CategorySaturday Letter

Nollaig Na mBan

Nollaig Na mBan…

That’s the enchanting Irish name given to Women’s, Little Christmas on the 6th of January– the feast of the Epiphany.

It’s the traditional end of the Christmas season, the day we take down the Christmas tree and pack the baubles and tinsel into the attic for another year. But most importantly, it’s the day when the women of Ireland get to have time off from household chores after all the festive cooking.

A special day to get together with friends, sisters, mothers and aunts…The men, cheerfully take over the household for the day so the women can gather together to party and have a glass of fizz.

I was surprised to discover that many other countries have a similar tradition although the date sometimes varies. The Nordic countries have many customs, as have Ukraine, Slovenia, Galicia and closer to home there are high jinks and ceilis in the Scottish highlands it’s called, Là Féill nan Rìgh, The Feast of the Kings in Gaelic. La Fête des Rois is also celebrated in France with the delicious Galette des Rois as the centre piece of the table. Every boulangére offers their version of the flaky pastry galette, with a little trinket known as a ‘fève’ hidden deep inside the marzipan filling. Each comes with a golden paper crown which the lucky person who finds the fève in their slice will wear when they are crowned king for the day.

Here in Ireland the custom had almost disappeared, apart from in the counties of Cork and Kerry but there has been an enthusiastic revival of Women’s Little Christmas in recent years. Many restaurants and hotels are offering jolly Nollaig na bMan celebrations with exciting entertainment, dancing and music as well as afternoon tea or dinner so the womenfolk can enjoy a night out.

Just found this funny poem on social media penned by Nuala Woulfe @NWoulfeWriter – a few lines to whet your appetite.

Mammys on the Dance Floor

Mammys on the dance floor, let out for the night,

Dancing round their handbags, whopping with delight,

Mammys on the dance floor, kicking up the dust

Checking out the six packs, overcome with lust!

Mammys on the dance floor, one more round of beer,

Eyeing up the bouncers, giving them the leer…..

So off you go ladies, let the hair down, but if you’d like a delectable afternoon tea and a gossip around the fire, instead here are some of my favourite sweet treats for those who love to bake…

 

Ballymaloe Sausage Rolls with Caraway Seeds

Makes 8 – 16 depending on size

 

450g (1lb) best quality Sausages

450g (1lb) Puff Pastry (see recipe)

Egg Wash: 1 egg and a drop of milk

50g (2ozs) Caraway seeds or sesame seeds

 

Form the sausage meat into rolls, either regular or jumbo size to fit the pastry.

 

Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 4mm (1/6 inch) thick.  Lay the sausage meat 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.

 

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

Before cooking cut into 8’s or 16’s . Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with optional caraway seeds. Cook for 20-25 minutes depending on size. 

 

Galette des Rois

In France on the Festival of the Kings on 6th January, over 50 million flaky galette des rois are eaten. Tucked into the soft frangipane filling is a little surprise for the lucky person who chooses that slice. There is a wonderful ritual played out every year, where everyone sits around the dining table but the youngest child climbs underneath. As the galette is served, slice by slice, Madame points at the portion and asks ‘Who is that slice for ?’ The child calls out each person’s name, the lucky person who finds the feve in their slice is the king and the golden crown is placed on their head. As the king raises a glass everyone choruses, ‘The king drinks, the king drinks!’

 

Serves 8

 

450g all butter puff pastry chilled

 

Filling

110g (4oz) ground almonds

110g (4 ozs) castor sugar

40g (1½ ozs) melted butter

2 egg yolks, preferably free range and organic

2 tablespoons double cream

1 dessertspoon rum (optional)

Egg wash made with 1 beaten egg and a tiny pinch of salt

Glaze

Icing sugar

To Serve

Softly whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8

Divide the pastry in half, roll out just less than 5mm (¼ inch thick), cut into 2 circles approx. 10 inch (25.5cm) in diameter.  Put one onto a damp baking sheet, Keep both pieces chilled in the fridge while you make the filling (the second piece could be on a sheet of parchment paper on a plate in the fridge).

Mix all the ingredients for the filling together (except the egg wash) in a bowl until smooth. Put the filling onto the pastry base, leaving a rim of about 1 inch (2.5mm) free around the edge.  Brush the rim with beaten egg or water and put on the lid of puff pastry, press it down well around the edges. Flute the edges with a knife.

Make a small hole in the centre brush with egg wash and leave for 5 minutes in the refrigerator. With the back of a knife, nick the edge of the pastry 12 times at regular intervals to form a scalloped edge with a rose petal effect. Mark long curving lines from the central hole outwards to designate formal petals. Be careful not to cut through the pastry just score it.*

Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, then lower the heat to 200C/400F/regulo 6 and bake for 30 minutes approx. until well risen and golden. While still hot dredge heavily with icing sugar and return to a very hot oven or pop under a grill (Do Not Leave the Grill) – the sugar will melt and caramelize to a dark brown glaze. Serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

*Note: Galette des Rois is best eaten warm, but it also keeps well and may be reheated

 

Lemon Curd Meringue Cupcakes

 

Makes 24

 

Cupcakes

225g (8oz) butter (at room temperature)

225g (8oz) caster sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

4 organic large eggs

zest of 2 lemons

 

Lemon Curd

2 ozs (50g) butter

4 ozs (110g) caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 organic eggs and 1 organic egg yolk whisked (keep white aside for meringue)

 

Lemon Curd Cream

110ml (4floz) mascarpone

4 tablespoons lemon curd (see recipe)

2 tablespoons sieved icing sugar

 

Meringue Kisses (see recipe)

 

Garnish

sprig of Lemon Balm or Lemon Verbena

 

2 muffin tins lined with 24 muffin cases.

 

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

 

First make the cupcakes.

Put all ingredients into a food processer, whizz until smooth.

 

Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin.

 

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.

 

Meanwhile, make the lemon curd.

Melt the butter on a very low heat. Add the caster sugar, lemon zest and juice and then add the whisked eggs.  Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spatula until the mixture coats the back it.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

 

Meringue

2 egg whites

4½ ozs (117g/1 cup approx.) icing sugar

 

To make the meringue

 

Line a baking sheet with silicone paper.

Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.  Drop little ‘blobs’ of the mixture on to the baking sheet and flatten slightly with a teaspoon.   Bake immediately in a low oven 150°C/300°F/regulo 2 for 10-15 minutes or until set crisp.

 

To assemble

Mix the lemon curd into the mascarpone and add the sieved icing sugar.  Put into a piping bag with a medium sized plain nozzle.  Put the remainder of the lemon curd into a piping bag with a small plain nozzle.

 

Insert the nozzle into the top of the cupcake and squeeze in a small teaspoon of lemon curd.  Pipe a blob of lemon cream over the top.  It should almost cover the top of the cupcake.  Top with a little more lemon curd and pop a meringue kiss on top, garnish with a sprig of lemon balm or lemon verbena.  Eat as soon as possible.

 

Tender Loving Care Biscuits (known as TLC’s in our house)

These little oatmeal and coffee sandwich biscuit are super delicious.

 

Makes about 10 iced biscuits (depending on the size of the cutter used)

 

110g (4 ozs) butter

50g (2 ozs) castor sugar

1 dessertspoon golden syrup

55g (2 ozs) flour

150g (5 ozs) oatmeal (porridge oats)

55g (2 ozs) dessicated coconut

A pinch of salt

A pinch of bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

 

Coffee Filling

50g (2 ozs) butter

75g (3 ozs) icing sugar

Coffee essence – 1 teaspoon approx.

 

Coffee Icing

110g (4 ozs) icing sugar

1 tablespoon approx. boiling water

1 teaspoons approx. coffee essence

 

Decoration

10 – 12 walnuts

Cutter

Use a 12 inch (4cm) cutter

 

Cream the butter and sugar and add in the golden syrup, gradually stir in the dry ingredients and mix well.

Roll out on to a floured board to about  inch (5mm) thickness – the mixture will be slightly sticky and will be a little difficult to handle.  Stamp out into rounds with a cutter and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 until golden. They will take approx.12-15 minutes.

Remove to a wire rack and allow to become quite cold.  Meanwhile make the filling and icings.

 

Coffee Filling:

Cream the butter and add in the sieved icing sugar, beat until light and fluffy and then add the coffee essence. Spread a little on each biscuit and sandwich two biscuits together.

Coffee Icing:

Sieve the icing sugar, add the coffee essence and enough boiling water to mix to a spreading consistency, very little does, so be careful not to add too much.  Spread a little blob of icing on top of each biscuit and decorate with a walnut half.

 

Little Choccie Mousses

Serve in little glasses, chocolate mousse is very rich – so don’t serve too large helpings.

 

Serves 8-10

 

225g (8ozs) plain chocolate (we use 52% Callebaut)

1 tablespoon of Jamaican rum

4 free range eggs, separated
crème fraiche or softly whipped cream to serve

 

Break chocolate into small pieces and put into a Pyrex bowl, melt over a saucepan of hot water. As soon as the water comes to the boil turn off the heat and allow to soften. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove, cool, whisk in the rum and egg yolks one by one. Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold gently into the melted chocolate. Fill into small bowls or glasses. Allow to set in a fridge.
To Serve
Serve with a blob of crème fraiche.

Note
These little pots are very rich so extra crème fraîche may be welcome.

 

Darina’s Coconut and Jelly Cakes

 

Makes 18 – 20

150g (5ozs) butter (at room temperature)

150g (5ozs) caster sugar

150g (5ozs) self raising flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

Redcurrant jelly or redcurrant jelly mixed with raspberry jam

110g (4oz) desiccated coconut

300ml (10floz) cream

2 teaspoons icing sugar

 

2 muffin tins lined with 18 muffin cases.

 

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

 

Put all ingredients except milk into a food processer, whizz until smooth.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, then add milk and whizz again.

Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin.  Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden. Allow to cool on a wire cake rack.

Whip the cream with the sieved icing sugar and spoon into a piping bag.

Dip or brush each bun with the jelly, roll in desiccated coconut. Cut the top third of each cake almost all the way through and pipe in a large rosette of cream.

Serve immediately. Unfilled cakes can be kept in an airtight tin for a day or two.

Top Cook Books of 2018

Well Christmas is well and truly over for another year, not sure about you but I’ve already managed to break several of my New Year resolutions but despite the dark evenings I do love this time of year. Lots of chunky soups, comforting stews, steamed puddings and the smell of Seville orange marmalade bubbling in the pot. The bitter oranges are in the shops now, so rush out to buy more than you think you need, freeze some and use my Whole Orange Marmalade recipe (see Examiner website), whenever you are running out of Seville orange marmalade during the year.

Meanwhile how about some fresh new ideas to liven up your cooking for 2019. Here are some of my favorite new cookbooks to use up your Christmas book tokens;

  1. The Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber
  2. Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi
  3. Extebarri by Jon Sarabia and Juan Pablo Cardenal
  4. Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa by Yohanis Gebreyesus
  5. Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan
  6. Jamie Cooks Italy by Jamie Oliver
  7. Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking by Russell Norman
  8. Copenhagen Food: Stories, Traditions and Recipes by Trina Hahnemann
  9. How to Eat A Peach by Diana Henry
  10. Cook, Share, Eat, Vegan: Delicious Plant-based Recipes for Everyone by Áine Carlin

It may not be to everyone’s taste but my book of the year is the Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber. Few chefs know or understand how to use fermented foods to their full potential like René does. For several years now, David Zilber, Arielle Johnston and Lars Williams have been experimenting and perfecting all manner of fermented foods in their bunker turned fermentation lab beside Noma in Copenhagen, and have gone where few others have dared to venture. For those of us who have been experimenting over the years this book is the master class Penny, Marie and all of us in the ‘Bubble Shed’ at Ballymaloe Cookery School have been eagerly anticipating.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s new book, Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook, has taken the US by storm as well as this side of the world. Israeli born Yotam, author of Jerusalem and Plenty already has quite the following for his take on his beloved Middle Eastern food. However, he is not known for simple recipes so in the nick of time, before people get too exasperated, he’s published this volume of enticing dishes, many with fewer than 10 ingredients – and several that take less than 30 minutes to get on to the table. Love this book of quick and everyday recipes from one of the most creative chefs on the current food scene.

Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa by Yohanis Gebreyesus. Always fascinating to learn about the food of an area that is totally unfamiliar, so I was intrigued to find this book published by Kyle Books. I first tasted Ethiopian food in Santa Fe in California and later ate Teff, the fermented flat bread from a stall in Union Square Market in lower Manhattan. Ethiopia, a fascinating country that has never been colonized but it’s intriguing cuisine is enriched with the different religious influences of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, a combination unique to Africa.

Chef Yohanis Gebreyesus, takes us on a journey of the essential Ethiopian dishes, interwoven with enchanting stories of local people and customs. He whetted my appetite not only for the food but for the country – must visit soon….

For a taste of Ethiopia over here rush to Fizzy’s stall at the Mahon Point and Midleton Farmers Markets. She also sells the quintessential Berber spice mixture that you’ll need for many of the dishes.

Trina Hahnemann’s name is not nearly as well known as René Redzepi but in her own way she is a much loved and highly respected ambassador for Scandinavian food. Trina has written 10 best selling cookbooks full of gorgeous simple recipes. She is an enthusiastic advocate for sustainable solutions, organic sourcing, and food cooked with love. Copenhagen Food is a love letter to her native Copenhagen and the delicious dishes enjoyed from her home town.

Of the new vegan cook books published in 2018, of which there were many her are a few worth a mention: Cook, Share, Eat, Vegan: Delicious Plant-based Recipes for Everyone by Áine Carlin; Veganish by Holly White; The runaway best seller is by The Bosh Boys, Bosh! Simple Recipes, Amazing Food, All Plants. And finally 15 Minute Vegan Comfort Food by Katy Beskow.

