CategorySaturday Letter

Kangaroo Island

Last week, food and wine and travel writers from all over the world descended on Adelaide in varying degrees of bleary-eyed jet lag. We were happily lured there to attend a week long celebration of Australian food called Tasting Australia. We flew with Quantas from London on Wednesday night, touched down in Singapore and eventually arrived in Adelaide at 5.00am on Friday morning, amazingly, I was as ‘fresh as a daisy’, because somehow Quantas seem to have managed to design a seat which can be adjusted so you can get a reasonable night’s sleep. A friend had packed me a fantastic picnic from a little Lebanese restaurant in Camden Town called Le Mignon, so I interspersed that with the Neil Perry Quantas airline food.

Even though I didn’t manage to eat it all there was no way I could bring it into Australia. Here is a country that fully understands the importance of strict quarantine laws. They are not about to sacrifice their disease-free status for any reason. There are dire warnings about bringing in, not only food or plants, but also seeds or seed ornaments, eg necklaces or articles stuffed with seeds. Plant produce doesn’t just mean living things – straw packaging, wooden articles, handcrafts, eg wreaths and dried flower arrangements, shells, feather boas, stuffed animals, hides, furs, unprocessed wool and yarns. ……Animal grooming or veterinary equipment, saddles, bridles and birdcages, hiking equipment must all be declared and checked. Bee products are strictly forbidden. Specially trained beagles wait in the luggage claim area to sniff your baggage and there are on-the-spot fines and confiscation for anyone caught flaunting the quarantine laws. By being strict and unwavering on this issue, the Australian government has managed to keep out exotic pests and diseases that could affect plant, animal and human health and the environment.

Kangaroo Island, the third largest island off Adelaide, a 45 minute plane ride from Adelaide, produces some amazing produce and has even stricter quarantine laws. The island, 46% of which has never been cleared of natural vegetation, was discovered in 1802. In the early part of the last century 12 hives of Ligurian bees were brought from Italy – the Italians have since lost this strain through disease, so now the Kangaroo Island is the only pure strain left in the world. There are no foxes or rabbits on the island, consequently there is a thriving free range chicken and egg business on the island, and honey of course. More recently a young couple have started to grow olives and make a fantastic olive oil. The island is still unspoilt despite the fact that tourism is the main industry.

Agriculture was developed after the second world war in 1948, merino sheep were introduced for wool and a vibrant seed potato industry operated. The island is very beautiful and visitors come because it is still underdeveloped. Long avenues of Eucalyptus, Angus and Hereford cattle grazing in the fields, koala bears gorging themselves on the leaves of the gum trees. In Seal Bay one can see the sea lions luxuriating on the beach after a three day fishing trip at sea. At the other end of the island there are fur seals and the breathtaking beautiful rock formation called the Admiral’s Arch and Remarkable Rocks.  We had flown over from Adelaide to visit the small food producers of Kangaroo Island which is known for its clean green environment. An Englishman John Melbourne has started a marran (similar to crayfish)

farm with 65 ponds. Tuna and scallops are also farmed quite successfully and there are several cheesemakers, including Island Sheep Cheese just beside the Airport, who make three different types of sheeps’ milk cheese, Haloumi, Kefolateri, Manchego and a thick unctuous yoghurt. We had a delicious breakfast at a local B & B called Stranrear, run by the Wheaten family. Anne Wheaten did the best Eggs Benedict I ever ate, the eggs were from their own chickens, the spinach which tastes reminiscent of the sea, was from their garden and the locally cured bacon was delivered by a neighbour that morning. After breakfast an Apple and Mulberry Crunch and lots of lovely preserves, as well as their own eucalyptus honey. We even saw some kangaroos.

 

Eggs Benedict 


Serves 4

Rich and gorgeous, often eaten for breakfast but best for brunch – again the quality of all the components can lift this from the mundane to the extraordinary.

4 free range eggs, preferably organic

4 English muffins or 4 rounds of toast made from good bread preferably

not sliced pan 4 slices cooked ham or 4-8 slices of bacon

Hollandaise sauce- see recipe below.

First make the Hollandaise sauce.

 

If using bacon heat a very little sunflower oil in a hot frying pan. Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Meanwhile poach the eggs and make the toast or split the muffins. Spread the hot toast or

toasted muffins with butter. Top with a slice of ham or 2 slices of crispy bacon. Gently place the poached egg on top and coat with Hollandaise sauce. Serve extra hot toast and sauce separately.

 

Hollandaise Sauce

 

Serves 4-6, depending on what it is to be served with

Hollandaise is the mother of all the warm emulsion sauces . The version we use here is easy to make and quite delicious with fish. Once the sauce is made it must be kept warm: the temperature should not go above 350C/180F or the sauce will curdle. A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale, otherwise put the sauce into a delph or plastic bowl in a saucepan over hot but not simmering water.

Hollandaise Sauce cannot be reheated absolutely successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need. If however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or beat into mashed potato or use it to pick up a fish pie.

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic

110g (4oz) butter cut into dice

1 dessertspoon cold water

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, approx.

Put the egg yolks in a heavy stainless saucepan on a low heat, or in a bowl over hot water. Add water and whisk thoroughly. Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water if necessary. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add the lemon juice to taste. If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency.

