icing sugar and flour in a bowl.  Make a well in the centre; add the egg yolks and the cooled melted butter, stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Spread the cake evenly in the prepared tin, make a little hollow in the centre and tap on the worktop to release any large air bubbles.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.  It should still be moist but cooked through.  Allow to sit in the tin for 5 or 6 minutes before unmoulding onto a wire rack.

Allow to cool.

Optional – Split the cake in half and spread with Redcurrant Jelly, sandwich the two pieces together.

To make the icing:

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, mix to a thickish smooth icing with the sieved lemon juice.  Pile onto the cake using a palette knife dipped in the boiling water and dried to spread it gently over the top and sides of the cake.

Decorate with the frosted redcurrants and little diamonds of angelica.

 Frosted Redcurrants

Take about 12 perfect bunches of black, white or redcurrants attached to the stem.

Whisk one egg white in a bowl until broken up and slightly fluffy.

Spread 115g castor sugar onto a flat plate.

Dip a bunch of redcurrants in the egg white, ensure that every berry has been lightly coated, drain very well.

Lay on the castor sugar and sprinkle castor sugar over the top.   Check that every surface is covered.

Arrange carefully on a tray covered with silicone paper and put into a dry airy place until crisp and frosted.

Redcurrant or Whitecurrant Jelly

Redcurrant jelly is a very delicious and versatile product to have in your larder.  It has a myriad of uses. It can be used like a jam on bread or scones, or served as an accompaniment to roast lamb, bacon or ham. It is also good with some rough pâtés and game, and is invaluable as a glaze for red fruit tarts.

This recipe is a particular favourite of mine, not only because it’s fast to make and results in delicious intensely flavoured jelly, but because one can use the left over pulp to make a fruit tart, so one gets double value from the redcurrants.  Unlike most other fruit jelly, no water is needed in this recipe.

We’ve used frozen fruits for this recipe also, stir over the heat until the sugar dissolves, proceeds as below.  You can use white currants – which will be difficult to find unless you have your own bush. The white currant version is wonderful with cream cheese as a dessert or makes a perfect accompaniment to lamb or pork.

Makes 3 x 450g (1lb) jars

900g (2lbs/8 cups) redcurrants or white currants

790g (1lb 12oz) granulated sugar

Remove the strings from the redcurrants either by hand or with a fork. Put the redcurrants and sugar into a wide stainless steel saucepan and stir continuously until they come to the boil. Boil for exactly 8 minutes, stirring only if they appear to be sticking to the bottom. Skim carefully.

Turn into a nylon sieve and allow to drip through, do not push the pulp through or the jelly will be cloudy. You can stir in gently once or twice just to free the bottom of the sieve of pulp.

Pour the jelly into sterilised pots immediately. Redcurrants are very high in pectin so the jelly will begin to set just as soon as it begins to cool.

White Currant and White Peach Tart

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) butter

40g (1 1/2oz) castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

350g (12ozs) white flour, preferably unbleached

 Filling

675g (1 1/2 lbs) white peaches

 225g (½lb) blackcurrants

150g (5oz) sugar

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk

castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve

softly whipped cream

Barbados sugar

tin, 18cm (7 inches) x 30.5cm (12 inches x 2.5cm (1 inch) 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. Peel, stone and dice the peaches into the tart, sprinkle with sugar and blackcurrants. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

Blackcurrant Fool

 

Serves 6

350g (12oz) fresh or frozen blackcurrants

200ml (7fl ozp) stock syrup (see recipe)

600ml (1 pints) very softly whipped cream

 

Cover the blackcurrants with stock syrup. Bring to the boil and cook for about 4–5 minutes until the fruit bursts. Liquidize and sieve or purée the fruit and syrup and measure it. When the purée has cooled, add the softly whipped cream. Serve with

shortbread biscuits.

An alternative presentation is to layer the purée and softly whipped cream in tall sundae glasses, ending with a drizzle of thin purée over the top.

Note

Frozen blackcurrants tend to be less sweet. Taste – you may need

to add extra sugar. A little stiffly beaten egg white may be added to lighten the fool. The fool should not be very stiff, more like the texture of softly whipped cream. If it is too stiff, stir in a little milk rather than more cream.

 

Stock Syrup

Makes 825ml (20fl oz)

450g (16oz) sugar

600ml (1 pint) water

Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes, and then leave it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.