Jam makers should definitely seek out 5 Seasons of Jam by Lillie O’Brien of the London Borough of Jam and last but not least a shout out to some Irish titles, Currabinny Cookbook by James Kavanagh and William Murray (alumni of BCS) which recently won the Irish Cookbook of the Year, Donal Skehan’s Meals in Minutes, Neven Maguire’s new book Home Economics for Life, Irish Seaweed Christmas Kitchen by Prannie Rhatigan one of the pioneers who highlighted the magic of seaweed long before it became trendy. There are many more but I am out of space however, I can’t forget Eat a Peach by Diana Henry – certainly one of the great books of the year.

Ethiopia Spice Pumpkin Stew

(Duba Wat)

 

While shopping in weekly souqs or outdoor markets around Addis Ababa, one common item for sale all around the country is duba (pumpkin). Smallhold farmers generally

intercrop duba with maize or other perennial crops, and bring them to the souq, where they sell them cut into large pieces. The amounts here serve a number of people as part of a spread of vegetable dishes. It also makes an excellent side dish to accompany chicken, fish or meat.

 

SERVES 2–4

3 tablespoons sunflower, rapeseed or another mild vegetable oil

2 medium red or yellow onions, finely chopped (about 250g)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon berbere spice blend, or more to taste (recipe below)

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

500g peeled and seeded pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash or another firm-fleshed hard-skinned squash, cut into 2.5cm cubes

Salt

 

In a large flameproof casserole or sauté pan, heat the oil over a medium–low heat, add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic, berbere and cardamom, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a touch of water if needed to keep it from scorching.

Add the pumpkin, season with salt and cover with 250ml of water. Partly cover the pan and cook over a medium–low heat for 25–35 minutes until the pumpkin is fork-tender. Gently stir from time to time to keep from sticking, but avoid mashing the pumpkin as it softens. Add more water if needed or remove the lid to cook off any excess liquid towards the end of cooking – the stew should be moist but not too liquidy. Serve.

 

Berbere Spice Blend

MAKES ABOUT 55G

50g dried medium-hot red chillies, such as guajillo or New Mexico chillies

½ teaspoon nigella seeds

½ teaspoon cloves

½  teaspoon ajowan seeds

½ tablespoon onion powder

Taken from Ethiopia by Yohanis Gebreysus, published by Kyle Books

 

 

Extebarri Red prawns over wood coals

 

There are three core pillars behind the excellence of the red prawns served at Etxebarri. One of them is the raw material. These prawns weigh 60 g each and have fabulously firm meat as a result of the exceptional properties of the habitat in which they live: two small fishing grounds in the waters of Palamós that are little known places and where the prawns are caught quickly and responsibly so they are not injured in the net. They could not be fresher as the prawns caught that day are sent off to Etxebarri that same afternoon. The logistics by road from Gerona to Biscay are arranged in such a way that the prawns lose none of their original properties. They travel overnight, partially immersed in isothermal buckets containing seawater and ice. On reaching Etxebarri, the water is immediately changed and the seawater and ice are replaced until the meal service begins. It is essential to conserve them so that the extraordinary texture of the prawns is ensured. Lastly, the goal when grilling them is to ‘cook them so that they are done, yet intact, and look as if they have just been caught,’ Bittor explains. The difficulty lies in grilling them so that neither half is too cooked or remains raw. He puts fewer wood coals under the body and livelier wood coals under the heads so that they cook more. According to Bittor, it is crucial to conserve the juices in the prawn’s heads as it is ‘the best fish soup a cook can offer you’.

Prawns

Olive oil

  • Take the prawns out of the seawater and ice, dry them and set aside. They are served whole and there is no need to remove the antennae, nor to salt them as the seawater provides the perfect point of salinity.

 

  • Arrange two levels of wood coals under the grill. A livelier one, so that the heat reaches the heads and where they join the bodies; and a smaller one to cook the prawn tails to perfection.

 

  • Spray the prawns with olive oil and place on the grill. Grill over a low heat and at a medium height for 3 and 2 minutes per side, respectively. Remove and serve.

 

Taken from Extebarri by Juan Pablo Cardenal & Jon Sarabia, published by Grub Street Publishers

 

Currabinny Cookbook Ruby Chard Korma

William suggests keeping the stalks for another dish but we loved them finely shredded and added them as we were pouring in the water.

Serves 4–6

3 onions

3 cloves of garlic

a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger

700g chestnut mushrooms

a large knob of butter

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

seeds from 10 cardamom pods, crushed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

a few pinches of ground cinnamon

a few pinches of chilli powder

3 bay leaves

200ml water

350g ruby chard

200g natural yoghurt

150g crème fraîche

 

To serve:

toasted flaked almonds

pomegranate seeds

basmati rice

 

Peel the onions, garlic and ginger. Slice the onions and mushrooms, grate the ginger and crush the garlic with some salt. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions, garlic and ginger with some salt and pepper.

When the onions have softened a bit, add the cardamom, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, chilli powder and bay leaves. Now add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Pour in the water, stir, and simmer for 15 minutes, then check the seasoning.

Meanwhile, remove the stalks from the chard* and add the leaves in batches to the pot until it is all wilted. Turn the heat to low and gently stir in the yoghurt and crème fraîche.

Serve with rice and top with the almonds and pomegranate seeds.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.

 

Currabinny Cookbook Lemon and Lavender Cake

Combining lavender with lemon and yoghurt makes this cake sticky, subtle and utterly delicious.

 

Makes 8–10 slices

butter, for greasing

1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers

250g caster sugar

175g cream flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

a pinch of sea salt

2 medium organic eggs

250g Greek yoghurt

125ml rapeseed oil

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

dried lavender sprigs, to decorate

 

For the icing:

200g icing sugar

juice of 1 lemon

1 medium egg white

 

Preheat the oven to 160ºC fan/gas 4. Butter a 20cm springform cake tin and line with baking parchment.

Crush the lavender in a pestle and mortar. Put the caster sugar into a large bowl and mix the lavender through. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and stir to combine.

In another bowl, mix the eggs with the yoghurt and rapeseed oil and pour this into the dry ingredients, stirring well. Add the lemon zest and juice.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for around 50 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for a minute, then turn the cake out to cool fully on a wire rack.

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice, whisking until smooth. Add the egg white gradually to loosen the mixture until it is quite runny and pourable. The icing should be extremely sharp and lemony. Spoon this icing over the top of the cake until it covers the top and starts to drip down the sides.

Arrange some dried lavender sprigs on the top as decoration.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.

Christmas Leftovers…

Hope you have managed to tick off most of the items on your ‘must do for Christmas’ list and that all the family are cheerfully helping with last minute jobs and present wrapping. Chill the fizz, hang up the mistletoe, tuck holly sprigs here and there and play some jolly Christmas carols to get you into the festive spirit. Hope you’ve managed to resist the urge to fill your fridge and pantry to bursting point but having said that I love the fun of using up leftover bits of this and that.

Now for a few ideas…Not sure if there will be any little morsels of turkey or crispy skin left over after everyone has tucked into turkey sandwiches on Christmas evening but,if there are, strip off the carcass to make this delicious pilaff. Then pop the carcass into a pot with 2 or 3 quartered onions, same of carrots and a stick or two of celery, a sprig of thyme and a few peppercorns. If you don’t use the giblets (neck, heart and gizzard) to make a flavourful stock for the gravy, add them in to the pot. Cover the whole lot with cold water, bring to the boil, skim and simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Strain and you’ll have a delicious pot of turkey broth to sip or use as a base for a stew, casserole or to make an unctuous risotto or the pilaff.

Use the turkey liver immediately while it is fresh to make this parfait and serve it in little pots with plump Pedro Ximénez raisins. It’ll make a delicious starter or can be slathered on crisp, hot toast for a snack.

What other leftovers? Might you have any leftover Brussel sprouts, if so trim the outsides, then half or quarter each one, blanch, drain well, toss in extra virgin olive oil and roast in a hot oven. Then toss with chorizo crumbs – so yummy. I’m loving roasted cauliflower and Romanesco florets too.

Left over cranberry sauce keeps well so don’t fuss about using it up but do try it with some soft goat cheese. Fresh cranberries also keep well and of course freeze perfectly, otherwise throw a fistful into your salads, scones, muffins or soda bread. Maybe stew them down, add a little chopped rosemary and add them to an apple sauce to serve with a pork chop or make a ‘catch-all’ cranberry chutney.

Sprinkle left over mincemeat into a batch of scones. Serve them warm with the remainder of the brandy butter. Tangerines, mandarins or clementines are balm to the soul after a rich Christmas meal, delicious just to nibble, but this mandarin sorbet is my favourite way to enjoy them. It’s a little fiddly to make but so soothing and refreshing after Christmas.

Trying to think, what else might you have lurking in your fridge, perhaps some miscellaneous morsels of cheese? Well I’ve got just the perfect recipe, a little gem that turns leftover cheese into delicious biscuits. A perfect snack or an irresistible nibble to serve with a glass of wine.

Make breadcrumbs from left over bread and pop them into the freezer. They’ll be so useful for crumbles, stuffing or panagratto to sprinkle over stews or gratins, sweet or savoury or make a Queen of Puddings. Otherwise make a bread and butter pudding, it’s a brilliant, catch-all for all kinds of scraps, morsels of meat or smoked fish, Brussel sprouts, chard, sautéed mushrooms, chopped herbs, grated cheese…..just omit the sugar for a savoury version and serve with a  good green salad.

I’ve also included a marmalade bread pudding, one of my favourite after Christmas puds which I sometimes make with left over slices of Panettone or brioche from Arbutus Breads.

Well, there are just a few ideas to help you to be creative with your leftovers. Meanwhile, a very Happy Christmas and New Year to all our readers, hopefully you’ll manage to get a few delicious long walks in….

Turkey Liver Parfait with Pedro Ximénez Raisins

Serves 10-12 depending on how it is served.

225g (8oz) fresh organic turkey livers

2 tablespoons

200-300g (8-12oz) butter (depending on how strong the livers are)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 large clove garlic, crushed

225g (8oz) butter, cubed

freshly ground pepper

50g (2oz) of raisins or sultanas

2 tablespoons Pedro Ximénez Sherry

50g (2oz) pistachio nuts, halved

 

clarified or melted butter to seal

 

Put the raisins into a small bowl, cover with warm Pedro Ximenez and leave to soak until plump and juicy.

Wash the livers in cold water and remove any membrane or green tinged bits. Dry on kitchen paper.

Melt a little butter in a frying pan; when the butter foams add in the livers and cook over a gentle heat.  Be careful not to overcook them or the outsides will get crusty; all trace of pink should be gone.   Add the crushed garlic and thyme leaves to the pan, stir and then de-glaze the pan with brandy, allow to flame or reduce for 2-3 minutes. Scrape everything with a spatula into a food processor.  Purée for a few seconds.  Allow to cool.

 

Add the butter. Purée until smooth.  Season carefully, taste and add more butter.

 

This parfait should taste fairly mild and be quite smooth in texture. Fill into little pots or into one large terrine.   Tap on the worktop to knock out any air bubbles. Spoon a little clarified butter over the top of each little pot of pâté to seal. If serving immediately spoon the Pedro Ximénez soaked raisins and pistachio nuts on top.

Serve with brioche, crusty bread, sourdough toasts or croutes.   This parfait will keep for 4 or 5 days in a refrigerator.

Watchpoint: It is essential to cover turkey liver pate with a layer of clarified or even just melted butter, otherwise the parfait will oxidize and taste bitter and turn grey in colour.

 

Pilaff Rice with Turkey and Ham and Fresh Herbs

Although a risotto can be made in 20 minutes it entails 20 minutes of pretty constant stirring which makes it feel rather laboursome. A pilaff on the other hand looks after itself once the initial cooking is underway. The pilaff is versatile – serve it as a staple or add whatever tasty bits you have to hand. Beware however of using pilaff as a dustbin, all additions should be carefully seasoned and balanced.

 

Serves 8

 

25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot

400g (14oz) long-grain rice (preferably Basmati)

975ml (32fl oz) homemade turkey or chicken stock

225g (8oz) diced cooked turkey

225g (8oz) diced cooked ham or bacon

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives: optional

 

Melt the butter in a casserole, add the finely chopped onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and toss for a minute or two, just long enough for the grains to change colour. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the chicken stock, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a minimum and then simmer on top of the stove or in the oven 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 10 minutes approx. By then the rice should be just cooked and all the water absorbed. At this stage stir in the diced turkey and ham/bacon to heat through, ensure it is piping hot. Just before serving stir in the fresh herbs if using.

 

Note

Basmati rice cooks quite quickly; other types of rice may take up to 15 minutes.

 

 

Roast Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo Crumbs

Serves  4-6

I first tasted roast Brussels sprouts cooked in a wood burning oven in a restaurant in San Francisco about ten years ago. My friend Mary Risley told me this new way of cooking Brussels sprouts was causing lots of excitement. I didn’t get it, but now I love them cooked this way, there’s a fine line between sweet roasted and acrid burnt, so watch them like a hawk.

 

(450g) 1lb Brussels sprouts

extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Chorizo crumbs to serve (see recipe)

 

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

If necessary trim the Brussels sprouts of any tough outside leaves, trim the stalk, cut into halves. Blanch in boiling water for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain well.  In a bowl drizzle the blanched sprouts with extra virgin olive oil. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss to coat. Transfer to a roasting tin, cook for 10 – 15 minutes depending on size, shake the pan occasionally. The sprouts should be pale golden and crisp on the outside and tender within. Sprinkle with the chorizo crumbs and transfer to a hot serving dish.

 

Chorizo & Parsley Crumbs

 

Chorizo Crumbs are delicious used in so many ways.  We like to scatter them over potato, celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke or watercress soup.  They are particularly good sprinkled over cauliflower or macaroni cheese.  Keep in a box in your fridge for several weeks, or freeze and scatter when you fancy!

 

Makes 175g (6oz)

 

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

125g (4 1/2oz) chorizo, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice

100g (3 1/2oz) coarse breadcrumbs

1 – 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

 

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

 

Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden.  Drain and allow to cool, add to the chorizo, stir in the chopped parsley.

