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A Cut Above the Rest – Pat Whelan

From New York to London butchery classes are over subscribed – most recently a two day butchery course organised by Teagaśc at Ashtown also had a waiting list.
It illustrates the exciting and fundamental changes at grass roots level and the craving for real food and almost forgotten flavours and experiences. A couple of weeks ago Ear to the Ground RTE1 – presenter Ella McSweeney butchered the two rare breed pigs she reared in her suburban garden and then proceeded with the help of 3rd generation butcher Ed Hicks to use all the miscellaneous delicious bits that normally end up in pet food.
In East Cork at least nine National Schools have edible school gardens and a chicken coop with a couple of hens so the children can learn how to look after poultry. At last there is an appreciation of the importance of a degree of self sufficiency. A growing number of parents are concerned about how disconnected even country children are from the reality of how their food is produced. It’s ever more important to bring children to visit farms, to shop at farmers markets and indeed to grow and rear some food yourself. Otherwise children reckon chips come from the freezer cabinet, milk comes out of plastic bottles and meat comes in neat little polystyrene trays from the supermarket. Mind you, butchers shops are almost as sanitised nowadays, few have a carcass or even a leg of lamb hanging any more, much of the meat is ready prepared, stuffed marinated or tossed in sweet and sour sauce so its barely recognisable – in long well-lit chill cabinets.
I am and always have been a staunch supporter of the traditional family butcher, I seek out butchers who, preferably have their own farm and abattoir and still possess the entire butchers craft, from being able to judge the condition of an animal in the field to the skill of humane slaughter, dry ageing and finally the skill of butchery. Curious customers can have chats about the breed and the feed and how the animal is raised while they wait for the order to be prepared. In Baden-Württemberg the local butcher doles out small glasses of the local wine to customers while they queue which helps to create a wonderfully convivial atmosphere and keeps everyone chatting amiably. Another iconic butcher called Dario Cecchini at Antica Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano in Chianti recites Dante and plays operatic arias for his customers while he prepares the beautiful Chianina beef he sells.
Here in Ireland we are fortunate to still have over 850 family butchers (500 of those are Craft Butchers of Ireland members) and an increasing number “are finding their voice”
Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel in Co Tipperary is well known for his enthusiasm and the quality of his meat. He comes from a long line of Tipperary farmers and his family have been butchers since 1960. As soon as he could toddle about he went with his dad to ‘check the cattle’. Living over the shop meant family life and business were enmeshed and the skills were learned and absorbed effortlessly as he listened to the chat and enjoyed the craic and absorbed the entrepreneurial spirit of his parents. He was hooked from an early age and learned the trade by accompanying his mother on her delivery round. As soon as he was himself old enough, he pedalled the butcher’s bike with the wicker basket in front to deliver the weekly meat to the convent and the priest.
Nowadays it’s all come full circle and he makes full use of the latest technology, Pat is a regular tweeter – twitter.com/pat_whelan – and now has a significant online meat business that guarantees delivery within 24 hours.
Pat’s family are long time Aberdeen Angus breeders but his quest for even better meat was influenced by a trip to Japan, he’s been experimenting with a Wagyu cross, which mingle with Piedmont and Hereford in the rich pastures of his 200 acre Tipperary farm.
Pat is also quite rightly passionate about creating stress free conditions for slaughter in his own on-farm abattoir.
Pork for his butcher shop is sourced from TJ Crowe another Tipperary butcher, well known to food lovers. Both were founder members in 2007 of Tipperary Food Producers Network. The latter is a collective of 30 artisan producers who showcase their local food each year with a memorable summer banquet called the Long Table Dinner.
The concept of sustainable local economies is of paramount importance to Pat and his colleagues. Can’t imagine how he managed to find time to write a book, An Irish Butcher Shop – published by The Collins Press – in the midst of it all – a terrific eclectic collection of traditional and contemporary recipes. I’ve chosen some delicious comforting recipes from Pat Whelan’s book using less expensive cuts of meat.
Pat was awarded the Good Food Ireland Enterprise and Innovation Award on November 15th 2010.
James Whelan Butchers, Oakville Shopping Centre, Clonmel, Co Tipperary
+353 52 22927 / info@jameswhelanbutchers.com / www.jameswhelanbutchers.com 

Pat Whelan’s Osso Bucco

Serves 6

8 slices beef shin, cut at least 2.5 cm/1 inch thick
plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
85 g/3 oz butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
11⁄4 cups (10 fl oz)  white wine
1 x 220 g/8 oz can of chopped tomatoes
11⁄4 cups (10 fl oz) chicken stock
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Coat the beef shins well with the flour. In a heavy-based pan melt the butter and add the oil. When the oil and butter are very hot, fry the beef until browned all over.
Remove the beef to a warmed plate and add the onion, celery, carrots and half the garlic. Cook until soft and aromatic. Return the beef to the pan and add the wine.
Cook uncovered for 15 minutes or so. Add the tomatoes and stock, then cover with a close-fitting lid and simmer for 11⁄2–2 hours.
Mix together the parsley, lemon zest and remaining garlic and stir in before serving.

Pat Whelan’s Braised Oxtail

Serves 6

50 g/2 oz plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
4 oxtails, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil or 30 g/1 oz butter
(or combination of both)
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 thick bacon rashers, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
570 ml/20 fl oz red wine
1 litre/35 fl oz beef stock
bouquet garni of a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, a sprig of parsley and a sprig of
rosemary, tied together
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup parsley, finely chopped

The casserole can be cooked on the stove top or in the oven. If you are cooking it in the oven, preheat it to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Put the seasoned flour into a plastic bag and add the oxtail pieces. Shake it well to coat the meat. Heat the oil or butter in a large heavy-based casserole and add the oxtail pieces in small batches. As each batch is browned, remove to a warmed plate with a slotted spoon and repeat until all the meat has been sealed. Add a little more oil if necessary and add the onions and cook until golden. Add the bacon and garlic and cook for 2–3 minutes. Return the meat to the casserole, pour in the wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced by about a third. Add the stock and bouquet garni to the pot and cover. Simmer gently on the stove or cook in the oven for about 2 hours. At this point add the carrots, celery and tomato paste and continue to cook for a further 2 hours or so, until the meat falls off the bone. Adjust the seasoning and sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with mashed potatoes and baked parsnips.

Pat Whelan’s Beef Stew with Dumplings

Serves 6

4 tablespoons plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 kg/2 lb 4 oz braising steak, cut into 2.5 cm/1 inch cubes
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 turnip, peeled and cut into cubes
570 ml/20 fl oz beef stock
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Dumplings

175 g/6 oz plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
1⁄2 cup milk

Put the seasoned flour in a plastic bag, add the beef cubes and toss to coat.
Heat the oil over a moderate heat in a large saucepan or flameproof casserole dish and add the beef cubes. Brown well on all sides. This should be done in batches, removing the meat from the pan to a warmed plate until all the meat is browned. Add the onions and cook until they start to turn translucent and add the rest of the vegetables, stirring frequently to brown. Now return the beef to the pan and add the stock, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to the boil, stirring well. Cover tightly and reduce heat to as low as possible. Simmer for at least 2 hours.
To make the dumplings, sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and add the oil and milk. Stir until the dry ingredients are incorporated and the mixture resembles a batter. Mould the dumplings into small balls. Approximately 15–20 minutes before serving, turn up the heat, bring to the boil and drop the dumplings on to the surface of the stew. If the stew is being cooked in the oven, allow around 30 minutes for the dumplings to cook.

Pat Whelan’s Pork Spare Ribs

Serves 4

1 cup (8fl oz) soy sauce
3⁄4 cup brown sugar
1⁄4 cup (2fl oz) balsamic vinegar
1⁄4 cup (2fl oz) tomato paste
1⁄4 cup (2fl oz) orange juice
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon hot chilli powder
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin powder
pork spare ribs (allow 4 for each person)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Combine all the ingredients except the pork and mix well. Heat in a saucepan, stirring constantly until it boils. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Lay the ribs in a flat dish, cover with the marinade and refrigerate for several hours minimum. Reserve any extra sauce.
Pour any remaining marinade over the ribs and bake for 45 minutes. Serve when cooled to room temperature.

Pat Whelan’s Kashmiri Lamb Curry

Serves 6

300 g/10 oz natural yoghurt
85 g/3 oz skinned almonds, chopped
2 teaspoons medium curry powder
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 kg/2 lb 4 oz lamb, diced into 2.5 cm/1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
juice of half a lemon
1 x 400 g/14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
300 ml/10 fl oz water
110 g/4 oz raisins
large handful of fresh coriander, chopped

In a large mixing bowl combine the yoghurt, almonds, curry powder, ginger, garlic and salt, stirring to mix well. Add the lamb to the yoghurt mixture, covering the meat well.  (You could leave this to marinate in the fridge overnight or for a few hours before cooking.)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onions with the bay leaves until golden brown, constantly moving them around the pan. Add the meat and yoghurt mixture to the pan and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add the chilli, lemon juice and tomatoes to the mixture in the pan and stir-fry for another 5 minutes. Add the water, cover and leave to simmer over a gentle heat for 60 minutes.
Add the raisins and most of the coriander and turn up the heat. Stir until the sauce has thickened. Garnish with the remaining coriander and serve with rice.
Fool Proof Food

Pat Whelan’s Spicy Lamb Meatballs

Serves 6

1 large potato, peeled and grated
1 large onion, peeled and grated
500 g/1 lb lamb, minced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fresh herbs such as parsley, coriander, tarragon and mint
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 cup (4 fl oz) olive oil

Rinse the grated potato in cold water and with your hands squeeze out all the moisture. Place all the ingredients except the oil into a bowl and mix until well combined. Form the mixture into small balls and flatten them into pattie shapes. Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the meatballs in batches for about 5 minutes on each side, turning carefully.
Hottips
Food Framed is a Charitable Silent Auction of Handwritten Recipes and Documents from some of the world’s greatest chefs and food writers, Richard Corrigan, Gary Rhodes, Paul Flynn, Ken Hom, Thomas Keller from the French Laundry in San Francisco, Ferran Adria from El Buli in Spain, Lloyd Grossman, Darina Allen and Ainslie Harriet. The documents will be on display from 11am to 4pm Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Co Waterford on Saturday December 4th 2010. You can also bid by email, contact Ken Madden 086 1712813 / madden@eircom.net  Proceeds to go to Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

The winner of the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland’s National Spiced Beef Competition on Friday 12th November was Jerry O’Leary from O’Leary Family Butchers, The Square Millstreet, Co Cork. Jerry’s spiced beef is made from a recipe that has been in the O’Leary family for over 80 years – 029 -701 46 –www.olearyfamilybutchers.com 

Mahon Point Farmers Market in Cork took home the Best Farmer’s Market Award at the recent Good Food Ireland awards,  The shortlist of nominees included Dungarvan Farmers Market, Naas Farmers Market, Kinsale Farmers Market – and Midleton Farmers Market. Mahon Point Farmers Market – every Thursday  10am to 2pm.

Ballymaloe Cookery School 2011 Course Schedule is online www.cookingisfun.ie

To meet the growing demand from those who would like to have the choice to buy unpasteurised milk, David Tiernan’s milk is available from Sheridans Cheesemongers in Dublin, South Anne Street and Carnacross in Co Meath. Unpasteurised organic Jersey milk is also available from the Farm Shop at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Co Cork daily – 021 4646785 www.cookingisfun.ie 

Those of you who crave a delicious black pudding made in the traditional way from fresh pigs’ blood should look out for Hugh Maguire’s butcher shop in Navan. I also found his white pudding soft and delicious. Hugh also makes a range of homemade sausages – we fought over the Bratwurst and his well aged T Bone steak – 01-8499919 – hughmaguirebutchers@eircom.net

Whoopie Pies

It’s just possible that Whoopie Pies may be the ‘next cupcake’- ‘Homey’ to look at, totally scrumptious to eat but mercifully less luscious icing than a cupcake – so what are they? Well let’s ask the experts – According to Claire Ptak of Violet Cakes in East London, who has just written a book on the subject,  ‘a whoopie is not a cookie, it’s not a typical cake, and it’s definitely not a pie. Whoopie Pies hail from the Amish communities of the US. School children and farmers in Pennsylvania Amish are said to have responded to finding these special treats in their lunch boxes with a resounding ‘Whoopie!’  They exist in a scrumptious parallel universe somewhere between cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches’.

I was longing to find some good recipes. Claire Ptak has written the first cook book I’ve come across on the Whoopie Pies. It comes with Jamie Oliver’s wholehearted endorsement “an absolutely gorgeous book by my favourite cake maker in the whole world”.

Claire has quite a following. If you pop over to London you’ll find her behind her Violet Cake stall at the Broadway Market in Hackney on Saturday morning selling sweet and savoury treats. There will probably be a queue three to six deep, from local kids to Stella McCartney and Keira Knightly. She has also opened a little Violet café and cake shop on nearby Wilton Way which sells her famous American style cupcakes.

Claire, originally from California has quite a pedigree, she worked as a pastry cook and eventually a pastry chef for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley before moving to London. She also cooks occasional Secret Suppers in her East London kitchen, one of the growing number of sought after pop-up restaurants in the London area. Her friends and devotees follow eagerly on Twitter and Facebook.

Back to the Whoopie Pie. It’s not a cookie or a typical cake and despite the name definitely not a pie. In fact no one seems to be able to explain why it’s called a whoopie pie, maybe it’s just because it has a rhythmic ring to it. It’s more like a little cake sandwich with the icing in between.