It is important to remember that if you are making hollandaise sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce. Another good tip if you are making hollandaise sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.

 

Yoghurt with Honey and Toasted Hazelnuts

 

In Australia we tasted delicious Eucalyptus honey with toasted almonds from the Barossa Valey, but seek out some good local Irish honey for this recipe.  Delicious for breakfast or dessert

Best quality natural greek style yoghurt

Strongly flavoured local Irish honey

Toasted almonds or hazelnuts, sliced

Serve a portion of chilled natural yoghurt per person. Just before serving drizzle generously with really good honey and sprinkle with toasted almonds or hazelnuts.

 

Apple and Blackberry or Mulberry Muesli

 

Serves 4

4 ozs (110g) fresh blackberries, mulberries or grated dessert apple (preferably Worcester Permain or Cox’s Orange Pippin)

3 heaped tablesp.rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)

6 tablespoons water

teasp approx. honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 10 or 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the blackberries or mulberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a scant teaspoon is usually enough but it depends on how sweet the berries are. Serve with cream and soft brown sugar.

 

Bridge Creek Ginger Muffins

 

Makes 10 approx.

110g (4 oz) unpeeled ginger root cut into chunks

170g (6 oz) castor sugar

zest of 2 lemons

110g (4 oz) butter

2 eggs, preferably free range

250ml (8 fl oz) buttermilk

285g (10 oz) white flour

½ teasp. Salt

½ teasp. bread soda

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

Grease 1 tray of muffin tins or line with non – stick muffin cases.

Whizz up the ginger in a food processor then put it into a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of sugar over a medium heat until the sugar melts. Allow to cool. Cream the butter, add the remainder of the sugar and the finely grated lemon zest, add the eggs one by one and beat well between each addition. Next add the buttermilk and ginger mixture, blend well. Finally stir in the flour, salt and bread soda, until just mixed. Fill the greased muffins tins with the batter, bake for 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven, serve warm. (Adapted from The Breakfast Book By Marion Cunningham)

 

 

The Ballymaloe Bread Book

Last week we had a special celebration in O’Connell’s Restaurant in Dublin for the launch of two new cookbooks – my latest tome entitled the Darina Allen Ballymaloe Cookery Course and the Ballymaloe Bread Book written by my husband Tim. For Michael Gill of Gill & Macmillan who published the books in Ireland, it was the first time a husband and wife had launched their work on the same day. In fact it was very much a family affair. My mother-in-law Myrtle Allen who started it all was there to celebrate with us. My brother Tom O’Connell and his wife Annette manage O’Connell’s Restaurant where we hosted the event. Another brother Rory O’Connell, chef at Ballymaloe House cooked the lunch.

We ate Potato Soup with Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen chorizo sausage, Roast organic saddleback pork with crackling (from our farm here in Shanagarry), Tomato and coriander fondue, Buttered runner beans, a Salad of Autumn leaves, Rustic roast potatoes, Ballymaloe praline ice-cream with blueberries followed by Irish farmhouse cheese.

For a number of years now Tim has become more and more passionate about bread. Here at the cookery school he has fired up a whole generation of young chefs and cooks with his infectious enthusiasm. “My awareness of bread-making goes right back to when I was a tiny child…. I remember being able to just peer over the top of the work counter in the kitchen…. I could see the tea-towels draped mysteriously over the dome of the bread tin. No mystery now – of course, this was the brown yeast bread rising by the warmth of the Aga.” Nonetheless Tim came to bread-making fairly late in life. He always says that his interest in bread-making was kindled almost by accident. One day (circa 1974) when I had gone off on a skite, he found himself without a car and with no bread in the bin, (such neglect!). Instead of nipping down to the village to buy a sliced pan, he decided to attempt to make a loaf himself. He knew almost instinctively how to make bread, having watched his mother mixing the dough on a daily basis as a child. He had often been asked to keep an eye on the bread as it rose in the tins and to alert somebody when it was ready for baking. That was second nature but he didn’t know the exact quantities, so he rang his Mum. Armed with the recipe, he made his first loaf of Ballymaloe Brown Yeast bread, popped it into the Aga and waited with bated breath – the loaf was crusty and delicious, he was hooked.

He eagerly progressed from one bread to another, soda breads, yeast breads, sour dough breads, flat breads, ethnic breads. … He hugely enjoyed passing on his knowledge and passion for bread-making to friends, and of course to the students here at the school. He delights in their pleasure as they take their first loaf of bread out of the oven. “The look on their faces and the joy and amazement that lights up their eyes”, gives him huge satisfaction. Past pupils have been sending their good wishes and thanking him for kindling their interest in bread-making ‘More often than not I find myself at home, in the middle of the country with my babies, my Aga, flour and baking soda for company. I bake bread every day thanks to your instruction, encouragement and inspiration’ writes one of our girls who has since married and has three small daughters.

He’s been experimenting with a wide variety of breads and is determined to take the mystery out of bread-making and to encourage as many busy people as possible to have a go and to realize that a loaf of soda bread or a few scones can literally be made in minutes. Even yeast breads and sourdough breads which take longer to make – “take time but not your time”. While the bread is rising one can simply get on with other things. Tim’s Ballymaloe Bread Book has more than 100 delicious recipes for all kinds of breads including pizza, focaccia and some exotic ethnic breads. I just think it’s a terrific book, and that’s not just because I’m biased or because he dedicated it to me!