Doune McKenzie’s Cheese Biscuits

 

Any bits of left over cheese eg. Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyére, Coolea, Cashel Blue … a little soft cheese may also be added but you will need some hard cheese to balance the flavour.

 

Weigh cheese then use equal amounts of butter and plain white flour.

Grate the cheese – rinds and all. Dice the butter.  Cream the butter and stir in the flour and grated cheese, form into a roll like a long sausage, about 4cm (1 1/2 inches) thick. Alternatively whizz in a food processor until it forms a dough, shape using a little flour if necessary. Wrap in parchment and twist the end like a Christmas cracker. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 -2 hours until solid.

 

Slice into rounds – about 7mm (1/3 inch) thick.  Arrange on a baking tray, cook in a preheated oven 250ºC/475ºF/regulo 9 for approximately 5 minutes until golden brown.

 

Leave to cool for a couple of seconds then transfer to a wire rack.   Best eaten on the day they are made as they soften quite quickly.

 

Goats Cheese and Cranberry Bites

Pop a blob of Ardsallagh goats cheese, a little cranberry sauce and a sprig of flat leaf parsley on each cheese biscuit and serve.

 

Mandarin Sorbet

 

The quantity of ice below is enough to fill 10-18 mandarin shells Clementine or tangerine or satsuma may also be used in this recipe. Catriona Daunt of Organic Republic will have organic citrus fruit including unwaxed lemons, oranges, clementines, blood oranges and bergemont lemons for sale on her stalls at the various Cork Farmers Markets. She also sells online www.organicrepublic.ie

 

Serves 10-12, depending on whether people eat 1 or 2

 

Syrup

175g (6oz/3/4 cup) sugar

juice of 1/4 lemon

150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) water

 

20-28 mandarins

juice of 1/2 lemon

icing sugar (optional)

 

Garnish

Vine leaves or bay leaves

 

First make the syrup. Heat the first three ingredients over a low heat, until they are dissolved together and clear. Bring to the boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes, Cool. Grate the zest from 10 of the mandarins, and squeeze the juice from them. Cut the remaining mandarins so that they each have a lid. Scoop out the sections with a small spoon and them press them through a nylon sieve, (alternatively, you could liquidize the pulp and then strain). You should end up with 1 1/4 pints (750ml) juice. Add the grated zest, the lemon juice and the syrup to taste. Taste and add icing sugar or extra lemon juice, if more sweetness or sharpness is required. Freeze until firm.

Chill the shells in the fridge or freezer, fill them with the frozen water ice. Replace the lids and store in the freezer. Cover with cling film if not serving on the same day. Serve on a white plate decorated with vine leaves or bay leaves.

 

Make the sorbet in one of the following ways.

  1. Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed.

 

  1. Pour the juice into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezing compartment of a refrigerator. After about 4-5 hours when the sorbet is semi-frozen, remove from the freezer and whisk until smooth, then return to the freezer. Whisk again when almost frozen and fold in one stiffly-beaten egg white. Keep in the freezer until needed.

 

  1. If you have a food processor simply freeze the sorbet completely in a stainless steel or plastic bowl, then break into large pieces and whizz up in the food processor for a few seconds. Add one slightly beaten egg white, whizz again for another few seconds, then return to the bowl and freeze again until needed.

 

Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding

 

Serves 6-8

 

This is a variation on basic bread and butter pudding.   If you like, leave out the marmalade and serve plain, or add chopped rhubarb, chopped chocolate, grated lemon or orange zest, raisins, sultanas, cinnamon, nutmeg etc.  This is a great way to use up stale bread, and in fact is better if the bread is stale.

 

12 slices of good –quality white bread, crusts removed

50g (2oz) soft butter

3-4 tablespoons homemade marmalade

450ml (16fl.ozs) cream

225ml (8fl.oz) milk

4 eggs

110g (4oz) caster sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

 

To Serve

softly whipped cream

marmalade sauce

 

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

 

Butter the bread and spread marmalade on each slice.  Arrange the bread butter side down in the gratin dish or in individual cups or bowls (cut the slices if you need to).  I like to have overlapping triangles of bread on the top layer.

 

Place the cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to just under the boil.  While it’s heating up, in a separate bowl whisk the eggs and the caster sugar, then pour the hot milk and cream in with the eggs and whisk to combine.  Pour this custard over the bread and leave it to soak for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the granulated sugar on top. Place in a bain-marie (water bath) and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour.  The top should be golden and the centre should be just set.  Serve with softly whipped cream and marmalade sauce (see below).

 

Note: If you want to make this a day ahead of time, don’t heat up the milk and cream, just pour it cold over the bread.

 

Marmalade Sauce

1 jar (400-450g/14ozs – 1lb) 3 fruit of homemade marmalade

60ml (2 1/2 fl ozs) water

juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon

 

Put the marmalade into a saucepan.  Add the water and the juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon to taste.  Heat all the ingredients gently.  Place in a jug and serve with the bread and butter pudding.

 

Christmas Mincemeat Scones with Brandy Butter

 

Makes 18-20 scones using a 7 1/2 cm (3inch) cutter

 

900g (2lb) plain white flour

175g (6oz) butter

450 g (16 oz) mincemeat (vegetarian, no suet)

3 free-range eggs

pinch of salt

50g (2oz) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix

 

Glaze

Egg Wash (see below)

Demerara sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

 

Brandy Butter (see recipe)

 

First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

 

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Add the mincemeat and toss well to distribute evenly through the flour. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.  Don’t knead but shape just enough to make a round.  Roll out to about 2½cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones. Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease.  Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in demerara sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half slather with homemade brandy butter.

Brandy Butter

3ozs (75g/ 3/4stick) butter

3ozs (75g/ 3/4 cup) icing sugar

2-6 tablespoons brandy (the more the better!)

 

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

Christmas Special

Oops! Christmas is almost here again, my grandchildren are wild with excitement and anticipation…

Letters are already winging their way to Santa and some have been making Christmas cookies and helping to stir the plum pudding. They love to hear stories of Christmas when I was a child and are incredulous when I tell them how a little mandarin or clementine in the toe of my Christmas stocking was a huge treat to be eaten slowly and enjoyed segment by segment.

In fact one of the biggest challenges nowadays is to encourage children to think of those less fortunate and perhaps wrap up some of the toys and clothes they have outgrown to share.

Hopefully you’ve ordered a nice plump, free range turkey or goose for Christmas day and decided on the accompaniments. Many people start with the idea of doing something different this year but if you have family coming home for Christmas they usually don’t want you to change a thing. The traditional Christmas dinner is sacred in many families and that is what memories are made of, the favourite stuffing, Mam’s gravy, plum pudding, trifle and Christmas cake….

Every detail must be the same, I’ve given recipes for traditional turkey and goose on the Examiner website in the past but in this column I am sharing my new favourite way to cook the turkey and my new favourite stuffing (inspired by ‘the dressing’ used by US friends for Thanksgiving), with chunkier pieces of bread rather than the breadcrumbs we usually use. I dry brine the turkey the day before then roast it over the tray of stuffing so the juices can drip into the dish and flavour it deliciously. It cooks much faster than a whole bird and you don’t have to forgo the stuffing either.

Try to find duck, goose fat or good lard to roast the potatoes. The flavour will be a revelation. Peel, blanch and refresh the potatoes on Christmas Eve, dry and keep them in the fridge in a covered box. Sprouts can be halved or better still quartered and blanched in boiling water for 2-3 mins, then drained and plunged into ice to stop them cooking. Drain them well and refrigerate, ready to be reheated in boiling salted water just before Christmas dinner. Don’t forget lots of melted butter and freshly cracked black pepper to serve. I also love celery in a rich parsley sauce, another dish that can be tucked away in the freezer a week or two ahead. Cranberry sauce can also be made weeks in advance, make more than you need for presents or gift hampers for even busier friends.

Bread sauce can also be made several days ahead and reheated, even frozen, if that works better for you.

In our house we have both plum pudding and trifle, everyone loves Mummy’s plum pudding. Once again think about making an extra one or two for gifts to share with someone less fortunate.

If you decide to break with tradition why not try my Christmas meringue wreath served with pomegranate seeds and verbena leaves, it too can be made ahead and decorated before serving.

A glazed loin of streaky bacon is our secret favourite dish at Christmas it is super succulent and juicy and a fraction of the price of ham. The best discovery is that it can be reheated if cooked and glazed ahead.

So with all that preparation done you too can really enjoy Christmas day…Remember to allocate responsibility of different aspects of the festivities to different members of the family of all ages, thus sharing the fun and passing on the skills to the next generation – laying the table, arranging the flowers, as well as the cooking.

Have a wonderful fun filled Christmas with family and friends and look out for your neighbours too.

All your favourite Christmas recipes and many more besides are in my book Darina Allen’s Simply Delicious Christmas published by Gill Books.

Rory has also shared a couple of delicious starters to serve before your Christmas dinner.

Rory O’Connell’s Cucumber and Elderflower Granita

I think granitas are great for the home cook as they are so easy to make and bring a little of the smartness we expect in restaurants to your own family table. This delightful version seems to suit either the beginning or the end of a meal depending on what else you are serving.  Various garnishes can be added when serving, such as fresh elderflower blossom when in season or later in the summer the lovely leaves and petals on the marigold Tagetes. If you can find the whimsical looking tiny cucumber – the cucamelon –then one of those on each serving would be lovely and a definite conversation starter. At Christmas a few pomegranate seeds or myrtle berries would be an appropriate and delicious addition.

The amount of juice you can extract from a cucumber does vary throughout the year and without doubt large home-grown cucumbers yield more juice than the somewhat more slender imported varieties, so perhaps it is worth having a little extra cucumber to hand to ensure you end up with the 350ml of juice required in the recipe.

The process of making the icy granita is simplicity itself and just requires a little commitment from you to return to the freezer to give the ice the occasional stir up.

Serves 6-8

500g cucumber

3 tablespoons of lime juice

115ml elderflower cordial

Optional garnishes; elderflower blossoms, leaves or petals of Tagetes marigold or a cucamelon very thinly sliced, pomegranate seeds, myrtle berries.

Peel the cucumber and cut into dice. Place in a blender and puree until smooth. Pass the cucumber puree through a fine sieve pushing to extract the juice and fine pulp – and you should end up with 350ml of the strained juice. Discard any extra. Add the lime juice and cordial to the cucumber and mix well.

Place the juice in a pyrex bowl and place in the freezer and freeze until nearly set. Break up the partially frozen ice with a fork or a whisk until it looks rather slushy and return to the freezer. Refreeze and repeat the process three more times to achieve a flaky and shard like consistency. The granita is then ready to serve or can be stored until you want to serve it. I keep the granita covered in the freezer to protect the delicious and delicate flavour.

Serve the granita in chilled bowls or glasses just as it is or with some of the suggested garnishes.

 

Rory O’Connell’s Roast Red Onion Leaves with Smoked Eel and Horseradish Mayonnaise

Choose small red onions for roasting as you really want the finished leaves to be bite sized. The smoked eel can be replaced with smoked salmon or mackerel.

Makes c 20 pieces or bites

4 small red onions

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

C 250g smoked eel cut into dice or thin slices

5 tablespoons horseradish mayonnaise (see recipe )

Sprigs of chervil or watercress for garnish

Preheat oven to 200c

Cut the unpeeled onions in half straight down through the middle and through the root. Brush the cut surfaces with olive oil and place cut side down on a roasting tray. Cook for 20-40 minutes or until the onions feel completely tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When the onions are cool, separate the layers of onion to achieve little cup shaped leaves. These can be prepared in advance and stored at room temperature.

To assemble, place the onion leaves on a serving dish. Spoon a little of the horseradish mayonnaise into the base of each leaf and follow with a piece of eel and a spring if chervil or watercress.

Horseradish Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of caster sugar

2 tablespoons of wine vinegar

150ml sunflower oil or light olive oil or a mixture of both oils

1 heaped tablespoon of finely, grated fresh horseradish

1 teaspoon of chopped tarragon

Put the egg yolks, mustard, sugar and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk well and add the oil gradually in a slow and steady stream while whisking all the time. The sauce will emulsify and thicken quite easily. Add the horseradish and chopped herbs. Taste and correct seasoning. It is unlikely to need salt because of the large quantity of mustard.

Chill until needed.

Spatchcock Turkey with Chunky Herb Stuffing and Best Ever Gravy

Can’t think why I didn’t think about cooking the turkey in this way years ago. There are lots of advantages to spatchcocking or butterflying the turkey. The technique is easy to master yourself particularly if you have a good quality poultry shears and offers several advantages. The bird cooks much faster and cooks evenly resulting in moist and juicy meat and even more delicious crispy skin.

Serves 12 – 15

1 free range turkey (approx. 5 kg/12lbs in weight)

Dry Brine

1 level teaspoon of pure salt for every 450g/1lb of turkey

75g soft butter

1 dessertspoon finely chopped rosemary

150ml water

Roux

Fresh Herb Stuffing – Optional

170g (6ozs) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

450g (1lb) of chunky white breadcrumbs made from good bread.  (or the same quantity of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

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

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

 

To make the fresh herb stuffing: Melt the butter, add the chopped onions and sweat on a low heat until translucent, 10 mins approx. Add the cubed bread, stir to combine, add the chopped herbs and season lightly.  Remove to a roasting tray to cool. This can be made ahead and frozen if more convenient.

 

How to spatchcock

To spatchcock or butterfly a bird, first remove the wishbone from the neck end, (save for stock). Lay the turkey breast side down on a chopping board. Use a poultry shears to remove the back bone by cutting along both sides (chop the bone into 4 or 5 pieces and use to make a stock for gravy later). Then flip the turkey breast side up and rotate the legs so the drumsticks point outwards. Press down firmly on the breast bone several times to flatten the bird, then tuck the wingtips behind the breast to make a neat shape. Trim the excess neck fat from the end of the breast and add to the stock. If possible plan to spatchcock the bird 24 hours ahead to allow time for brining which hugely enhances the flavour of the bird.

Note: The bone structure of a free range turkey is much more robust than that of an intensively reared bird so if this all seems too much to tackle, ask your butcher to spatchcock the turkey for you.