Once you get hooked you’ll find that you can adapt lots of your own recipes but the original is all American. Whoopies originated in the US in the 1920’s, although no one seems to know precisely where.

Typically whoopee pies are made in 10cm (4 inch) rounds but when I ate a couple of those recently I was guilt ridden for the rest of the day. Fortunately Claire gives instructions for smaller sized ones, perfect for children’s tiny fingers or for me when I crave just a little treat.

In this cute little Whoopie bakers bible, Claire gives recipes for over 60 variations on the theme from chocolate, coconut, kirch, lemon, peanut butter and rose pistachio to special flavours like Christmas Cake Whoopie, Easter Egg whoopie and many more.  She also included her favourite brownie recipe worth the price of the book alone.  Serve with chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream and cherries in syrup; it will get you anything you want!

The Whoopie Pie Book, Published by Square Peg 2010

Claire Ptak

Violet

47 Wilton Way

E83 ED London

Broadway Market

E8 London

www.violetcakes.com

info@violetcakes.com

Claire Ptak’s Chocolate Whoopie with Fluffy Marshmallow Filling

The whoopie pie that started it all: moist, spongy, dark chocolate cake sandwiched around a fluffy marshmallow centre. Once you taste it, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

Filling suggestion: Fluffy Marshmallow (see recipe)

Makes about 9 large or 24 mini whoopie pies

175g (6oz/1 1/2 cups) plain flour

100g (3 1/2 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

125g (4 1/2 oz/generous 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

200g (7oz/scant 1 cup) sugar

1 large egg

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) buttermilk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

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

Line 2 trays with baking paper.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Stir in the salt and set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, using an electric hand whisk or a freestanding mixer fitted with the flat beater. Add the egg and mix well. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and beat until well combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients in 2 batches, mixing until just incorporated. Chill for 30 minutes before using.

Drop 18 large or 48 small scoops of batter, about 5cm (2 inches) apart, onto the prepared baking trays. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 – 12 minutes for large whoopies or 8 – 10 minutes for mini whoopies, until the cakes are left with a slight impression when touched with a finger.

Remove from the oven to a wire rack and cool completely.

To Assemble

Spread or pipe a generous scoop of Fluffy Marshmallow filling onto the flat surface of a cooled whoopee. Top with another whoopee to make a sandwich and serve.

Fluffy Marshmallow Filling

Makes enough to fill about 9 large or 24 mini whoopie pies

3 egg whites

150g (5 oz/generous 1/2 cup) caster sugar

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) golden syrup

pinch salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Weigh all the ingredients into a heatproof bowl (the stainless steel bowl of freestanding mixers is ideal) and place the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Whisk continuously by hand until the sugar as dissolved and the mixture is frothy and slightly opaque (about 10 – 15 minutes).

Remove from the heat and whip the mixture on high speed in a freestanding mixer until it is white and thick and holds its shape.

Use straight away.

Claire Ptak’s Lemon Cream Whoopie with Lemon Curd Cream

Lemon imparts a lovely fresh flavour to cakes and puddings. It’s worth seeking out good-quality lemons. The large knobbly ones grown on the Amalfi coast of Italy are exceptional as are the Californian Meyer lemons.

Filling suggestion: Lemon Curd Cream (see recipe)

300g (10oz/2 1/2 cups) plain flour

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

125g (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, softened

200g (7oz) caster sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

100ml (3 1/2 fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) whole milk

50 ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) lemon juice

zest of 2 medium lemons

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

Line 2 trays with baking paper.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Stir in the salt and set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, using an electric hand whisk or a freestanding mixer fitted with the flat beater. Add the egg and mix well. In a jug combine the vanilla, milk and lemon juice. Add this to the butter mixture and mix well. Add the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Finally, fold in the lemon zest. Chill for 30 minutes.

Drop 18 large or 48 small scoops of batter, about 5cm apart, onto the prepared baking trays. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 – 12 minutes for large whoopies or 8 – 10 minutes for mini whoopies, until the cakes are left with a slight impression when touched with a finger.

Remove from the oven to a wire rack and cool completely.

To Assemble

Spread a generous scoop of Lemon Curd Cream on the flat surface of a cooled whoopie. Top with another whoopie to make a sandwich and serve.

Lemon Curd Cream

Makes enough to fill about 9 large or 24 mini whoopie pies.

100g (3 1/2 oz/scant 1/2 cup) caster sugar

pinch of salt

zest and juice of 2 medium lemons

2 egg yolks

125g (4 1/2 oz/generous 1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) double cream

Put the sugar, salt, lemon zest and juice and egg yolks in a medium sized, heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and warm gently through, whisking constantly. Add the butter, a few cubes at a time, stirring constantly until all the butter is incorporated and the mixture is smooth and thick. Do not overheat or the eggs will scramble. Strain to remove the zest and any eggy bits. Cover wit Clingfilm, pressing it down on the surface of the custard. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then chill for 2 hours before using.

The lemon curd will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. When ready to use, whip the double cream and fold into the chilled custard.

Rose Pistachio Whoopie

The exotic flavours of delicate rose water, tender pistachios and sweet cherry liqueur might seem strange in a whoopie pie, but the evocation of the taste and texture of soft nougat is lovely here.

Filling suggestion: Kirsch Swiss Buttercream

Glaze suggestion: Rose Water Icing

Makes about 9 large or 24 mini whoopie pies

300g (10 oz/2½ cups) plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

125g (4½ oz) unsalted butter, softened

200g (7 oz) castor sugar

1 large egg

½ tsp rose water

200ml (7 fl oz/1/3 pint) buttermilk

100g (3½ oz) pistachios, finely chopped or ground, plus extra for sprinkling

100g (3½ oz) ground almonds

crushed candied rose petals, for garnishing

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Line 2 trays with baking paper.

In a bowl, sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, using an electric hand whisk or a freestanding mixer fitted with the flat beater. Add the egg and mix well. Measure the rose water and buttermilk into a jug and then add half of this to the butter mixture. Slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Add the remaining buttermilk mixture until well combined and then fold in the ground nuts. Chill for 30 minutes.

Drop 18 large or 48 small scoops of batter, about 5cm apart, onto the prepared baking trays. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10–12 minutes for large whoopies or 8–10 minutes for mini whoopies, until the cakes are left with a slight impression when touched with a finger.

Remove from the oven to a wire rack and cool completely.

To assemble:

Pipe or spread a generous scoop of Kirsch Swiss Buttercream on the flat surface of a cooled whoopie. Top with another whoopie and drizzle with Rose Water Icing. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped pistachios and some crushed candied rose petals.

Kirsch Swiss Buttercream

Makes enough to fill about 9 large or 24 mini whoopie pies

225g (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened

3 large egg whites

100g (3½ oz) caster sugar

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 tbsp kirsch cherry liqueur

In a bowl, beat the butter until fluffy, using an electric hand whisk or a freestanding mixer fitted with the flat beater, set aside. In the metal bowl of a freestanding mixer, combine the 3 large egg whites with the sugar and golden syrup. Place over a saucepan of barely simmering water and whisk continuously by hand until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is frothy and slightly opaque (10–15 minutes).

Transfer the bowl of egg whites to the freestanding mixer, add the kirsch and whisk until fluffy and cooled (about 10 minutes). Once cool, start adding the creamed butter in batches, whisking well after each addition. The mixture will curdle but then come back together again. Switch to the flat beater and beat for 3 minutes more.

Use right away or store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature and beat with a flat beater before using.

Rosewater Icing

Makes enough to cover about 9 large or 24 mini whoopie pies

200g (7 oz)  icing sugar

2 tsp rose water

Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl and then whisk in the rose water until smooth. If you prefer a thicker consistency spread on top of the whoopie, add slightly more icing sugar to adjust.

Oatmeal Cookie Whoopie

All the flavour of an oatmeal cookie but with a soft whoopie texture, this makes a great summer treat when sandwiched with vanilla ice cream and frozen, or you can fill with strawberry buttercream.

Filling suggestion: Good-quality vanilla ice cream or Strawberry Buttercream

Makes 24 bite-sized ice cream whoopie sandwiches

180g (6½ oz) plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

225g (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened

200g (7 oz) light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

200g (7 oz) jumbo oats

75g (3 oz) sultanas (optional)

good-quality vanilla ice cream, for the filling

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Line 2 trays with baking paper.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon. Stir in the salt and set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and light brown sugar until light and fluffy, using an electric hand whisk or a freestanding mixer fitted with the flat beater. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla, mixing well. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Add the oats and sultanas and mix until incorporated. Chill for 30 minutes

Drop 48 small scoops of batter, about 5cm apart, onto the prepared trays. Bake in the middle of the oven for 8–10 minutes, until the cakes are left with a slight impression when touched with a finger.

Remove from the oven to a wire rack and cool completely.

To assemble:

Spread a generous scoop of slightly softened vanilla ice cream on the flat surface of a cooled whoopie. Top with another whoopie, gently press together and place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

Strawberry Buttercream

50 ml (2 fl oz) unstrained strawberry purée (about 80 g unhulled strawberries)

90 g (3¾ oz) soft butter

500-700 g (18 oz-1½ lb) icing sugar, sifted

½ tsp pure vanilla extract

½ tsp lemon juice

Rinse and hull the strawberries, then puree them in a food processor. In a bowl, cream together the butter and 300 g icing sugar with an electric hand whisk or on a low speed in a freestanding mixer fitted with the flat beater.  Gradually add the vanilla, lemon juice and strawberry puree.  Gradually mix in another 200 g icing sugar on a low speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture has a light and fluffy texture and the sugar has dissolved.  Add more sugar if the mixture seems too soft (the amount needed varies according to the air temperature and acidity to the fruit). Use right away or store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 7 days. Bring it to room temperature before using and beat on a low speed to make it creamy again.

Foolproof Food

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

8ozs (225g) soft butter

1 lb (450g) icing sugar, sieved

1 tablespoon coca powder, sieved

1 tablespoon hot water

Cream the butter and add the icing sugar.  Mix the cocoa powder and hot water together and beat into the mixture.  Use as a filling for biscuits or cake.

Hottips

Another good news story – O’ Connells restaurant is back! Tom O’ Connell has reopened his restaurant at 133-135 Morehampton Road, Donnybrook – formerly the famous Madigans pub. As the news spreads fans are flocking back to relive the taste of the simple artisan foods Tom features on his menu. This time Lorcan Cribbin formerly of Bang heads up the kitchen team and cooks fresh fish and dry aged Irish meats on the traditional Catalonian Chargrill now all the rage in London too. www.oconnellsdonnybrook.com 01 665 5940

Tara Bán Goat Cheddar – Terrific to meet enthusiastic young farmers keen to add value to their produce. Diarmaid Gryson from Tara in Co Meath recently won Young Innovator of the Year in the FBD Macra Na Feirme Awards and a Gold Medal in the Best New Cheese category judged by Juliet Harbutt at the British Cheese Awards in Cardiff. Tara Bán Goat Cheddar made from the milk herd of 140 goats. The family also supply delicious unhomogenised goat milk and are experimenting with ice cream and yoghurt. Telephone: 046 902 6817. They are available from local Farmers Markets and some Supervalu shops in Co Meath.

Don’t miss Cork Free Choice Consumer Group Next Meeting. Eoin O’Mahony, well known butcher of the English Market will demonstrate and discuss the traditional and lesser known cuts of lamb and beef at the Crawford Gallery Café, Emmet Place on Thursday November 25th at 7.30pm. Entrance €6.00 including tea and coffee.

Sushi made Simple – at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday November 24th 2010. Shermin Mustafa will take the mystery out of sushi making.  She tells us which rice to buy, the secret of cooking it perfectly and then show us how to make 7 or 8 different types of sushi – a delicious healthy way to entertain which won’t break the bank. Booking Essential telephone 021 4646 785.

Pathways to Growth

Ireland’s future is unquestionably in food production. At long last we are recognising the fact that Ireland is in an enviable position in terms of natural resources – we are an island nation on the edge of Europe with 400 million affluent consumers on our doorstep. We’ve got acres of fertile soil, plenty of water, a long growing season, a thriving artisan and specialist food production industry, plus a green clean image.

The Harvard Business School report commissioned by Bord Bia on ‘Pathways to Growth’ pointed all this out and said: “Ireland has an enviable agricultural situation that almost every other country would kill for. At present we export ninety percent of our beef and dairy products much of which is produced on grass which is known to produce the correct balance of Omega 3 and 6.”

In the corridors of power, politicians are ‘tri ná ceile’ about what should be done to ease us out of the quagmire we find ourselves in but on the ground people are just getting on with it, milking their cows, cooking the dinner, going to work where they are fortunate enough to still have job…

A study by the New Economics Foundation in London found that every £10 spent at a local food business is worth £25 for the local area, compared with just £14 when the same amount is spent in a supermarket.  That is, a pound (or euro) spent locally generates more than twice as much income for the local economy. The farmer buys a drink at the local pub; the pub owner gets his car fixed at the local mechanic; the mechanic brings a suit to the local dry cleaners; the dry cleaner buys some bread, tarts and buns at the local bakery; the baker buys apples and eggs from the local Farmers Market. When these businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community through every transaction.