The final chapter is specially devoted to the author’s essential bread companions like raspberry jam, garlic butter, chocolate butter and roasted tomato sauce – irresistible!

The Ballymaloe Bread Book by Tim Allen, published by Gill and Macmillan,

£12.99 Click here to order

 

Teeny, Weenie, Spicy Cheese and Onion Scones

 

These scones are made with cayenne pepper to give them a real kick. Try

eating them with a soft creamy goats cheese, they are ideal for serving

as a canapé with drinks. The scones freeze very well and will defrost

within about half an hour so they are a great stand by. Especially good

to have some frozen around Christmas time for those unexpected guest

that arrive on your doorstep calling in for Christmas cheer.

Makes approximately 50 small scones

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, very finely chopped

450g 1lb plain flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 rounded teaspoon English mustard powder

1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

50g 2 oz butter

40g 1½ oz Parmesan cheese

40g 1½oz mature cheddar cheese

225 ml 8 floz milk

1 large egg

Topping

Egg wash

30g 1oz Parmesan cheese

 

2 Lightly greased baking sheets

Fully preheat the oven to 200ºC 400ºF regulo 6

In a large heavy based frying pan heat the olive oil, add the finely

chopped onions. Cook on a high heat for about ten minutes, stirring

frequently. The onions need to be just beginning to turn a golden

colour and have started to caramelise around the edges. Turn out onto a

plate and leave to cool.

While the onions are cooling sieve the flour, salt, mustard and cayenne

pepper into a large wide mixing bowl. Add the freshly ground black

pepper and rub in the butter. Stir in the freshly grated cheeses and

the onions. Combine all these ingredients really well together.

Beat the egg in a bowl and add it to the milk. Make a well in the

centre of the flour, cheese and onion mixture and pour in almost all the

liquid. Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full

circle drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk

if necessary. Bring gently together into a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Pat lightly, just enough

to tidy the dough.

Gently press the scone dough into a rectangle about 2.5cm 1inch high.

Paint the dough with egg wash and scatter with the grated parmesan

cheese. With a metal dough scraper cut the dough into teeny scones,

about 2.5cm 1 inch square.

Place the scones on to a lightly oiled and floured baking sheet cheese

side up. Put in to your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire

rack.

 

Coffee & Walnut Scones

 

Theses are a really quick and easy scone to serve with afternoon tea.

Instead of baking a cake these scones can be ready from start to finish

in under half an hour. As everyone is getting busier all the time these

days it is great to have a few staple recipes that can be made with very

little effort and even less time. So no excuse for not baking!

Makes 16

450g 1lb plain white flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

pinch salt

30g 1oz castor sugar

85g 3oz butter, chilled

70g 2½oz walnuts – coarsely chopped

2 medium eggs

6 – 7 floz fresh milk

1-2 tablespoons coffee essence

Coffee Icing

225g 7½oz icing sugar

1 tablespoon coffee essence

2 tablespoons boiling water

Fully preheated the oven 250°c/475°f/regulo 9

In a large wide plastic mixing bowl sieve the flour baking powder and

salt together. Add in the castor sugar. Cut the chilled butter in to

cubes. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Mix in the chopped

walnuts. Make a well in the centre.

In a measuring jug break the eggs and whisk lightly, add the coffee

essence and the milk bringing the liquid measurement up to the 285ml

10floz mark. Pour nearly all of the milk and egg mixture into the

flour.

Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle

drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if

necessary. Bring gently together into a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Pat lightly, just enough

to bring together.

Gently roll the scone dough into a rectangle about 2cm ¾ inch high.

With a metal dough cutter lightly dusted with flour cut the scone dough

into about 16 scones 4cm x 4cm 1½ x 1½ inches.

Place the scones on to a lightly floured baking sheet. Put in to your

preheated oven for 5 minutes then turn down the heat to

230°c/450°f/regulo 8 for a further 5 – 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

While the scones are cooling make the coffee icing, sieve the icing

sugar into a medium size mixing bowl. Add in the coffee essence and

whisk in the boiling water a tablespoon at a time.

How thick a consistency you want the icing to be is very much down to

personal preference, but if is generally best if not too runny. When

the scones have cooled spread the top of each scone generously with the

icing.

 

Stripy Cat

 

Makes one loaf

When Paul and Jeannie Rankin taught at the school some years ago their

two eldest children were in the kitchen with me while I was making

spotted dog. They asked me if I ever used chocolate instead of raisin

in my spotted dog. Always happy to try anything once I set about

creating this bread. Once it was out of the oven and by all accounts a

success I asked the girls what should I call it, “Stripy Cat of course”

they declared in unison. So Stripy Cat was born.

450g 1lb plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda, (finely sieved)

1 dessertspoon sugar

85-110g 3-4oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped

350-425 ml 12-14fl oz approximately butter milk

1 free-range egg (your egg is part of your liquid measurement)

First fully preheat your oven to 220°C/425°F/regulo 7.

In a large mixing bowl sieve in the flour and breadsoda. Add the salt,

sugar and chocolate. Mix well by lifting the flour and chocolate up in

to your hands and then letting them fall back into the bowl through your

fingers. This adds more air and therefore hopefully more lightness to

your finished bread.