 

Variation

Blackcurrant Ice-Cream/Parfait

Leftover fool may be frozen to make delicious ice cream. Serve with coulis made by thinning the blackcurrant purée with a little more water or stock syrup.

Blackcurrant Popsicles

Add a little more syrup.  It needs to taste sweeter than you would like because the freezing dulls the sweetness.  Pour into popsicle moulds, cover, insert a stick and freeze until needed.  Best eaten within a few days.

An Irish boy in The Dairy

 

The introduction to Robin Gill’s book, Larder enraged me and brought me close to tears. Robin’s graphic description of his long and tortuous journey through many kitchens both in Ireland and the UK to become a chef, makes harrowing reading and speaks volumes about the reason why there is now a proper chef crisis in so many restaurants, What Robin, who comes from Malahide in Dublin, and many others have had to endure is NOT OK, the verbal and physical abuse, sadism and downright cruelty is unconscionable and in any other walk of life would land the perpetrators in jail. How come, degrees of this behaviour have been acceptable for so long…

We’re all guilty; we need to ask questions about what’s going on in the kitchen to put the food on our plate. Get a grip, it’s only food after all and it is absolutely not necessary to have a toxic atmosphere to produce delectable morsels on a plate.

 

In fact quite the opposite, a happy team ooze energy and creativity Myrtle Allen herself was a wonderful example to all of us. In all the years I worked in Ballymaloe House kitchen, I never, ever, heard anyone shout or swear, despite all the pressure of a busy kitchen and Myrtle’s unwavering commitment to quality.

It’s a long road that doesn’t have a turn. Robin eventually chanced upon a 2 star Michelin; family run restaurant in Italy with a farm overlooking Capri called Don Alfonso 1890. There he learned the true meaning of ‘farm to table’.

Robin wrote “It was my first exposure to true cooking with the seasons, when something was in such abundance and at its best and had to be put to use. It was a revelation to me. Whatever couldn’t be used was preserved and kept for a season less generous. It was natural (and beautiful) in every way” He learned how to hold back and let the produce speak for itself. For the first time he truly understood what it means to be seasonal, how to walk the walk, not just talk the talk as sadly so many restaurants do. He spent several years with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxford, of which he speaks highly as a teaching kitchen. In 2013 he and his wife Sarah were ready to open their own place on a on a prayer and a shoestring in an old building on Clapham Common. It’s called The Dairy, has a herb and vegetable garden in crates on the roof and is the first of three restaurants Robin and Sarah now own. Finally back to Robin’s book aptly called Larder published by Absolute Press.

 

This is an interesting and unusual book , a combination of exquisite but seriously time consuming ‘cheffy’ recipes at the back of the book and a whole amazing section on pickling, preserving, smoking, fermenting, making miso, brewing, infusions  and curing  recipes at the beginning of the book that make up the basics of his larder. Many of the recipes are super simple, fun to make and will transform your food as well as get you addicted to stacking your larder shelves.

 

 

www.cookingisfun.ie

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Robin Gill’s Beetroot Gin

 

makes 750ml (1 pint7fl oz)

 

4 raw beetroots, peeled and diced

750ml (1 pint7fl oz) gin

 

Add the diced beetroot to the gin in a large sterilised jar seal and leave to infuse in a cool, dark place for 3–4 days.

Strain through a fine sieve.

Store the gin in a sealed jar or bottle in a cool, dark place.

From Larder by Robin Gill (Absolute Press)  Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

 

 

Robin Gill’s Charred Mackerel, Cucumber, Dashi, Sea Purslane

 

Generally speaking, mackerel must be at its absolute freshest – I detest mackerel once it has been more than two days out of the deep blue – so when buying your fish, make sure the flesh is firm, the gills are bright red and the eyes are bright and glistening. We use salt to season and firm up the fish, and I like to serve it medium-rare. This is a really fresh and vibrant dish to serve in late summer.