Over the Halloween weekend I visited two Farmers Markets in Co Clare, one in Ennistymon and the other in Ballyvaughan. There was a terrific buzz and lively banter. Everyone had entered into the Halloween spirit; the stall holders had donned witches hats and wigs, painted their faces and decorated their stalls. Several home bakers produce reflected the festival. Scary looking cupcakes, spooky meringues and witches bread. In Ennistymon, Aloma McKay had made some witches fingers from puff pastry, a flaked almond at the tip made a very convincing looking finger nail – (they tasted like cheese straws).  She also does a great Indian curry meal and samosas having originally come from Goa in India.

Even though there were less than 15 stalls at this time of the year, one couldn’t but be impressed by the variety. Lots of local produce and home baking, I also bought a fine bag of turf and some Kerrs Pink potatoes that were grown in Ennistymon by Tom Kennedy.

Eva Hegarty Stephan had some traditional bacon, dry cured in the time honoured way and some home made sausages; close by Kate Conway was doing a roaring trade with a fine array of her gluten free baking. Mary Gray’s stall beside pumpkin carving also caught my eye. Mary’s attention to detail was evident in her delicious jams and baking and prettily wrapped hampers. She told me her cider cake is the best seller but I couldn’t resist a pot of lemon ginger marmalade and some sweet chilli jelly. Inside the hall adjoining the outdoor market Gillian O’Leary from Caherbannagh. sold her chocolate confections, pretty mendiants, hot-chocolate powder, truffles, chocolate lollipops…Gillian is a self confessed chocoholic. Her chocolate business grew out of her blog www.somesaycocoa.wordpress.com       

Kids were queuing up to paint scary masks or to have their faces painted. Close by Tom and Dorothy Barry gave seeds away for free and sold Pimenton de Padron, heirloom tomatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and some Blenheim apples – from their own orchard. They planted half an acre of old apples sixteen years ago. Aine Martin had set up a snug little cafe An Shibeen in the hall and was dispensing peppermint tea, barmbrack, brownies and Eve’s pudding. Noel

Ballyvaughan Market is also held from 10am to 2pm on a Saturday, again there were fewer stalls than in the summer time but still lots to choose from. Roshan Groves made the cutest witch bread. Deirdre Guillot sold chickweed and calendula salve and tarragon vinegar, so innovative, using wild and seasonal foods. Theresa Fahey who has seven fine sons, stood proudly behind a stall laden with homemade bagels, pretzels and winter vegetables – everything home grown on their farm. We bought local Burren Gold cheese, some French garlic and local apple juice. Stall holders told me how vital the market is to the community, both in economic and social terms “I make a few bob and it sure gets me out to meet a few people”

Philip Monks brought two fine bronze turkeys in a little pen to entice us to order ahead for Christmas, he also rears free range geese on his farm at Ballyvaughan, Co Clare.

Members of the Ballyvaughan Farmers Market and community have come together to write a cookbook. It is available from Quinn Crafts in Ballyvaughan, Fitzpatricks Supervalu in Ennistymon and Burren Smoke House in Lisdoonvarna. The proceeds will benefit the local community.

The Farmers Markets provide a badly needed income for many food producers and increasingly fishermen as well. They are unquestionably the best place to trial a product and do simple but effective market research.

We stayed at Gregans Castle near Ballyvaughan, County Clare, a second generation country house hotel on the edge of the Burren. They have recently been awarded three rosettes from AA and their Finnish Chef Mickael Viljanen also won the The Hotel & Catering Review Gold Medal Award for Fine Dining and at The Food & Wine Magazine Awards in August 2009 Viljanen was rated 6th best chef in Ireland and the 2nd in the Munster region. Richly deserved awards for his exceptionally delicious food. Gregans Castle closes for the Winter but will reopen in February.

So this week some delicious recipes which use seasonal produce which would be good to make for the family or to sell at a Farmers Market.

 

Crab Apple or Bramley Apple Jelly

Making jellies is immensely rewarding. This is a brilliant master recipe that can be used for many combinations. A jelly bag is an advantage, but by no means essential. Years ago we strained the juice and pulp through an old cotton pillow and hung it on an upturned stool. A couple of thicknesses of muslin will also do the job. Place a stainless-steel or deep pottery bowl underneath to catch the juice. Tie with cotton string and hang from a sturdy cup-hook. If you can’t get enough crab apples, use a mixture of crab apples and windfall cooking apples, like Bramley’s Seedling, Grenadier or any other tart cooking apple.

Makes 2.7–3.2kg (6–7lb)

2.7kg (6lb) crab apples or windfall cooking apples

2.7 litres (5 3⁄4 pints) water

2 organic lemons

450g (1lb) granulated sugar to every 600ml (1 pint) of juice

Wash the apples, cut into quarters, but do not remove either the peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but be sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large stainless-steel saucepan with the water and the thinly pared zest of the lemons and cook for about 30 minutes until reduced to a pulp.

Pour the pulp into a jelly bag and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted, usually overnight. (The pulp can later go to the hens or compost. The jelly bag or muslin may be washed and reused over and over again.)

Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 450g (1lb) sugar to each 600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) of juice. Warm the sugar in a low oven. Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8–10 minutes. Skim, test and pot immediately. Flavour with rose geranium, mint, sage or cloves as required (see below).

Crab Apple and Rose Geranium Jelly

Add 8–10 leaves to the apples initially and 5 more when boiling to a set.

.

Ballymaloe Green Tomato Chutney

When you grow your own tomatoes, you can’t bear to waste a single one.

This recipe will use up the end of the precious crop and add extra oomph to winter meals.

Makes 12 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars

1kg (2 1⁄4lb) cooking apples (Bramley Seedling or Grenadier), peeled and diced

450g (1lb) onions, chopped

1kg (2 1⁄4lb) green tomatoes, chopped (no need to peel)

350g (12oz) white sugar

350g (12oz) Demerara sugar

450g (1lb) sultanas

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper

2 garlic cloves, coarsely crushed

1 tablespoon salt

900ml (1 1⁄2 pints) white wine vinegar

 

Put the apples and onions into a wide, stainless-steel saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Stir well, bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 45

minutes or until reduced by more than half. Stir regularly, particularly toward the end of cooking.

Pot into sterilised jars and cover immediately with non-reactive lids.

Store in a dark, airy place and leave to mellow for at least two weeks before using.

Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake

 

I found this recipe in a BBC Good Food magazine and it has since become a favourite of ours.

Serves 8

175g (6oz) butter, plus extra for greasing

250g (9oz) Demerara sugar

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) maple syrup

3 large organic eggs

250g (9oz) self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons mixed spice

250g (9oz) parsnips, peeled and grated

1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored and grated

50g (2oz) pecans, roughly chopped

zest and juice of 1 small orange

icing sugar, to serve

Filling

 

250g (9oz) mascarpone

3-4 tablespoons maple syrup

2 x 20cm (8 inches) deep sandwich tins

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

Grease the cake tins with a little butter and line the bases with baking parchment.

Melt the butter, sugar and maple syrup in a pan over a gentle heat, then cool slightly.  Whisk the eggs into the mixture, then stir into the flour, baking powder and mixed spiced, followed by the grated parsnip, apple, chopped pecans, orange zest and juice.  Divide between the two tins and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until the tops spring back when pressed lightly.

Cool the cakes slightly in the tins before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.  Just before serving, mix together the mascarpone and maple syrup.  Spread over one cake and sandwich with the other.  Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Beetroot and Walnut Cake

 

Serves 10

3 free-range organic eggs

150ml (5 fl oz) sunflower oil

50g (2oz) soft brown sugar

150g (5oz) white or spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

100g (4oz) beetroot, grated

60g (2 1/4 oz) sultanas

60g (2 1/4 oz) walnuts, coarsely chopped

Icing

175g (6oz) icing sugar

3-4 tablespoons water to bind

To Decorate

deep-fried beetroot (see below)

pumpkin seeds

1 loaf tin 13 x 20cm (5 x 8inch)

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

Line a loaf tin with a butter paper or baking parchment. 

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and sugar until smooth.   Sift in the flour and baking powder, add a pinch of salt and gently mix into the egg mixture.  Stir in the grated beetroot, sultanas and walnuts.   Pour into the prepared tin.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack. 

Next make the icing.

Sieve the icing sugar, beat in the water gradually to a stiff consistency. Spread evenly over the cake, allow to drizzle down the sides, leave for 5 minutes and scatter with deep-fried beetroot (see below) and pumpkin seeds.

To Deep-fry Beetroot

Peel the outer skin off the beetroot.  Using a peeler, slice thin rings of the beetroot.  Allow to dry on kitchen paper for 20 minutes.  Deep-fry until crispy.

Fool Proof Food

Brambly Apple and Sweet Geranium Sauce

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

1-2 dessertspoons water

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

2-4 sweet geranium leaves

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

Hottips

Time to think about ordering your Christmas turkey or goose.

Philip Monks – Ballyvaughan, Co Clare – 086 8735565

Tom Clancy – Ballycotton – 086 1585709

Dan Ahearn – Midleton, Co Cork 021 4631058 or 086 8726358

Robbie Fitzsimmons – East Ferry, Co Cork 086 2056020 or 021 4651916

Ben and Charlotte Colchester – Urlingford, Co Kilkenny 056 88 31411

Jams, jellies, hampers Mary Gray, Ennistymon, Co Clare 087 76400629

Richard Graham-Leigh bakes his melt-in-the-mouth range of handmade Patisserie Régale Cookies from a small premises near Dunmanway in West Cork using local unsalted butter and free range eggs. His roasted hazelnut and white chocolate cookies, lavender shortbread, chocolate chip and oat and raisin cookies and apricot frangipane bars are available Urru in Bandon, Scallys in Clonakilty, Fields in Skibbereen, Fallon and Byrne in Dublin… Telephone 023 8855344 www.regale.ie

 

Game lovers shouldn’t miss George Gossip’s Game Cookery Weekend at Ballinderry Park, Kilconnell, Ballinasloe, Co Galway, Friday 19th to Sunday 21st November 2010. George is a witty, irreverent teacher and is the best game cook I know. To book your place, or to find out more about what is in store, contact george@ballinderrypark.com – telephone +353 90 96 96796 or www.ballinderrypark.com  

 

I hear good things about Dublin City Markets new lunch time market on Harcourt Street Monday to Friday.

 

Autumn Warming Food

The big challenge for many a busy mum and dad nowadays is to feed the family with wholesome nourishing food on a diminishing budget. Of course it is possible, but it takes more time, energy and determination to ferret out fresh local food in season. Vegetables are by far the most important food group yet we seem to be eating less and less. Food is invariably better, fresher, less expensive and much more delicious and nutritious when it is in season. However confusion still reigns, for younger people particularly, it is incredibly difficult to work out when an item is in season. There are few hints on the supermarket shelves, where most fruit and vegetables are available from January to December regardless of flavour.

Root vegetables, many brassicas and citrus are at their best during the Autumn and Winter season. Many of the roots are both filling and satisfying eg. Swede turnips, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, globe artichokes… Kale, Savoy cabbage, sprouting broccoli and other brassicas really give us that extra pep in our step. They are all easy to prepare and cook and are terrifically versatile. A fine cabbage can cost as little as one Euro, ridiculously cheap when you realise what time and effort goes into growing it. The brassica family of which cabbage is of course a member is full of goodness and is fantastically versatile. Fortunately, few people nowadays boil cabbage for hours on end as was the practice years ago – it’s so much fresher and tastier when thinly shredded across the grain and cooked in a little sizzling butter and with a couple of tablespoons of water to create steam. Good sea salt and freshly cracked pepper is really all that’s needed but I love to ring the changes with chopped parsley and chilli flakes, or a generous sprinkling of cumin seeds and lots of fresh thyme leaves and maybe a dash of cream added are also delicious and is particularly good with game.

Cabbage also makes a refreshing salad. If you are tiring of the ubiquitous coleslaw try a mayo free version with lots of mint leaves and a few raisins or dried cherries. My absolute favourite at present is Skye Gyngell’s Autumn Coleslaw with both red and white cabbage, carrots, raw beetroot, fennel, apples and hazelnuts.

Cabbage can also be stuffed whole or the leaves can be blanched and used to make delicious parcels with a variety of fillings – minced pork, beef, lentils well flavoured with herbs, spices, nam pla, sweet chilli sauce… For a more traditional filling and though not expensive meal, I like to stuff blanched cabbage leaves with little chunks of boiled bacon, champ and parsley sauce. Half a kilo of boiled streaky bacon will make about 8 fat cabbage parcels. Comforting, thrifty food at its best. The tougher outside leaves of the cabbage dont need to be wasted either follow the example of the Chinese and make crispy seaweed. It makes a delicious nibble and a moreish snack. Even the stalk needn’t be wasted just chop finely or grate and add to a cabbage salad or coleslaw.

Here are a few lovely homely recipes that won’t break the bank but should have your family and friends licking their lips.

 

Bantry Irish Stew

 

 

 

 

 

Serves 6-8

 

 

 

3 lbs (1.3kg) gigot or rack chops from the shoulder of lamb not less than 2.5cm (1 inch thick)

1lb (450g) (8 medium or 12 baby carrots)

1lb (450g) (8 medium or 12 baby onions)

1lb (450g) Swede turnip, cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes

Or

 

 

225g (½ lb) Swede turnip and 225g (½ lb) parsnips

10 -12 potatoes, or more if you like

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 3/4 pints stock (lamb stock if possible) or water

1 sprig of thyme

1 tablespoon roux, optional

 

 

Garnish

 

 

 

 

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives

 

 

 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.

