CategorySaturday Letter

The Green School

At last there seems to be a dawning realisation that we cannot go on treating ‘mother earth’ as though there was no tomorrow. The consequences of reckless pollution of our land, rivers and lakes are clear for even the most stubborn to see. All over the country communities are coming together to protest against proposed dumps or in some cases incinerators in their area. No one wants a dump in their back yard, yet, if we all accept that the huge mountains of rubbish that each of us contributes to on a daily basis, simply has to be disposed of, somewhere, somehow by someone, we can’t just wash our hands of the whole business, we have to recognise that we all have our part to play in finding a solution to this urgent problem. Out of that is emerging from the grass roots a waste disposal plan- long overdue. However, many complain that the County Councils are still lagging in setting up recycling systems to support community efforts. I recently spent a very exciting morning at St. Mary’s Secondary School in New Ross, which is part of an EU-Eco initiative. The European ‘Green Schools’ programme which now operates in 19 countries, encourages students to adopt good environmental practices in the hope of gaining a coveted ‘Green Flag’ for their school. Only 45 European Schools out of a total of 750, have succeeded in achieving the standard required for this prestigious award so far. When I arrived for the School’s Green Day, there were literally hundreds of teenagers dressed in green uniforms in a high state of excitement, crammed into the assembly hall. They were auctioning their teachers to raise money to buy picnic tables made by the Amish Community. The unfortunate teachers who took it all in great spirit, had agreed to wear the school uniform next day, even the gym master was planning to don a skirt! Each new bid was greeted by squeals of delight and ?1,800 was raised as a result. The live-wire behind this project is a willowy blonde Drama and English teacher called Anita Fennelly. She is passionate about the environment and her enthusiasm has been infectious. Her inspiration originally came from a chance meeting. She was strolling along the riverbank close to her home in Killowen near Dunganstown, Co Wexford, when she met a ‘strange looking’ but completely intriguing English man who invited her to taste his sloe gin. The bearded gentleman turned out to be John Seymour, author of ‘Self Sufficiency’ and environmental campaigner for over 60 years. Next step was to inquire into the waste management strategy of the South East, establish a link with An Taisce and Wexford County Council. Anita managed to persuade the somewhat sceptical school management to join the Green School scheme. Anita’s first step was to divide the school into green zones and to appoint ER’s (Environmental Representatives and deputies) for each zone. Green points are awarded at the end of every week. The response from the students to the whole project has surprised and delighted everyone concerned. Joe Morrissey the long-suffering school caretaker and Wexford County Council have been wonderfully supportive according to Anita. Carol Walsh of the County Council presents prizes to the class which gain the most coveted green points. The students are actively involved in a waste disposal and recycling scheme. They are involved in making compost which is at present used to enrich the fertility of the soil in the flower beds around the school. As part of the scheme, recycling is actively promoted within the school. Consequently, bottle, can and newspaper collection points are a part of most classrooms. There are composting containers, where students can throw their leftover lunches, fruit peelings and other organic waste.are a feature of most classrooms. Other initiatives include the design and manufacture of cloth shopping bags by First Year students as an alternative to plastic. The students have also made bird boxes and bird tables as well as planting flower beds and window boxes.  They have been encouraged by their teachers to be creative with recycled waste and had made the most amazing costumes to model futuristic fashions called ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Larger than Life’. Anita Fennelly is also excited that ‘Many of the things they learn here in school are also brought home with them, so the students are not just educating themselves, but also there is a social and community aspect to it. What the project is attempting to do is to revolutionise New Ross in a subtle way’. People stop her in the street and say in incredulous voices – Miss Fennelly ‘ you know you have me segregating bottles, glass , plastic…When I spoke to the students I suggested they extend their recycling to include some free range hens, the edible scraps left over from school lunches could be fed to the hens and come back as eggs a few days later. These I suggested could be used in Home Economics cooking classes or if there was a surplus they could be sold to raise money for other environmental projects within the school.  I also suggested that they use their compost not just for flower beds but to grow fresh herbs and vegetables in an edible school yard as has been done so successfully in schools in California. The students plant the seeds and plants as part of their curriculum, and watch the fruit, vegetables and herbs grow. They are then used for cooking classes and school meals. Anita and the students were very enthusiastic, particularly about the hens – lets hope it can become a reality. This, like waste management is an essential education for real life. As part of the day’s events I did a little cookery demonstration for the Transition Year Home Economics class. I showed them how to make tasty cheddar cheese scones and how white soda bread dough makes a delicious base for pizza, and being in the great fruit growing county of Wexford I showed them how quick it is to make Raspberry Jam.

Cheddar Cheese Scones


1 lb (450 g/31/4 cup) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) salt
1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) breadsoda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-13 fl oz (350-375 ml) approx. egg wash
4 oz (110 g) grated cheese, we use mature cheddar.
First fully preheat the oven to 230?C/450?F/regulo 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board, knead lightly for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a square about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep, brush with egg wash, cut into 12 square scones. Dip the top of each scone into the grated cheddar cheese, place on a baking sheet. Bake on a hot oven for 230?C/450?F/regulo 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200?C/ 400?F/regulo 6, for 5-10 minutes or until cooked. Serve with soup as a snack.

 

Pizza – White Soda Bread Base


1 lb (450g/3* cups) flour
1 level teasp./* American teasp. sugar
1 level teasp./* American teasp. breadsoda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
1 level teasp./* American teasp. salt
Sour milk or butter milk to mix – 350-425mls/12-15 fl ozs/1*-2 scant cups approx.
First fully preheat your oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board, knead lightly for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it up. Roll out thinly to fit a large swiss roll tin 10 x 15 inch (25.5 x 38cm) or divide into 6 equal sized pieces.
Cover the dough with fillings of your choice. Bake in a fully preheated oven for 25 minutes approx. For individual pizzas roll out each piece of dough into a 6 inch (15cm) round approx. Spread with 2 tablespoons of topping eg. Piperonata, then arrange 5 or 6 thin slices of Irish Whiskey Salami on top. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of grated Mozzarella cheese and bake in a fully heated convention hot oven for 8-10 minutes or until crisp underneath and golden and bubbly on top. (Careful to roll the dough out thinly or it will not cook properly.) Toppings can be varied – tomato fondue, crispy streaky rashers, mushroom a la creme, anchovies, black olives…..

 

Raspberry Jam


We used frozen raspberries, but do make it in the summer when the fresh raspberries are in season.
Makes 3 x 1 lb (450g) pots
Raspberry Jam is the easiest and quickest of all jams to make, and one of the most delicious.
2 lbs (900g/8 cups) fresh raspberries
2 lbs (900g/4* cups) white sugar (use * lb (225g) less if fruit is very sweet)
Wash, dry and sterilise the jars in a moderate oven 180*C/350*F/regulo 4, for 15 minutes. Heat the sugar in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes. Put the raspberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan and cook for 3-4 minutes until the juice begins to run, then add the hot sugar and stir over a gentle heat until fully dissolved. Increase the heat and boil steadily for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Test for a set by putting about a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate, leaving it for a few minutes in a cool place. It should wrinkle when pressed with a finger. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim and pour into sterilised jam jars. Cover immediately.  Hide the jam in a cool place or else put on a shelf in your kitchen so you can feel great every time you look at it! Anyway, it will be so delicious it won’t last long!

 

 

Spring Lamb

We had the most sweet and succulent Spring Lamb for Easter from our local butcher Michael Cuddigan. Michael, a third generation butcher buys his meat on the hoof and keeps the animals on his own farm until such time as he judges they are ready. Some of his land has never been tilled in living memory – virgin soil, full of wild flowers and a wide variety of grasses and herbs. He knows the farmers who rear the animals and what they have been fed on, this is real traceability, local food for local people. Michael, and I completely agree with him, favours the traditional Irish breedfs, fed on grass, for premium flavour, Aberdeen Angus, or Aberdeen Angus crossed with Shorthorn or Pol Angus, or Hereford. Sadly, he can’t always get these breeds nowadays because of the general shift towards continental breeds.  Like many other local butchers, he kills maiden heifer grass fed beef and hangs it for about fourteen days. The result is worth every penny, tender, with a rich beefy flavour – delicious. His simple butcher’s shop is in Cloyne, Co Cork, close to the Cathedral and Round Tower. Like many family butchers he knows his customers and their needs, sometimes even what they want for dinner. One little lad ran into his shop the other day and just asked for chops for the dinner – Michael didn’t even hesitate, he took down a loin of lamb from the hook and cut the chops on the ancient wooden butcher’s block – he seemed to know how many would be for lunch, and exactly what type of chop they’d expect – now that’s service for you! I was calling to get some lambs livers and kidneys. At this time of the year, lambs liver, kidneys and sweetbreads are at their very best, so make the most of them. Incredible value, hugely versatile, full of vitamins and minerals and cooked in minutes Lamb sweetbreads are also delicious at the moment, so seek them out in the next few weeks while they are still young and sweet. Here’s a recipe I used to enjoy at Arbutus Lodge when Declan Ryan was chef.