 

serves 4–6

 

dill-pickled cucumber

2 small cucumbers or ½ regular-sized cucumbers

75g (3oz) ice

75g (3oz) caster sugar

75ml (3fl oz) Chardonnay vinegar

a bunch of dill, fronds picked a large pinch of fine table salt

 

dill oil

150g (5oz) picked dill fronds

150ml (5fl oz) rapeseed oil

 

charred mackerel

3 medium mackerel, filleted

fresh lemon juice

 

assembly

4–6 teaspoons Roast Garlic Miso Purée (see recipe below), at room temperature, 1 teaspoon per serving purslane leaves

sea purslane, blanched for 30 seconds

Wild Garlic Capers with some of the pickling liquor or capers

160–240ml (6-9fl oz) Dashi (see recipe), warmed – 40ml (1 ½fl oz) per serving

Maldon sea salt

 

Peel the cucumbers and set aside; reserve the skin. Blend together the ice, caster sugar, vinegar, dill, the cucumber skin and salt in a blender or food processor. Strain through a fine sieve and pour this liquid over the peeled cucumbers. Leave to marinate for 1 hour

 

Blend together the dill and oil in a blender or food processor for 1 minute. Transfer to a pan, bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 2 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl set over ice to cool.

 

Blowtorch, barbecue or grill (on a hot ridged grill pan) the skin side of the mackerel fillets –you are just looking to scorch the skin and lightly cook the fish to medium-rare. Season the fillets with lemon juice and salt to taste.

 

Drain the pickled cucumbers and slice into rounds. Spread a teaspoon of miso purée in each bowl, then add the mackerel. Top the fish with the cucumber slices (fanned). Place the fresh purslane, sea purslane and wild garlic capers to the side. Drizzle over some dill oil. In a jug, season the warm dashi with a little of the pickling liquor from the wild garlic capers. The dashi should be poured over each dish at the table

 

 

 

Robyn Gill’s Roast Garlic Miso Purée

 

Makes about 650g

 

350g (12oz) garlic cloves (peeled)

a drizzle of vegetable oil

demerara sugar

175g (6oz) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

150ml (5fl oz) sherry vinegar

175g (6oz) sweet white miso

175g (6oz) malt extract

 

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan/2oo°C/Gas Mark 6. Toss the garlic cloves in the oil and coat them in demerara sugar. Wrap the cloves loosely in foil to create a parcel. Roast for 25 minutes. Open the parcel and return to the oven to roast for a further 5 minutes. Tip the garlic into a food processor and blend the cloves to a smooth puree.

 

Put the butter into a pan set over a high heat and cook until the butter starts to foam, brown and take on a nutty aroma. Immediately remove from the heat and cool quickly to stop the butter from burning.

 

Boil the vinegar in another pan until reduced to 75ml.

 

Add the brown butter, vinegar, miso and malt extract to the garlic purée and blend until smooth. Cool. The puree can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

 

 

Robin Gill’s Dashi

makes about 1 litre (1¾ pints)

 

25g (1oz) dried kombu

1 litre distilled water, boiled and cooled (or use filtered water or still mineral water)

1 sheet of dried nori (about 3g)

15g (½ oz) bonito flakes

2 teaspoons white soy sauce

10 wild garlic leaves (if unavailable use 2 sliced garlic cloves)

Maldon sea salt

 

Add the kombu to the water in a pan and bring to a very gentle simmer (do not boil). Simmer for 1 hour.

Strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a jug.

Season with the nori, bonito flakes, soy sauce, wild garlic leaves and a pinch of salt. Allow to infuse for 5 minutes. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust as required: the dashi should be salty and savoury with umami. Strain the dashi through the fine sieve.

Once cooled, it can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 days

From Larder by Robin Gill (Absolute Press)  Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

 

 

Robyn Gill’s Pickled Radishes

 

Makes 1.5kg (3lb 5oz)

 

300ml (10fl oz) water

300ml (10fl oz) white wine vinegar

300g (10 oz) caster sugar

1.5kg (3lb 5oz) radishes

 

 

Combine the water, vinegar and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour this boiling pickling liquor over the radishes in a bowl. Allow to cool, then decant into sterilised jars and seal. The radishes are ready to use straight away or can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 months.

From Larder by Robin Gill (Absolute Press)  Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

 

 

 

Robin Gill’s Carrot and Caraway Pickle

makes about 1kg (2¼lbs)

 

40g (1½ oz) caraway seeds 1kg mixed heritage

carrots 200ml (7fl oz) cider

vinegar 200ml (7fl oz) water

200g (7oz) caster sugar

 

 

Toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan until they smell aromatic. Set aside.

 

Peel the carrots, and then slice into thin rounds on a mandolin.

 

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and caraway seeds in a suitable-sized pot. Bring to the boil, then add the carrot slices and remove from the heat immediately. Decant into a sterilised 2-litre jar and seal.