The night before, brine the turkey this is optional but it hugely enhances the flavour of the bird.

Brining

There are two options wet or dry brining, both give a good result but for this recipe I favour dry brining. Here’s how to do it…Lay the bird on a rimmed baking tray, sprinkle salt evenly over the entire surface from a height of about 6 inches. Slide it into the fridge or store in a cold place overnight. You may want to add some herbs and aromatics to the salt for extra flavour, maybe a little orange or lemon zest, a pinch of smoked paprika, freshly cracked black pepper, a little rosemary or thyme… Grind your chosen combination with the pure salt in a spice grinder.

Next day remove the turkey from the fridge and allow to dry off for 1 -2 hours. (Do not rinse or the skin will not crisp).

 

To Cook

Preheat the oven to 200°C /425°F. Lay the dry turkey, breast side upwards on a wire rack (pat dry with kitchen paper if necessary). Slather the entire surface of the turkey with soft butter, sprinkle with chopped rosemary. Slide into the preheated oven above another roasting tray containing 150mls water to catch the juices as a basis for your best ever gravy. Cook the turkey for 15 mins and then reduce the temperature to 180°C/350F and roast for 1 hour.

Remove the roasting tray of juices and replace it with the tray of chunky stuffing. Retain the delicious juices for making gravy, (you should have about a ½ pint). The remaining turkey juices will drip onto the stuffing and give it a delicious flavour. Stir the stuffing occasionally to incorporate the crusty bits from the edges.

Keep an eye on the turkey if the skin is browning too quickly you may want to cover it with a sheet of parchment paper.

After 1 ¾ – 2 hours, test for doneness, prick the thigh with the tip of a knife or a skewer, the juices should run clear. Remove the turkey from the oven, cover and allow to rest while you make the gravy (see below). If you have a thermometer it should read between 75°C/165F. Allow the stuffing to cook and crisp a little more, about 15 minutes.

 

To Carve

Heat a large serving platter. Spread the stuffing onto the base and keep warm. First remove the legs, separate the drumstick from the thigh, slice the thigh into 3 or 4 pieces down by the side of the thigh bone.

Remove the wings and divide into the three joints.

Remove both breasts and slice into thick slices cross wise and arrange on top of the stuffing on the hot serving dish.

Garnish with flat leaf parsley or thyme and serve with chosen accompaniments.

Gravy

1.2L (2 pints) homemade turkey or chicken stock

or 850ml (1½ pints) homemade turkey and chicken stock and 300ml (½ pint) cream (optional)

1 tablespoon rosemary, freshly chopped (optional)

Roux

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

 

 

Glazed Streaky or Loin of Bacon

Serves 12-15

 

4-5lbs (1.8-2.25kg) streaky or loin of bacon, either smoked or unsmoked 14ozs (400g) 1 small tin of pineapple -use 3-4 tablespoons  approx. of the juice

12oz (350g) brown Demerara sugar (not soft brown sugar)

whole cloves 20-30 approx.

Cover the bacon in cold water and bring slowly to the boil, if the bacon is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water, in this case it is preferable to discard this water. It may be necessary to change the water several times depending on how salty the bacon is, finally cover with hot water and simmer until almost cooked, allow 25-30 minutes approx. to the lb.  Remove the rind, cut the fat into a diamond pattern, and stud with cloves.  Blend brown sugar to a thick paste with a little pineapple juice, 3-4 tablespoons approx., be careful not to make it too liquid.  Spread this over the bacon.  Bake in a fully preheated hot oven 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9 for 20-30 minutes approx. or until the top has caramelized – baste the bacon 3-4 times during this time.  Remove to a carving dish.  Carve in thick slices lengthwise so each slice includes some of the eye of the loin and streaky bacon.

Note: We use loin of bacon off the bone.

 

Roasted Potatoes

There are two kinds of roast potatoes – those cooked on their own and those cooked around the joint of meat. The latter cook more slowly, don’t look quite so perfect but have a delicious soggy bottom rich with the flavour of the roast meat juices.

 

Old potatoes eg. Golden Wonder, Kerrs Pinks or Skerry Champions

salt

 

Peel the potatoes, if they are enormous cut in half or quarters, – don’t attempt to wash or worse still soak them in water or they will be wet and soapy when cooked. If you must prepare them ahead then put them into a bowl lined with damp kitchen paper. Cover the top with more wet paper and store in the fridge, they will keep perfectly well this way for several hours. Dry well otherwise they will stick to the tin and you’ll loose the lovely crusty bit on the base.

 

Tuck the potatoes around the roast in the roasting tin, toss them in the rendered fat, sprinkle with salt, baste and turn occasionally as they cook – they will take about an hour depending on the size. Cook lots and serve very hot.

 

A big roasting tin of crusty roast potatoes always invokes a positive response. Everyone loves them. They are easy to achieve but I still get asked over and over for the secret of crunchy golden roasties. So here are my top tips:

 

  • Grow or seek out good-quality dry, floury potatoes such as Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks. New potatoes do not produce good roast potatoes.
  • For best results, peel the potatoes just before roasting. Resist the temptation to soak them in water, or understandably they will be soggy, due to the water they absorb. This has become common practice when people want to prepare ahead, not just for roasting, but also before boiling.
  • After peeling, dry the potatoes meticulously with a tea-towel or kitchen paper. Otherwise, even when tossed in fat or oil, they will stick to the roasting tin. Consequently, when you turn them over as you will need to do halfway through the cooking, the crispy bit underneath will stick to the tin.
  • If you wish to prepare potatoes ahead, there are two options. Peel and dry each potato carefully, toss in extra virgin olive oil or fat of your choice, put into a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Alternatively, put into a plastic bag, twist the end, and refrigerate until needed. They will keep for 5 or 6 hours or overnight without discolouring.

 

Roast potatoes may be cooked in extra virgin olive oil, top-quality sunflower oil, duck fat, goose fat, pork fat (lard) or beef dripping. Each gives a delicious but different flavour. Depending on the flavour and texture you like, choose from the following cooking methods:

 

1       Toss the potatoes in the chosen fat and cook.

 

2       If you prefer a crunchier crust, put the peeled potatoes into a deep saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, simmer for 2–4 minutes only and drain. Dry each blanched potato and score the surface of each one with a fork. Then toss in the chosen oil or fat, season with salt and cook in a single layer in a heavy roasting pan in a preheated oven at 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8.

 

3       Drain the blanched potatoes, then put the saucepan with the potatoes inside over a medium heat, and shake the pot to dry the potatoes and fluff the blanched surface. Toss in your chosen oil or fat, season with salt and roast as above.

 

Celery in Parsley Sauce

Serves 4 – 6

How retro does this sound, but it’s so good with roast turkey and can be rustled up the day before. I sometimes add extra milk make this into a celery sauce – so delicious with a poached turkey or chicken.

1 head of celery

salt and freshly ground pepper

roux

120-175ml (4-6 fl.oz) cream or creamy milk

2 tablespoons chopped parsley plus extra for garnishing

 

Pull the stalks off the head of celery. If the outer stalks seems a bit tough, peel the strings off with a swivel top peeler or else use these tougher stalks in the stockpot. Cut the stalks into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks.

 

Bring 150ml (1/4 pint) of water to the boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the chopped celery, cook for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until a knife will go through with ease. Remove celery to a serving dish with a slotted spoon. Thicken the remaining liquid with the roux, add the enough whole milk or cream to make sufficient sauce to coat the celery add the chopped parsley. Allow to bubble for a few minutes, pour over celery, sprinkle with some extra parsley and serve.

Note:  Can be reheated successfully

 

 

Bread Sauce

 

I love Bread Sauce but if I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it – the recipe sounds so dull!  Serve with roast chicken, turkey and guinea fowl.

Serves

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) whole milk

75-110g (3 – 4oz) soft white breadcrumbs

2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 cloves

35 – 50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

75-110ml (3-4 fl oz) thick cream

2 good pinches of ground cloves

 

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

 

Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the onion and add the cream just before serving. Correct the seasoning and add a little more milk if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot.

 

Note: The bread sauce will keep in the fridge for several days – the remainder can be reheated gently – you may need to use a little more milk.

 

 

Spicy Cranberry Sauce

Make well ahead, cranberry sauce keeps for months and is also perfect to add to a Christmas hamper.

Serves 10-12

 

450g (1lb) sugar

225ml (8fl oz) water

125ml (4fl oz) wine vinegar

1/2 stick cinnamon

1 star anise

6 cloves

5cm (2inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

1 chilli, split and seeded

450g (1lb) cranberries

Lemon juice

 

Put all the spices, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and ginger into a tied muslin bag. Place the sugar, water, vinegar and spice bag in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the cranberries and simmer very gently until the cranberries become tender. Some will burst, that’s ok, add a little juice to taste.

 

Christmas Meringue Wreath with Frosted Verbena Leaves

A combination of our favouites, meringue, juicy pomegranate seeds, rosewater and frosted verbena.

Serves 10

 

Make the meringue with

5 egg whites, preferably free range

300g (10oz/1 1/4 cups) castor sugar

 

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) whipped cream

½ teaspoon or rose blossom water (optional)

pomegranate seeds (approx. half)

crystallised lemon verbena leaves (see recipe)

or

diamonds of angelica

 

parchment paper – with a circle of 25cm (10 inches) drawn underneath.

 

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Mark 2.

 

Make the meringue. Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease or any residue of detergent. Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and whisk in a food mixer until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.

 

Draw a circle of 25cm (10 inches) on the parchment paper.

 

Fill a couple of piping bags with the meringue, use either a large plain or large star nozzle. Pipe 10 large blobs of meringue side by side onto the circle to form a garland.

 

Bake immediately in a cool oven, fan 120°C /150°C/300°F/Mark 2 for 1 hour or 1 hour 10 mins or until crisp and the meringue will lift. Turn off the oven and allow to cool.

 

To serve, carefully slide the meringue off the parchment onto a large serving plate.

 

Spoon a generous blob of rosewater scented whipped cream on top of each meringue blob. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the cream. Decorate with crystallised lemon verbena leaves or diamonds of angelica and fresh mint sprigs.

 

Crystallized Lemon Verbena leaves

Flowers and leaves crystallized with sugar will keep for months, although they may lose their initial vibrant colour. This is what we call a high-stool job – definitely a labour of love and not something suited to an impatient, Type A personality. The end result is both beautiful and rewarding and many family and staff wedding cakes have been embellished with crystallized flowers over the years.
Flowers and leaves must be edible and are well worth doing.

 

Smaller flowers are more attractive when crystallized e.g. primroses, violets, apple blossom, viola’s, rose petals….We crystallize lots of leaves as well as flowers so one can make attractive arrangements.  Use fairly strong textured leaves – e.g. lemon verbena, mint, lemon balm, sweet cicely, wild strawberry, salad burnet or marguerite daisy leaves.
The caster sugar must be absolutely dry, one could dry it in a low oven for about 30 minutes approx.
Break up the egg white slightly in a little bowl with a fork. Using a child’s paintbrush, paint the egg white very carefully over each leaf or petal and into every crevice. Pour the caster sugar over the leaf or flower with a teaspoon. Arrange the crystallized leaves or flowers carefully on silicone paper so that they retain a good shape. Leave to dry overnight in a warm, dry place such as close to an Aga, over a radiator or in an airing cupboard. When properly crystallized, these leaves and flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a pottery jar or a tin box.

Use your local butcher….

We are so fortunate to still have over 400 family butchers in Ireland – many less than a number of decades ago but nonetheless we are the envy of many other countries, including the UK. Of those, 120 still have their own abattoirs which means they are in complete control of the whole process from choosing the animal in prime condition, to the humane slaughter, hanging and dry aging and the final skill of butchering. A few still have their own farms, so finish animals on their own land. In some family enterprises the skills have been passed down through the generations and it is heartening to see so many of the young people continuing the tradition.

However, they are facing a tidal wave of challenges in recent times not least the ‘below cost’ selling policies of several supermarket chains. I understand the supermarkets motive but I question the wisdom and the business ethics. Local butchers support family farms in a way that large corporations don’t, so are an essential part of the fabric of rural communities and an important element of food security.

The butchers challenge is to ‘up the bar’, and really tell the story of the breed, the feed, the provenance, the aging, the extra flavour and nutrients so customers understand and can taste the difference. Another unexpected challenge that is not about to go away any time soon, is the change in people’s eating habits for a variety of reasons.

The reality is that in the US, UK and many other countries an increasing number of people are eating less meat but better quality meat for health and environment reasons. Animal welfare and environmental concerns have contributed hugely to the increase in the number of people, particularly the millennials and teenagers, who are choosing to be vegetarians and vegans. All of these issues feed into the growing interest in a plant based diet.

For me, it’s enormously important to know where my food comes from and where it is produced so I urge people to develop a ‘relationship’ with their local butcher (not to be misunderstood)…. Ask questions about how to recognise superb meat and how to cook it.

There’s a huge increase in the sale of slow cookers, an immensely useful piece of kitchen kit that means one can make a wonderfully flavourful stew with less expensive cuts of meat.

Yet, another ongoing challenge is the expense of the growing regulatory burden some of which is out of proportion to the risk involved.

Look out for butchers who are making their own sausages and puddings and curing their own charcuterie.

Seek out black pudding made in the traditional way with fresh blood rather than imported dried blood from Belgium which produces an altogether different and less appealing product. The former is soft, succulent and slightly crumbly and a true gourmet product, part of our traditional food culture – delicious and super nutritious as well.

Many butchers are becoming more innovative, a development encouraged and highlighted by the Irish Craft Butchers Association Awards. See www.irishcraftbutchers.ie for details of award winners. Meanwhile lets seek out and actively support our local family butchers – as with everything else, “if we don’t use them we will lose them” and what a loss that would be.