 

A warm salad of sweetbreads and walnuts

Serves 4
4 lamb sweetbreads
1 small carrot
1 onion
2 sticks celery
butter
bouquet garni
1 pint (600 ml chicken stock
seasoned flour
beaten egg
butter and oil for sauteeing
A selection of salad leaves eg. Iceberg, oakleaf, butterhead, raddichio, sorrel, endive, rocket, watercress, French beans, cut in julienne, blanched and refreshed

Walnut dressing:
1 tablesp. white wine vinegar
1 tablesp. arachide or sunflower oil
2 tablesp. walnut oil
1 teasp. Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 freshly shelled walnuts
Garnish: Chive flowers

Soak the sweetbreads in a bowl of cold water for 3 hours. Dice the carrot, onion and celery and sweat in butter, add bouquet garni. Bring the chicken stock to the boil, add the vegetables. Poach the sweetbreads gently for 20 minutes. approx. Remove the gelatinous membranes and any fatty bits carefully. Prepare the salad. Wash and dry the lettuces. Slice the sweetbreads into escalopes, dip in seasoned flour and then in beaten egg. Saute in a little foaming butter and oil in a heavy pan until golden on both sides.  Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Toss the salad leaves and walnuts in the walnut dressing, divide between four plates and lay the hot sweetbreads on top of the salad, sprinkle with chive flowers and serve immediately.

Lambs Liver with Caramelized Onion and Scallion Champ


Serves 4
4 pieces of lambs liver allow 5oz (140g) per person
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 onions, sliced
seasoned flour
1/2 – 1 oz 15-25g butter
2 tablesp.  olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Mashed potato or Scallion Champ

Melt the butter and olive oil on a hot pan, add the onions and cook until soft and slightly golden. Just before serving dip the liver in well seasoned flour. Shake off the excess. Melt a little butter in a pan, add the liver and cook for just a minute or two on each side. Transfer to a hot plate, add the onion to the pan, add a dash of balsamic vinegar and allow to bubble and heat through. Spoon onto the plate beside the liver. Serve with fluffy mashed potato or scallion champ.

Scallion Champ

Serves 4-6
A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions and a blob of butter melting in the centre is ‘comfort’ food at its best.
3lb (1.5kg) 6-8 unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
4oz (110g) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g chopped chives
10-12 fl oz (350ml) milk
2-4oz (55-110g) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets. Chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chopped 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 hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions, beat in the butter. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butte melting in the centre. Scallion champ may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4. Cover with tin foil while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin.

Lambs Kidneys on Rosemary Skewers


This is a delicious recipe for the barbecue, but it can also be cooked under a grill.
4 lambs kidneys
olive oil
fresh herbs, eg. rosemary, thyme, parsley or marjoram
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 rosemary sprigs about 6 inches (15cm) long
garlic and parsley butter- see below

Remove the fat and membrane from the kidneys. Open out flat into a ‘butterfly’ shape. Spear each kidney with a rosemary sprig, put them on a plate, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a little chopped herbs. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Preheat a grill or better still pop them onto a barbecue. Sprinkle the kidneys with salt. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side depending on size. Serve immediately with a tiny blob of garlic and parsley butter melting into the centre of each.

Garlic and parsley butter


2 ozs (55g/4 level tablesp.) butter
4 teasp. finely chopped parsley
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

Cream the butter, stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at a time. Add the crushed garlic. Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tin foil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.

Lambs Kidneys in Grainy Mustard Sauce


Serves 2 as a starter
4 lambs kidneys
a little butter
2 dessertsps. of Irish wholegrain mustard
150ml) full cream
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Remove the skin and membrane from the kidneys and cut into bite-sized pieces. Saute in a little butter on the pan, turn occasionally until nicely cooked, approx. 5 minutes on a medium heat. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the cream and mustard, bring to the boil and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve immediately.

Liver with Dubonnet and Orange


Serves 4-6
1 tablesp. olive oil
1 oz. (15-30g) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lb (450g) lamb’s liver
seasoned flour
2 tablesp. fresh orange juice
8 tablesp. red Dubonnet
1 tablesp. finely chopped parsley
a little grated orange rind
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
Garnish: Flat parsley

Heat the olive oil and butter together in a deep frying pan, sweat the finely chopped onions and crushed garlic over a very low heat until soft but not coloured. Cut the liver into slices about * inch (1 cm) thick, coat with seasoned flour. When the onions are cooked, add the slices of liver to the pan in a single layer and continue to cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Turn the liver over, reduce the heat and cook for a slightly shorter time on the other side. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the liver as well as on personal taste, but don’t overcook it or it will be leathery. Transfer the liver and onions to a warm plate. Add the orange juice and Dubonnet to the juices left in the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for a couple of minutes until the sauce has reduced by almost half. Add the parsley, a little orange and lemon rind and give it a final stir and taste. Pour over the liver, garnish with flat parsley and serve immediately.

 

Hot Irishman

Almost every week new products are launched, restaurants are opened, bargain offers and press releases pour onto my desk – I can rarely attend and sometimes I scarcely manage to glance at the details, depending on how hectic things are. A recent press release from Bord Bia sent directly for my attention, announced that “The Hot Irishman scoops Gold in the ‘Oscars’ of the Airline and Catering Industry.”
For the first time an Irish company has just been awarded the much coveted Gold Mercury Award in the Food or Beverage Products category at the International Flight Catering Association Annual Conference and Trade Show (IFCA) in Barcelona for the Hot Irishman, an Irish coffee in a bottle. The Hot Irishman was one of six companies which exhibited under the Board Bia ‘Ireland The Food Island’ banner at IFCA.
This is the first time an Irish product is in receipt of the Gold Mercury Award, Michael Duffy, Chief Executive of Board Bia was understandably delighted. ‘This award is considered the most prestigious for innovation, quality of application and customer satisfaction. It is eagerly sought after by many of the best catering companies in the world.’  I vaguely glanced over the blurb, thought that’s terrific, sounds like another runner to join the prestigious Irish beverage stable and dumped it in the bin and promptly forgot about it. Just as I finished my cooking demonstration a few days later, I was told that Mr. Walsh who made the Hot Irishman was waiting to see me. Turns out he’s married to one of ‘my babies’ as I affectionately call my past students, but of course I hadn’t recognised the name because I knew her as Rosemary Mulhall and she has since become Rosemary Walsh.
The Hot Irishman is the brainchild of this creative couple. Basically, it’s a brilliantly simple concept – a blend of Irish Coffee in a bottle, that can be used to make a perfect hassle-free Irish Coffee anywhere in the world. Simple though it sounds it took several years of research to perfect the formula. Great care has been taken to use only the finest Colombian coffee, Irish whiskey and golden brown Irish sugar. The blending process used ensures that the cream will sit on top and the result is a luxurious Irish Coffee of consistent flavour and texture. According to Bernard they got their inspiration when Rosemary changed career from that of a software engineer in London to attend a 3-month course at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Since then Rosemary’s life has taken a whole new twist. With the help of the Cookery School Rosemary secured a “job” (in hindsight a holiday!) running a ski chalet in Meribel, France. It was here that Rosemary perfected the art of making Irish Coffees. Every night following a “Ballymaloe special” dinner, Rosemary would make Irish Coffee for all of her guests. It was her signature, and one the guests eagerly looked forward to. However, making 20 or 30 Irish Coffees at 11 o’clock at night was a challenge at the best of times. Just when the last morsel of food had been eaten and the kitchen was ship shape for the following day’s work, Rosemary just wanted to collapse into the couch. Making Irish Coffees can be fun but only if you have the right ingredients and a lot of patience.
To complicate matters even further, when Bernard helped out at weekends the guests commented that the Irish Coffee didn’t taste the same. At that point they recognised the opportunity to make a product to simplify the making of Irish Coffee. Back home in Carlow when her season in Meribel was finished, Rosemary produced the very first Hot Irishman in her home in Castlemore. Encouraged by these trials, the Walshs worked for nine months with an independent drinks’ laboratory in Dublin. Following endless days and nights of tasting many different whiskey, coffee and sugar combinations, they arrived at the perfect balance of a dark roasted Colombian coffee, a smooth single malt Irish Whiskey, and golden brown Carlow sugar. Before the recipe was finally accepted the Irish Coffee was tested by hundreds of people from over 31 countries. The naming of the product was just as much fun. Rather than pay thousands to some marketing company, Rosemary and Bernard involved a circle of 20 friends and family to brainstorm and after a long night of sampling! The Hot Irishman was born. The company was formed in June 1999 and Rosemary left her job to concentrate on building the family business. Meanwhile on the 31st of December 1999 her daughter Isobel was born. This was the catalyst, which convinced Bernard to give up his job on the international software market and return home to take responsibility for developing the markets for the Hot Irishman while Rosemary concentrated on the production and operations side of the business. They have never looked back since. So now isn’t that an exciting story. So where can you find it – well its already being served in over 200 outlets, hotels, restaurants, food led bars and getting a fantastic reaction.  Things are also happening in the US, UK and Spain which has the biggest consumption of Irish Coffee in Europe – Irish coffee is served in 70% of all café bars in major cities.  This recent Airline and Catering Industry Award has been a huge bonus. The product got a tremendous response from the airline industry because its one of the few after dinner drinks that most airlines would love to serve but could not. Traditionally there are five steps involved in making Irish Coffee on board, but that’s five steps too many for busy cabin crew, the Hot Irishman has reduced the process to one simple task similar to making tea or coffee. Trials are already taking place on some of the world’s largest carriers so look out for The Hot Irishman next time you are out on the town or airborne.