 

 

 

Trim off the excess fat from the chops. Remove the bones and cut into generous 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes, you should have a minimum of 2 1/2lbs (1.1kg) lamb. Set aside. Render down the fat on a gentle heat in a heavy pan (discard the rendered down pieces).

 

 

 

Peel the onions and scrape or thinly peel the carrots (if they are young you could leave some of the green stalk on the onion and carrot). Cut the carrots into large chunks, or if they are small leave them whole. If the onions are large, cut them into quarters through the root, if they are small they are best left whole. Peel the turnip and parsnips if using and cut into cubes

 

 

 

Toss the meat in the hot fat on the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole (add the bones also but discard later). Quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots, onions, turnip and parsnips up in layers in the casserole, carefully season each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt. De-glaze the pan with lamb stock and pour into the casserole. Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme, bring to the boil on top of the stove, cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, 1-1 1/2 hours approx, depending on whether the stew is being made with lamb or hogget. (If the potatoes are small, use twice as many and add half way through cooking)

 

 

 

When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid, de-grease and reheat in another saucepan. Discard the bones. Thicken slightly by whisking in a little roux. Check seasoning, then add chopped parsley and chives. Pour over the meat and vegetables. Bring the stew back up to boiling point and serve from the pot, in a large pottery dish or in individual bowls.

 

Skye Gyngell’s Autumn Coleslaw
 

Serves 8 (as a main course)

This strong, crunchy, earthbound salad comprises everything that is good about autumn – apples, cobnuts, red cabbage and beetroot. My last meal on Earth would have to be some sort of salad…this might just be it! Pretty pink and white candy-striped beetroot looks amazing, but the purple or golden variety will taste just as good. If you can’t find cobnuts, use hazelnuts instead.

200g/7oz cobnuts or fresh hazelnuts, shelled and very roughly chopped

1 pomegranate, quartered

¼ red cabbage, cored OR half red and half white cabbage

1 fennel bulb

4 raw beetroot, washed

3 carrots, peeled

4 dessert apples (preferably Cox’s Orange Pippins)

small bunch tarragon leaves only, finely chopped

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice ½ lemon or to taste

For the Dressing
 

2 organic free-range egg yolks

1 tbsp honey

1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp cream

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp pomegranate molasses (optional)

200ml/7fl oz mild olive oil

Heat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Spread the cobnuts or hazelnuts on a baking tray and gently toast them in the oven for 3-4 mins. Set aside to cool. Carefully extract the seeds from the pomegranate avoiding the bitter membrane. Set aside.

Finely slice the red cabbage into thin ribbons. Cut off the base of the fennel bulb, remove the tough outer layer, then slice very finely. Cut the beetroot into very thin rounds. Shave the carrots into long ribbons, using a swivel vegetable peeler. Quarter and core the apple, leaving the skin on, then slice thinly.

Place the red cabbage, fennel, beetroot, carrots, apples and chopped tarragon in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil and squeeze over the lemon juice. Toss gently together with your hands and set aside while you make the dressing.

For the dressing, put the egg yolks into a bowl. Add the honey, mustard, cream, cider vinegar and pomegranate molasses (if using) and whisk together to combine. Season with a little salt and pepper, then pour in the olive oil in a slow stream, whisking as you do so emulsify. It should have the consistency of a very loose mayonnaise. Divide the salad among individual plates, piling it high. Drizzle over the dressing and scatter the pomegranate seeds and cobnuts around the plate to serve.

 
Warm Salad of Jerusalem Artichokes with Hazelnut Oil Dressing

 

 

White turnips and kohlrabi are also delicious cooked and served in this way. This recipe provides a perfect first course for a winter dinner party, and raises the Jerusalem artichoke to a more sophisticated level. Serves 4

350g (12oz) Jerusalem artichokes, very carefully peeled to a smooth shape

7g (14oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Hazelnut Oil Dressing
 

3 tablespoons hazelnut oil

112 tablespoons white wine vinegar

14 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

To Serve
 

a few oakleaf lettuce leaves

25g (1oz) hazelnuts, toasted and sliced

sprigs of chervil, for garnish

Cut the artichokes into 1cm (12in) slices. Bring 125ml (4fl oz) of water and the butter to the boil in a heavy saucepan and add the artichokes. Season. Cover and cook gently until the artichokes are almost cooked. Turn off the heat and leave in the covered saucepan until they are almost tender. Test with a skewer at regular intervals; they usually take about 15 minutes from the point at which you turn off the heat.

While the artichokes are cooking, prepare the hazelnut dressing by mixing all the ingredients together.

When the artichokes are cooked, carefully remove from the saucepan, making sure not to break them up. Place them on a flat dish in a single layer. Spoon over some of the hazelnut dressing and toss while still warm. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

To assemble the salad, divide the sliced artichokes between 4 plates. Put a little circle of lettuce around the vegetables and sprinkle some of the dressing over the lettuce. Garnish with the hazelnuts and chervil sprigs. Eat while the artichokes are still warm.

Celeriac, Potato and Rosemary Gratin
 

 

Serves 4-6

6 bacon rashers, chopped (optional)

420ml (15fl oz) double cream

350ml (12fl oz) milk

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 celeriac (about 500g/18oz) peeled, quartered and thinly sliced

500g (18oz) potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced

 

 

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.

Ovenproof gratin dish 10 inch (25.5cm) x 8 1/2 inch (21.5cm)

Grill the bacon, if using, until cooked and lightly brown, then set aside.
Bring the cream, milk, garlic, rosemary, chilli and mustard to the boil in a medium saucepan, and then turn off the heat.

Pour a little of the cream mixture onto the bottom of an ovenproof gratin dish.

Arrange a layer of celeriac, scatter with bacon, then season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour over some more of the cream mixture and repeat the same process, alternating potato and celeriac, finishing with a layer of potato. Cover with the remainder of cream mixture. Bake for 1-1 1/4 hours in the preheated oven until golden and the vegetables are tender when a knife is inserted. Leave to sit for 5 minutes, and then serve.

Fool Proof Food

 
Chinese Seaweed – Deepfried cabbage

 

 

Surprisingly, the Chinese seaweed served in many Chinese restaurants has nothing to do with seaweed; it is merely deep fried cabbage. This original way of cooking cabbage tastes absolutely delicious and once you start to eat it, just like peanuts or popcorn it becomes addictive.
Savoy cabbage

salt

sugar

Remove the stalks from the outer leaves. Roll the dry leaves into a cigar shape and slice with a very sharp knife into the finest possible shreds.

Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 180°C/350°F.

Toss in some of the cabbage and cook for a few seconds. As soon as it starts to crisp, remove and drain on kitchen paper! Sprinkle with salt and sugar, toss and serve cold.

 

Hottips

At last there is Irish sea salt on the market. Irish Atlantic Sea Salt is harvested from the Beara Peninsular using a very natural process that provides an ecologically sound, sustainable organic sea salt. Available at Tom Durkin’s Butcher’s in the English Market, Cork city.
Aileen and Michael O’Niell – 086 1620994 – 027 73222
South African Winemaker Dinner at Ballymaloe House
with Martin Moore, Winemaker, Durbanville Hills Wines, South Africa, in association with Edward Dillon & Co. Wine Merchants. Tuesday 16th November, 2010, 8.00pm reception, followed by dinner with wines. € 70.00. Phone 021 4652531 to book.

 

 

Brenda O’Riordan – the wife of an in-shore fisherman in East Cork started her own business, Love Fish in Ballycotton, in 2008. She collects fresh locally caught fish from day boats and delivers straight to your door. Brenda is making it possible for locals and chefs to have access to quality, fresh fish and is making a significant contribution to the local food industry in East Cork, which is why she was recently selected for an EirGrid Euro-toques 2010 Food Award. Contact Brenda 086 1704085.

 

  info@irishatlanticsalt.iewww.irishatlanticsalt.ie

 

Rachel Allen’s newest book Entertaining at Home is on the best sellers charts again this week. Rachel will teach a two and half day Festive Entertaining Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Tuesday 14th – Thursday 16th December 2010, she will show you how to make and present some wonderful Festive treats and then you’ll get a chance to try them out yourself with our team of teachers.  Phone 021 4646785

Halloween

Halloween was a spooky time when I was child, we heard all about the banshee. People told ghost stories and we ate barmbrack and colcannon. It was all about fortune telling and divination. There was lots of apple-bobbing and I also remember a game that involved three saucers, one held water, the second some soil, the third a ring. One after another we were blindfolded and there was lots of giggling. When one touched a saucer, fingers in the water meant you were going on a journey ‘over seas’, the ring meant you would be married within the year – even if you were only six – the clay was very bad news, it indicated that you would meet a sticky end before the year ‘was out’. The contents of the barmbrack also held similar clues to one’s fortunes good or otherwise. All good innocent fun and apart from the barmbrack pretty uncommercial. Almost every culture marks Halloween, the Day of the Dead or All Souls Day. Many visit grave yards and bring the favourite food of their loved ones to picnic and reminisce on the graves. Increasingly it is about witches and pumpkins in the American tradition. Shops and Farmers Market stalls are piled high with pumpkins. Kids have pumpkin carving parties and I’ve even seen a spectacular totem pole made from a variety of pumpkins and squash at an organic farm in the UK.

So what to do with all the pumpkin flesh? Pumpkin soup is an obvious solution or make a puree, sweeten it for pumpkin pie or add lots of seasoning, fresh herbs and spices to serve it with savoury dishes. In Dublin recently I had a delicious pizza at Juniors – Paulie’s Pizza on Grand Canal Street (the sister restaurant of Juniors on Bath Avenue in Ballsbridge). Both are cool restaurants doing good food at reasonable prices. The thin crust was topped with fresh tomato sauce, roasted butternut, mozzarella, diced pancetta, freshly cracked black pepper and chilli flakes with a fistful of rocket leaves on top – very good indeed. I can’t usually manage to eat a whole pizza. It was so good I couldn’t bear to leave some behind. When I was crossing the road a passing motorist honked his horn and yelled out through his window “Where’s Darina Allen going with a take out pizza!”

Juniors – Paulie’s Pizza, 58 Grand Canal Street, Dublin 4, + 353 (0) 1 6643658

Juniors Restaurant, Bath Avenue, Ballsbridge, Co. Dublin + 353 (0)1 6643648

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkins vary in intensity of flavour; some are much stronger than others so you may need to add some extra stock or milk. I sometimes add a can of coconut milk with delicious results.

900g (2 lb) peeled and seeded pumpkin or winter squash, cut into cubes

175g (6oz) onion, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

25g (1oz) butter

450g (l lb) very ripe tomatoes or 1 x 14oz (400g) tinned tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 sprig thyme

1.2 litres (2 pints) homemade chicken stock

salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg

Spice

40g (1 1/2 ozs) butter

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon white mustard seeds

2 inch (5cm) piece of cinnamon stick

Put the cubes of squash into a pan with the onion, garlic, butter and thyme. Cover and sweat over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the chopped tomatoes, (add 1/2-1 teaspoon sugar if using tinned tomatoes), puree and cook until they have dissolved to a thick sauce. Stir in the stock, salt, freshly ground pepper and a little freshly ground nutmeg and simmer until the squash is very tender. Discard the thyme stalk, then liquidise the soup in several batches and return to the pan. You may need to add a little more stock or milk if the soup is too thick for you liking. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Just before serving, gently reheat the soup and pour into a warm serving bowl. Heat the coriander, cumin and pepper, and crush coarsely. Melt the butter and, when foaming add the crushed spices, mustard seeds and cinnamon. Stir for a few seconds until the mustard seeds start to pop. Quickly pour over the soup and serve, mixing in the spice butter as you ladle it out, having removed the cinnamon stick.

Halloween Barmbrack

Everyone in Ireland loves a barmbrack, perhaps because it brings back lots of memories of excitement and games at Halloween. When the barmbrack was

cut, everyone waited in anticipation to see what they’d find in their slice: a

stick, a pea, a ring, and what it meant for their future. Now they’re available

in every Irish bakery, but here’s a great recipe you can use to make one at home. It keeps in a tin for up to a week. If this recipe feels like too much work, make the teabrack (Irish Barmbrack, see recipe), which, after you’ve plumped up the fruit,

takes mere minutes to mix.

450g (1lb) strong white bakers flour

1

2 level teaspoon ground cinnamon

Irish Tea Barmbrack

This is a more modern version of barmbrack, now commonly called a ‘tea brack’ because the dried fruit is soaked in tea overnight to plump it up (rather than boiled as in the recipe above). This little gem of a recipe is much easier to make at home than the Halloween Barmbrack.

Even though it is a very rich bread, in Ireland it is traditionally served sliced and buttered.

Yields about 12 slices (eat the crusts, too!)

110g (4oz) sultanas

110g (4oz) raisins

110g (4oz) currants

50g (2oz) natural glace cherries, halved or quartered

300ml (10fl oz) hot tea

1 organic egg, whisked

200g (7oz) soft brown sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon mixed spice

50g (2oz) homemade candied peel

450g (1lb) loaf tin – 12.5 x 20cm (5 x 8in) OR 3 small loaf tins 15 x 7.5cm (6 x 3in)

Put the dried fruit and cherries into a bowl. Cover with hot tea and leave to plump up overnight.

Next day

, line the loaf tin with silicone paper.

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

Add the whisked egg, soft brown sugar, flour and mixed spice to the fruit and tea mixture. Stir well. Put the mixture into the lined loaf tin.

Cook in for about 1 1/2hours or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Keeps very well in an airtight tin.