Now make a well in the centre of the flour.

Break the egg into the bottom of your measuring jug add the buttermilk

to the 425ml 14floz line (your egg is part of your liquid measurement).

Pour most of this milk and egg into the flour. Using one hand with the

fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour from

the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should

be softish, not too wet and sticky. The trick with all soda breads is

not to over mix the dough. Mix it as quickly and as gently as possible

thus keeping it light and airy.

When the dough all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured work

surface. Wash and dry your hands.

Place the dough on to a baking tray dusted lightly with flour. With a

sharp knife cut a deep cross on it, let the cuts go over the sides of

the bread. Prick with knife at the four triangles as according to Irish

Folklore this is to let the fairies out!

Put in to the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to

200°C/400°F/regulo 6, for 35 minutes or until cooked. If you are in

doubt about the bread being cooked, tap the bottom: if it is cooked it

will sound hollow.

Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter.

 

 

Happy First Birthday Midleton Farmer’s Market

Today is the first birthday of the Midleton Farmers Market – a whole year has whizzed by since we set up our stalls for the first time behind the court house. After initial discussions about the location with the local community it was set up with the full support of the Chamber of Commerce and the Urban Council. From an initial twelve stalls the market has blossomed and gone from strength to strength. The Country Market joined in from the very beginning.

Farmers Markets 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. 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. They enable 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.

The variety of produce is amazing and of course most abundant during the growing season. As you enter the market area, Mrs. Burns who has been a trader for many years sells a variety of local vegetables, bundles of fresh carrots and turnips…… in season. Wendy English and her mother are next with their table piled high with freshly baked scones, cakes, biscuits, jam and chutney. Next comes Frank O’Neill with a variety of goodies, carrot cakes, delicious little pies, some beautifully grown vegetables from his own garden and little pots of jellies and jams.

The Ballymaloe Cookery School Gardens stall is next, with organic vegetables, lots of free range eggs, brown bread, jams and chutneys. Little bunches of sweet pea, Nora Aherne’s duck, Frank Krycwzk’s salamis, chorizo, fresh herbs, salad dressings, elderflower cordial and occasionally organic free range pork from our own saddleback pigs. Frank Hederman from Belvelly near Cobh has a tempting array of smoked fish, chicken,duck, and mussels. Sarah Mossman swings into action by his side making crepes which literally sell like hot cakes. Fiona Burke who does three markets a week, Macroom and Bantry, as well as Midleton, sells a gorgeous selection of Irish farmhouse cheese, as well as carefully chosen Continental cheese, eg. aged Gouda, Comte, Double Gloucester and some seaweed products, and Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen Bacon. Clodagh McKenna from Ballymaloe House has a little stall sandwiched between Fiona Burke and the Yorks. She sells delicious home made fresh pasta, parsley pesto, tomato fondue, toffee apples, brown soda bread and seasonal soups and dressings.

Tim and Fiona York have recently joined the market and sell a tantalizing array of organic vegetables and plants and plan to expand their range. Local cheesemaker Jane Murphy sells a fresh and a mature version of her exquisite Ardsallagh goat cheese – a delicate gorgeous cheese that tastes of the rich pastures that the goats are fed on. The irrepressible plantsman Ted Murphy trades beside her with an colourful selection of pot plants, herbs and flowers. Helen Aherne and Frances Lucey man the Country Market stall brimming with cakes and biscuits and occasionally a few duck eggs and wild mushrooms in season.. David and Siobhan Barry have a truck full of vegetables and fruit. Kate O’Donovan, of the market, sells her delicious homemade marinades, dressings and dips, and Margaret Keane’s quiches, side by side with Marog O’Brien of the Farmgate Restaurant here in Midleton, who sells Declan Ryan’s fantastic breads – soda, yeast and sourdough and some of her own famous chocolate cake. Next comes local farmer Dan O’Neill and his wife Anne. They invested in a refrigerated truck and now sell their organic beef. He responded to the numerous requests for free range organic chickens and now can scarcely fulfill the demand. Oren Little of the Little Apple Co. drive down from Kilkenny every Saturday to sell their cooking and eating apples and delicious apple juice. Chris Cashman’s cakes made with butter sell out in no time and finally Willie Scannell sells his Ballycotton potatoes, he like many others was a victim of the supermarkets’ central distribution policy, now the Midleton Farmers Market allows him the opportunity to sell his potatoes directly to the consumer, his future is secure, and this year he will have a selection of vegetables including lettuce, cabbage, white turnips, radishes and onions. The variety of produce is truly amazing. The market has been enthusiastically supported, not only by the local community, but by the local shops who report an increase in business on market day.

Midleton Farmers Market is held every Saturday from 10am-2pm on Hospital Road.