The pickle can be stored for 1 year in a cool, dark place. Once opened, keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.

From Larder by Robin Gill (Absolute Press)  Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

 

 

 Robin Gill’s Apricot and Lemon Thyme Jam

 

makes 6 x 228ml jars

 

1kg (2 ¼ lbs) fresh apricots

50ml (2floz) water

50ml (2fl oz) fresh lemon juice

600g (1¼lb) jam sugar

100g (3½ oz) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

100g (3½ oz) honey

3 sprigs of lemon thyme, leaves picked

1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

 

Before you begin making the jam, put three or four small plates in the freezer. Cut the apricots in half and remove the stones, then cut each half into quarters. Place the apricots and water in a large pot and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes to soften. Stir in the lemon juice and sugar and bring the mixture up to 104°C/225°F

 

Reduce the heat and allow to simmer, stirring now and again, for
a further 20 minutes or until the jam has reached soft setting point – use the wrinkle test to check. To do this, take the pan off the heat and carefully spoon a little jam on to one of the cold plates. Let it stand for a minute, then push the blob of jam with your finger. If the surface of the jam wrinkles then it has reached setting point; if it is still quite liquid, then put the pan back on the heat and boil the jam for another couple of minutes before testing again, using different plates from the freezer.

 

Meanwhile, make a brown butter by melting and heating the butter cubes in a pan over a high heat until the butter starts to foam and brown and gives off a nutty aroma. Once this occurs, remove from the heat immediately and cool quickly by setting the base of the pan in cold water, to stop the butter from burning.

 

Put the honey in another pan and cook over a medium heat to a dark caramel colour. Remove from the heat and stir in the brown butter. Add to the apricot jam while still warm. Stir through the lemon thyme leaves and salt. Ladle the warm jam into sterilised jars and seal.

 

The jam can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 6 weeks.

From Larder by Robin Gill (Absolute Press)  Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

 

 

Merlin Lebron

The Summer 12 week Certificate Course students had a special treat last week, when Merlin Lebron Johnston from Portland Restaurant in London came as guest chef to The Ballymaloe Cookery School. This gentle young man is the youngest Michelin starred chef in the UK

 

His back story is intriguing. Merlin had a distinctly, rocky relationship with school, eventually he was fortunate to be sent to Ashbourne, a progressive school in Devon, where the students in conjunction with the teachers made the decision that going to lessons was not compulsory on the assumption that if they did turn up to class, they would be interested and give it their all. This worked brilliantly for 95% of the students, but Merlin was not interested in any class so he hung around for a bit…The secretary, a lady called Joanna doubled up as a cook and produced school dinner every day. Three courses – vegetarian, organic and delicious. The students could either have packed lunches or school dinners but the latter was expensive so Merlin would plead with Joanna to give him some food, “She made rice pudding and crumbles, crème brûlée, great salads, pasta. I would beg her for some. We made a deal. If you want to cook you need to wash up, fine with me and seeing how I wasn’t that busy I started helping her cook and after a bit she got busier and eventually I started to cook for my school at 15….” When exam time came the teachers said, “Well you seem to love cooking, we think you should be a chef”, so Merlin left and got a job. “Once I found cooking I became pretty obsessed and became totally focused on working in the best restaurants”.

For the next five years Merlin worked in top restaurants in the UK, Switzerland, France and Belgium, both classic and experimental, including In De Wulf in Belgium where there was a big focus on foraging and fermentation. At 23 he became sous chef there. Meanwhile in London, Will Lander and Will Morganstern were looking out for a head chef for a new restaurant they planned to open in Great Portland Street, so at 24 he became head chef at Portland and was awarded a Michelin Star within 9 months of opening, the youngest chef in England to be awarded that accolade.

 

Here are some of the delicious dishes he showed us how to cook.

Merlin Labron-Johnson’s Smoked Cod’s Roe with Grelot Onions or Leek Greens and Chervil

We used spring onion greens instead of grelot tops.

 

Serves 10-12

 

Taramasalata

1.5pcs smoked cods roe (good quality!) (1kg/2 1/4lb approx.)