Gingerbread Witches

Makes approximately 40 witches

300g (11oz) butter

125g (4 1/2oz) caster sugar

125g (4 1/2oz) soft dark brown sugar

225g (8oz) golden syrup or treacle

725g (1lb 9oz) plain flour

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

3 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Icing for witches

175g (6oz) icing sugar

1 ½ tablespoon water

OR

1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice

Decoration for witches

Chocolate buttons (milk or white chocolate);

Piping bag and nozzles

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.

Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter together with the sugars and golden syrup or treacle. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add the melted butter and sugar and mix together.

Knead the mixture for a few seconds until it comes together, adding a teaspoon or so of water if necessary, but without allowing it to get too wet. Flatten the dough slightly into a round about 2cm (3/4 inch) thick, wrap with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

To make the gingerbread witches, remove the dough from the fridge, dust the work surface with flour and roll all of the dough to about 5mm (1/4 inch) thick. Cut out the witch shapes using a stencil, transfer onto the baking trays and cook in the preheated oven for 12 minutes, until they are slightly firm, a little darker at the edges and slightly drier on top. Allow the shapes to firm up for a few minutes, then place them on a wire rack to cool. When they have cooled, they can be iced, if you wish.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the water. Beat until the icing comes together, adding a little more water if necessary. (Be careful not to add too much or the icing will be too runny).

Using a small palette knife or the back of a spoon dipped into boiling water (to make the icing easier to spread), spread the icing over the gingerbread witches. If you wish to pipe on details, such as faces and hair, spoon the icing into a small piping bag with just the smallest corner cut off. While the icing is still slightly “unset” on the biscuits, arrange the decorations you are using, then set aside for the icing to set.

Spooky Ghosts

This meringue mixture can also be made into pumpkins, brooms, cats, moons, stars…

4 egg whites

250g (9oz approx.) icing sugar, sieved

Filling

1/2 pint (300ml) whipped cream

Cover 3 baking trays with a perfectly fitting sheet of silicone paper.

Mix all the icing sugar with the egg whites at once in a spotlessly clean bowl. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks – 10 to 15 minutes. Spoon into a clean piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe into spooky ghost shapes. Bake immediately in a low oven 150°C (fan) \300°F\regulo 2 for 30 minutes or until set crisp.

Pipe black eyes with melted chocolate on half of the ghosts.

Sandwich the meringues together with whipped cream.

Hottips

The RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet

will be performing a series of six concerts over Saturday 30th & Sunday 31st October in The Grain Store at Ballymaloe celebrating fine cuisine and the best of chamber classical music. For more information please visit www.ballymaloe.ie or call 083 3631468

Hickey’s Bakery in Clonmel’s

www.hickeysbakery.com +353 (0) 52 612 1587 info@hickeysbakery.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it A good news story – Stephen Pearce

is back in business and has re-opened at the Old Pottery in Shanagarry. Lots of beautiful dishes hot off the potters wheel to enhance your delicious food. The pottery is open Monday to Saturday 9am – 5 and Sunday 12 – 5pm. 021 4646807. www.stephenpearce.com

Wild Fruit Wines – at the Clare Harvest Festival

bingram@eircom.net

There are still places left on the one day Christmas Cooking Part 2 course which covers both traditional and modern recipes including many favourites. Monday 13th December 9:30am to 5:00pm €245.00. Booking essential 021 4646785

www.cokingisfun.ie

all the food came from within a 40 mile radius of the Falls Hotel in Ennistymon where the feast was held and very delicious it was too. We drank a local fruit wine made by Brian Ingram. I usually avoid that kind of thing but I was mightily impressed by both the quality and fresh clean flavour – really worth seeking out

makes seriously fruity Barmbrack which recently won Gold in The 2010 Blas na hEireann National Irish Food Awards

Making Sausages

The whole wide world it seems loves sausages. Here in Ireland we eat an estimated 15,200 tonnes of sausages every year but it’s not just the Irish and Brits who have a passion for sausages, what would the yanks do without their hotdogs, the French and Italian wouldn’t survive without their salami and salumi the Spanish have got all of us hooked on Chorizo and Germans boast over 1,200 varieties of sausages, the Chinese too have their favourites and of course we also love Moroccan merquez, Polish cabanossi and wiejska sausages have been made for at least 5,000 years when the earliest written recipe was etched on a Sumerian clay tablet. Romans were also sausage enthusiasts and brought the art of stuffing chopped meat into casings to every corner of their vast empire. Originally in the days before refrigeration sausage making would have been primarily about preservation. Salt and spices both flavoured and halted the growth of pathogenic bacteria, herbs like rosemary and sage also have anti bacterial qualities and of course drying and smoking help to further preserve.

Sausages would have been flavoured with the predominant herb or spice of that area such as wild fennel seeds in Italy, caraway in Germany and ground paprika (pimento) in Spain.

Refrigeration and mechanisation have transformed sausages, not always for the better, cheaper sausages can have mechanically recovered meat and little pork as we know it. However there has been a revival in real sausage making and many butchers and artisan producers now make superb sausages. Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland have for years encouraged innovation and awarded sought after prizes for creative ‘bangers’ If you would like to try your hand you don’t necessarily need to keep a pig but do need to somehow source terrific pork preferably from a traditional breed of pig that ranges freely outside – you’ll also need some nice pork fat because perversely if the meat is too lean the sausages will be dry and dull – a recently published book called ‘The Sausage Book’ published by Kyle Cathie and written by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton could be just the thing to get you started.

Nick is Creative chef for Pret a Manger and has tested a vast range of sausages all in the name of research. Johnny is a writer / journalist who has raised four Oxford Sandy cats so far. This is their fifth cook book – I loved the recipes for making sausages but if you’d rather buy them there are also over 80 delicious and well tested recipes to use them in.

Paysanne Sausages

Traditional fresh sausage recipes call for salt to form two per cent of the total weight. We have reduced this to one and a half per cent, as it’s healthier and doesn’t adversely affect the flavour.

Makes about 20 sausages

1.5kg pork shoulder, cut into chunks

500gm hard pork back fat, trimmed of all skin, cut into chunks (NB Instead of the 2 ingredients above you could use 2kg fatty pork belly, trimmed of skin and bone and cut into chunks)

15g fresh thyme, finely chopped

30g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

30g fine or flaky sea salt

10g freshly ground black pepper

20g garlic, chopped

approx 3m length of spooled hog casings, soaked in warm water prior to usage

Before you start, make sure your surfaces and equipment are scrupulously clean. You may also want to wear latex gloves.

The process begins with grinding the meat to the desired texture, which in this case is on the rough side (use a 5–7mm plate). Make sure you keep the meat cold throughout. This isn’t just a matter of hygiene – if you allow sausage meat to warm up, it turns into unmanageable glue.

The next stage is to chop up the herbs and add them to the mince with the requisite quantity of salt. You then mix the ingredients by hand until they are evenly distributed.

Now comes the slightly suggestive business of rolling the casing onto the nozzle. With any luck, one end of the casing will be wrapped around a telltale plastic ring. If it isn’t, you just have to scrabble around until you find an end. Once you have succeeded, slip the end over the tip of the nozzle and gradually roll the whole casing onto it, bar a couple of inches. Then tie a knot in the projecting portion.

At this point, you need to load your sausage stuffer with the meat-and-herb-mixture. Then screw the nozzle on and prepare to stuff. This will be much easier if you enlist the help of a friend. One of you turns the handle of the stuffer while the other controls the release of the casing. This is done by gripping the part of it nearest to the tip of the nozzle between two fingers, varying the pressure as the meat emerges to ensure that the casing slips off at a controlled rate. The idea is to fill it thoroughly and evenly.

All being well, you will end up with one very long sausage, but if the casing ruptures, perhaps due to some overzealous handle-turning, just tie a knot in it and start again.

When you run out of casings or meat, tie a knot in the back end as you did the front.

The final piece of the jigsaw is to twist the giant sausage into links. There are various pretty ways of doing this but the simplest is to ease the meat into segments of the desired length through the casing, then twist at the gaps. When it comes to cooking your freshly made sausages, do it slowly and thoroughly and do not prick the skins. If the heat isn’t too high, there is little danger of the sausages bursting and you don’t want them to lose their juiciness.

Cumberland

This is a version of the classic sausage from the North West of England.

Makes about 15 sausages

1.2kg (2 ¾ lb) roughly minced thick belly pork

20g (¾ oz) salt

5g (¼ oz) freshly ground black pepper

2g freshly grated nutmeg

2g dried marjoram

2g dried sage

2m (200cm) hog casings

Make as per Paysanne Sausages, forming one giant coil. Don’t tie off into links.

Toulouse

The definitive fresh sausage of South West France.

Makes about 2 0 sausages

2kg roughly minced pork belly

30g relatively fine sea salt

2g freshly grated nutmeg

5g freshly ground black pepper

100ml red wine

20g garlic, chopped

20g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

4g fresh sage, chopped

4g fresh thyme, chopped

2.5m hog casings

Make as per Paysanne Sausages.

Toad in The hole

Depending on the quality of the sausages and the execution, this classic British dish can be depressingly stodgy or rather magnificent. Our ‘toads’ of choice are pork chipolatas wrapped in smoked streaky bacon, served with a flavoursome onion gravy made from rich chicken stock and a good glug of booze. For this recipe you need a standard-size 12-hole muffin tin (or, of course, two six-hole ones).

Serves 4

The Toads

12 chipolatas

12 rashers smoked streaky bacon

The Batter

100g plain flour

1 egg

300ml milk

The Gravy

300ml chicken or beef stock

250ml red wine

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons plain flour

2 sprigs thyme

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Wrap each chipolata in one rasher of bacon and bake for fifteen minutes, each in an individual muffin mould. While they are roasting, whisk the batter ingredients together in a bowl.

Remove the chipolatas from the oven and immediately ladle out the batter into the muffin moulds so there is a chipolata poking out of each one. Place the moulds in the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes until the batter is puffed up and golden brown.

While all this has been going on, you will have been making the gravy. To do this, heat up the stock and red wine in one pan while frying the onion in the butter over moderate heat in another. Continue for about ten minutes until nice and soft. Stir in the flour and slowly pour in the hot stock, whisking as you go.

Add the thyme and Worcestershire sauce and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the toads in the hole from the oven and serve with mashed root vegetables and lashings of gravy.

 

Toulouse Sausage & Bean Cassoulet

 

Serves 3

1kg Toulouse sausage (or other herby variety, such as paysanne)

olive oil

2 carrots, diced

2 sticks celery, diced

1 small onion, peeled and diced

50g pancetta, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

250ml passata

500ml chicken stock

600g cooked butter beans

2 fresh bay leaves

2 sprigs thyme

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs, mixed with a little olive oil and salt

Fry the sausages gently in a little olive oil until lightly browned, then allow them to cool. Slice thickly and set aside. Reserve all the fat and juices.

Fry the carrot, celery, onion and pancetta in the olive oil over medium heat for around ten minutes until soft. Add the passata and the stock.

Add the sausage and juices, beans, bay leaf and thyme. Simmer for half an hour, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

A few minutes before the end of the cooking time, preheat the grill to its highest setting.

Sprinkle the mixture with the breadcrumbs and finish off under the grill, removing when the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Huevos Rancheros with Chorizo

Serves 2

2 fresh (uncured) chorizo, sliced

1/2 onion, peeled and chopped

1/2 red chilli, sliced

1/2 red pepper, chopped

200g chopped tomatoes from a tin

1–2 sprigs oregano, chopped

salt

2 eggs

This classic Hispanic breakfast dish, which uses fresh chorizo and will set you up for the day nicely. You will need a small to medium frying pan with a lid.

Fry the sliced sausages for a few minutes over moderate heat, then add the onion, chilli and pepper and continue to fry for five minutes or so, until the fat has been released from the chorizo. Give the mixture an occasional stir.

Add the tomatoes, oregano and a little salt if you wish. Simmer for ten minutes. Make two indentations in the sauce and break in the eggs.

Place the lid on the pan and continue to cook over low to moderate heat for three to five minutes until the eggs are done to your liking.

Place the pan on the table and serve yourselves. Warm corn tortillas are an essential accompaniment.

 

Vienna Macaroni cheese

Serves 4

1 cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets

300g dry macaroni

200g cream cheese

6 Frankfurters, sliced

100ml cre`me frai^che

salt and white pepper

mature Cheddar cheese for grating on top

Boil the cauliflower for three or four minutes in a large saucepan.

Immediately cool under a cold tap, leaving the hot water in the pan.

Cook the macaroni in the cauliflower water until al dente, then drain it and return it to the saucepan. Add the cream cheese, Frankfurters, cauliflower, crème fraîche, salt and white pepper and stir over very low heat until the cream cheese has melted. This should take about a minute.

Preheat the grill to its highest setting.

Transfer the contents of the saucepan to an oven dish. Grate a generous layer of Cheddar cheese on top, then brown under the grill and serve.

Chorizo & Goat’s Cheese tart

Serves 3

The Pastry (enough for 1 tart)

120g plain flour

60g butter

25g grated Parmesan cheese

pinch of salt

a little grating of nutmeg

2 egg yolks from large eggs

1/2 the white from a large egg

The Filling

1 large red pepper

120g creme fraiche

1 large egg with 1 extra yolk

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

salt and freshly ground black pepper

150g goat’s cheese, crumbled

200g fresh or cured chorizo, sliced or diced

1/4 teaspoon ground pimento or any other good-quality paprika, smoked or unsmoked (according to taste)

Goat’s cheese goes particularly well with chorizo. You can roll out the pastry, make the filling and bake this tart in less than an hour. Use a shallow, non-stick pizza pan with a 1cm lip, approximately 1cm deep and 28cm across.