Irish Coffee Meringue

Serves 6-8
2 egg whites
41/2 ozs (125g\generous 1 cup) icing sugar
2 teasp. instant coffee powder (not granules)
Filling
1/2 pint (300ml\11/4 cups) whipped cream
2 tablesp. (2 American tablesp. + 2 teasp.) approx. Irish whiskey or Hot Irishman to taste.
Decoration
Chocolate coffee beans
Silicone paper – Bakewell

Draw 2 x 71/2 inch (18cm) circles onto a sheet of silicone paper. Then turn them over so the pencil or pen doesn’t mark the meringue. Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean and dry bowl. Add all the icing sugar except 2 tablespoons. Whisk until the mixture stands in firm dry peaks. It may take 10-15 minutes. Sieve the coffee with the remaining icing sugar together and fold in carefully. Spread the meringue carefully with a palette knife onto the circles on the silicone paper. Bake in a very low oven 150C\300F\regulo 2 for approx. 1 hour or until crisp. The discs should peel easily from the paper. Allow to get quite cold. Add the whiskey or Hot Irishman to the whipped cream. Sandwich the meringue discs together with Irish whiskey flavoured cream. Pipe 5 rosettes of cream on top. Decorate with chocolate coffee beans if available.

 

Irish Coffee Meringue Roulade


Ingredients as above
Swiss roll tin 12 inches x 8 inches (30.5cm x 20.5cm) lined with silicone paper
Make the meringue as above.
Meanwhile, line a swiss roll tin with tin foil, brush lightly with a non scented oil (eg. sunflower or arachide)
Spread the meringue gently over the tin with a palette knife, it ought to be quite thick and bouncy. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Put a sheet of tin foil on the work – top and turn the roulade onto it, remove the base tin foil and allow the meringue to cool.
To Assemble
Spread the whiskey cream over the meringue, roll up from the long side and carefully ease onto a serving plate. Pipe 6 –8 rosettes along the top of the roulade, decorate with chocolate coffee beans.
Serve, cut into slices about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick.

 

 

Easter Egg Hunt

I love hens, we’ve had hens as long as I can remember. In fact one of my very earliest memories was of going to feed the hens at the end of the paddock behind our house, clutching Betty’s hand tightly. She’d carry a big bucket of scraps and I’d have some little bread crusts and vegetable peelings in my little sand bucket to scatter out to them. When the hens eagerly ran towards us I was filled with a mixture of terror and delight. At that stage I wasn’t much taller than a hen!

Here at the Cookery School we have a wonderful flock of Speckledys and Hebden Blacks, happy, lazy, hens that feed on scraps, vegetable peelings and organic feed. They roam over the grass, scratch to their hearts’ content and have dust baths in the sun. They reward us with the most beautiful free range eggs.  The students love them – one American chap in particular Doug, loved to feed the hens. He just loved the way they all ran towards him eagerly. ‘They’re the only appreciative females I’ve ever met in my entire life.’, he explained in his inimitable wry way. ! He prophesied to younger chaps on the course they would never again meet such devotion!
Apart from the Speckledy and Hebden Blacks, we’ve got quite a collection of rare breeds which I’d love to add to even further – we have Silkies, Cochins, Buff Orpingtons, Marans, Pekin, Hamburgs, Anconas, Campinos, Welshrunner…. Some lay brown speckledy eggs, others like the anconas almost blue, so beautiful. In fact if I had to choose my last meal it would be a delicious boiled free-range egg with little soldiers of Timmy’s soda bread – a forgotten flavour for most people nowadays.
I was convinced that absolutely everyone knew about boiled eggs – to our astonishment this week, we met not one but two people who had never eaten a boiled egg before, so we delighted in introducing them to the most fundamental gourmet experience by collecting a few eggs from the nest underneath the rosemary bush outside my kitchen door. In many countries there is a tradition of dyeing and painting eggs to be given as presents, this is a tradition that we very much foster in our family and in fact our clever hens actually lay coloured eggs with childrens’ names on them on Easter Sunday!
The Easter bunny also makes nests all round the garden in clumps of daffodils and shrubs and lays chocolate eggs and baby chocolate bunnies. So after the children have eaten their very own boiled eggs for breakfast the doors burst open and they career in wild excitement around the garden searching for the Easter bunny’s hiding places – the result – deliriously happy children covered from head to toe in chocolate and a trampled garden!
Happy Easter.

Boiled Eggs and Dippies

Mothers all over the country cut up fingers of toast for children to dip into soft-boiled eggs. In my husband Tim’s family they were called soldiers, but we called them dippies.
2 fresh free range eggs
salt and freshly ground pepper
a few pats of butter
1 slice of fresh white pan loaf
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 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.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

How about a really luscious chocolate gateau for Easter.
Serves 10-12
If you use a really powerful mixer to beat the genoise, the mixture need not be whisked over hot water, this step cannot be eliminated however when using a small or hand-held mixer. Overall I find I get the best and most stable result when whisked over hot water.
Cake
31/2 ozs (100g/ two-third cup) flour
1 oz (30g/1/4 cup) cocoa powder (Dutch process)
1/2 level teasp. baking powder
2 ozs (55g/1/2 stick) butter (if you are using unsalted butter, use a pinch of salt also)
4 free-range eggs
5 ozs (140g/two-third cup) castor sugar
Chocolate Mousse
10 ozs (285g) best quality dark chocolate, chopped
6 free-range eggs, separated
6 ozs (170g/11/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure Vanilla Essence or 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Grand Marnier liqueur
Chocolate Discs
6 ozs (170g) best quality dark chocolate
Chocolate Caraque
8 ozs (225g) best quality dark chocolate
Chantilly Cream
1 pint (570ml/21/2 cups) whipped cream
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) icing sugar
1 teaspoon pure Vanilla Essence
Decoration
Speckled mini Chocolate eggs and yellow chicks to decorate
Equipment
9 inch (23cm) diameter genoise tin or a round cake tin with 21/2 inch (6.5cm) sides
3 inch (7.5cm) diameter plain round cutter,
Pastry bag and medium star tube
Wire rack
Brush the inside of the cake tin with melted butter. As an extra precaution, line the base with a circle of greaseproof paper that exactly fits, and butter it also. Leave it for a few minutes and then sprinkle the tin with flour, discarding the excess. Sieve the flour with the cocoa, baking powder and salt. Clarify the butter by melting gently, allow to sit for a few minutes and then skim off the crusty top layer, the clarified butter is the clear butter. Discard the milky residue at the base also.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Put the eggs in a large pyrex bowl, gradually whisk in the castor sugar. Set the bowl in a saucepan over barely simmering water. Whisk until the mixture is light and thick enough to make a distinct figure of 8 when the whisk is lifted – about 8-10 minutes. Take the bowl from the heat, add the vanilla essence and continue beating until cooled. Sieve one third of the flour and cocoa over the mixture, folding in as lightly as possible with a wooden spatula or metal spoon, fold in another third in the same careful way and finally the remainder. Just after the last batch, pour the cool butter around the sides of the bowl and fold in gently and quickly because the whisked mixture quickly loses volume after the butter is added.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes approx. or until the cake shrinks slightly from the sides of the tin and the top springs back when lightly pressed in the centre with a finger.  Allow to sit in the tin for a minute or two, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  When the cake is completely cold it may be stored in an airtight cake tin for a few days or it may be frozen.
For the Chocolate Mousse
Melt the chocolate in a pyrex bowl over hot water or in a very cool oven, stir until smooth. Whisk the egg yolks one by one into the hot mixture so it thickens slightly. Whisk in the butter and vanilla essence or liqueur. Allow to cool slightly. Whip the egg whites until stiff, add the tepid chocolate mixture to them and fold the two together as lightly as possible, the warm mixture will lightly cook and stiffen the whites. Leave to cool at room temperature, not in the fridge, otherwise the mousse will harden and become difficult to spread.
Next make the chocolate discs. Melt 6 ozs (170g) of the chocolate in a pyrex bowl over hot water, stir until smooth. The base of the bowl should not touch the water. Pour the chocolate onto a piece of greaseproof paper, spread into a thin even layer with a spatula, allow to cool until set. Use the 3 inch (7.5cm) cutter to make rounds of chocolate, then cut 3 almond shapes from each round – you will need about 30.

