CategorySaturday Letter

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.

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.

 

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