First make the pastry. Sieve the flour onto your kitchen work surface. Cut the butter into pieces and place on top of the flour along with the cheese, salt and nutmeg. Rub the ingredients together with the tips of your fingers until all the lumps of butter and cheese have melted into the mix. This will take a few minutes.

Make a well in the centre of the mix and fill it with the two yolks and the egg white. Work the egg in with your fingers, then gather the pastry into a ball and work it with the heel of your hand for 30 seconds. Use the pastry itself to mop up any loose bits of dough that adhere to your work surface. Work the pastry again for a minute, then shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and store in the fridge until you need it (you can make the pastry the day before you cook the tart).

When ready to make the tart, roll out the pastry to the approximate size of the pizza pan, lay it over it and press it down into the pan. Don’t worry about trimming it around the sides unless you feel the need strongly.

Preheat the oven to 240ºC. Bake the red pepper for 15 minutes until charred, then leave it to cool. Peel the skin away, remove the seeds and slice the pepper into thin strips. Reduce the oven temperature to 200ºC.

Mix the crème fraîche, egg, thyme and seasoning together with a fork or whisk. Spread the mixture onto the pastry, making sure it goes all the way to the sides. Sprinkle the goat’s cheese evenly on top, then lay over the roasted pepper strips in a haphazard manner, followed by the chorizo. Powder the surface with pimenton and bake for 15–20 minutes until the chorizo is nice and browned. Eat while still warm.

 

Hottips

It’s worth looking out for Hodgins Craft Butchers

in Mitchelstown 025 24696, Woodside Farm in Midleton 0872767206 and Gubeen Farmhouse Products in West Cork 028 27824 – they all produce really good sausages.Matthew Dillon

, founding director of Organic Seed Alliance is the keynote speaker at the Organic Trust AGM at the Grain Store at Ballymaloe House on Sunday 7th November at 2pm. Organic Seed Alliance is– a public non-profit organisation that engages in education, research, advocacy with farmers to develop regenerative, farmer oriented and ethical seed systems. Not to be missed. 021 4652531.

The three Douglas Markets

have merged into one terrific market. There are over 40 stalls including Annie’s Roasts from East Ferry with her delicious free range chickens and ducks from her family farm freshly cooked on the rotisserie at the market. There’s fresh fish from West Cork, farmhouse cheese, freshly baked Arbutus Breads, lots of local fresh farm produce… Every Saturday outside the Douglas Court Shopping Centre from 10am – 2pm.Contact Rupert at rupert@rupertsfarm.com

Camelot – Somerset

This weekend I was in Camelot, bet you thought it was an imaginary place. In real life Camelot is in the beautiful verdant Somerset. I was in the area for a Literary Festival at Wyke Hall near Gillingham. Two other Irish authors Victoria Glendinning, Edna O’ Brien were there but now at last cook book writers are included in the literary scene!

The village pub (with rooms) at Corton Denham called the Queens Arms was heaving at lunch time. A little sign by the door assured us that “dogs and muddy boots are welcome”. A pile of warm pork pies were stacked on the counter with a selection of mustards to slather on top. A cute little twenty year-old was busy grating fresh horseradish onto Bloody Marys. Open fires blazed at both ends of the pub and there was a comfy convivial atmosphere. One party had driven up from Cornwall for lunch; others had come all the way from Bristol. There was no hope of a table but people seemed so eager to stay that they were prepared to sit outside on damp seats under umbrellas in the drizzle. Despite all that, the food, when it arrived, was not all that brilliant. Local heritage tomato and peach salad with toasted pine nut vinaigrette could have been delicious but it really is too late in the season, the peaches were actually crunchy and the tomatoes pale and insipid. The Corton Denham figs, crispy prosciutto rocket and Beenleigh Blue salad sounded great but the sadly the figs were also dull. Nonetheless I look forward to trying both of these combinations next year. My wild rabbit stew was heart warming but the warm pork pies were the best of all – I’ve never had a warm pork pie before and these were delicious. There was also a melt in the mouth Dorset apple pie cooked in a little iron frying pan. And then there was the cheese – this area – the West Country is home to two iconic English farmhouse Cheddars – Keens and Montgomery both of which are part of the Slow Food raw milk cheese presidia. I visited Keen’s farm on Saturday morning, where traditional farmhouse cheese has been made since 1899. Cheese buyers like Randolf Hodgson from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London come once a month to taste and choose. Each day’s cheese will taste different depending on the quality of the pasture, the richness of the milk and the skill of the cheese maker.

George Keane showed us around the cheese store. Timber shelves piled high with hundreds of beautiful mouldy truckles of Cheddar quietly maturing – the cheese is turned regularly at first but then allowed to gradually age to mellow fruitfulness. Sadly I couldn’t stay to see the whole process because I had to whizz off to give a cookery demonstration, but next day we visited Montgomery’s, another iconic Cheddar farm close by in North Cadbury – Jamie Montgomery is the third generation to make cheese from the milk of their Friesian Holstein cows that graze on the edge of Camelot. When we arrived Steve and Wayne had the process well underway. They had cut the curd into small granules and pitched it from one vat to another to drain out the whey. It looked like fine curdy scrambled egg. They use the same traditional culture from when the family started cheese making 70 years ago. A slightly different strain is used each day which means they only lose one days production if something goes awry.

The curd continued to tighten as we watched, it was cut it into blocks which were stacked and restacked on top of each other until Steve judged it was ready to mill. This is an essential part of the cheddaring process. Montgomery still use a traditional peg mill rather than the more modern chip mill. It gently tears the curd into shreds which are then dry salted and forked over to prevent it from clumping before being packed into moulds. It’ll be pressed overnight then turned and pressed again, dipped into almost boiling water (85 degrees). The labour of love continues, the naked cheese is carefully wrapped in soft cheese cloth and greased with lard in the time honoured way. Montgomery make some small truckles, about one and half kilograms in weight. They mature more quickly and are in huge demand for the Christmas market. Over the years we would occasionally order one of these smaller truckles which would arrive through the post in a brown paper and twine parcel. They also make two other cheeses, one called Danegeld and another called Ogleshield and were also experimenting with a Comté type while we were there. Their huge cheese store had over £1million worth of cheese. It is now well alarmed since the big ‘Break In’ just before the British Cheese Awards a few years ago. The irony was that the thieves couldn’t dispose of the cheese because it is so distinctive.

Both Keens and Montgomery win top awards every year and are the yard stick by which mature farmhouse cheddars are measured world wide.

The Queens Arms, Corton Denham, Somerset, DT9 4LR. Telephone / 01963 220317
relax@thequeensarms.com

James Montgomery, Montgomery’s Cheddar, Manor Farm, North Cadbury, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7DW T: 01963 440 243

George or Stephen Keen, Keen’s Cheddar Ltd, Moorhayes Farm, Verrington Lane, Wincanton, Somerset UK BA9 8JR
Tel: +44 (0)1963 32286
info@keenscheddar.co.uk

Gratin of Haddock with Keens or Montgomery Cheddar and Mustard with Piquant Beetroot

This is one of the simplest and most delicious fish dishes we know. If haddock is unavailable, cod, hake, pollock or grey sea mullet are also great. We use Imokilly mature Cheddar from our local creamery at Mogeely.

Serves 6 as a main course

175g (6 x 6oz) pieces of haddock

salt and freshly ground pepper

225g (8ozs) Keens or Montgomery Cheddar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoon cream

Piquant Beetroot

1 1/2 lbs (675g) beetroot cooked

1/2 oz (15g) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

a sprinkling of sugar

5-6 fl ozs (140-175ml) cream

Peel the beetroot, use rubber gloves for this operation if you are vain! Chop the beetroot flesh into cubes. Melt the butter in a sauté pan, add the beetroot toss, add the cream, allow to bubble for a few minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Taste and add a little more lemon juice if necessary. Serve immediately.

Ovenproof dish 8 1/2 x 10 inches (21.5 x 25.5cm)

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

Season the fish with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer in an ovenproof dish (it should be posh enough to bring to the table.) Mix the grated cheese with the mustard and cream and spread carefully over the fish. It can be prepared ahead and refrigerated at this point. Cook in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the top is golden and bubbly. Flash under the grill if necessary. Serve with hot Piquant Beetroot.

How to Cook Beetroot

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

Pastry

We baked these in a tin but usually they are hand formed. I love Jane Grigson’s filling from her book ‘English Food’ published by Macmillan.

12 oz (340g) white flour

6 oz (170g) butter

4 fl oz (100ml) water

pinch of salt

1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze

2 tins, 6 inches (15cm) in diameter, 1 1/2 inches (4cm) high or 1 x 9 inch (23cm) tin

Pork Pie Filling

For 4 – 6

900g (2 lb) boned shoulder of pork or spareribs, with approximately ¼ fat to ¾ lean meat

225 g (½ lb) thinly cut un-smoked bacon

1 teaspoon chopped sage

½ teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1 teaspoon anchovy essence

salt, freshly ground black pepper

Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Dice the butter, put it into a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. Pour the liquid all at once into the flour and mix together quickly; beat until smooth. At first the pastry will be too soft to handle but as it cools it will become more workable. Roll out to 2.5mm/1/4 inch thick, to fit the tin or tins. (The pastry may be made into individual pies or one large pie.)

The characteristic note of pork pies from Melton Mowbray is the anchovy essence. It makes an excellent piquancy, rather as oysters do in a steak and kidney pudding.

Chop some of the best bits of pork in 5mm (¼ inch) dice. Mince the rest finely with 2 or 3 rashers of the bacon (the bacon cure improves the colour of the pie on account of the saltpetre: with it the filling would look rather grey when the pie is cut). Add the seasonings. Fry a small amount and taste to see if adjustments are needed. Mix in the diced meat. Line the base of the pastry with remaining bacon and fill with the pork mixture. You will always get a better texture if the meat is finely chopped rather than minced. Make lids from the remaining pastry, brush the edges of the base with water and egg wash and put on the pastry lids, pinching them tightly together. Roll out the trimmings to make pastry leaves or twirls to decorate the tops of the pies, make a hole in the centre and egg wash carefully.

Bake the pie or pies at 200C/400F/regulo 6 for 40 minutes approx. Serve hot or cold.

Jane Grigson’s Cheese and Oatmeal Biscuits

Use a hard, dried-out piece of cheese, Cheddar or a mixture of Cheddar and Parmesan in the proportion of 3:1. These biscuits are delicious with soups, or soft curd cheese.

75g (2 ½ oz) oatmeal

150g (5oz) white flour

100g (3 ½ oz) salted butter

125g (4oz) grated Cheddar cheese

Salt, pepper, cayenne

2 egg yolks

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6. Mix the oatmeal with the flour, rub in butter. Add grated cheese. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and cayenne, add the egg yolks and a very little iced water, just enough to mix to a dough. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Roll out in batches and cut into triangles or rectangles. Place on trays lined with parchment paper. Bake 10 minutes, or until nicely coloured. Cool on a wire rack.

Dorset Apple Cake

Serves 12

225 g (8oz) butter

450 – 500g (1lb to 18oz) Bramley Seedling apples

1 organic lemon finely grated zest and juice

3 organic eggs

225g (8oz) self raising flour

225g (8oz) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

2 teaspoons baking powder

25g (1oz) ground almonds

1 tbsp Demerara sugar

5 tbsp milk softly whipped cream to serve

1 x 23 – 24cm springform tin lined with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Peel and core the apples, cut them into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces, then toss them in the lemon juice. Cream together the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add a little flour with each egg to prevent the mixture from curdling. Sieve the remaining flour and the baking powder into the bowl and fold gently into the butter mixture with the ground almonds and milk. Stir in the apple pieces. Spoon the cake mix into the prepared tin. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the Demerara sugar. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until well risen and golden brown. Test the centre with a skewer, when inserted into the centre of the cake it should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with plenty of caster sugar. Serve with softly whipped cream.

Hot Tips

Can’t wait to meet the eventual finalists of Cully & Sully’s contest Cheffactor! Members of the public are invited to enter the contest on Cheffactor.ie to be in with a chance of winning a place on the coveted January’s Ballymaloe 12 week certificate cookery course. The top prize which includes accommodation can be redeemed in either 2011 or 2012 and will include two weeks with Colum O’ Sullivan (Sully) and Cullen Allen (Cully) to learn the ways of the food business.  It is open to everyone-whether you’re a whizz in the kitchen or just a novice. Visit cheffactor.ie!

Sustainable Clonakilty Energy Festival (18th – 23rd October ) the Local Food group are promoting a “50 mile meal” initiative. The aim is to showcase locally produced food through the menus of local restaurants and to increase awareness of food miles.

Restaurants in Clonakilty will provide a three course menu from local produce for the entire week – a super idea which hopefully other areas with be inspired to copy.

Alice Glendinning, (085) 143 9007 or email: aliceglendinning@yahoo.co.uk.