Chocolate Caraque

Melt the chocolate and spread it thinly with a palette knife onto a marble slab. Allow it to set almost completely and then with a sharp knife or a paint scraper, shave off long, thin scrolls. Use a slightly sawing movement and keep your hand upright. This is fun to do but there’s quite a lot of skill involved – you’ll get good at it with practice and you can always eat the rejects!

Chantilly Cream

Add the icing sugar and vanilla essence to the chilled whipped cream, stir gently, cover and chill until needed

To Assemble the Cake. With a very sharp long bladed knife, split the genoise carefully in 3 layers. Spread a generous layer of chocolate mousse on the bottom layer. Place the second layer of genoise on top and spread it with half of the Chantilly cream, reserving the remaining cream for decoration. Top with the third layer and spread the remaining mousse on the top and sides of the cake.
To Finish
Arrange the chocolate shapes around the edge, placing them at an angle. Pipe vertical ruffs of Chantilly cream between them. Scatter the long curls of chocolate caraque over the top and arrange them in a nest. Dust first with cocoa and then with icing sugar. Fill the nest with speckled mini chocolate eggs and put a few yellow chicks hatching on top. Serve on a glass cake stand if available.

St Patrick’s Day in The Big Apple

I’ve just stepped off a plane from New York armed with a bright green bagel to give my cookery students a real taste of St Patrick’s Day in The Big Apple. The purpose of this trip was, as ever was to promote Ireland and all things Irish and to dispel the myth once and for all, that we live solely on Corned Beef and Cabbage and Irish Stew. Not only that, but I like to spread the word about the exciting renaissance that is taking place on the Irish food scene, the quality of our produce, our meat fed on the lush green pastures, the fish from around our coast, the farmhouse cheese industry, and the emergence of a whole new generation of small artisanal food producers. I sing the praises of the creative cooks and chefs who at last realise the quality of our raw materials and reassure visitors that its no longer a case of coming to Ireland just for the scenery and friendly people, now they can taste delicious food also. This has been my message on many TV and chat shows for 10 or 12 years now. The message was gradually getting through but this year was quite a challenge. Its less than a year since I was last in New York, in that short time BSE and FMD have caused a sea change in the American perception of European food. Hitherto, we as Europeans were inclined to be sniffly about American food – all that fast food, hamburgers, bagels, diet sodas …. Europeans were not about to accept US beef with its supplements and growth promoters, causing a furore with the World Trade Organisation. Nor surprisingly, Foot and Mouth Disease, hot on the heels of BSE, has sent tremors of panic through Americans planning to travel to Europe. Every news bulletin over St Patricks’s weekend gave graphic description of the slaughter of animals in Britain , alongside the news that the parade in Dublin has been cancelled as a precautionary measure to keep Foot and Mouth at bay. Somehow the message got garbled in most peoples’ minds. Everyone I spoke to seems convinced that Ireland too was rife with Hoof and Mouth as they call it. I had several extraordinary conversations with well educated Americans which illustrate the confusion. On Wednesday I told the chef in the Sky Club in Manhattan how much I enjoyed the Liver with glazed onions and mash that he had cooked for me – I remarked that I hadn’t eaten liver for ages and had almost forgotten how delicious it was. He astonished me by saying in all seriousness – “Oh yes of course you can’t eat liver or meat in Ireland or Europe with BSE and Food and Mouth” – I was shocked and tried to set him straight but he was still sceptical. Next day I was chatting to the make-up girl at NBC as I waited to go on the Today Show, she confided that she was leaving New York soon to move with her boyfriend to London, “What fun, London’s a fantastic buzzy city – you’ll love it” I enthused – she seemed extraordinarily glum about the whole idea – When I inquired why she wasn’t thrilled, she told me in a deadly serious tone of voice, that she was really concerned that she was really interested in healthy food and what she “put into her body, ” consequently she was hugely concerned that she wouldn’t be able to find safe healthy food in the UK! I did my best to reassure her as I was called into the studio for my precious five minute segment, during which I had to make a Beef and Guinness Stew. I was so determined to tell all of America that there were no cases of Hoof and Mouth in Ireland (The Today Show has an estimated 4 million viewers and is shown right across the time zones.), that I forgot to add the mushrooms to the stew! Later that day I had lunch with Zanne Stewart, food editor of Gourmet magazine, the largest selling food and travel magazine in the US. She confirmed that the general perception was that it was no longer safe to eat European meat, worse still, an astonishing number of Americans believe that Ireland and Britain are all one place anyway. Don’t underestimate the impact this perception will have on our tourist industry, particularly now that Foot and Mouth has arrived in Ireland.

Irish Colcannon Soup


Serves 6
Colcannon is one of Irelands best loved traditional potato dishes. Fluffy mashed potato flecked with cooked cabbage or kale. This soup uses identical ingredients to make a delicious soup

55g (2oz) butter
425g (15oz) peeled diced potatoes
110g (4oz) diced onions
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1.1 litre (2pint) home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock
450g (1lb) cabbage
25g (1oz) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
130ml (4 fl oz) creamy milk

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft.
Meanwhile make the buttered cabbage Remove the tough outer leaves from the cabbage. Divide into four, cut out the stalks and then cut into fine shreds across the grain. Put 2-3 tablespoons of water into a wide saucepan with the butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, add the cabbage and toss constantly over a high heat, then cover for a few minutes. Toss again and add some more salt, freshly ground pepper and a knob of butter.
Add the cabbage to the soup, puree in a blender or food processor with the freshly chopped herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk to the required consistency.

 

Beef with Beamish, Murphy or Guinness


This was a big hit with the crew of the Today Show
Serves 6-8
2 lbs (900g) lean stewing beef, eg. Chuck
seasoned flour
3 tablespoons (45ml /4 American tablespoons) olive oil
2 thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) sugar
1 teaspoon dry English Mustard
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon+ 1 teaspoon) concentrated tomato puree
1 strip of dried orange peel
a bouquet garni made up of 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh thyme, 4 parsley stalks.
1/2 pint (300ml/11/4 cups) Beamish, Murphy or Guinness
1/2 pint (300ml/11/4 cups) beef stock
8 ozs (225g/4 cups) mushrooms
1/2 oz (15g/one-eighth stick) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the meat into 11/2 inch (4cm) cubes and toss in seasoned flour. Heat some oil in a hot pan and fry the meat in batches until it is brown on all sides. Transfer the meat into a casserole and add a little more oil to the pan. Fry the thinly-sliced onions until nicely browned ; deglaze with the stout. Transfer to the casserole, add the stock, sugar, mustard, tomato puree, orange rind and bouquet garni. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer in a very low heat, 150C/300f/ regulo 2, for 2-21/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Meanwhile wash and slice the mushrooms. Saute in a very little melted butter in a hot pan. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside. When the stew is cooked, add the mushrooms and simmer for 2-3 minutes, taste and correct the seasoning. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.
Note: This stew reheats well. You may need to add more sugar to the recipe if you find it a little bitter.

A Taste of the Ukraine

A few weeks ago an executive from the Farm Apprenticeship Board telephoned to ask whether we would have a place for a young Ukrainian girl to get work experience on the farm. She had been working on a dairy farm in the Midlands since her arrival in Ireland in November, milking 80 cows and was ready for a change of scene.

We arranged to meet, we chatted about the Ukraine, and her family. Her grandmother had a farm, but Elena herself had studied economics at the Agroecological University of Ukraine and is highly educated and eager to travel and improve her languages.
The Farm Apprenticeship Scheme gives her and many others like her this opportunity. When they come to Ireland, some get a warm welcome and are treated with respect and given comfortable accommodation and delicious food. Others are not so fortunate.
Elena loves working on the farm and in the gardens and loves the food. Nonetheless, like so many travellers she misses the food of her native country. For so many of us foods are inextricably linked with happy memories of childhood.
I’m always fascinated to learn about other food cultures. Elena described the food of her region Ukraine, and then offered to cook some of her favourite dishes for us.
She telephoned her mother and grandmother who really entered into the spirit, and not only gave her lots of advice but sent a huge tin of caviar for our aperitif, it was delicious. We were spreading it sparingly on some thinly sliced white bread, but Elena said ‘nonsense, we spread it like butter at home’. We invited some friends to join us and Elena cooked this delicious meal for us.

 

We started with Green Borshch Soup. This is usually served with Black Bread which is made from Rye and Wheat flour.

Green Borshch


300g (11 ozs approx.) beef (brisket, chuck, stewing steak or shin)
2 onions
1 large carrot
2 large potatoes
3 tablesp rice
2 eggs
3 tablesp. fresh chives
bunch parsley
big bunch of sorrel
5 tablesp. lettuce
4 peppercorns
3 tablesp. butter or vegetable oil

Boil the beef for about 1½-2 hours in 2 litres of water (about 3½ pints), skimming as necessary. Cut into neat chunks.
Meanwhile cut the onions into small pieces, put into a frying pan and fry for 2 minutes, add grated carrot and 5 tablesp. water from the boiling beef, stew for about 3-4 minutes and leave to stand.
Add chopped potatoes, rice and peppercorns, to the pot with the meat. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, then add the stewed onion and carrot mixture.
Add chopped chives, sorrel and lettuce and boil for one minute. Boil the eggs separately for 6 minutes, shell and chop into small pieces. Add to the cooked Borshch. Add salt to taste but be careful because sorrel is very sour. Do not serve the soup immediately, leave to stand for about 15 minutes, to allow all the ingredients absorb the stock.
Swirl a tablespoon of sour or double cream in each soup plate. Serve with Black Bread .