3 slices white bread, crusts removed and soaked in milk

2 peeled and crushed garlic cloves

lemon juice of 2 lemons

lemon zest of 1 lemon

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

250ml (9fl oz) sunflower oil

 

Grelot top green oil

400g (14oz) grelot tops or leek greens

650ml (1 pint 2fl oz) sunflower oil

 

Mustard Seeds

600g (1 1/4lb) white wine vinegar

400g (14oz) water

200g (7oz) sugar

400g (14oz) yellow mustard seeds

 

 

 

 

First make the mustard seeds pickle:  Pour boiling pickle over mustard seeds and leave for 12 hours

 

Remove the roe from the sacks and discard the sacks. Using a food processor blend the roe with the garlic, bread and the lemon zest. Slowly incorporate the oil bit by bit to make a smooth thick mayonnaise like emulsion. If it becomes too thick let down with a little of the milk used to soak the bread. Season with salt and lemon juice. Pass through a drum sieve if not completely smooth and put in piping bags. It should be thick and velvety.

 

Grelot onions or leek greens

Separate the onion bulbs from the green tops. Reserve the green tops and set aside. Place the onion bottoms in parchment or tin foil envelopes with a pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil and close ‘en papillote’ bake at 180C for 12-15 minutes until cooked but not soft. If the onions are different sizes divide them into 3 different ‘grades’ and cook them all separately in batches (i.e. longer for the larger ones) so that they are all perfect.

 

 

Roughly chop the green tops and blend with the oil in a food processor on full speed for 4 minutes then strain through cheesecloth and leave to hang in the fridge. Freeze the strained oil. Once frozen scrape the frozen oil (gel) into a new container leaving behind the frozen leek/water residue. This will give you a perfectly clear green oil

 

To Serve

To serve, pipe large blobs (equivalent of 3 tablespoons) into a bowl, use a spoon to create a well in the centre of the cod’s roe. Put 2 tablespoons of onion oil in the well. Dress the onion petals in the white wine vinegar and place around the edge of the cod’s roe. Place a generous amount of chervil over the onion petals and serve.

 

Merlin Labron-Johnson’s Crudo of Wild Sea Bass, Smoked Cream and Heritage Radishes

If you are unable to get wild sea bass you could substitute it with brill, turbot, halibut, large plaice or sea bream.

 

Serves 6-8

 

300g (10oz) thick sea bass fillet, skinned and pin boned

100g (3 1/2oz) salt

100g (3 1/2oz) sugar

1 bunch heritage radishes

200g (7oz) best quality crème fraiche

1 large shallot, finely diced

1 lemon

salt

raspberry powder

 

Mix the salt with the sugar and sprinkle a layer on a tray place the sea bass fillet on top and sprinkle with the rest of the cure. Leave for 30 minutes then wash thoroughly in cold water. Dry in a towel.

 

Cold smoke the cream using a commercial smoker or big green egg. Mix with the chopped shallot, the juice and zest of the lemon and a little sea salt.

 

Thinly slice the radishes on a mandolin. Slice the fish as thinly as possible using a very sharp knife. Lay the slices on a cold plate in a circle. Cover the fish with the smoked cream. Cover the layer of cream completely with the sliced radishes, then dust with raspberry powder.

 

 

Merlin Labron-Johnson’s Lightly Cured Wild Trout with Elderflowers, Unripe Peach and Watercress

Serves 8-10

1kg (2 1/4lb) wild trout fillet, skinned and pin boned

15g (1/2oz) salt

10g (1/3oz) sugar

2 lemons

elderflowers

elderflower vinegar (white wine vinegar infused with lots of elderflowers and elderflower branches)

100g (3 1/2oz) homemade yoghurt, hung overnight it muslin cloth to remove excess whey.

2 unripe peaches

150g (5oz) small watercress

good quality extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

 

Mix the 15g salt, 10g sugar and zest of 1 lemon together and sprinkle over and underneath the trout fillet/s. Use your hands to rub the cure into the fish to make sure it is evenly distributed. Leave for 10-12 hours in a fridge. Use a clean cloth or kitchen towel to wipe the fish fillets dry and remove any remaining cure. Taste a few slices of the fish to check for seasoning. Wrap the fish in a clean cloth.

 

Season the yoghurt with salt and a little lemon juice.

 

To serve, cut the fish into slices (a little thicker than sashimi or carpaccio but not too much!) and place on a cold, flat plate. Put a few dollops of the seasoned yoghurt onto the plates. Slice the peaches on a sharp mandolin and arrange on and around the trout slices. Dress the watercress with elderflower vinegar and olive oil and add to the plate. Sprinkle with lots of fresh elderflowers, grated lemon zest, sea salt and generous amounts of good olive oil.