Smoked Black Pudding, Charred Onions, Jerusalem Artichokes and Watercress

Serves 4

6 small onions

6 medium Jerusalem artichokes

18 pieces of smoked black pudding or traditional fresh black pudding

Bramley apple sauce (see recipe)

4flozs cream

1 tsp freshly grated horseradish (optional)

12 fresh watercress sprigs

Extra virgin olive oil

Forum Chardonnay vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 250C/450F. Slice the unpeeled onions lengthwise. Drizzle a little olive oil in a roasting tin. Lay the onions cut side down in a single layer in the tin, roast for 10-15mins until the onions are soft and the cut surface is charred.

Slice the well scrubbed Jerusalem artichokes into 3/4 cm rounds or lengthwise. Toss in extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and arrange in a single layer in another roasting tin, turn half way through and cook until tender and once again golden on each side.

Heat the Bramley apple sauce, stir in the cream bring to the boil and add the grated horseradish. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Cook the smoked black pudding gently in a little extra virgin olive oil or clarified butter on a frying pan over a medium heat.

To serve, toss the watercress springs in a little extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of Chardonnay vinegar.

Divide the watercress, hot roasted onions and Jerusalem artichokes between 4 plates. Lay 3 pieces of smoked black pudding and a generous drizzle of Bramley apple and horseradish sauce on top. Offer extra sauce as an accompaniment and serve immediately.

Bramley Apple Sauce

This recipe makes a generous quantity, save the remainder in your fridge to serve with roast duck, pork, sausages….

 

1 lb (450g) cooking apples, (Bramley Seedling)

1-2 dessertspoons water

2 ozs (50g) sugar approx. depending on tartness of the apples

 

Peel, quarter and core the apples, cut pieces in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast iron saucepan, with the sugar and water, cover and put over a low heat, as soon as the apple has broken down, stir and taste for sweetness.  Serve warm.

 

 

Beef and Oxtail Stew with Gremolata

 

Serves 6

 

In season: all year, but best in Autumn and Winter

 

Oxtail makes an extraordinary rich and flavoursome winter stew, considering how cheap it is. This is another humble dish, which has recently been resurrected by trendy chefs who are capitalizing on their customer’s nostalgic craving for their Gran’s cooking.

 

2 whole oxtails

450g(1lb) shin of beef or stewing beef (cut into 1 1/2 inch (4cm) cubes)

110g (4oz) streaky bacon
25g (1oz) beef dripping or 2 tablespoons olive oil
225g (8oz) finely chopped onion
225g (8oz) carrots, cut into 2cm (3/4 inch/2cm) cubes
55g (2oz) chopped celery
1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of thyme and parsley stalks
salt and freshly ground pepper
150ml (1/4 pint) red wine
450ml (3/4 pint) homemade beef stock or  600ml (1 pint) all beef stock                                                                                        170g (6oz) mushrooms (sliced)                                                                                     15g (1/2oz) roux (see recipe)                                                                                            2 tablespoons chopped parsley

 

First cut the oxtail into pieces through the natural joints – the joints are made of cartilage so you won’t need a saw.  If this seems like too much of a challenge, ask your butcher to disjoint the oxtail for you.

Cut the bacon into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes

Heat the dripping or olive oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and sauté for 1-2 minutes, add the vegetables, cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer into a casserole. Add the beef and oxtail pieces to the pan, a few at a time and continue to cook until the meat is beginning to brown.  Add to the casserole. Add the wine and a 1/4 pint of stock to the pan.  Bring to the boil and use a whisk to dissolve the caramelised meat juices form the pan, bring to the boil.  Add to the casserole with the herbs, stock and tomato puree. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook either on top of the stove or in a preheated oven 160°C/325°F/regulo3 very gently for 2-3 hours, or until the oxtail and vegetables are very tender.

Meanwhile cook the sliced mushrooms in a hot frying pan in a little butter for 2-3 minutes. Stir into the oxtail stew and cook for about 5 minutes. Transfer the beef and oxtail to a hot serving dish and keep warm. Remove and discard the bay leaves, thyme and parsley stalks.

Bring the liquid back the boil, whisk in a little roux and cook until slightly thickened. Add back in the meat and chopped parsley.  Bring to the boil, taste and correct the seasoning.  Serve in the hot serving dish with lots of champ or colcannon.

Sprinkle a little gremolata (see recipe below) over each portion of oxtail stew and serve.

Gremolata

Gremolata is a fresh tasting mix of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. We use it to sprinkle over roast or braised meats, pastas or anything pan-grilled – delicious!

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) preferably flat parsley, chopped

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped lemon zest

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and use soon.

 

Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic, Rosemary and Flageolet Beans

Lamb shanks are still relatively inexpensive and full of flavour. Cook them slowly until they are meltingly tender – a wonderful meal for a chilly day.

Serves 6

6 lamb shanks, 1 kg approx.

12 small sprigs of rosemary

12 slivers garlic

8 anchovy fillets, halved

salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Braising Ingredients

1oz (25g) goose fat or duck fat or olive oil

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

1 leek, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 head garlic, halved horizontally

7fl oz (200ml) bottle good red wine

5fl oz (150ml) chicken or lamb stock

1 sprig of thyme

2 sprigs of rosemary

2 bay leaves

2 strips of dried orange peel

 

Sauce

4 ozs (110g) streaky bacon, cut into lardons and blanched

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 carrot, finely diced

1/2 celery stalk, finely diced

1/2 onion, finely diced

6 cloves garlic

4 very ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1/2 x 14 oz tin of tomatoes + juice

2 sprigs of thyme

leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped

400g (1 x 14oz) tin flageolet beans, drained or 110-200G (4-7 ozs) dried flageolet beans, soaked overnight and then boiled rapidly for 20 minutes

 

Garnish

sprigs of rosemary and garlic

 

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas Mark 2.

 

Remove most of the fat from each shank, then scrape the meat away from the bone to loosen it. Make 2 deep incisions in each joint and insert a sprig of rosemary and a sliver of garlic wrapped in half an anchovy fillet into each incision. Season the meat with salt and black pepper. Heat the goose fat in a heavy sauté pan or casserole and sauté the meat in it until well browned on all sides. Remove the meat from the pan. Add the carrots, celery, leeks, onion and garlic and cook over a high heat until well browned. Add the red wine to the pan and bring to the boil, stir for a minute or two. Add the chicken stock, herbs and orange peel to the pan, then place the lamb shanks on top. Cover and cook in the oven for 4 hours.

 

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and brown the bacon in it. Then reduce the heat and add the carrot, celery, onion and garlic and cook for 8 minutes approx. or until the vegetables have softened. Add the chopped tinned tomatoes, herbs, flageolets and enough stock to half cover the beans. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes – 1 hour.

 

When the lamb has finished cooking, remove the thyme, bay leaves and orange peel. Taste and correct seasoning.

 

Serve the lamb shanks on a hot deep dish with the beans and vegetables poured over and around.  Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.

 

Braised Neck of Lamb with Gratin of Potatoes with Rosemary and Bay Leaves

 

The image of neck of lamb is not helped by it’s colloquial name ‘scrag end’ but don’t let that put you off, it is possibly the sweetest cut on the lamb – all those bones give extra flavour and juiciness.

 

Serves 9-10

 

3 whole or 6 half neck of lamb (scrag ends) on the bone

extra virgin olive oil or trimmed lamb fat

4 medium onions, quartered

2 large carrots, cut in chunks

1/2 head celery, coarsely chopped

6 bay leaves

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes, chopped or 1lb (450g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled

4 sprigs of rosemary

500ml (18fl oz) lamb stock or water

62ml (2 1/2fl oz) white wine

 

chopped parsley

 

Trim the excess fat off the necks. Cut into cubes, render out the liquid fat in a large sauté pan over a medium heat.

 

Season the lamb necks with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove the pieces of lamb fat and discard (alternatively you can use extra virgin olive oil).  On a high heat seal the meat for a couple of minutes on all sides turning until nicely browned.  Remove from the pan.  Add the coarsely chopped root vegetables, to the pan and toss and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.  Lay the lamb necks on top, add the herbs, white wine, chopped tomatoes, garlic and enough stock to come 2/3 of the way up the meat.

 

Bring to a simmer on top of the stove and then transfer into a preheated oven  250°C/500°F/Gas Mark 10, to start with and when it’s simmering gently, cover the lamb loosely with the lid or parchment paper.  Reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and cook until completely tender – 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat should be almost falling of the bones.

 

Cool and refrigerate until next day.

 

To Serve

Remove and discard the solidified fat and warm through uncovered in a hot oven. Taste and correct seasoning before serving.  Scatter with lots of chopped parsley.

 

Serve with Gratin of Potatoes with Rosemary and Bay Leaves (see recipe).

 

Gratin of Potatoes with Rosemary and Bay Leaves

 

Serves 4

 

about 300ml (10fl oz) each of single cream and milk

2 sprigs rosemary and a couple crushed bay leaves

4 medium sized potatoes (approximately 900g//2lbs), peeled and fairly thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

a gratin dish

butter for greasing

parchment paper

 

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

 

Put the milk and cream into a heavy saucepan, add the scrunched bay leaves, finely chopped rosemary and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bring to the shivery stage on a medium heat, turn off the heat and allow to infuse.

 

Meanwhile peel and slice the potatoes into a generous 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices approximately.  Rinse the potato well to remove some starch, add to the herby infused liquid with the crushed garlic.  Bring to the boil on top of the stove (to take the rawness away).

 

Then pour into a buttered gratin dish, cover with parchment paper.

 

Bake in the preheated oven for 45-60 minutes. Uncover and brown before serving in a hot oven or under the grill.

 

What’s in season this time of year?

Celeriac, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, swedes….

“It’s almost Winter now – what’s in season at this time of the year?” This question came from a busy young Mum who was panicking and at a loss to know what to cook for her family now that the Summer produce is finished – she was amazed when I rattled off all the root vegetables that are at their best at present. They’ll all be even better in a few weeks time when they have a few more nights of frost to sweeten them even further.

Citrus fruit are also at their most diverse from now on – everything from kumquats to pomelo and all the tangerines, mandarins, clementines, ugli fruit, bergamot… All packed with Vitamin C….Nature’s way to boost our resistance to Winter colds and flu.

We’ve still got lots of squash and pumpkins too. They last throughout the Winter as do the beautiful fluffy Bramley apples. Then there are all the kales, Raggedy Jack, Red Russian and Ethiopian Kale, Cavalo Nero and the humble Curly Kale, not to mention crunchy Savoy cabbage, floury Golden Wonders and Kerr’s Pink potatoes and tons of game.

By now her eyes were big as saucers so I started to tantalize her with some good things to cook with all that tempting produce…

Caramelized Carrot, Beetroot and Apple Salad with toasted sesame seeds

Serve as a salad not as an accompaniment.  A couple of bocconcini make this salad into a more substantial lunch.

Serves 6

600g young carrots, with a little green top

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

Extra Virgin olive oil

Honey

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

450g beetroot, cooked and peeled

1-2 dessert apples, unpeeled and coarsely grated or julienned

25g pumpkin or sesame seeds

Watercress, purslane and chickweed or a mixture of interesting leaves and ‘weeds’

 

Dressing:

2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

5 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons honey

Salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 230C/mark 8

Scrub the carrots, dry, split in half lengthwise, if too big.   Put into a large bowl, add the thyme leaves, drizzle with the olive oil and honey, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss gently to coat.

Spread out in a roasting tin.   As soon as you put the trays into the oven reduce the heat to 200C/mark 6.

Roast for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until the carrots are almost tender and caramelized at the ends and edges.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Just before serving, toast the pumpkin or sesame seeds on a dry pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, you’ll need to keep tossing them or they’ll burn on one side and become acrid and bitter.

Cut the cooked beetroot into wedges or chunks depending on size.

Make the dressing – Whisk the lemon juice, oils and honey together, add the thyme leaves, keep half the dressing aside.

Grate the apple on the coarse side of a box grater, directly into the rest of the dressing. Toss, taste and correct seasoning.

To serve:

Arrange a few sprigs of watercress, chickweed, and purslane on each plate.  Whisk the dressing.

Sprinkle over the carrot and beets.  Taste, it should be nice and perky.  Divide them between the plates.  Spoon some grated apple here and there, sprinkle with toasted seeds and serve with crusty bread.

 

Charred Cabbage with Katuobushi

Charred cabbage is a revelation…..who knew that cooking cabbage in this way could taste so delicious and lift a humble inexpensive vegetable into a whole new cheffy world. Lots of sauces and dressings work well with charred cabbage but I love this combination.  Katuobushi are shaved bonita flakes. Bonita is a type of tuna. Buy some – you’ll soon be addicted and find lots of ways to use them.

 

Serves 6

1 medium cabbage

1 tablespoon light olive oil or a neutral oil

50-110g (2–4ozs) butter

15-30g  (½ – 1ozs) Katuobushi flakes

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons for coarsely chopped fresh parsley

 

Trim the cabbage. Cut into quarters or sixths depending on the size.

Preheat the oven to 230°C /450°F/Gas Mark 4. Heat a cast iron pan, add a little oil, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay the cabbage wedges cut side down on the pan, cook on a medium heat until well seared on both cut surfaces. Add butter to the pan, when the butter melts and turns golden, spoon the ‘noisette’ butter over the cabbage several times. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, cover, transfer to the oven and continue to cook, basting regularly for about 10 minutes.

Test with a cake skewer or the tip of a knife close to the stalk to make sure its tender all the way through.

Add some Katuobushi flakes to the butter, baste again. Transfer to a serving platter or individual serving plates. Sprinkle some more Katuobushi flakes and a little coarsely chopped parsley over the top and serve immediately.

 

Golden Wonder and Scallion Champ

Serves 4-6

 

Golden Wonders are delicious floury potatoes, now in season. Check out your local Farmers Market and buy a bag. They keep excellently, remember to exclude the light when storing.

Champ is one of Ireland’s best loved traditional potato dishes.  A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions and a blob of butter melting in the centre is ‘comfort’ food at its best.

 

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders

110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem)

chopped chives

350ml (10-12fl oz) whole milk

50-110g (2-4oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets in well-salted water.

 

Meanwhile chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chives.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.

Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while still hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, beat in the butter

Serve in 1 large or 4-6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  Scallion champ may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with a lid or wet parchment paper while it reheats, so that it doesn’t get a skin.

 

Kale Crisps

Kale is still the coolest thing, it’s all over the place, on restaurant menus, in Farmers Markets, even on supermarket shelves – kale crisps are the snack of the moment. I’m not complaining I love kale and it’s super nutritious, we grow four varieties here at the school – Red Russian, Asparagus Kale, Curly Kale and Raggedy Jack.  I find curly kale best for this recipe.

 

Makes lots

250g (9oz) curly kale

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

salt, a little sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.

 

Strip the leaves off the kale, tear in large bite sized bits, approximately 5 x 5cm (2 x 2 inch) and put in a bowl.  Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, a little salt and sugar, toss and spread out in a single layer on two baking trays.

 

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or so until crisp.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and crisp further.  Enjoy.

 

 

Black Bean, Pumpkin and Chick Pea Stew

One of the very best one pot dishes, what’s not to like about black beans, chick peas and pumpkin with lots of spices.

Serves 8

 

225g dried black beans

225g dried chick peas

225g fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick

150g onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped

450-700g pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed 2cm

400g fresh or tinned tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

pinch of sugar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 good teaspoon salt (it needs it, so don’t cut down)

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander (fresh parsley may be substituted though the flavour is not at all the same)

 

Mint Yoghurt

300ml natural yoghurt

2 tablespoon fresh mint leaves

 

25cm round casserole dish

 

Soak the beans and chick peas separately, in plenty of cold water overnight.  Next day cover each with fresh water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 – 45 minutes approx or until just cooked. Reserve 150mls of the cooking liquid for later in the recipe.

 

Cut the mushrooms into 3 mm thick slices.  Heat the oil in a sauté pan over a medium-high flame.  When hot, put in the whole cumin seeds and the cinnamon stick.  Let them sizzle for 5-6 seconds.  Now put in the onions and garlic.  Stir and fry until the onion is just beginning to colour at the edge.  Put in the mushrooms.  Stir and fry until the mushrooms wilt.  Now put in the pumpkin or squash, tomatoes, ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, pinch of sugar and cayenne.  Stir and cook for a minute.  Cover, and let this mixture cook on a gentle heat in its own juices for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat under the sauté pan.  Drain the beans and chick peas, reserving the cooking liquid.  Add to the mushroom base mixture, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, 2 tablespoons of the fresh coriander and 150ml of bean cooking liquid OR 150ml chick pea liquid.

Bring the beans and chick peas back to the boil again.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes or until the beans and chick peas and pumpkin or squash are tender.  Stir occasionally.  Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.  Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of fresh coriander and mint.

Serve with mint yoghurt, steamed rice and a good green salad.

 

Scary Green Juice

I’m addicted to this ‘scary green juice’, super nutritious and insanely delicious.

Makes 450ml (15fl oz/scant 2 cups)

 

40g (1 1/2oz) curly kale, weigh after stalks are removed

10g (1/2oz) coriander leaves

10g (1/2oz) flat parsley

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon +1 teaspoon) honey

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) apple juice

 

Whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor or Nutribullet. Serve over ice in a tall glass.

Kylie Magner’s Free Range Eggs

Kylie Magner grew up on a mixed farm in South East Australia where she developed her love of the land and animals. There were always chores to do through challenging times and good times.

At a recent Slow Food event here at the Cookery School, Kylie recounted the story of her arrival in Ireland where she immediately felt at home. She met her husband Billy at Coolmore Stud where she worked her way up to Media Director. The couple now have four children and live on Magners Farm in Moyglass near Fethard. Kylie wanted to pass on the love of the land and farming that she inherited from her parents in New South Wales to her children …..

Kylie racked her brains to find a way to earn a living on their small farm in Tipperary. Free range egg production seemed a good solution, after all eggs are a fantastically versatile and nourishing food, enjoyed by most people. Below is a selection of some simple and delicious recipes to whip up should you have a few eggs in your pantry.

For Kylie, chickens seemed relatively inexpensive to get started with, they would generate fast cash flow and have the environmental advantage of a lighter foot print on the land than cattle.

Magner’s hens are truly free range and are moved to fresh, green pasture every week, sometimes every day. Kylie believes that chickens should be allowed the freedom to act naturally.

When a hen is fed on a diet closer to their natural omnivorous state, the nutrition of the egg improves significantly. This results in a flavourful, nutrient dense product and the manure they produce enhances the fertility of the soil.

Eggs from hens raised on pasture can contain: 1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat, 2⁄3 more vitamin A,  2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta carotene and 4-6 times more vitamin D.

This is because they consume a more natural diet including seeds, worms, insects & green plants plus a lot of sunshine.

The colour, flavour and texture of pasture raised eggs is distinctive. They contain Vitamins A, D, E, K2, B-12, folate, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, beta carotene, choline, and tons of omega 3 fatty acids, including DHA, EPA, ALA, and AA.

A pasture-raised egg is a true ‘superfood’. Second only to the lactalbumin, protein in human mother’s milk, eggs have the highest quality protein of any food.

A little over one year later, Magners Farm now have over 600 laying hens, but yet they can scarcely keep up with the demand for their eggs.

Last Winter they had a 96% laying rate so pasture reared hens are clearly happy…..

Magners Eggs sell at local Farmers’ Markets at €5.00 per dozen

Last Summer, they produced 250 free range chickens for the table, using the same high welfare principles.

Kylie has now started another project making chicken bone broth, available in glass jars €5.50 see www.magnersfarm.com

Plans for the future ……This is a sustainable model of farming, Kylie would love to see more pasture raised chickens around the country, generating income for farmers and improving the land at the same time. The country needs more people like Kylie, with a commitment to sustainability and to producing nourishing wholesome food.

 

Freshly Boiled Eggs and Soldiers

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

 

2 fresh free range organic eggs

salt and freshly ground pepper

a few pats of butter

1 slice of fresh best quality white loaf bread

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

 

Meanwhile toast the bread, cut off the crusts and spread with butter. Cut in fingers. Immediately when the eggs are cooked, pop them into egg cups, put the ‘dippies’ on the side and serve with a pepper mill, sea salt and a few pats of butter.

 

Boiled Eggs with Marmite

Spread the hot buttered toast with Marmite and cut, dip and enjoy.

 

 

Stir-fried Eggs with Garlic Chives and Shrimps

I’ve been to China several times recently, this is a favourite Cantonese family recipe.

If Chinese garlic chives are not available use common chives but less. I use the deliciously sweet pink shrimp from Ballycotton on the South coast of Ireland.

Wild garlic or ramps are of course wonderful to use while they are in season in spring.

 

Serves 2-4

40-50g Chinese chives (garlic chives – allium tuberosum)

4 organic eggs

1 tablespoon milk

110g cooked, little Ballycotton shrimps, peeled

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon peeled ginger, freshly grated

 

Garlic chive flowers

 

Accompaniment

Soy sauce

Slice the Chinese chives into 2cm lengths.

Whisk the eggs with the milk, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok until almost smoking.

Add the shrimps, toss for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to toss for a further minute or so. Add the garlic chives, toss once or twice and turn out onto a plate.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok, allow to heat again. Add the beaten egg and cook, stirring with a straight ended wooden spoon until the egg starts to scramble and form soft folds. Add the shrimp mixture, stir for a minute or two. Taste and correct the seasoning. Turn out onto a serving plate, scatter with a few fresh garlic chive flowers if in season and share while still warm.

Serve with soy sauce

 

 

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 4

4.5 litres (8 pints) water to 1-2 tablespoons salt

450g (1lb) spaghetti

 

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

200g (7oz) thick sliced smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, cut into strips 1 cm (1/2 inch) wide

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3-4 free range eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley

90g (3 oz) freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)

1-2 tablespoons flat parsley, freshly chopped to serve

 

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until ‘al dente’.  Drain well.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat.  Add the smokey bacon or pancetta and cook, stirring frequently for 5-6 minutes, until coloured and slightly crispy.  Add the black pepper and cook for another minute.  Add the spaghetti and toss with the smokey bacon or pancetta and oil until warmed through.

Combine the eggs, crème fraîche and parsley and add to the pan.  Remove from the heat and stir constantly for 1 minute to allow the heat from the oil and spaghetti to cook the eggs.  Stir in three-quarters of the freshly grated Parmesan.

Transfer the hot pasta to a large shallow bowl and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and freshly chopped parsley.

 

Spinach, Feta and Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Frittata

The basic frittata recipe here can be used as a basis for many herbs and vegetables in season, we love this autumn version.
We use blobs of Ardsallagh goat cheese in this recipe if we don’t have feta.

Serves 8

 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

500g (18oz) sweet potato or pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1cm dice

 

10 large eggs, preferably free range organic

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons marjoram, chopped

2 tablespoons curly parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

150g (5oz) fresh spinach, shredded into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice (weight 380g (13 1/4oz) before de-stalking)

75g (3oz) Gruyére cheese, grated

25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated

 

200g (7oz) feta or fresh goats’ cheese

25g (1oz) butter

 

To serve:

Rocket leaves

30g (1 1/4oz) toasted Italian pine kernels or cashew nuts

extra virgin olive oil

 

Non-stick pan – 22.5cm (8 1/2 inch) frying pan

 

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

Put the sweet potato or pumpkin dice onto a small oven tray, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with half teaspoon flaky sea salt (the feta cheese will be salty so don’t overdo the salt), and lots of freshly cracked pepper, stir and cook in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes or until cooked and tender. Remove from the oven.

 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, shredded spinach and grated cheese into the eggs.  Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs.  Sprinkle the roast pumpkin evenly over the surface, dot with feta or goat cheese, press in gently.  Cook for 3-4 minutes over a low heat.

Transfer to the middle shelf of the pre-heated oven and cook for 25-30 minutes.  Flash under the grill for a couple of minutes if colour is needed.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

 

To Serve

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

Arrange some rocket leaves on top of the frittata, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and scatter with toasted pine kernels or coarsely chopped cashews, and a few flakes of sea salt.

 

Breakfast Quiche

Serves 6

 

1 x quantity Shortcrust Pastry (see recipe)

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

175g 6oz) streaky bacon cut into 1cm (1/2in) lardons

100g (4oz) chopped onions

3 eggs and 2 egg yolks

300ml (1/2 pint) double cream

1 scant tablespoon chopped parsley

1 scant tablespoon chopped chives

110g (4oz) Gruyère cheese, grated

salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

23cm (9 inch) diameter baking tin

 

Basic Shortcrust Pastry

 

6 ozs (175g) white flour, spelt or sieved wholemeal flour

3 ozs (75g) butter

pinch of salt

beaten egg or water (to bind)

 

Sieve the flour with the salt, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt, the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop. Whisk the egg or egg yolk and add some water. Take a fork or knife, (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult -to-handle pastry will give a crispier shorter crust.

Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.

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

Line the tart tin and ‘bake blind’ for about 25 minutes. The base should be almost fully cooked.  Remove the parchment paper and beans, brush the base with a little beaten egg white and replace in the oven for 3-4 minutes.  This will seal the base and avoid the “soggy bottom” effect.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and cook the bacon over a medium heat until crisp. Remove to a plate and cool. Add the chopped onions to the pan and sweat gently on a low heat in the same oil for a further 10 minutes – covered.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a medium-sized bowl, add the cream, herbs, cheese and cool bacon and onions. Mix well and add seasoning. Taste or otherwise, heat a frying pan, cook a teaspoon of the mixture on a gentle heat for 2 or 3 minutes until it coagulates – taste and if necessary correct the seasoning.

Pour the filling into the pastry base and return to the oven for 30–40 minutes or until the centre has just set. Serve warm with a green salad and relish.

 

Classic Omelette with Chanterelle Mushrooms

Serves 1

An omelette is the ultimate instant food but many a travesty is served in its name. The whole secret is to have the pan hot enough and to use clarified butter if at all possible. Ordinary butter will burn if your pan is as hot as it ought to be. The omelette should be made in half the time it takes to read this introduction, your first, may not be a joy to behold but persevere, practice makes perfect!

 

2 eggs, preferably free range and organic

1 dessertspoon water or milk

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 dessertspoon clarified butter or olive oil

 

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

 

First make the mushroom a la crème below, the recipe makes plenty but will keep in your fridge for 4-5 days.

To make the omelette, warm a plate in the oven.  Heat the omelette pan over a high heat.  Meanwhile whisk the eggs with the water or milk in a bowl, until thoroughly mixed but not too fluffy. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the warm plate beside the cooker.

 

Add the clarified butter to the pan, as soon as it sizzles, pour in the egg mixture. It will start to cook immediately so quickly pull the edges of the omelette towards the centre with a metal or plastic slice, tilting the pan so that the uncooked egg runs to the sides. Continue until most of the egg is set and will not run any more, the omelette may need to cook for a further 5 seconds to brown the bottom.  The centre should still be soft and moist.  If you are using a filling, spoon the hot mixture in a line along the centre at this point.

 

Wild Mushroom a la Crème

(use Autumn Chanterelle this time of year)

Mushroom à la crème is a fantastic all-purpose recipe, and if you’ve got a surplus of wild mushrooms, use those instead of cultivated ones. You can even use dried mushrooms.

Serves 8

 

50g (2oz) butter

175g (6oz) onion, finely chopped

450g (1lb) wild mushrooms (chanterelles, morels, ceps, false chanterelles or the common field mushroom), sliced

salt and freshly ground pepper

good squeeze of lemon juice

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) cream

freshly chopped parsley

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)

 

Melt half the butter in a heavy saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onion, cover and sweat over a gentle heat for 5–10 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured; remove the onions to a bowl.

 

Meanwhile cook the sliced mushrooms in a hot frying pan in the remaining butter, in batches if necessary. Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning, and add the chopped herbs.