 

Olivier Salad


Olivier was a French chef who in the 1880’s opened a restaurant in Moscow called the Hermitage.
1 large smoked sausage
5 medium sized potatoes
1 large carrot
3 eggs, hard-boiled
1 apple (use a tart eating apple like a Granny Smith)
1 large tin of peas, drained
1 jar of pickled gherkins
For Dressing:
6 tablespoons mayonnaise

Boil the potatoes, peel when cooked. Cook the carrot and skin lightly when cooked.
Cut both into bite-sized cubes when cooled. Cut the sausage into similar sized cubes. Roughly chop the hard-boiled egg. Cut gherkin and apple into cubes also. Reserve a little of the chopped egg and gherkin for garnish. Mix all of these ingredients together and then add the peas. Finally add the mayonnaise and salt to taste.
Serve the Olivier Salad on a large plate, smoothing the sides with a knife and decorate with hard-boiled egg and gherkin.

 

Golubtsy


These are tasty stuffed cabbage rolls.
Choose a large head of fresh Dutch or Savoy cabbage
500g (1lb approx.) beef or pork mince (not lamb)
90g (3oz) rice (uncooked weight)
1-2 tablesp. fresh or 1-2 teasp. dried herbs
salt and fine black pepper
Sauce
400ml (14 fl.ozs) fresh cream
100ml (4 fl.ozs) tomato ketchup
Put the whole cabbage into well-salted boiling water for 3 minutes, leave it in the water for 15 minutes, then it will be more pliable. Remove from the water and gently separate the leaves.
Cook the rice in boiling water until almost cooked but not soft. Combine the minced meat, cooked rice and herbs, add salt and fine black pepper. Roll pieces of the mixture in the flat cabbage leaves tightly like a sausage, the leaf should be big enough to allow several turns. Place the rolls in an ovenproof dish.
Make the sauce by mixing the cream and tomato ketchup.
Cover the cabbage rolls with the sauce, they need to be fully covered with the liquid, if more is needed add some water. Cook in a moderate oven for 30-40 minutes.

 

Fillet with Beetroot


500g (1lb approx.) fillet of beef or pork (not lamb)
2 onions
2 large beetroot
mayonnaise
200g (7oz) cheddar cheese

Cut the fillet into flat pieces, not too thinly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Cut the raw beetroot into circles. Chop the onions. Place the circles of beetroot on a single layer in an ovenproof dish. Top with the pieces of meat, then the chopped onions. Cover with mayonnaise and grated cheese.
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 160C/325F/regulo 3.

 

Schyliki


This is a honey and poppy seed pudding.
400 ml measure of self-raising flour
4 tablesp. milk
1 egg
1 tablesp. honey
1 tablesp. poppy seeds
1 tablesp. melted butter
Sauce
8 tablesp. poppy seeds (or more according to taste)
5 tablesp. honey
400ml (14 fl.ozs) warm milk

Beat the egg with the tablespoon of honey, add the flour, milk, poppy seeds and melted butter to make a soft dough. Roll out to 1-2cm thick using a little flour to prevent sticking.
Put on a greased baking sheet, prick with a fork and bake for 15-20 minutes at 180C/350F/regulo 4.
When cool enough to handle break into smallish pieces.
Meanwhile put the warm milk in a deep bowl and mix in the honey. Break up the poppy seeds in a coffee grinder and add to the bowl. Add more honey or some sugar if you would like it sweeter.
Add the broken pieces of Schyliki and leave to soften for 15 minutes before serving in individual bowls as a pudding.

The Spicy Smell of India

For years I’ve longed to go to India, even the dire warnings of my friends and graphic descriptions of the misery of Delhi belly didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. Nonetheless it was with a certain trepidation that I recently embarked on a 10 day culinary tour of South India , Mumbai, Goa and Kerala.  Surprise, surprise, even though we ate for Ireland we didn’t have the slightest twinge of gippy tummy. Even more remarkable, no one of the entire group of 20 people was ill, although we ate food everywhere from street stalls, to local restaurants, plantation houses, to palatial hotels.  Even as we landed early in the morning at Mumbai Airport, we were aware of the characteristic spicy smell of India. The airport was a heaving mass of people, terrifying when one is bleary eyed after a long haul flight.  Fortunately we were rescued by the staff of the lovely Leela Kempinsky Hotel who came especially to meet us. The hotel is just five minutes from the airport and even at 4am we were warmly greeted with the traditional Indian welcome. Beautiful girls in saris put the bindi on our foreheads and slipped garlands of French marigolds and jasmine flowers over our weary heads – so beautiful we felt instantly revived.  After we had grabbed just a few hours sleep we donned our runners, joined our group and started to explore. Mumbai, the economic powerhouse of India, is an exhilarating city, home to approx. 18 million people, and the industrial hub of everything from textiles to petro-chemicals.  A city of extreme contrasts, from the glamour of the Bollywood film industry (the largest in the world) and cricket on the maidens at weekends, sacred cows wandering the streets, to Asia’s largest slums. Its relative prosperity has made it a magnet for India’s rural poor. Like many Asian cities it is fuelled by an amazing entrepreneurial energy at all levels.  The poor , of which there are millions, are endlessly creative in their pursuit of a livelihood or even mere existence. The culture shock is extreme and difficult for even seasoned travellers to cope with.  One of the most fascinating sights we saw on the first morning, was the Djobi Ghat, a unique and colourful laundry where men do all the washing in sinks and tubs in the open air, the clothes emerge miraculously clean and are delivered starched and ironed all over the city. One of the great landmarks, The Gateway of India, a honey coloured basalt arch of triumph, was originally built to commemorate the visit of George V and Queen Mary in 1911. Ironically it was from there that the last British regiment departed in 1948.  Nowadays, even though it has become a tourist spot, it is still a favourite meeting place for locals in the evening. Pedlars, snake charmers and balloon sellers all give it the excitement of a bazaar. You must see the Fort Area where most of the city’s impresive colonial buildings are situated and the Victoria Terminus where carvings of peacocks, gargoyles, monkeys, elephants and lions are perched among the turrets, buttresses, spires and stained glass windows.  There are wonderful views of the city and Arabian Sea from Malibar Hill.  Try to get to Mani Bhavan, a small museum dedicated to the life and works of Mahatma Ghandi, and if time allows the Prince of Wales museum to see the extensive collection of fascinating 18 & 19 Century miniature paintings, elegantly carved ivory artworks and a rich and gorgeous collection of Nepalese and Tibetan art.  But we were on a culinary tour so apart from all these delights the main focus was the food. Mumbai, meaning ‘good bay’ as Bombay is now called, has apparently the best selection of restaurants of any Indian city. The amazing variety of food reflects all Indian creeds and cultures and gives an insight into the history of the metropolis: Parsi Dhansak, Muslim kebabs, Mangalorean seafood, Gujarati thalis and of course Mombai’s great speciality the bhelpari. For that, go along to Chowpatty beach in the evening when darkness blots out the ugly surroundings and the grim waters of Back Bay.  The locals come with their kids to enjoy the amusements in the cool evening breeze. When we tumbled out of our bus at about 9 pm, the beach was throbbing with excitement, merry- go- rounds, monkey trainers, paan wallahs, mystics, card players, philosophers, con artists, boat trips, pony rides, … Several people were having vigorous massages on the beach.  There was row after row of food stalls with braziers and huge iron wok like pans and griddles selling Indian snacks, samosas, spicy potato cakes and the famous bhelpuri – delicious snacks of crisp noodles, puffed rice, spiced vegetables, crushed puri, chutney and chillies. Here too you can find some of the best kulfi in Mumbai. The best seafood we ate was at a city centre restaurant called Ttishna, next to the Commerce House in the Fort area. The food is a fusion of South Indian and Mangalore, a delicious fish called pumphry from the Indian Ocean, marinated in turmeric and lime and seasoned with freshly crushed black pepper and cooked in the tandoor oven. The steamed King crab served with melted butter was the most divine and succulent we ever tasted. Huge spicy prawns and Surmai tilski were also superb.  After lunch we explored the colourful indoor Crawford market, Bas reliefs by Rudyard Kipling’s father Lockwood Kipling adorn the Norman Gothic exterior and an ornate fountain he designed still stands, surrounded by old fruit boxes in the centre of the market. The animal market at the rear sells everything from dogs to cockatoos. The meat market is certainly not for the faint-hearted and would cause our environmental health officers to have apoplexy. Perhaps we should study this as many Indians certainly have antibodies and an immune system the envy of Europeans and Americans whose systems have recently been dumbed down by lack of challenge from bacteria now that so much food has been rendered almost sterile by processing.  Having said that, about 70% of Indians are vegetarians. Meat, when it is eaten is often cooked within hours of being killed, with a judicious mixture of spices, many of which have antiseptic qualities. It certainly didn’t deter me from trying everything that was put before me – some of the most exciting flavours I’ve ever tasted.