 

 

Merlin Labron-Johnson’s  Ricotta Gnudi with Courgettes, Walnut and Nasturtium

 Serves 6-8

350g (12oz) smooth, thick Ricotta cheese (Galbani can work) left to hang in muslin cloth overnight

30g (1 1/4oz) parmesan, finely grated using a microplane

1 egg yolk

grated nutmeg

1kg (2 1/4lb) semolina

4 x green courgettes

1 large yellow courgettes, sliced into thin rounds using a mandolin

100g (3 1/2oz) spinach leaves

1 onion

olive oil

nasturtium leaves and flowers

30g (1 1/4oz) walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

 

Put the ricotta in a mixing bowl. Add the egg yolk, grated cheese and season with a little grated nutmeg. Mix well using a wooden spoon.

 

Put some 1/3 of the semolina in a large plastic container ensuring there is an even layer on the bottom. Using your hands, roll the Ricotta mix into ping pong sized balls and place directly onto the layer of semolina ensuring there is a distance of at least 1cm between each one. Cover the Gnudi with the remainder of the semolina ensuring that they are completely buried with semolina in between and on top of each ball. Place in the fridge for a minimum of 16-24 hours.

 

Peel the green courgettes and reserve the peel. Cut the flesh into cubes, 1cm approx.., and sweat slowly in olive oil until soft taking care not to add ANY COLOUR! Leave to cool. Boil the Courgettes skins in salted for 1 minute and refresh in iced water. Boil the spinach in the same water for 30 seconds and refresh in iced water. Drain the spinach and courgette skins and place in a blender with the courgette flesh. Blend on full speed with 4 ice cubes until very smooth and very green. It should have the consistency of a thin puree/thick soup. Loosen with a little water if necessary and season with salt.

 

To serve, boil the Gnudi in boiling water for 3-4 minutes and dress with a little olive oil. Warm the yellow courgettes slices in a small pan with a little water, olive oil and lemon juice until they start to go translucent (just cooked) and season with salt. Warm the courgette puree and place in the bottom of a warm bowl. Place the Gnudi on top of the puree and top some chopped walnuts. Cover the Gnudi in the slices of yellow courgette and decorate with lots of nasturtium leaves and nasturtium flowers.

 

 

Merlin Labron-Johnson’s Buttermilk Ice-Cream with Meringue, Raw Honey and Wild Flowers

 Serves 8-10

150g (5oz) cream

142g (scant 5oz) sugar

75g (3oz) glucose powder

120g (scant 4 1/2oz) milk powder

4g (scant 1/5oz) salt

750ml buttermilk

170g (scant 6oz) icing sugar

160g (5 1/2oz) egg white

1 tablespoon dried or fresh lavender flowers

80g (3 1/4oz) raw fresh honey

35ml (scant 1 1/2fl oz) elderflower vinegar

5g (1/5oz) fresh elderflowers

selection of edible flowers

 

To make the ice cream, boil the sugar with the cream. Leave to cool. Using a hand blender add the glucose powder, milk powder and salt. Add the mixture to the buttermilk, mix well again using a hand blender. Pass through a sieve and churn in an ice cream maker. (This makes just under 1 litre. The recipe can be multiplied according to the size of ice cream machine)

 

To make the meringue put the egg white in the bowl of a kitchen aid with a squeeze of lemon juice, using the whisk attachment, whisk slowly until the meringue starts to form very soft peaks. Start to add the icing sugar, one spoon at a time until you have a thick glossy meringue. Using a spatula spread the meringue over non-stick parchment paper so that it is flat and evenly spread. It should be the thickness of a £1 coin. Sprinkle with the lavender flowers. Place in an oven at 70 degrees with low fan and leave to dry until crisp and easy to remove from the paper in large shards. Place the shards in an airtight container.

 

Warm the honey and add the elderflower vinegar and fresh elderflowers. Season with a squeeze of lemon juice depending on the sweetness of the honey.

 

To serve, put a few scoops of ice cream into very cold bowls (preferably stored in the freezer for 30 mins before serving) and decorate with shards of meringue, add lots of wild flowers and drizzle over the warm dressing of honey and elderflower vinegar.

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