To fold the omelette: Add a generous spoonful of your mushroom a la crème. Flip the edge just below the handle of the pan into the centre, then hold the pan almost perpendicular over the plate so that the omelette will flip over again, then half roll half slide the omelette onto the plate so that it lands folded into three. (It should not take more than 30 seconds in all to make the omelette, perhaps 45 if you are adding a filling). Serve immediately.

Our Eating Habits Are Changing….

Our eating habits have changed drastically in the last few decades. One in eight Britons are now vegetarian or vegan according to a recent report on food shopping. A further 21% claim to be flexitarian eating a predominantly ‘plant based’ diet, occasionally supplemented with a little meat or fish. That amounts to a staggering one third of UK consumers that have reduced or removed meat entirely from their diet. This rapid and dramatic change is being fuelled by the perception that farm animals are one of the major contributors to CO2 emissions… However it is important to realise that those statistics were based on ‘feed lot’ systems rather than grass fed or pasture raised cattle.

Animal welfare issues are high on the list of concerns that have swayed the 18-34 year olds. This age group particularly are becoming much more curious and concerned about how their food is being produced.

Many have lost trust in multinational food companies, supermarkets, governments and the health service. They are confused by food labelling and are becoming more and more desperate as food allergies and intolerances grow exponentially. Consumers are demonstrating increasing concern about the impact of our food choices and behaviour on the environment.

The focus on the effect of plastic on our oceans (see BBC’s, Blue Planet 2) and the fact that up to 9 different types of plastics were found in human stools in a recent study conducted by the Environment Agency Austria, has shocked people into action.

We want our governments to legislate for less plastic packaging and we want our supermarkets to be proactive about reducing plastic.

For the first time this year The Good Food Guide highlighted restaurants with vegan menus. The UK supermarket group Waitrose, have created vegan sections in 134 of their stores and launched a range of more than 40 vegan and vegetarian meals. This is not going to change anytime soon. My gut feeling is that a plant based diet with lots of fresh organic vegetables, fresh herbs and grains, organic eggs, dairy and some meat and fish is the best for humans, animals and the planet.

In the sage words of Michael Pollan, “Eat food, mostly plants and not too much”.

Virtually every week in this column I include vegetarian and vegan dishes without necessarily highlighting the fact but from now on I will – but do go out of your way to find chemical free food and if you’ve decided to follow a vegan diet you’ll need to source even more nutrient dense foods and supplement with B12 which cannot be sourced from plants.

Vegetable and Tofu Curry

You’ll love this curry, even ardent curry haters can’t get enough of this deliciously spiced dish.  It’s also an excellent base for lots of beans and pulses.

Serves 4 -6

 

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 – 2 chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped

zest of 1 organic lemon or 2 limes

110g coriander leaves and stalks (coarsely chopped)

60g cashew nuts, toasted and roughly chopped

1 ½ tablespoon grated ginger

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 teaspoons roasted and ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 x 400 ml tin of coconut milk

400ml homemade vegetable stock

500g pumpkin or sweet potato, diced 2cm approx

225g firm tofu, diced 2cm approx

225g French beans, green or a mixture of green and yellow

1 small cauliflower, approx. 350g in small florets

 

lots of coarsely chopped coriander

lemon or lime wedges

 

Whizz the garlic, chilli, citrus zest, roughly chopped coriander leaves and stalks, cashew nuts, ginger, turmeric, cumin and salt to a puree in a food processor.

 

Heat 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add the pureé, stir and cook for 3 – 4 minutes.

 

Add the whisked coconut milk and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 8 – 10 minutes. Add the chunks of sweet potato or pumpkin or a mixture, return to the boil cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

 

Add the beans, cauliflower florets and tofu chunks, bring back to the boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, add the vegetables and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through.

Add a little lemon or lime juice if possible.

Taste and tweak the seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle with lots of coarsely chopped coriander and serve with lime or lemon wedges.

Curried Lentils with Rice

Another comforting pot, a sort of cross between a dahl and a stew – one of my favourite supper dishes.  Omit the yoghurt for a vegan version.

 

Serves 6

 

200g Lentils du Puy or brown lentils

600ml water

Dry Spice Masala

1 teaspoon cardamom pods

6 cloves

3 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 bay leaves

1/2 cinnamon stick about 4cm

 

Wet Masala

30g fresh ginger, peeled

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1-2 chillies, destalked, seeded and chopped coarsely

1 onion (175 – 225g), peeled and chopped coarsely

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

sugar

4 tablespoons natural yoghurt

lots of fresh coriander

 

Garnish

sprigs of coriander

Plain Boiled Rice

 

Put the lentils into a saucepan, cover with 1.2 litres cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until just tender.

 

Meanwhile, make the dry spice masala.

Remove the seeds from the cardamom and discard the pods.  Put onto a frying pan with the cloves and cumin seeds.  Toast over a medium heat for 30 seconds to a minute, shaking the pan so they don’t scorch.  Transfer to a spice grinder and whizz to a coarse powder.  Transfer to a bowl, add the turmeric, bay leaves and cinnamon stick.

 

Next make the wet masala.

Put the ginger, garlic, chilli, onion and salt into a food processor.  Whizz to a smooth paste.  Heat the sauté pan, add the olive oil, when hot, add the wet masala, cook stirring over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add the dry masala and chopped tomatoes, season generously with sugar.  Continue to cook, stirring regularly for 3-5 minutes or until the oil rises to the top.

 

Add the drained lentils (reserve the cooking water).  Stir and allow to bubble for 3-4 minutes to meld the flavour.  Add some of the lentil water to loosen if necessary.

 

To Serve

Stir in the yoghurt (if using) and lots of coriander, taste and correct the seasoning.

Garnish with some coriander sprigs.  Serve with basmati rice and enjoy.

 

Burmese Pennywort Salad

Serves 4

175g pennywort

2-3 shallots, sliced and soaked in ice cold water

2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Oil

Shallot oil

1 tablespoon crushed peanuts

1 large or 2 small tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoons fermented bean paste

3 tablespoons fried shallots

Fish sauce or salt

 

Wash and dry the pennywort leaves.

Slice the garlic paper thin and allow it to dry on kitchen paper.

Heat some peanut oil in a frying pan and cook on a medium heat until crisp and golden.

Drain on kitchen paper.

Put the pennywort onto a plate.  Sprinkle the garlic and shallot oil over the top, then the freshly squeezed lime juice, fermented bean paste, fish sauce, thinly sliced tomato and sesame seeds.

Toss and mix with your clean fingers as the Burmese do.  Add most of the fried shallots and half the peanuts.   Toss again.  Taste, correct seasoning.

Divide between 4 plates, sprinkle with the remainder of the fried shallots and peanuts.

Serve immediately, each salad is made to order.

 

Sri Lankan Beetroot Curry

Serves 4

2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

50g (1¾oz) red onion, chopped

5 Curry leaves

8cm (3inch) piece of cinnamon stick

500g (1lb 2oz) beetroot, peeled and cut into 4cm (1½in) cubes

1½ teaspoon untoasted curry powder

10 fenugreek seeds

5 green chillies

225ml (8fl.oz) coconut milk, whisked

Salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Put oil in a deep frying pan over a medium heat, add the chopped garlic, onion, curry leaves, curry powder and cinnamon to the pan, stir and cook for 2 minutes.   Then add the beetroot, stir and add the fenugreek seeds,  chillies and some salt.   Bring to the boil, add the coconut milk, and continue to cook for about 20 minutes or until the beetroot is tender.  Season to taste.

 

Myrtle Allen’s Poached Pears

A super simple recipe that transforms the flavour of even nondescript pears. Another inspired recipe from Myrle Allen’s The Ballymaloe Cookbook, published in 1977. Maybe double the recipe, they will keep for weeks in a Kilner jar in your fridge.

 

6 Pears

1 Lemon

4 ozs (110g/2 cup) sugar

 

Peel the pears thinly and core carefully.  Keep whole or cut in half if you choose, keeping a good shape.  Put them in a pan which will just fit them nicely.  Add the sugar, a few thin strips of lemon rind and the juice of the lemon.  Cover with a well fitting lid and cook gently until soft.  Cool and serve.  Dessert apples may be cooked like pears.

Note: Pears may also be poached in a light syrup of 2 parts water to 1 part vanilla sugar with a couple strips of lemon peel.

(Use 1 pint of water to 2 lb sugar)

 

 

 

Jerusalem Artichokes

Ted Dinan, Professor of Psychiatry at UCC and I shared a platform at the Science Foundation of Ireland and IIBN event at the River Lee Hotel recently.

Professor Dinan spoke about the ground breaking research he and his colleagues in UCC have done on the link between our physical and mental health and our gut biome. Given the conclusions of this research project and the indisputable link between the health of our gut biome and several autoimmune diseases including depression, there were many questions from the floor on how to enhance our gut flora…

Was there not a quick fix, a magic pill or supplement to fast track a solution? Professor Dinan stressed that very few of the nutritional and health claims on supplements could actually be substantiated.

Our food can and should be our medicine – we need a biodiverse diet to feed the approximately1.5 kilos of beneficial bacteria in our gut (equivalent to the weight of our brain).

Having observed students from all over the world responding positively to a diet of fresh naturally produced seasonal food over more than four decades, Ted’s scientific research confirms my ‘gut feeling’…pardon the pun!

It’s clear, we need to ditch fake food and eat lots of real food, not ‘edible food like substances’.

There are several hugely beneficial foods that we can consume to enhance our gut flora, but we both agree that Jerusalem Artichokes (sunchokes in the USA), top the list…. They have the highest inulin content of any vegetable, which promotes beneficial bacteria in the gut biome. By coincidence, Jerusalem artichokes are coming into season right now and will continue to be available until late February or early March.

The freshly dug Jerusalem artichokes I brought with me to show the audience were eagerly snapped up. Many people had never heard of them before and really wanted to know how to cook them. I explained that they are a prolific winter root vegetable, super easy to grow. In fact given half the chance they spread like crazy…Where you plant just one tuber in Spring, there will be at least ten for you to harvest next year.

Meanwhile seek them out at Farmers Markets from now on. They look like knobbly potatoes but when they are freshly dug there is no need to peel. Jerusalem artichokes are nutty, sweet and crunchy and are also an excellent source of iron.

They are super versatile and can be cooked in a myriad of ways just like potatoes and parsnips, they make delicious winter soups and gorgeous gratins. Add them to stews, or sliver them to cook as artichoke crisps. They roast deliciously whole or in slices and are hugely appealing added to salads. I love them gently stewed or tucked around a casserole roast chicken or pheasant so they absorb all the delicious juices.

Despite what the name implies, they are not in any way related to the globe artichoke although the flavour resembles the fleshy heart.

Jerusalem artichokes are actually from the sunflower family, the name may well have been derived from the Italian word ‘girasole’. Our children love them, their knobbly appearance provides lots of fun identifying little monsters.

Some modern varieties are less knobbly and thus easier to peel but in my experience have an inferior flavour. By the way, the cheery yellow flowers are edible too.

 

Good to know…

Jerusalem Artichokes, like Globe Artichoke hearts, oxidise within minutes if exposed to the air, so they need to be dropped into a bowl or acidulated water as soon as they are peeled. They also earn their nick name ‘fartichokes’ but that is just proof that they are doing a good job for your gut biome…

They store for weeks in a cold dark place – forgot to mention that Jerusalem Artichokes contain more protein than most root vegetables, a big plus for vegetarians and vegans.

 

 

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Chorizo Crumbs and Artichoke Crisps

Serves 8-10

50g (2oz) butter

560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped

1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) creamy milk approx.

 

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

 

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with Chorizo Crumbs and Artichoke Crisps.

Note

This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required.

Chorizo Crumbs

Makes 175g (6oz)

 

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

125g (4 1/2oz) chorizo, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice

100g (3 1/2oz) coarse breadcrumbs

 

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

 

Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden.  Drain and add to the chorizo.

 

Artichoke Crisps

Serves 6 – 8

3-4 Jerusalem artichokes

sunflower or arachide oil

salt

 

Heat good quality oil in a deep fryer to 150C.

Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes well, slice in wafer thin rounds. Drop a few at a time into the hot oil, they colour and crisp up very quickly.  Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt.

 

Venison and Jerusalem Artichoke Stew

Shoulder of lamb also works excellently in this recipe.

Serves 6

900g (2lbs) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

250g (9oz) onions, sliced or roughly chopped

250g (9oz) leeks, sliced

3 cloves garlic

500g (18oz) artichokes, peeled and sliced crossways into 1cm (1/2 inch)

500g (18oz) carrots, peeled and sliced crossways into 1cm (1/2 inch)

1 teaspoon salt

900g (2lbs) venison or lamb shoulder cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) venison, lamb or chicken stock

1 sprig of thyme

To Serve

Gremolata (see recipe)

Season 900g (2lbs) potato cubes well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and crushed garlic, toss and add the carrots and Jerusalem artichokes.  Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes until just beginning to colour at the edges.  Transfer to a casserole.  Add the venison or lamb and toss in batches over a high heat.  Add to the casserole with the stock and the sprigs of thyme and rosemary.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the diced potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook for 15-30 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are cooked (lamb cooks faster than venison). Remove the thyme and parsley.  Taste and correct the seasoning and sprinkle with gremolata or just chopped parsley.

 

Gremolata

Gremolata is a fresh tasting mix of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. We use it to sprinkle over roast or braised meats, pastas or anything pan-grilled – delicious!

 

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) preferably flat parsley, chopped

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped lemon zest

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

 

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and use soon.

 

Casserole Roast Pheasant with Jerusalem Artichokes

Pheasant adore Jerusalem artichokes, most of the large estates plant a patch specially as a treat for them.  It seemed logical to cook them together, and indeed it turns out to be a very good marriage of flavours.  Casserole roasting, the cooking method used here is a particularly good way to cook pheasant especially if it’s not in the first flush of youth.

Chicken or guinea fowl may also be cooked in this manner.

 

1 plump pheasant

25g (1oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

900g (2lb) Jerusalem artichokes

 

Garnish

chopped parsley or flat parsley sprigs

 

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.