Indian Spiced Vegetable Pakoras with Mango Relish


Serves 4-6

Vegetables
1 thin aubergine cut into * inch (5mm) slices
1 teasp. salt
2 medium courgettes, cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) slices, if they are very large cut into quarters
12 cauliflower florets
6 large mushrooms, cut in half
Batter
6 ozs (170g/1*) cups Chick pea or all-purpose flour
1 tablesp. (1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) chopped fresh coriander
1 scant teasp. salt
2 teasp. curry powder
1 tablesp. (1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) olive oil
1 tablesp. (1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) freshly squeezed lemon juice
6-8 fl ozs (175-250ml/*-1 cup) iced water
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Garnish: Lemon wedges and coriander or parsley

Put the aubergine slices into a colander, sprinkle with the salt, and let drain while preparing the other vegetables.  Blanch the courgettes and cauliflower florets separately in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, and dry well. Rinse the aubergine slices and pat dry.  Put the flour, coriander, salt and curry powder into a large bowl.  Gradually whisk in the oil, lemon juice and water until the batter is the consistency of thick cream.  Heat good quality oil to 180C in a deep fry. Lightly whisk the batter and dip the vegetables in batches of 5 or 6, slip them carefully into the hot oil. Fry the pakoras for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning them with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a moderate oven (uncovered) while you cook the remainder. Allow the oil to come back to 180C between batches. When all the vegetable fritters are ready, garnish with lemon wedges and fresh or deep fried coriander or parsley. Serve at once with Mango relish.

 

Mango Relish


2 fl ozs (50ml/* cup) medium sherry
2 fl ozs (50ml/* cup) water
2 fl ozs (50ml/* cup) white wine vinegar
2 tablesp. (2 American tablesp. + 2 teasp.) sugar
cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 teasp. salt
Pinch of ground mace
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
1 tablesp. (1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) lemon juice

Put the sherry, water, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, star anise, salt and mace into a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the mango, pepper, and lemon juice, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Spoon into a screw top jar and refrigerate until required.

 

Tea Garden in Kerela

Can you believe it, we’re in a tea garden in Kerela, one of the most beautiful parts of South India – even more amazing – the plantation is called the Connemara Tea Company. Later I inquired from the manager of the plant Mr.Navaraj, if there was an Irish connection, he looked blankly and asked politely, where is Ireland? He pointed to the portraits on the wall, the last three generations of the family who owned the plantations – obviously Indian – I tried a few more questions but am still none the wiser. Nonetheless we managed to get access to the tea processing plant, something our guide couldn’t guarantee because of an element of secrecy around the method of production. The Connemara Tea is CTC which stands for Cut, Tear and Curl, exactly the process used for Barry’s Tea which we all know and love.  The tea bushes need direct sunlight and grow in tropical areas on the rolling hills. Teas grown at the highest altitudes, for example, mature slowly and have a lower yield, resulting in higher quality. In fact the best tea comes from North India – Darjeeling and Assam.  Tea grows on Camellia Sinensis which if left to mature can reach a height of 25 feet, but for tea production they are pruned to a height of about 21/2-3 feet, and after four years of constant picking they are kept manicured to the right height. – they continue to be productive for about 60 years.  Silver oak grow in lines through the tea gardens, this soft wood tree acts as a windbreak and absorbs moisture which helps to produce a better flavoured tea with a desirable crispness. The silver oak wood is used to make tea chests and for firewood to process the tea and to introduce a smoky flavour in varieties like Lapsang Souchong. Women in bright colourful clothes pick tea leaves at incredible speed, nipping off two tender leaves and one bud, they flick them into a little basket and then into a pannier on their backs. The way in which tea is harvested, dried and processed will affect the flavour of the brew – Indian tea tastes quite different to that from China or Ceylon, and teas from Assam in Northern India differ in flavour to those from Nilgiri in the south.  They harvest every 10 days for 10 months of the year. First the freshly picked leaves are put into long troughs for withering, cold air is blown through, this concentrates the cell sap, a chemical change takes place, and 20% of the moisture is removed. This process lasts for about a day and then the leaves are put into a hopper and a pre-conditioning machine which first crushes, then tears and finally curls the leaves. The sap is exposed to the air, the tea is then put into a fermenting drum for oxidation which causes the chemical polyphenynol to form and finally theoflavin which adds briskness to the liquor.  The Manager, Mr Navaraj explained that if fermentation is prolonged another chemical called theurubigin is formed which gives a good rich colour to the tea.  After 45 minutes to 1 hour, fermentation is arrested and the tea is put into a drying machine at 50C – the enzymes are killed – fermentation ceases. Finally the tea is put into a roaster or dryer for about 10 minutes and that ends the process. Most of the tea produced by the Connemara Tea Company was for home consumption but I bought a few packets to taste from the little shop by the entrance. Across the road, little stalls served hot sweet tea with milk for just a few rupees but the ironic thing was that when we asked for tea in the hotels where we stayed we were offered Tetleys’ Tea Bags – is it a case of ‘the faraway hills are green’! Locals clustered round and stared at us as we drank our tea at the stall, the children came running up to ask for ‘one peno’. Everywhere one goes in India the children look for pens as souvenirs, so if you plan a trip to this fascinating country, collect up all those stray biros and pencils from around the house, so you can enjoy the yelps of delight and huge smiles when you present them with a pen.

Lana Pringle’s Barm Brack

Lana Pringle from Shanagarry makes this moist fruity tea brack, it keeps wonderfully well in a tin and is traditionally served sliced and buttered.

14 ozs (400g/generous 2 cups) dried fruit, raisins and sultanas

2 ozs (55g/generous * cup) cherries

2 ozs (55g) chopped candied peel – see recipe

4 ozs (110g/generous * cup) soft brown sugar

4 ozs (110g/generous * cup) granulated sugar

15 fl. ozs (450ml/generous 1* cups) tea

14 ozs (400g/scant 3 cups) plain white flour

* teaspoon of baking powder

1 egg

3 tins 4 x 6* x 3 inches deep (10 x 15 x 7.5cm deep)

or 2 tins 5 x 8 x 2* inches deep ((25.5 x 38 x 6.5cm deep)

Put raisins and sultanas into a bowl, cover with tea (Lana occasionally uses a mixture of Indian and Lapsang Souchong, but any good strong tea will do) and leave overnight to allow the fruit to plump up. Next day add the halved cherries, chopped candied peel, sugar and egg and mix well. Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in thoroughly. The mixture should be softish, add a little more tea if necessary (2 fl.ozs/50ml/* cup). Grease the tins with melted butter (Lana uses old tins, heavier gauge than are available nowadays, light modern tins may need to be lined with silicone paper for extra protection.) Divide the mixture between the three tins and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 40 minutes approx. Lana bakes her barmbracks in the Aga, after 40 minutes she turns the tins around and gives them a further 10 minutes approx.* Leave in the tins for about 10 minutes and then remove and cool on a wire rack. *If you are using two tins the barmbracks will take 1 hour approx.

 

Jasmine Tea and Lemon Parfait

Rory O’Connell makes this delicate parfait with Jasmine Tea at Ballymaloe House

Serves 10

150 g/5 ozs/3/4 cup sugar

100 ml/31/2 fl ozs water

1 tablespoon (1 American + 1 teaspoon) Jasmine tea leaves

6 egg yolks

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) lemon juice

450 ml/15 fl ozs whipping cream, whipped until thick

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Accompaniment

Serve with a fruit salad using some exotic fruits.

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the tea leaves and stir, then cover and remove from the heat. Leave to marinade for 5 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine sieve into a clean pan and bring back to the boil and continue to cook until it reaches the thread stage. Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Pour in the boiling syrup in a thin stream, beating well. Then slowly pour in the lemon juice and continue beating until the mixture becomes white and fluffy. Beat until completely cool. Chill for 5 minutes. Fold the whipped cream and lemon zest into the mixture. Pour into a 25 x 10 cm/10 x 4 inch terrine mould or loaf pan lined with cling film (plastic wrap). Cover and freeze until set. To Serve: Cut 2 cm/3/4 inch slices of parfait and place in the centre of each plate. Serve with a fruit salad made some exotic fruits. This parfait will keep very well for a week or so in the freezer, cover well.

 

Agen Stuffed Prunes with Rosewater Cream

 

This ancient Arab Recipe from the Middle East will change your opinion of

prunes – a pretty and delicious dish.