Ardsallagh Goat Cheese with Rocket Leaves, Roast Pepper and Tapenade Oil

Serves 5
10ozs (285g) Ardsallagh goat cheese (or a similar fresh mild goat cheese)
seasoned flour
beaten egg
flaked almonds
white breadcrumbs
2 large red peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
Tapenade Oil
4 ozs (110g/3/4 cup) stoned black olives
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) capers
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
6 fl ozs (170ml) olive oil
A selection of lettuces and rocket leaves
Dressing
4 tablesp. (5 american tablesp. + 1 teasp.) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablesp.(1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) Balsamic vinegar
1/2 clove garlic crushed
salt and freshly ground pepper
Garnish
Wild garlic flowers in season

First divide the Ardsallagh goat cheese into 25 balls, chill. Next make the Tapenade oil Coarsely chop the stoned black olives, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Whisk in the olive oil as you whisk and process to a course or smooth puree as you prefer. Coat the cheese in seasoned flour, beaten egg, flaked almonds, breadcrumbs. Arrange in a single layer on a flat plate. Cover and chill well. Roast the peppers in a preheated oven 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for approximately 20 minutes. Put into a bowl, cover the top with cling film and allow to steam for 5 or 10 minutes. Peel, remove seeds and cut into strips. Next make the dressing Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl. Heat the oil in a deep fry or a pan to 200C Fry the goat cheese croquettes in batches until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Toss the lettuces and salad leaves in a bowl with just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten. Divide between the six plates. Put five croquettes on each plate, decorate with strips or red pepper, rocket leaves and a drizzle of Tapenade oil. Scatter some wild garlic flowers over the top and serve immediately

Globe Artichokes with Melted Butter

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

Serves 6
6 globe artichokes
2 pints (1.1L/5 cups) water
2 teasp. salt
2 teaspoons approx. white wine vinegar
Melted Butter
6 ozs (170g/) butter
Freshly squeezed juice of * lemon approx.

Some restaurants do very complicated preparation but I merely trim the base just before cooking so the artichokes will sit steadily on the plate, rub the cut end with lemon juice or vinegar to prevent it from discolouring. Have a large saucepan of boiling water ready, add 2 teaspoons of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt to every 2 pints of water, pop in the artichokes and bring the water back to the boil. Simmer steadily for about 25 minutes.  After about 20 minutes you could try testing to see if they are done. I do this by tugging off one of the larger leaves at the base, it should come away easily, if it doesn’t continue to cook for another 5 – 10 minutes. Remove and drain upside down on a plate. While they are cooking simply melt the butter and add lemon juice to taste.  To Serve Put each warm artichoke onto a hot serving plate, serve the sauce or melted butter in a little bowl beside it. Artichokes are eaten with your fingers, so you might like to provide a finger bowl. A spare plate to collect all the nibbled leaves will also be useful.

Globe Artichokes with Vinaigrette Dressing


Ingredients as above excluding the melted butter.
Vinaigrette Dressing
2 fl ozs (50ml/) wine vinegar
6 fl ozs (150ml/) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils, e.g. sunflower and arachide
1 level teasp. (* American teasp.) mustard (Dijon or English)
1 large clove garlic
1 scallion or small spring onion
Sprig of parsley, finely chopped
Sprig of watercress, finely chopped
1 level teasp. salt
Few grinds of pepper

Put all the ingredients into a blender and run at medium speed for 1 minute approx. or mix oil and vinegar in a bowl, add mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and mashed garlic, chopped parsley, spring onion and watercress. Whisk before serving. Cook the artichokes as above. Serve little bowls of vinaigrette dressing with the warm artichokes.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Sponge

Serves 6-8

3 eggs, preferably free range
3 fl ozs (75ml) water
8 ozs (225g/1 cup) sugar
5 ozs (140g/1 cup) flour
1 teasp. baking powder
filling
1 lb (450g) green gooseberries
2 elderflower heads
1/2 pint (300ml/11/4 cups) cold water
1 lb (225g/1 cup) sugar
4 fl ozs (110ml/1/2 cup) whipped cream
2 teasp. icing sugar

Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks with the sugar for 2 minutes in a food mixer and then add in the water. Whisk until light and fluffy, 10 minutes approx. Gently Fold in the sieved flour and baking powder into the mousse in batches. Whisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Fold them in very gently. Bake in two greased and floured 8 inch (20.5cm) sandwich tins in a moderately hot oven 190C/375F/regulo 5 for 20 minutes.  Next make the filling, first top and tail the gooseberries. Tie 2 or 3 elderflower heads in a little square of muslin, put in a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts. Allow to get cold. Fill the sponge with whipped cream and well drained gooseberry and elderflower compote.* Sieve the icing sugar on top before serving. * You may have some over, reserve and serve with cream as a separate dessert.


Happy Birthday to the Midleton’s Farmers Market

Today is the first birthday of the Midleton Farmers Market – a whole year has whizzed by since we set up our stalls for the first time behind the court house. After initial discussions about the location with the local community it was set up with the full support of the Chamber of Commerce and the Urban Council. From an initial twelve stalls the market has blossomed and gone from strength to strength. The Country Market joined in from the very beginning.

Farmers Markets 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. 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. They enable 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.

The variety of produce is amazing and of course most abundant during the growing season. As you enter the market area, Mrs. Burns who has been a trader for many years sells a variety of local vegetables, bundles of fresh carrots and turnips…… in season. Wendy English and her mother are next with their table piled high with freshly baked scones, cakes, biscuits, jam and chutney. Next comes Frank O’Neill with a variety of goodies, carrot cakes, delicious little pies, some beautifully grown vegetables from his own garden and little pots of jellies and jams.