 

Smear a little butter on the breast of the pheasant and brown it in the casserole over a gentle heat.  Meanwhile, peel and slice the artichokes into 1cm/½ inch pieces, remove the pheasant.  Add a little butter to the casserole toss the Jerusalem artichoke slices in the butter.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle maybe a tablespoon of water over the top.  Then replace the pheasant tucking it right down into the sliced artichokes so they come up around the sides of the pheasant.  Cover with a butter wrapper and the lid of the saucepan.

Cook for a further 1-1¼ hours.

Remove the pheasant as soon as it is cooked, strain and de-grease the cooking liquid if there is need but usually there’s virtually no fat on it.  The juices of the pheasant will have flavoured the artichokes deliciously.  Arrange the artichokes on a hot serving dish, carve the pheasant into 4 portions and arrange on top.

 

The artichokes always break up a little – that is their nature.  Spoon some juices over the pheasant and artichokes and serve scattered with chopped parsley or flat parsley sprigs.

Roast Jerusalem Artichokes (Slices)

This is a totally brilliant way to cook Jerusalem artichokes, great as a vegetable accompaniment of course, but also super delicious in warm salads or starters.

Serves 4 to 6

 

450g (1 lb) Jerusalem artichokes, well scrubbed.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

a few rosemary or thyme sprigs, optional

 

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

 

Slice the well scrubbed artichokes into 7mm (1/3 inch) rounds. Toss the Jerusalem artichokes with the extra virgin olive oil.  Season well with salt.  Arrange in a single layer on silicone paper on a roasting tin.  Roast for 10 minutes or until golden on one side then flip over and cook on the other side.   Test with the tip of a knife – they should be tender.  One could sprinkle with a little thyme or rosemary but they are perfectly delicious without any further embellishment. Season with freshly ground pepper and serve.

Food Scene in Rural Ireland

Super excited to have three new Michelin Star restaurants in County Cork, The Mews in Baltimore, West Cork under Chef Ahmet Dede, Ichigo Ichie in Cork City owned by Chef Takashi Miyazaki and Chestnut in Ballydehob with Chef Rob Krawczyk (a Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni). It focuses attention on the culinary scene outside the capital and hugely boosts the confidence of the many young chefs who are working tirelessly to raise standards in a time of tiny profit margins on food.

In the midst of all the euphoria came the budget and the reintroduction of the 13.5% VAT rate on restaurants, a whopping 4.5% increase from the 9% rate that enabled many, but not all to survive the recession. The hotel and restaurant scene in the capital is booming and profitable overall. The food scene in most of rural Ireland is quite a different scenario, the tourist season can be as short as 10 – 12 weeks. Many restaurants are just beginning to recover, from the crippling recession, starting to reinvest and were hoping to start a ‘rainy day fund’ to prepare for the inevitable next downturn which may not be too far away….

It’s all very disheartening….. To maintain standards, continue to pay staff and local food producers, prices will have to increase significantly to enable restaurants to even stand still – a 2% increase was anticipated – 4.5% has totally knocked the ‘wind out of the sails’ of an industry that does so much to create employment, put Ireland on the global food map and boost tourism. I’m truly saddened and apprehensive – this can only result in dumbing down of standards, loss of jobs and closures – I so hope I’m wrong…

Back to our home kitchens and let’s cook up some comforting food to cheer us up and ‘warm the cockles of our hearts’ as Autumn settles in. What better than a delicious pot of stew. Here are two of my current favourites. Lamb with a pearl barley risotto and gremolata and the other a veggie feast, spicy pumpkin or squash and coconut curry.

Must give a shout out to the recently published Currabinny Cookbook by super enthusiastic young foodies James Kavanagh and William Murray (ex Ballymaloe Cookery School). The book exudes a love of food and their mission to encourage other cool young people like themselves (they have a huge fan base on social media), to discover the joy and larks to be had around the kitchen stove, doing pop-ups, selling at Farmers Markets and sharing the yummy food they’ve cooked with friends.

Lots of good things to explore inside the covers of the Currabinny Cookbook (love the graphics too). I’ve chosen Parsnip and Fennel Soup with Macroom Brown Soda Bread, Ruby Chard Korma, and Lemon and Lavender Cake to tempt you to whizz out to buy the book published by Penguin Ireland.

Lamb Stew with Pearl Barley Pilaff and Fresh Herb Gremolata 

 

Serves 4-6

For the Stew

1.8kg (4lb) gigot or rack chops from the shoulder of lamb not less than 2.5cm (1 inch thick)

350g (12oz) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)

seasoned white flour, preferably unbleached

a little butter or oil for sautéing

450g (1lb) onions, (baby ones are nicest)

30g (12oz) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced

750ml (1 3/4 pints) approx. lamb or chicken stock

sprig of thyme

roux – optional, mushroom a la crème (optional)

For the Pilaff

25g (1oz/1/4 stick) butter

450g (1lb) pearl barley

3 pints lamb stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

350g (12oz) mushrooms, finely diced

450g (1lb) shallots, peeled and quartered

Gremolata

Gremolata is a fresh tasting mix of chopped herbs, garlic and lemon zest. We use it to sprinkle over roast or braised meats, pastas or anything pan-grilled – delicious!

 

4 mixture of flat parsley, chervil and mint, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped lemon zest

flaky salt to taste

First make the stew.

Cut the rind off bacon and cut into approx. 1/2 inch (1cm) cubes blanch if salty and dry in kitchen paper. Divide the lamb into 8 pieces and roll in seasoned flour. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sauté the bacon until crisp, remove and put in a casserole. Add the lamb to the pan and sauté until golden then add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn’t burn yet it must be hot enough to sauté the lamb. If it is cool the lamb will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then quickly sauté the onions and carrots, adding a little butter if necessary, and put them into the casserole. Degrease the sauté pan and deglaze with the stock, bring to the boil, pour over the lamb.

Add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, cover the pot and then put into the oven for 45-60 minutes, 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4. Cooking time depends on how long the lamb was sautéed for.

When the casserole is just cooked, remove the thyme sprig, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease and return degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary. Add back in the meat, carrots, onions and potatoes, bring back to the boil.

The casserole is very good served at this point, but it’s even more delicious if some mushroom a la crème is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve bubbling hot, sprinkled with chopped parsley and the pearl barley pilaff.

Meanwhile, make the pilaff.

Melt the butter in a deep saucepan, add the pearl barley, toss the grains in the butter.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the stock, bring to the boil, cover and continue to cook until the pearl barley is fully cooked – 45-60 minutes approximately.

Meanwhile, chop the mushrooms, both stalks and caps.  Heat a little butter or oil in a frying pan, add all of the mushrooms, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, cook over a medium heat stirring occasionally.  The mushrooms will exude liquid at first but continue to cook until all the liquid has been reabsorbed and the mushrooms have developed a deeper flavour.  Keep aside.

Peel the shallots, quarter, toss in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and cook in a saucepan over a medium heat until soft and caramelised.  Alternatively, roast in the oven at 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 until soft and caramelised.

Fold both the mushrooms and the shallots into the pilaff.  Keep aside.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

While the stew and pilaff are being reheated, make the Gremolata.  Chop the herbs and garlic together, add the lemon zest, season to taste with a little flaky salt.

To Serve 

If necessary, reheat the stew and pilaff.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Spoon a serving of both stew and pilaff into a deep wide serving bowl, serve immediately.  Sprinkle some fresh herb gremolata over the top.

 

Spicy Butternut Squash or Pumpkin and Coconut Curry

 

A chunky stew with Asian flavours.  Squashes are brilliant vegetables to soak up Asian flavours and bulk up curries.

 

Serves 8

 

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 large onion, finely chopped, 185g (6 1/4oz)

3 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed and finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

5 spring onions, chopped

grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 limes

2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded (use dried if fresh are unavailable)

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, roasted and ground

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, roasted and ground

4cm (1 1/2 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1-3 small red chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)

1 tablespoon fresh basil, torn

1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh coriander

1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter

1 x 400g (14oz) can coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

2kg (4 1/2lbs) squash or pumpkin, deseeded, peeled and cut into 4cm chunks (1.5kg/3lb 5oz) flesh after peeling and deseeding)

 

To Serve

2 tablespoons toasted cashew nuts

fresh coriander leaves

Jasmine Rice

Mango Chutney or Mango Sambal (see recipe)

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

 

Heat a sauté pan over a medium heat and add the oil.  Stir-fry the onion for 1-2 minutes before adding the lemongrass and garlic. Add all the remaining ingredients.   Stir gently. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the lid for 5 minutes before the end of cooking time.

 

The coconut milk may separate but this won’t affect the flavour.  Taste and add more fish sauce if necessary.  Pour into a warm serving dish.

Garnish with the toasted cashew nuts and fresh coriander leaves and serve with jasmine rice and mango chutney.

Mango Sambal

 

Serves 6 – 8

 

1 mango, diced finely (1 x 1 cm)

2 – 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons Nam pla – fish sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1 – 2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Gently mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Season and taste.  Allow the flavours to blend for at least 15 minutes before serving

 

Note:

Five Spice Powder contains ground star anise/cloves/cinnamon/Sichuan pepper and fennel seeds.

 

Currabinny Cookbook Parsnip and Fennel Soup

In this soup the natural sweetness of parsnip combines beautifully with the delicate aniseed flavour of fennel. The result is smooth, velvety and very elegant.

 

Serves 4–6

1 medium-sized onion

4 medium-sized parsnips

2 large fennel bulbs, stalks removed

1 stick of celery

15g fresh flat-leaf parsley

70g butter

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1½ litres vegetable stock

200ml milk

 

To serve:

fresh cream

fresh fennel fronds

 

Peel the onion and parsnips. Chop finely, together with the fennel bulbs and celery, to roughly the same size dice. Roughly chop the parsley leaves.

Melt the butter in a large pot or casserole dish. Add the onion, parsnips, fennel and celery, and season well with salt and pepper. Stir so that everything in the pot is well coated in the butter.

Construct a cartouche by cutting a circle of greaseproof paper which perfectly covers the inside of your pot. Press this down on the vegetables, sealing them in to cook. Put the lid on the pot and cook for around 10 minutes on a gentle heat. Check and stir at least once to make sure nothing is catching on the bottom.

Meanwhile, in another pot, heat up your vegetable stock until it comes to the boil. This will shorten the cooking time considerably.

When it’s boiling, remove the cartouche from the other pot and pour your hot stock over the vegetables, stirring the contents to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom.

Simmer on a medium heat for around 20 minutes until the vegetables are completely soft and tender.

Add the milk and parsley, and blend with a stick blender until completely smooth and creamy.

Check the seasoning and serve with a swirl of cream and some fennel fronds sprinkled on top of each bowl.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.

 

Currabinny Cookbook Macroom Brown Soda Bread

Could there be anything more Irish and down-to-earth than a classic soda bread made with wholewheat flour from the legendary Walton’s Mill in Macroom, Co. Cork, Ireland’s only surviving stone mill? We don’t think so!

 

 

Makes 8–10 slices

Butter, for greasing

180g cream flour

340g Macroom Stoneground Wholewheat Flour (extra coarse)

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

70g Macroom Oatmeal

1 medium organic egg

575ml buttermilk

 

Preheat the oven to 180ºC fan/gas 6. Butter a 450g loaf tin.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the flours, bicarbonate of soda, salt and oatmeal to combine, then make a well in the centre.

Whisk together the egg and buttermilk in a jug, and pour into the dry mix. Using your hand as a claw, mix the ingredients together in a circular motion until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. When you remove the loaf from the tin, make sure to tap the bottom too, listening for that hollow sound just to be sure. Cool on a wire rack.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.

 

Currabinny Cookbook Ruby Chard Korma

William suggests keeping the stalks for another dish but we loved them finely shredded and added them as we were pouring in the water.

Serves 4–6

3 onions

3 cloves of garlic

a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger

700g chestnut mushrooms

a large knob of butter

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

seeds from 10 cardamom pods, crushed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

a few pinches of ground cinnamon

a few pinches of chilli powder

3 bay leaves

200ml water

350g ruby chard

200g natural yoghurt

150g crème fraîche

 

To serve:

toasted flaked almonds

pomegranate seeds

basmati rice

 

Peel the onions, garlic and ginger. Slice the onions and mushrooms, grate the ginger and crush the garlic with some salt. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions, garlic and ginger with some salt and pepper.

When the onions have softened a bit, add the cardamom, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, chilli powder and bay leaves. Now add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Pour in the water, stir, and simmer for 15 minutes, then check the seasoning.

Meanwhile, remove the stalks from the chard* and add the leaves in batches to the pot until it is all wilted. Turn the heat to low and gently stir in the yoghurt and crème fraîche.

Serve with rice and top with the almonds and pomegranate seeds.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.

 

Currabinny Cookbook Lemon and Lavender Cake

Combining lavender with lemon and yoghurt makes this cake sticky, subtle and utterly delicious.

 

Makes 8–10 slices

butter, for greasing

1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers

250g caster sugar

175g cream flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

a pinch of sea salt

2 medium organic eggs

250g Greek yoghurt

125ml rapeseed oil

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

dried lavender sprigs, to decorate

 

For the icing:

200g icing sugar

juice of 1 lemon

1 medium egg white

 

Preheat the oven to 160ºC fan/gas 4. Butter a 20cm springform cake tin and line with baking parchment.

Crush the lavender in a pestle and mortar. Put the caster sugar into a large bowl and mix the lavender through. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and stir to combine.

In another bowl, mix the eggs with the yoghurt and rapeseed oil and pour this into the dry ingredients, stirring well. Add the lemon zest and juice.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for around 50 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for a minute, then turn the cake out to cool fully on a wire rack.

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice, whisking until smooth. Add the egg white gradually to loosen the mixture until it is quite runny and pourable. The icing should be extremely sharp and lemony. Spoon this icing over the top of the cake until it covers the top and starts to drip down the sides.

Arrange some dried lavender sprigs on the top as decoration.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.

Letters

Back to List
Latest Letter
All Recipes
Back to Website
All Darinas Letters are published each week in The Examiner

Past Letters