Serves 6

450g (1 lb) Agen prunes, pitted

Same number of fresh walnut halves

150ml (1/4 pint/gen.1/2 cup) each water and red wine or more or 300ml (1/2

pint/11/4 cups) water or cold tea.

300ml (1/2 pint/11/2 cups) cream

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) castor sugar

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) rose blossom water

Decoration

A few chopped walnuts

Rose petals – optional

We’ve experimented with taking out the stones from both soaked and dry prunes, unsoaked worked best. Use a small knife to cut out the stones and then stuff each with half a walnut. Arrange in a single layer in a saute pan. Cover with a mixture of wine and water, or cold tea. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add more liquid if they become a little dry. They should be plump and soft. Lift them gently onto a serving plate in a single layer and let them cool. .Whip the cream to soft peaks, add the castor sugar and rose blossom water. Spoon blobs over the prunes and chill well. Just before serving sprinkle with rose petals and a few chopped walnuts. Just before serving, scatter a few chopped walnuts over each blob of cream, sprinkle with rose petals and serve well chilled. This dessert tastes even better next day.

 

Farmers Market

This week Henrietta Green’s Farmers Market Cookbook arrived on my desk.  Henrietta Green is quite a lady, a respected journalist, broadcaster and author of the multiple award winning The Food Lovers Guide to Britain.  She has also written several cookery books and is the winner of an IACP Julia Child Award. Widely acknowledged as the country’s leading expert and champion of Britain’s small speciality food producers, Henrietta was awarded the prestigious BBC Radio 4 Food Programme ‘Campaigner of the Year 2000’, by HRH The Prince of Wales. She was also recently voted one of the Evening Standard’s movers and shakers of London and her role in shaping the British culinary scene was acknowledged by House and Garden who included her in their ‘who’s who of British design for the end of the millennium.’ Henrietta currently sits on the steering committee of the advisory panel for the Countryside Agency’s new local food initiative ‘Eat the View’.  Ever since the 1980’s she has been instrumental in encouraging the British farmers’ market revival. She’s also quite beautiful and a bundle of fun.  Britain’s first Farmers Market set up its stalls in Bath in September 1998,  since then 250 more have mushroomed up around the country, some are weekly,  others fortnightly, others monthly. All are set up for the express  intention of providing an outlet for farmers and small food producers to sell local seasonal produce to the consumers who are desperately seeking this kind of food.  In the US there are now 2,700 from coast to coast, they estimate that over a million people shop at them each week, and the growth from 1996 when they were first counted there has been in the area of 40%.. This extraordinary development has baffled and intrigued the futurologists and business gurus who note with some dismay that the growth in retail food is static and expected to decline, while growth in the speciality food business and farmers market continues to grow apace.  It doesn’t surprise me, even while a large segment of the population seem happy to live out of the forecourt hot counters, a growing number of not necessarily affluent people, are craving fresh naturally produced seasonal food that they can trust, and are prepared to go out of the way to find it. For this reason, I believe there should be a weekly Farmers’ Market in every city centre and reasonable sized town in Ireland. It has already been proven that these markets not only attract more local people but also tourists into the town and so enhance the business of other shops. In fact in both the UK and US there are examples where local supermarkets have invited the Farmers Market Stalls to set up in their car park.  These markets are different from some of the established markets, they do not sell clothes, cd’s, tools, bric-a-brac… they simply sell local food to local people , the producers themselves or an appropriate representative must man the stall.

When Henrietta Green was asked to address the Oxford Farming Conference, she expanded her dream, she explained that while she didn’t see the Farmers Markets as the panacea to all our ills, almost everyone would benefit from the existence of countrywide farmers markets.  They enable local farmers and food producers to sell their goods locally which benefits both them and the local community. They keep the money circulating within the local area and attract people to adjacent retail businesses. Farmers Markets benefit the environment by encouraging sustainable agriculture and small scale less intensive production. They reduce the effects of the long distance transport of food and the need for excess packaging (more welcome than ever in these days of clogged roads and waste disposal crisis.) Furthermore they provide a thoroughly enjoyable opportunity for the consumer to meet the person who produces their food and helps to rebuild the bond of trust which has been so badly damaged between the producers and consumer over recent years. In the words of Dee Nolan , editor of YOU Magazine, ‘Farmers Markets rebuild that all-important relationship between the producer and the customer that had all but died out over the past few decades. It’s good for the producer to be able to meet the customer face-to-face and know their needs. Likewise, its great for the customer to actually see where their food comes from and understand what goes into producing it”. Henrietta Green’s Farmers’ Market Cookbook, published by Kyle Cathie Ltd. London.  Here are some recipes from Henrietta’s book.

Scrambled eggs with smoked eel

Serves 4

5 large eggs
50g (2oz) unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated horseradish
1 tablespoon double cream
4 x 250g (1oz) fillets of smoked eel
cayenne pepper

Although it is not essential, it is much easier to make these scrambled eggs in a non-stick saucepan. I have come across various cooks who make theirs in a frying pan and it just will not do. In a frying pan the eggs cook far too fast and, no matter how hard you try, you cannot achieve that unctuous creaminess that is essential to properly scrambled eggs. In a suitable bowl, whisk the eggs together, then whisk in 25g (1oz) of the butter, a knob of a time. Season lightly with no more than a tiny pinch of salt – remember the eel may be quite salty – freshly ground pepper and horseradish. Over a low heat melt the remainder of the butter in a saucepan, and then pour in the eggs. Using a wooden spoon. Stir constantly until all the butter has melted, then carry on stirring for another minute or so. Turn up the heat slightly and continue stirring until the eggs are just beginning to set. At this point, lift the saucepan off the heat while still stirring them, then replace the pan over the heat and repeat the process, the point is to slow down the process of cooking. Just when you think the eggs are almost – but still not quite – as scrambled as you like them, lift the pan off the heat, as they will carry on cooking for a while even if they are not directly over a heat source. Stir in the cream to cool them down and to make them even more rich and creamy, then turn them out on to warmed plates. Serve with the eel fillets arranged on top and dust with a little cayenne pepper.

 

Mixed Vegetable Soup

Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 spring onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
4 ripe plum tomatoes, halved, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 litre (1 3/4 pints) fresh vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 small potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
100g (4oz) baby carrots, quartered
250g (9oz) young spinach leaves
1/2 bunch or radishes, topped and tailed
100g (4oz) asparagus, chopped
Large handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
To serve: 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the spring onions and garlic and cook gently over a moderate heat to soften for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock and seasoning and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for a further 15 minutes. Add the radishes, carrots, young spinach leaves and asparagus, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the basil and serve the soup in bowls drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Summer Mixed Vegetable Soup

Prepare as for the spring soup but replace the spring onions with 1 peeled and chopped red onion. Replace the carrots with 3 medium courgettes cut into cubes. Replace the radishes with 100g (4oz) sugar snap peas. Remove the spinach and asparagus. Add 50g (2oz) grated Parmesan at the same time as the extra virgin olive oil.

Autumn Mixed Vegetable Soup

Prepare as for the spring soup but replace the spring onions with 1 chopped onions. At the same time add 1 teaspoon of crushed cumin seeds. Replace the tomatoes with 3 sticks of chopped celery. Replace the potatoes with 150g (5oz) brown lentils and the spring carrots with two peeled and cubed carrots. Replace the radishes with 450g (1lb) peeled and cubed parsnips. Remove the spinach and asparagus. Simmer for an extra 10 minutes. Replace the basil with a large pinch of finely chopped fresh thyme. Replace the extra virgin olive oil with 150ml (1/4-pint) double cream.

Winter Mixed Vegetable Soup

Prepare as for the spring soup but replace the spring onions with 1 peeled and chopped onion. Replace the fresh tomatoes with a can of plum tomatoes. Add 3 sticks of chopped celery at the same time. Replace the potatoes with 1 peeled and cubed celeriac. Replace the spring carrots with two medium peeled and cubed carrots. Leave out the radishes, spinach and asparagus. Replace the basil with a handful of chopped parsley.

 

Slow-roasted Chilli pork

Serves 6-8
1 shoulder of pork weighing approximately 4kg (8lb 2oz) skin scored
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
4cm (11/2in) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large red chillis, halved, deseeded and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas Mark 7

Place the pork skin side up on a rack over a roasting tin. Place the garlic, ginger and chillis in a pestle and mortar or food processor and pound or process until you get a rough paste, then slowly mix in the oil and vinegar. Using a spatula or – if you must – your hands (but remember to wash them thoroughly or the chillis might irritate your skin), rub the paste all over the scored skin of the pork. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven; reduce the temperature to 125oC/250oF/Gas-mark 1/2. Turn the pork over with the skin side down on the rack and return to the oven and cook for an unbelievable 23 hours. Remove from the oven and turn the oven up to the highest setting – 220oC/425oF/Gas mark 7. Turn the pork over to crackling side up on the rack and roast in the hot oven for a final 20 minutes to crispen up the crackling.
To serve:
Cut away the crackling with a sharp knife and break it up into pieces then start to carve the meat. Actually at this stage the meat is so tender that it is probably easier to break up the meat using two forks to pull it apart.