The Ballymaloe Cookery School Gardens stall is next, with organic vegetables, lots of free range eggs, brown bread, jams and chutneys. Little bunches of sweet pea, Nora Aherne’s duck, Frank Krycwzk’s salamis, chorizo, fresh herbs, salad dressings, elderflower cordial and occasionally organic free range pork from our own saddleback pigs. Frank Hederman from Belvelly near Cobh has a tempting array of smoked fish, chicken,duck, and mussels. Sarah Mossman swings into action by his side making crepes which literally sell like hot cakes. Fiona Burke who does three markets a week, Macroom and Bantry, as well as Midleton, sells a gorgeous selection of Irish farmhouse cheese, as well as carefully chosen Continental cheese, eg. aged Gouda, Comte, Double Gloucester and some seaweed products, and Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen Bacon. Clodagh McKenna from Ballymaloe House has a little stall sandwiched between Fiona Burke and the Yorks. She sells delicious home made fresh pasta, parsley pesto, tomato fondue, toffee apples, brown soda bread and seasonal soups and dressings.

Tim and Fiona York have recently joined the market and sell a tantalizing array of organic vegetables and plants and plan to expand their range. Local cheesemaker Jane Murphy sells a fresh and a mature version of her exquisite Ardsallagh goat cheese – a delicate gorgeous cheese that tastes of the rich pastures that the goats are fed on. The irrepressible plantsman Ted Murphy trades beside her with an colourful selection of pot plants, herbs and flowers. Helen Aherne and Frances Lucey man the Country Market stall brimming with cakes and biscuits and occasionally a few duck eggs and wild mushrooms in season.. David and Siobhan Barry have a truck full of vegetables and fruit. Kate O’Donovan, of the market, sells her delicious homemade marinades, dressings and dips, and Margaret Keane’s quiches, side by side with Marog O’Brien of the Farmgate Restaurant here in Midleton, who sells Declan Ryan’s fantastic breads – soda, yeast and sourdough and some of her own famous chocolate cake. Next comes local farmer Dan O’Neill and his wife Anne. They invested in a refrigerated truck and now sell their organic beef. He responded to the numerous requests for free range organic chickens and now can scarcely fulfill the demand. Oren Little of the Little Apple Co. drive down from Kilkenny every Saturday to sell their cooking and eating apples and delicious apple juice. Chris Cashman’s cakes made with butter sell out in no time and finally Willie Scannell sells his Ballycotton potatoes, he like many others was a victim of the supermarkets’ central distribution policy, now the Midleton Farmers Market allows him the opportunity to sell his potatoes directly to the consumer, his future is secure, and this year he will have a selection of vegetables including lettuce, cabbage, white turnips, radishes and onions. The variety of produce is truly amazing. The market has been enthusiastically supported, not only by the local community, but by the local shops who report an increase in business on market day.

Midleton Farmers Market is held every Saturday from 10am-2pm on Hospital Road.

Ardsallagh Goat Cheese with Rocket Leaves, Roast Pepper and Tapenade Oil
Serves 5
10ozs (285g) Ardsallagh goat cheese (or a similar fresh mild goat cheese)
seasoned flour
beaten egg
flaked almonds
white breadcrumbs
2 large red peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
Tapenade Oil
4 ozs (110g/3/4 cup) stoned black olives
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) capers
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
6 fl ozs (170ml) olive oil
A selection of lettuces and rocket leaves
Dressing
4 tablesp. (5 american tablesp. + 1 teasp.) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablesp.(1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) Balsamic vinegar
1/2 clove garlic crushed
salt and freshly ground pepper
Garnish
Wild garlic flowers in season

First divide the Ardsallagh goat cheese into 25 balls, chill. Next make the Tapenade oil Coarsely chop the stoned black olives, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Whisk in the olive oil as you whisk and process to a course or smooth puree as you prefer. Coat the cheese in seasoned flour, beaten egg, flaked almonds, breadcrumbs. Arrange in a single layer on a flat plate. Cover and chill well. Roast the peppers in a preheated oven 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for approximately 20 minutes. Put into a bowl, cover the top with cling film and allow to steam for 5 or 10 minutes. Peel, remove seeds and cut into strips. Next make the dressing Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl. Heat the oil in a deep fry or a pan to 200C Fry the goat cheese croquettes in batches until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Toss the lettuces and salad leaves in a bowl with just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten. Divide between the six plates. Put five croquettes on each plate, decorate with strips or red pepper, rocket leaves and a drizzle of Tapenade oil. Scatter some wild garlic flowers over the top and serve immediately

Globe Artichokes with Melted Butter

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

Serves 6
6 globe artichokes
2 pints (1.1L/5 cups) water
2 teasp. salt
2 teaspoons approx. white wine vinegar
Melted Butter
6 ozs (170g/) butter
Freshly squeezed juice of * lemon approx.

Some restaurants do very complicated preparation but I merely trim the base just before cooking so the artichokes will sit steadily on the plate, rub the cut end with lemon juice or vinegar to prevent it from discolouring. Have a large saucepan of boiling water ready, add 2 teaspoons of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt to every 2 pints of water, pop in the artichokes and bring the water back to the boil. Simmer steadily for about 25 minutes. After about 20 minutes you could try testing to see if they are done. I do this by tugging off one of the larger leaves at the base, it should come away easily, if it doesn’t continue to cook for another 5 – 10 minutes. Remove and drain upside down on a plate. While they are cooking simply melt the butter and add lemon juice to taste. To Serve Put each warm artichoke onto a hot serving plate, serve the sauce or melted butter in a little bowl beside it. Artichokes are eaten with your fingers, so you might like to provide a finger bowl. A spare plate to collect all the nibbled leaves will also be useful.

Globe Artichokes with Vinaigrette Dressing
Ingredients as above excluding the melted butter.
Vinaigrette Dressing
2 fl ozs (50ml/) wine vinegar
6 fl ozs (150ml/) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils, e.g. sunflower and arachide
1 level teasp. (* American teasp.) mustard (Dijon or English)
1 large clove garlic
1 scallion or small spring onion
Sprig of parsley, finely chopped
Sprig of watercress, finely chopped
1 level teasp. salt
Few grinds of pepper

Put all the ingredients into a blender and run at medium speed for 1 minute approx. or mix oil and vinegar in a bowl, add mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and mashed garlic, chopped parsley, spring onion and watercress. Whisk before serving. Cook the artichokes as above. Serve little bowls of vinaigrette dressing with the warm artichokes.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Sponge

Serves 6-8

3 eggs, preferably free range
3 fl ozs (75ml) water
8 ozs (225g/1 cup) sugar
5 ozs (140g/1 cup) flour
1 teasp. baking powder
filling
1 lb (450g) green gooseberries
2 elderflower heads
1/2 pint (300ml/11/4 cups) cold water
1 lb (225g/1 cup) sugar
4 fl ozs (110ml/1/2 cup) whipped cream
2 teasp. icing sugar

Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks with the sugar for 2 minutes in a food mixer and then add in the water. Whisk until light and fluffy, 10 minutes approx. Gently Fold in the sieved flour and baking powder into the mousse in batches. Whisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Fold them in very gently. Bake in two greased and floured 8 inch (20.5cm) sandwich tins in a moderately hot oven 190C/375F/regulo 5 for 20 minutes. Next make the filling, first top and tail the gooseberries. Tie 2 or 3 elderflower heads in a little square of muslin, put in a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts. Allow to get cold. Fill the sponge with whipped cream and well drained gooseberry and elderflower compote.* Sieve the icing sugar on top before serving. * You may have some over, reserve and serve with cream as a separate dessert.

Hotel Barcelona – Exeter

If for any reason you should find yourself in Exeter, I have just come across an interesting place for you to check out – it’s a new funky budget hotel called Barcelona.  Budget hotels have been popping up all over the place in recent years, offering excellent value and enabling many more people to travel than ever before. Most charge a price per room, so if one is really economizing the whole family can squash in together. One can even bring a picnic if you can’t afford or decide against the economy breakfast. So what’s different about Hotel Barcelona – well the answer is not much on the outside – the former West of England Eye Infirmary is a tall imposing and somewhat austere brick and stone structure – it’s on Magdalen Street – just a stone’s throw from Exeter Cathedral Close.  However, once inside the door, the impression is altogether different – there is a profusion of colour, a fire crackling in the grate in the entrance, original marble terrazzo floors and great music to lift one’s spirits after a long journey or a stressful day. The staff are young, cool and really eager to please. Someone had great fun decorating and converting this former eye hospital. Victorians’love of fresh air meant there were large windows which allow in lots of sun and light A collection of original 1930’s, 50’s and 60’s furniture, rugs, art and funky artefacts blend well with the Gothic proportion of the original wards. The bedrooms still have the original parquet floors and great fun bathrooms. Best of all many of the bedrooms have features that one only expects to find in luxury hotels – a cordless telephone, modern dataport, video and CD player and a hidden away television.

The restaurant called Cafe Paradiso, has been designed to resemble a ‘Big Top’ with a glass wall overlooking the gardens and terrace and the most beautiful ancient Holm oak. At one end there’s a 30ft mural by Jon Eaves and a woodburning oven. Head chef Michael Field is passionate about food and hopes to put Cafe Paradiso at the top of the food map in Devon. He’s committed to serving honest simple Mediterranean food including Neapolitan pizzas and aims to serve simple dishes using the best local raw ingredients. We had a delicious dinner of local shellfish, Devon beef and a plate of Cafe Paradiso desserts. But the best was yet to come, for those of you who would prefer to boogie rather than flop into bed after dinner, there is a very grown-up theatre -style night club and the Kino bar with a collection of 1950’s Film Noir film posters , and lots of 1960’s memorabilia – just my era.  This is a fun spot put together with an intelligent understanding of the needs of the many young creative customer who wants modern ultra funky decor and stylish luxury at affordable prices -it was terrific when I visited – hope they can keep it up and realize their vision. Hotel Barcelona, Magdalen St. Exeter, EX2 4HY Tel. 00 44 1392 281000 Fax 00 44 1392 281001 Emailinfo@hotelbarcelona-uk.com  www.hotelbarcelona-uk.com

 

Cafe Paradiso Guinea Fowl with vine tomatoes and basil

 

4 Guinea fowl breasts

4 tomatoes on vine

1 bunch of basil
1 glass red wine
Tomato concasse
Olive oil
Seasoning
Dried mixed herbs

Heat extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper in a pan until it smokes. Add the Guinea fowl skin side up to seal. Then turn so skin side down. Add shredded basil and vine tomatoes (whole on vine). Add wine and chicken stock, reduce in oven. When cooked (approx. 9 mins) allow to rest (3 mins) before serving.