Rhubarb and ginger cobbler

Serves 6
For the filling:

600g (1lb 50z) rhubarb prepared and cut into 2.5cm (1 in) pieces.
175g (6oz) caster sugar
Zest and juice of 1 small orange
2.5 cm (1in) piece stem ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons stem ginger syrup
For the cobbler topping:
250g (9oz) plain flour
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoons baking powder
Large pinch of salt
30g (11/2-oz) butter cut into small pieces
1 egg
125ml (4fl oz) buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/gas mark 6.

Mix the rhubarb with the sugar, orange zest and juice, stem ginger and syrup, and spoon into a 23cm(9in) baking dish. To make the cobbler mixture, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Beat together the egg with the buttermilk then add to the dry mixture until it comes together to form a smooth non-sticky dough. Break off portions of the dough and place them on top of the fruit, pressing lightly. Carry on until the entire surface of the fruit is covered with the dough pieces to give a ‘cobbled’ effect. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of caster sugar on top of the dough. Bake in the preheated oven for 34-45 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately with lashings of cream.

Flight from the Land

During the past few years the flight from the land has continued to accelerate. The Irish Farmers Journal predicted that within the next decade the number of farms will be down from 100,000 to 20,000, and 80,000 farmers will be forced to leave the land – everywhere doom and gloom. Farmers wonder where it’s all going to end, even those who are still making a good living say the joy has been taken out of farming and moan about the filling in of forms, the Catch 22 situation with subsidies and expensive chemical inputs.
Many feel trapped and see no way forward and reluctantly encourage their children to pursue alternative careers no matter how strong their love for the land may be. However, this feeling of hopelessness is not shared by everyone. A few weeks ago I attended the Conference of the Soil Association at Cirencester Agricultural College. The mood among the capacity audience of over 600 delegates was optimistic and upbeat. Sainsbury’s sponsored the conference as they have for four years now, and reiterated their support for the organic movement, and confirmed the amazing 40% growth in demand for organic produce yet again, in the year 2000. In fact in the UK, the major supermarkets are vying with each other to sponsor organic events. Waitrose, together with the Mail on Sunday You Magazine sponsor the prestigious Organic Food Awards.
Three Government Ministers attended the Soil Association Conference. The Rt. Hon Michael Meacher, Minister for the Environment, Nick Brown Minister for Agriculture, and the Danish Minister of Agriculture- a dynamic gutsy woman called Ritt Bjerregaard. She explained how 20% of Denmark’s milk is now organic . The surplus milk on the home market is now being exported. Is it possible we will see Danish Organic milk on the shelves over here, instead of Irish organic milk which the market is crying out for. I was bringing milk from Glenisk in Co Offaly because I cannot get a supply of organic milk closer to home. Another interesting fact from fascinating Ritt Bjerregaard’s speech- Denmark has banned the use of pesticides and herbicides for use in private gardens or public parks.
The Oxford Farmers’ Conference on the same weekend was less than three-quarters full – no government minister attended, and God knows the conventional farmers could have done with the support.
Is there at last a realization, as the Danish Minister and other speakers were of the view, that sustainable agriculture and organic farming are the only way forward, and the only route out of this sad mess that agriculture has got into.
This is a similar view to the one articulated by the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder some weeks ago, when he addressed the German nation to break the devastating news that there were indeed cases of BSE in Germany. His message was loud and clear. ‘This spells the end of industrial farming in Germany – we simply have to find a new model.’
The new Minister Of Agriculture from the Green Party Mrs. Kunast, is determined to put the interests of the consumer first, but she warned this will mean that consumers must be prepared to pay more for less intensively produced food. At present the prices paid to farmers and food producers particularly for staples, are forcing them to cut costs and intensify further. In this situation we are all losers – it is simply not possible to produce really wholesome flavourful health-giving food for half nothing. Pushing yields beyond natural limits results in everything cracking as we can clearly see with BSE, Salmonella, E-Coli, Camphylocbactor……..
Those of you who are concerned about these matters may want to seek out a book called ‘Another Turn of the Crank’, written by Wendell Barry who was cited by the New York Review of Books as “perhaps the greatest moral essayist of our day”. He, like many others, fears for the future, unless we radically rethink our ways. In his book of six essays he reiterated his wish to restore local life by means of local economies. Even though the book is written from an American perspective, what he writes is also relevant to Ireland. After the second world war; there was a huge change in how land was farmed, both in the USA and here. What should have happened was for us to have carried on refining established practices and correcting, where necessary, any fertility deficit. What happened instead was that an agenda was adopted that called for a shift from the cheap, clean, and, for all purposes limitless energy of the sun to the expensive, filthy and limited energy of the fossil fuels. It called for the massive use of chemical fertilisers to offset the destruction of topsoil and the depletion of natural fertility. It called also for the displacement of nearly the entire farming population and the replacement of their labour and good farming practices by machine and toxic chemicals. Land was being wasted, farmers were finding times exceptionally hard and rural communities were breaking up through lack of employment. No one, with the exception of the businesses who supplied the machines, fuels and chemicals, benefited. As the ‘supposed abundance of cheap and healthful food is to a considerable extent illusory’ not even us, the consumers, were gaining. Patently, to carry on ploughing the same furrow would be a madness particularly, as Mr Berry predicts, soon there would be pitiably few farmers left able to earn a decent living. ‘If they will not control production and if they will not reduce their dependence on purchased supplies, they will keep failing.’
All is not lost, however; or rather; not yet. There is time – just, but only if we mend our ways. First, farmers must change their ways and learn, or learn again, to farm sustainably. The second change involves us all as it calls for ‘co-operation between local farmers and local consumers. The long-broken connections between towns and cities and their surrounding landscapes will have to be restored.
Could Farmers Markets be part of the answer? – find out next week.
Root vegetables are at their absolute best just now.

Moroccan Spiced Carrot Soup


Serves 4
2 tablesp olive oil or 30g (1oz) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablesp. grated ginger
1 teasp. ground cumin
1 teasp. ground coriander
¼ teasp. cayenne pepper
750g (1½lb) carrots, roughly chopped
1.5l (2½ pints) chicken or vegetable stock
1 teasp. honey
2 tablesp. lemon or orange juice
salt, black pepper

Heat the oil or butter in a heavy-based pot. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cayenne, carrot and potato and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium low heat until the vegetables are soft, 10 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat, partially cover and simmer gently until the potato is tender, 30 minutes.
Leave to cool slightly. Puree until smooth with a hand blender or in a food processor. Stir in honey and lemon or orange juice. Thin with water as needed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into warm bowls and serve hot.

Variation:
Carrot and Parsnip Soup with Ginger
Omit the cumin, coriander and cayenne. Replace half the carrots with 2 chopped medium parsnips. Cook as directed.

 

Roast Winter Roots


Serves 4 as an accompaniment
1.25kg (2½lb) mixed root vegetables (see below)
1 head garlic, separated into cloves, but unpeeled
½ teasp. crumbled dried rosemary or 1 teasp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
½ teasp. balsamic vinegar
4 tables. Extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt, black pepper
Any roots or combinations of roots will work for this recipe. To minimise differences in cooking times, you will need to cut the fast-cooking vegetables into slightly larger pieces than the slow-cookers. Choose from:
Potatoes, quartered
Carrots, halved lengthwise
Medium parsnips, quartered lengthwise
Celeriac, peeled and cut into wedges
Turnips, quartered
Beetroot, quartered
Shallots, whole and peeled
Onions, peeled and quartered but still attached by the root end
Swede, peeled and cut into wedges
Jerusalem artichokes, halved

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) Gas 6.
Place the vegetables and garlic in a single layer in a roasting dish. Sprinkle with rosemary, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat. Roast until golden and tender: 40 minutes to 1 hour.

 

Creamy Parsnip Gratin


Serves 4
750g (1½lb) medium parsnips, cut into 5mm (¼ inch) slices.
175ml (6 fl.ozs) double cream
125g (4oz) gruyere or cheddar cheese, grated
salt, black pepper

Cook in boiling water until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 5-8 minutes. Drain well. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) Gas 6.
Layer the parsnip slices in a buttered baking dish. Pour over the cream and sprinkle with cheese, salt and pepper.
Bake until the topping is golden and just crisp, 15-20 minutes.
These recipes are from Planet Organic Cookbook by Renee Elliott and Eric Treuille, published by Dorling Kindersley.


Celeriac with Turmeric


Serves 4-6
2 celeriac (about 1kg/2lb)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
5 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ teasp. turmeric
salt and pepper
2 teasp. sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Peel and wash the celeriac and cut into pieces of roughly the same size. Put them into a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients and enough water to cover.
Cook, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes over a low heat until the celeriac is soft and the liquid is absorbed, turning the pieces over and raising the heat, if necessary, to reduce the sauce a little at the end.
Serve cold.
This recipe is from Tamarind and Saffron by Claudia Roden, published by Penguin Books.

 

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