 

Cafe Paradiso Tiramisu

 

250g Mascarpone
1 egg white
1 egg yolk
150g sugar
200ml water
15g coffee
Double measure of Tia Maria or Marsala
Sponge

Make a coffee syrup with coffee, 100g sugar, Tia Maria and 180ml water reduce and allow to cool – Soak the sponge in half the coffee syrup. Beat egg yolk with 20g sugar in a pan with 20mls water, boil to a thick syrup. Onto this pour half the coffee syrup and whisk until cold. Fold in mascarpone, whisk until stiff. Whisk egg white with 20g sugar to soft peaks and fold into the mascarpone mixture. Layer sponge and with mixture. Finish with cocoa. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

 

Cafe Paradiso Catalonian Fish Soup

 

4 pints Shellfish stock
1 finely chopped red chilli
1 finely chopped red onion
Handful of chopped chives and Italian parsley
4 Scallops
8 Mussels
4 Crayfish
Seasoning
Thicken with corn flour if necessary

Caramelise the red onion and chilli in a pan. Reduce the fish stock and red wine in a pan. Add the mussels, scallops and crayfish to the caramelized red onion and chillie’s. When the mussels are beginning to open add the reduced stock/wine. Just before serving add chopped herbs.

Cafe Paradiso Pan fried lamb with a balsamic and rosemary jus

 

4x8oz Lamb neck fillet
8 sprigs of rosemary
Finely chopped red wine
1 teaspoon lamb stock
1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly
1 clove of garlic
Seasoning and reduce

Heat extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper in a pan until it smokes. Seal the lamb. Add the red onion, garlic and red wine – reduce. Add the lamb stock and redcurrant jelly. Once the jelly is dissolved add balsamic vinegar. Serve.

Food for Thought

All Winter long people have been popping pills to prevent and cure all manner of actual or anticipated ills. Every year doctors caution people from overdoing the vitamins and encourage them to eat fresh naturally produced food instead, yet, one in ten people are currently taking supplements. In theory if we eat plenty of fresh food including fruit and vegetables, we should be getting all the nutrients our body needs. Unfortunately, there is mounting evidence that this is no longer the case, according to an article called Vital Elements by Hazel Courteney recently published in the Sunday Times Style magazine.

In 1940, two food scientists, Doctors McCance and Widdowson, were asked by the Medical Research Council in the UK to analyse the mineral content of British-grown fruits and vegetables. In 1991 the duo conducted similar studies for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods. Recently, David Thomas, a geologist, turned nutritionist, did a comparative study of their figures. He found that calcium levels in broccoli had dropped by up to 75% and magnesium levels in carrots had fallen by similar amounts. If these figures are correct, why are mineral levels becoming depleted? “Intensive farming methods during the past 50 years, plus acid rain and overuse of artificial fertilisers, have reduced the absorption of minerals such as selenium and zinc into our fruits, vegetables and grains. ” says Thomas. “Mass-produced fertilisers generally contain only three minerals, but there are more than 36 known minerals, 21 of which are vital. If they’re not in our soil, they’re not going to make it into our foods. This imbalance is having a big impact on our health.”

Did you know that if your body becomes deficient in the minerals, magnesium, calcium and potassium, you are more likely to suffer irregularities in your heartbeat? And if you have an excess of iron, but insufficient copper levels, this greatly increases your risk of a heart attack, especially after 50. There is also evidence that pesticides and pollutants such as lead accumulate in the body and prevent absorption of essential nutrients. When Thomas began experimenting at his clinic by giving liquid minerals to his patients, he noticed improvements in a variety of conditions, including leg cramps, chronic fatigue, hyperactivity in children, migraines and, in some cases of autism. What Thomas and numerous nutritional physicians have established is now being recognised by the scientific community. In trials in China, Tunisia, America, France and New Zealand, when people were given a daily supplement of 200 micrograms of chromium, which regulates blood sugar levels, instances of late-onset diabetes were almost halved.” Says Dr Richard Anderson, a research scientist for the US Department of Agriculture.

Since 1984 when the Finnish government decreed that all fertilisers should contain selenium,, sperm motility (the ability of sperm to swim) in subfertile men has increased by up to 35%, while instances of heart disease and prostate cancers have fallen. “During the 1970’s, before joining the EU, we imported huge amounts of Canadian wheat, which is rich in selenium, and the daily intake averaged 70 micrograms”, says Dr Margaret Rayman of the University of Surrey. “Today, the average is 29 micrograms. Virtually all farm animas are given minerals in their feed to help prevent disease. Perhaps its time to do the same for humans.”  So how do we increase our mineral intake from our food? Walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds are all rich in minerals. Fresh vegetable juices contain high levels of nutrients – cabbage, broccoli, absorb minerals well and are an important source. So maybe our resolution should be to seek out really health giving food that is naturally produced on fertile organic soil, eat more organic fruit and vegetables with the skin left on. Peel contains a higher concentration of minerals. After all, as in the Asian philosophy, food should be our medicine – I rather fear that nowadays the opposite is often the case.

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.

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