Lots of activity at grass roots level, lots of creative ideas and projects bubbling up as people explore alternative ways of earning a living. John and Olive Hallahan from Castlemary near Cloyne are making several delicious cheeses and yoghurt from their goat’s milk plus they have opened up a little farm shop to sell home reared lamb, pork and goat as well as other local produce from their farm. Open Saturdays 10am to 4pm – look out for a sign for Canine Country Club. Contact 0877977203

Slow Food Dinner – another convivial East Cork Slow Food dinner at Wisteria Restaurant in Cloyne on Thursday 28th October 2010 at 7:30pm. Darina Allen and Colm Falvey have chosen a delicious menu to showcase and celebrate the food of the local farmers, fishermen and cheese makers. There will be guest speakers and tastings. Numbers are limited and booking is essential 021 4646785.. Slow Food members €45.00 and non Slow Food members €50.00 www.slowfoodireland.com

Game for Deer


So many menus nowadays are utterly predictable, chicken, farmed salmon, steak and maybe lamb. Sometimes there is duck but it’s rare enough to be offered any wild food or game. The deer hunting season opened on September 1st  to February 28th depending on the type of deer (check the different dates with National Parks and Wildlife Service) so in response to a readers request I have decided to concentrate on venison in this week’s article.
In Ireland we have three main types of deer the native Red deer a large noble animal and Seka and Fallow which are similar in size to a lamb. The meat is dark, rich and virtually fat free so is apparently lower in cholesterol.
The haunch or back leg roasts beautifully and makes a terrific dinner party dish; lots of easy carving and depending on the breed will feed 20 to 30 people. It’s delicious served with a simple gratin dauphinois and some red cabbage.
Venison can be incredibly dry and dull if it gets over cooked, so aim to cook it rare – no more than ten minutes to the pound and remember it will go on cooking after you turn off the oven, so try to calculate the cooking time to allow for 30 minutes resting in a warm oven. The juices will redistribute themselves so the venison will be evenly pink and juicy. Well-done roast venison is not a gastronomic experience. Shoulder is best stewed or braised, it will benefit from a red wine marinade, use lots of root vegetables and maybe add a few chestnuts close to the end of cooking. Serve with a big bowl of champ or colcannon or better still, turn it into a pie dish and top with a lid of flaky puff pastry.
The loin can be roasted or cut into chops to be grilled or pan-fried. Better still just use the eye of the loin, cut into medallions and quickly pan fry.
Left over haunch can be made into a gamekeeper’s pie as opposed to shepherd’s pie and very delicious it is too.
The lap and indeed the shoulder can also be made into Venison chilli con carne or venison sausages or venison burgers. You will need to mix it with some good fatty streaky pork otherwise it will be dry and crumbly.
One of the best things of all is fresh venison liver so if you are fortunate enough to know someone who butchers their own venison – put in a special request, it must be very fresh, just slice thinly, toss in flour well seasoned with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, cook the liver in sizzling butter and eat immediately – delicious.


Venison Stew with Chestnuts
When you buy venison, allow time for marinating, and remember that unsmoked streaky bacon or fatty salt pork is essential either for cooking in with the meat (stew) or for larding (roasting or braising), unless the meat has been well hung.

Serves 8

1.3kg (3lb) shoulder of venison, trimmed and diced into 4cm (1 1⁄2in) pieces

Marinade
350ml (12fl oz) red wine
225g (8oz) onion, sliced
3 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and lightly crushed black peppercorns
bouquet garni made with parsley stalks, 1 bay leaf and a fine sprig of thyme

seasoned flour

Sauce
225g (8oz) fat streaky bacon, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 large garlic clove, crushed
450ml (3⁄4 pint) beef or game stock
bouquet garni
24 small mushrooms, preferably wild ones
250g (9oz) cooked and halved chestnuts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice or redcurrant jelly, as required
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

3lb (1.3kg) mashed potatoes

Season the venison well and soak in the marinade overnight. Drain the meat well, pat it dry on kitchen paper and toss in seasoned flour.

Meanwhile, brown the bacon in the olive oil in a frying pan, cooking it slowly at first to persuade the fat to run, then raising the heat until crisp on the outside. Transfer to a casserole.

Brown first the venison in the fat, then the onion, carrot and garlic (do this in batches, transferring each ingredient to the casserole). Do not overheat or the fat will burn. Pour off any surplus fat, deglaze the pan with the strained marinade and pour over the venison. Heat enough stock to cover the venison and vegetables in the casserole and pour it over them. Add another bouquet garni, bring to a gentle simmer, either on top of the stove or transfer to a preheated oven at 150ºC/300ºF/ gas mark 2. Cover closely and continue to cook gently until the venison is tender.
Test after 1 1⁄2 hours, but you may need longer – up to 2 1⁄2 hours cooking time. For best results, it is wise to cook this kind of dish one day and then reheat it the next, which improves the flavour and gives you a chance to make sure that the venison is tender.

Sauté the sliced mushrooms in the extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and add to the stew with the cooked and halved chestnuts. Finally taste the sauce;
it may need seasoning or perhaps a little lemon juice. It also sometimes benefits from a pinch of sugar or some redcurrant jelly (be careful not to use too much.)

Serve with lots of mashed potatoes, champ or colcannon.

 


Roast Haunch of Venison with Quince and Rosemary Compote

A haunch of venison makes an excellent, easy, delicious and impressive dish. Venison tends to be very lean—an advantage for those who fear fat. However, some fat is needed to baste the joint while roasting to ensure succulence. The sweet pork caul fat will melt over the joint, basting as it roasts. It virtually disappears.

Serves 20 people approximately

1 haunch of venison – approx. 6-7 lbs (2.7-3.2kg) in weight

To lard venison
225g (8oz) back fat or very fat streaky pork. Alternatively, bard the whole joint in caul fat.

Marinade
2 tablespoons fresh herbs; I use a mix of thyme and marjoram
4 tablespoons olive oil
125ml (4fl oz) dry white wine

Gravy
900ml (1 1/2 pint) venison, game or beef stock

Roux 

Quince and rosemary compote

First lard the venison. Cut the pork back fat into 5mm (1/4 inch) wide strips. Insert a strip into a larding needle, draw a lardon through the meat to make a stitch; trim the end. Repeat the stitches at 2.5cm (1 inch) intervals to make horizontal rows, positioning each row about 1cm (1/2 inch) away from the previous row, repeat with the remainder of the fat.

Put the haunch into a shallow dish, stainless steel or cast iron, not tin or aluminium. Sprinkle it with the freshly chopped herbs. Pour the olive oil and wine over the meat. Cover the dish or tray and marinate the meat for about 4 hours at room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight, turning the meat occasionally. I use the marinade to baste the meat during cooking.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Weigh the venison and calculate 10 minutes to the pound. We like our venison slightly pink and still very juicy, so I usually turn off the oven then and allow the meat to relax for 20-30 minutes. Baste every 10 minutes during the cooking time with the oil and wine marinade and turn the joint over half way through.  Meanwhile make the quince and rosemary compote. When the venison is cooked, remove to a serving dish while you make the gravy.

Degrease the roasting pan, add about 300ml (1/2 pint) stock. Bring to the boil, scraping and dissolving the sediment and crusty bits from the roasting pan. Thicken very slightly with a little roux, taste and correct the seasoning, pour into a warm gravy boat. Serve a creamy gratin of wild mushrooms and potatoes.

Quince and Rosemary Compote

5-6 quinces
225g (8oz) sugar
60ml (2 1/2fl oz) water
1-2 teaspoons rosemary – chopped

Peel, core and chop the quince into 2cm (3/4 inch) dice. Immediately put in the saucepan with sugar and water, cover and cook on a medium heat until soft—about 20 minutes. Add chopped rosemary, taste and add a little more sugar and rosemary as needed.


Note: It is very easy to overcook venison mainly because it goes on cooking after the oven has been turned off and the need to avoid this happening cannot be overemphasized. It is better to allow the meat to cool quite considerably than to risk overcooking and for this reason it is served in thin slices on very, very hot plates, which has the effect of reheating it at the very last moment.


Venison Burgers

Another good way to use the stewing meat. Venison is so lean that it benefits from the addition of the fat streaky pork. Makes 6

25g (1oz) shallot or onion, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
450g (1lb) venison shoulder or flap, trimmed
175g (6oz) streaky pork, rind removed
1 teaspoon or more thyme leaves
1 teaspoon or more marjoram
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
salt and freshly ground pepper
caul fat if available

burger buns

Sweat the shallot or onion gently in the olive oil until soft. Allow to get cold. Meanwhile, cube the venison and pork. Chop or mince in batches in a food processor. Mix the meat, cold shallots, fresh herbs and chilli sauce together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a frying pan. Fry off a bit of meat to check the seasoning. Tweak if necessary. Divide the mixture into burgers. Wrap in pork caul, cover and chill until needed.
Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan. Cook burgers for about 5 minutes on each side.
Serve each on a toasted bun with the usual accompaniments. Wild Mushroom à la Crème and a watercress salad are delicious on the side.


Venison Chilli Con Carne

Serves 6

You can use tinned red kidney beans but it is far cheaper to buy them loose and uncooked at a good grocery or delicatessen. Another alternative is to omit the kidney beans from the stew and serve them separately in a salad, or as part of three bean salad.

1- 1 1/2 lbs (500-725g) shoulder of venison, well trimmed, cut into 1/2 – 3/4 inch (1-2cm) cubes
extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small green pepper, seeded, sliced
chilli sauce, see below
1 tablespoon tomato concentrate (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
8 ozs (250g) red kidney beans, cooked
salt and brown sugar

sour cream
cheddar cheese
fresh coriander
tacos
avocado sauce 
tomato salsa

Trim the meat where necessary and brown it in olive oil. Transfer to a casserole. Brown the onion and garlic lightly in the same oil, and scrape on to the meat. Add the pepper, sauce and just enough water to cover the ingredients. Cover tightly and leave to stew until cooked, keeping the heat low. Check the liquid occasionally. By the end of the cooking time it should have reduced to a brownish red thick sauce. If it reduces too soon
because the lid of the pan is not a tight fit, or you had the heat too high, top it up with water.

Last of all add the tomato if used, the cumin, the kidney beans if you are not serving them separately as a salad, with salt and brown sugar to taste. Simmer for a further 15 minutes, put a blob of sour cream on top of the chilli con carne, sprinkle with grated cheese.  Garnish with fresh coriander, and serve with Tacos and optional Avocado and Tomato Salsa.
 

Chilli Sauce

A delicious sauce to use when making chilli con carne, rather than the chilli powder sold in small bottles. It can also be used as a marinating mixture.

6-7 small dried chillis, or 4-5 large fresh ones
1 large red pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic
salt

If the chillis are dried, soak them in a little water for an hour, then slit them and wash out the seeds. Discard the stalks, do the same with the large pepper. Puree with the other ingredients, using the soaking water if necessary to moisten the vegetables. If you use chillis, you might need a tablespoon or two of cold water. Season with salt. You can keep this sauce in a covered container in the fridge for two days, or you can freeze it.

 

Fool Proof Food

Venison Liver with Bubble and Squeak

If ever you have the chance to taste fresh venison liver, do so. It’s a revelation, but it must be super fresh. It is best eaten on the same day but would still be worth trying the following day. Serves 4–6

fresh venison liver (about 450g/1lb) cut into 1cm (1⁄2in) slices
flour seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper
50g (2oz) clarified butter more if you need it
extra virgin olive oil
bubble and squeak
watercress or flat parsley, to serve

Dip the slices of liver in the seasoned flour. Heat some clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil in the pan over a high heat. Cook the liver for 30 seconds on each side. Serve immediately on hot plates with Champ or Colcannon and some watercress or sprigs of flat parsley – divine.

 

Hottips

Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate Marco Brouwers opened Pizzeria San Marco in August 2010. The theme of the restaurant is Venice and was fitted out by Venetian artisans – it has the atmosphere of a real Italian Pizzeria with talented chefs expertly spinning freshly made dough into circles in full view. The Italian built wood burning oven reaches temperatures of 450ºC for the perfect crispy pizza. Most of the produce for the pizzeria is locally sourced and if you order the day before Marco can make you a delicious gluten free pizza. They serve good coffee too. 9 Main St., Midleton. Tel 021 4633030

Savour Kilkenny – you might want to head for Kilkenny for the Savour Kilkenny Festival from Friday 22nd to Monday 25th October to see the tented Food Village show-casing local food. There will be cookery demonstrations, an innovative Food Camp, a young chefs competition, quirky cupcake icing and much more. The Smithwicks October Fest will feature the 50 mile meal. Think what a difference it would make to local farmers and fishermen if all restaurants incorporated even 20% local food into their menus. www.savourkilkenny.com

Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy

 The food world, particularly those of us who love spices are all a twitter on hearing the news that Indian cook and actress Madhur Jaffrey has just written another cook book. This one is especially for those who feel that Indian food takes a long time and a ton of ingredients to make. It is entitled Curry Easy and is published by Ebury Press.Madhur taught classes at Ballymaloe Cookery School several times during the 1980s and 1990s and we all loved her food. She has built up a devoted following all over the world. Her carefully chosen and finely tuned recipes have introduced several generations to spices and her meticulously tested recipes have given all of us the confidence to experiment. From my own part, Madhur’s cooking classes were the beginning of a love affair with India and Indian food which has endured for several decades.

Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we are also fortunate to have access to super fresh spices imported directly from India by Arun Kapil of Green Saffron Spices. These are particularly easy to access if you live in the Cork area because Arun and his wife Olive charm people at several Farmers Markets every week: Macroom on Tuesday, Mahon Point on Thursday, Midleton on Saturday, and Limerick Milk Market on Friday and Saturday. Otherwise Green Saffron spices and spice mixes are available from 62 different outlets in Ireland, visit

 

www.greeensaffron.com

to find out the shop closest to you.When purchasing spices, buy them in small quantities from either a shop or stall with a quick turn over. Try as far as possible to buy whole spices with the exception of turmeric, cayenne, paprika (mostly sold ground) and ground ginger which you may need for baking ginger bread. Whole spices are infinitely more flavourful than ground. If you want to use whole spices on a regular basis it’s worth investing in a good pestle and mortar or spice grinder. An electric coffee grinder works brilliantly but we also love our Mexican Mojacete made of coarse lava rock. It makes hand grinding so much easier than struggling with a smooth pestle and mortar. As soon as spices are ground the flavour starts to tick away and as they get older the flavour and aroma diminishes rapidly. Once you start to experiment with spices there is no going back, they add magic to your food. Having a few jars of spices in your kitchen is like having a wonderful Pandora’s Box to dip into. Depending on the combination of spices you use you can add the flavours of the Far East, Mexico and Morocco…

It may seem intimidating at first but you will soon be able to judge how much to use and what combinations work best. It’s good advice to start by using one spice at a time, say cumin or coriander, you will soon be able to judge the strength of the spice and then you can start to combine and add other spices to compliment the original one or two. Madhur Jaffrey’s essential spices are cumin, fennel, mustard seeds, turmeric, chillies, coriander, fenugreek, which Madhur Jaffrey says “smells like India in a jar” and asafoetida “which is essential for the deep flavour that comes with Indian food”

Here are a few of my favourite spicy recipes for you to experiment with.

 

 

 

Mild Madras Curry with Fresh Spices

 

 

Serves 8

2 lb (900g) boneless lamb (leg or shoulder is perfect)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nut milk

4 ozs (110g) almonds

16 fl ozs (475ml) light cream

 

1 tablespoon pounded fresh green ginger

salt

 

2 oz (50g) ghee or clarified butter

4 onions – sliced in rings

4 cloves of garlic – crushed

2 teaspoons coriander seed

2 teaspoons black pepper corns

1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, start with whole green cardamom pods if possible

8 whole cloves

 

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoons sugar

some freshly squeezed lime juice

 

segments of lime

 

Trim the meat of the majority of the fat. Blanch, peel and chop up the almonds (they should be the texture of nibbed almonds). Put into a small saucepan with the cream and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.

 

Meanwhile peel the ginger thinly with a vegetable peeler, pound into a paste in a pestle and mortar, or chop finely with a knife, or grate finely on a slivery grater.

 

Cut the meat into 4 cm (1 1/2in) cubes and mix it with the ginger and a sprinkling of salt.

Melt the butter and cook the onion rings and crushed garlic over a gentle for 5 minutes. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and measure 1 teaspoon. Discard the pods.

Grind the fresh spices, coriander, pepper, cardamom and cloves in a clean spice or coffee grinder. Add the spices to the onions and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove the onions and then add the meat to the saucepan. Stir over a high heat until the meat browns. Return the onion and spices to the pot. Add the nut milk, turmeric and sugar. Stir well. Cover and simmer gently on top of the stove or better still in a low oven 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3, until the meat is cooked (1 hour approx.)

 

Finish by adding a few drops of lemon or lime juice to taste.

Serve with plain boiled rice, lime segments and other curry accompaniments which might include – bowls of chopped mango, Tomato chutney, Mint chutney, Raita, sliced bananas, chopped apples and poppodums.

A hot chilli sauce is also good and of course some Indian breads, Naan, Paratha …..

 

Note:

 

 

 

1 biggish leg of lamb or mutton will yield approx. 3 lbs (1.35kg) of meat.

 

 

Rachel’s Coriander Rice

This is basically plain boiled rice, but with added chopped coriander. This way of cooking rice is great – you can keep it warm really well for about half an hour, or of course you can reheat it.

Serves 4-6 people

1 teaspoon salt

300g (10 1/2ozs) basmati rice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or 25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons chopped coriander (or mint)

Bring a big saucepan of water to the boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the rice, stir, and let boil for 5 minutes – by this stage, the grains should be three-quarters cooked. Strain through a sieve, and place the rice in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil or butter, and season to taste. Leave in a low oven, 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1, for 10-15 minutes, by which time it should be lovely and fluffy. If you want to prepare it half an hour in advance, put it into an oven at 110ºC/225°F/Gas Mark 1/4. Sprinkle with lots of fresh coriander and serve.

Rachel’s Roasted Vegetable Coconut Curry

The creamy coconut milk and myriad spices grant these vegetables both elegance and luxury. Roasting the vegetables in the paste really brings out their sweetness. Making your own curry paste takes minutes and the complex depth of flavour means it’s always worth doing.

Serves 8–10

Vegetarian

2 x 400ml tins of coconut milk

600ml (1 pint) vegetable stock

400ml (14fl oz) natural yoghurt

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes

6 parsnips, peeled, cores removed and flesh cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes

700g (11/2lb) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes

4 onions, peeled and cut into eighths

150g spinach (any large stalks removed before weighing), chopped

For the paste

1 tbsp coriander seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp chana masala

50g (2oz) root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

12 cloves of garlic, peeled

4 red chillis, deseeded

200g (7oz) onions, peeled and quartered

50ml (2fl oz) vegetable oil

1 tbsp ground turmeric

2 tsp caster sugar

2 tsp salt

To serve

Large bunch of coriander, chopped

100g (31/2oz) cashew nuts, toasted and chopped

200ml (7fl oz) natural yoghurt or crème fraîche

Large casserole dish or saucepan

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas mark 3.

First make the paste. Place a small frying pan on a medium heat and add the coriander, cumin and chana masala. Cook, tossing frequently, for about 1 minute or until they start to pop, then crush.

3 Place the ginger, garlic, chilli, onions and vegetable oil in a food processor and whiz for 2–3 minutes or until smooth. Pour this mixture into a large saucepan or casserole dish and stir in the freshly ground spices, along with the turmeric, sugar and salt, then place on a medium–low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has reduced slightly.

Remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture into a large bowl. Pour the coconut milk and stock into the remaining half in the saucepan or casserole dish, stirring to combine.

Stir the yoghurt into the spice paste in the bowl, then add the root vegetables and onions and stir in the mixture to thoroughly coat. Tip into 1–2 roasting tins or baking trays and cook in the oven for about 1 hour or until lightly browned.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and add to the saucepan or casserole dish. Place on a medium heat for a few minutes to warm through, and then stir in the spinach and spoon into bowls with a sprinkling of fresh coriander, a scattering of the toasted nuts and a spoonful of yoghurt or crème fraîche.

 

 

Beena’s Fish Curry

Serves 4

1 1/4 lb (570g) Mahi Mahi (or any other firm fish, eg monkfish) cut into 2 inch (5cm) pieces

16 fl ozs (450ml) coconut milk (preferably fresh) or 400ml (1 x 14oz) can coconut milk (brand: Chaokoh)

1 1/2 fl ozs (40ml) coconut oil

2 tablespoons chopped shallot

1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated

2 green chillies, split lengthwise

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander

1 oz (25g) dry tamarind and 2 fl. ozs (50ml) hot water

salt to taste

For tempering:

1/2 fl oz (12ml) coconut oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seed

1 tablespoon fresh curry leaves

To Serve

Rice and poppodums

Heat 12ml (1 ½ fl oz) coconut oil in a sauté pan. Add the shallots, ginger and green chillies. Stir and sauté for about 5 minutes or until they start to turn brown.

Add the turmeric, sugar, chilli powder and coriander. Stir and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and the tamarind water. Season with salt and add the fish. Cover and poach the fish over a medium heat until just cooked – monkfish will take 5-6 minutes.

To prepare the tempering.

Heat 1/2 fl oz coconut oil in small saucepan, when the oil is smoking hot, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds finish crackling, pour the tempering over the curry.

If possible leave the curry overnight in a cool place.

To serve, bring to boil in the same pot and serve with rice and poppodums.

How to prepare tamarind.

Soak the tamarind for 30 mins to 1 hour in 50ml (2fl oz) hot water in a small non-metallic bowl. (The water should cover the tamarind.) Strain through a sieve, discard the pulp – the strained liquid is your tamarind water.

WildFood

Damsons are in season now and still grow wild in Ireland in ditches along farm boundaries; they usually ripen towards the end of September so find out where you can gather them to make into damson sauce – delicious with duck breast or wild duck.

Damson or Plum Sauce

Serves 6–8

450g (1lb) damsons or blood plums

225g (8oz) sugar

2 cloves

2.5cm (1in) piece cinnamon stick

25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons red currant jelly

110ml (4fl oz) port

Put the plums into a stainless-steel saucepan with the sugar, cloves, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon water and the butter. Cook slowly until reduced to a pulp. Push the fruit through a fine sieve and return the purée to a clean saucepan. Add the redcurrant jelly and port, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. The sauce may be served either hot or cold. It keeps well.

 

Hottips

Irish apples are now in season

The new edition of the Seilide

 

the Slow Food magazine has just gone online – its packed with articles on food and food issues and is well worth a browse., there are so few Irish apple growers left so let’s support the valiant growers who remain. Seek out Keanes of Crinnaghtaun Fruit Farm in Cappoquin (058) 54258, Con Tras Apple Farm (052) 7441459 and Philip Little – Little Apple Company, Piltown, Co Kilkenny (051) 567872.

 

www.slowfoodireland.com

 

 

www.cookingisfun.iadhur e

.

 

 

Duchess of Devonshire – Chatsworth House

I’ve never met the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, yet she has been a hero of mine for many years. Debo, as she is known to her friends, now a feisty 90 year old was the youngest Mitford sister. He recently published autobiography called ‘Wait for Me’, immediately conjures up images of a determined little girl desperately trying to keep up with her five sisters. I recently took a couple of days off to visit her family home, Chatsworth House and Gardens in Derbyshire. Members of the Cavendish family have lived at Chatsworth since 1550. It’s a huge stately house in the midst of a 100 acre garden in the centre of the 1,000 acre Chatsworth Park, surrounded by the Peak district national park. It takes serious initiative, a ton of creativity and buckets of hard work to keep the roof on a stately home of this size.

Her Grace also loves chickens as I do and once complained that when John F Kennedy and his brothers came by helicopter to visit their sister-in-law Kathleen’s grave, her neighbours chickens were blown away by the force of the helicopter blades and were never seen again! Kathleen Kennedy died in a plane crash in 1948 and is now buried in the Cavendish family plot at St Peter’s Church near Chatsworth. Chatsworth attracts in excess of 600,000 visitors from March to Christmas every year. People come from all over the world to see the house, extensive gardens, parkland, sculptures and a farmyard full of happy farm animals. Visitors can see the cows being milked; under-fives can have fun on the pedal tractors or learn how to sow seeds. There’s several fantastic farm shops the most recent has just won the ‘Best Farm Shop’ in Britain award. It’s stuffed with local produce. Six butchers work full time in full view of the customers to prepare joints from meat much of which is reared by tenant farmers on the estate.

There are several restaurants, cottages to rent and a couple of pubs with rooms including two called the Devonshire Arms one in Beeley the other at Pilsley. I loved the yummy lamb and mint faggots in gravy they served there. When I inquired about how they were made they told me they were for sale in the Chatsworth Farm Shop with many other tempting things.

If you are in the area Hardwick House originally owned by Bess of Hardwick is a ‘must see’ not only for the utterly beautiful collection of tapestries and handmade rush floor covering but also for the original kitchens (now a restaurant) with dressers full of polished copper and kitchen utensils.

Just down the road is Stainsby Mill a stone mill which still grinds flour once or twice a week. Sadly they weren’t milling flour on the day we visited but none the less it was intriguing.

Derbyshire has several food specialities. I loved the oatcakes. It was quite difficult to get a recipe, their slightly spongy texture resembled South Indian flatbreads. Nowadays most people buy them but I found this recipe at www.derbyshireuk.net/recipes.html. We tested the oatcakes and found them delicious but not quite as light as the ones I bought, perhaps one could reduce the oatmeal by an ounce and replace it with an equivalent amount of white flour. You may also need to add a little bit more water if the batter is standing for more than half an hour.

The Derbyshire Fruit Loaf is reminiscent of any Irish tea brack but I loved the addition of a few spoons of marmalade. Like a tea brack it keeps for ages and is delicious served buttered or unbuttered.

We stayed in Fischer’s Baslow Hall in Baslow, where Max Fischer and his Chef Rupert Rowley get huge ratings in the Good Food Guide for his innovative food, lots of foams and little bits to nibble. Max keeps a half acre kitchen garden packed with fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit. We had a delicious compote of plums with lemon verbena for breakfast and I couldn’t resist the home made passion fruit marshmallows, one of several tempting petit fours made by the young kitchen team. Max and Rupert also co-own Rowleys Restaurant and Bar in Baslow. We particularly remember a sweet potato soup with chilli oil – here’s a delicious recipe from Neven Maguire’s book ‘Neven’s Real Food for Real Families’

Neven’s Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger and Coconut

Choose firm sweet potatoes with orange flesh for their vibrant colour.

Serves 4 – 6

450g (1 lb) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 leek, finely chopped

1 teaspoon freshly grated root ginger

½ red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1 lemon grass stalk, trimmed and halved

1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon tomato purée

250ml (9fl ozs) coconut milk

2 tablespoons torn fresh basil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Place the sweet potatoes in a baking tin, drizzle over half the sunflower oil, tossing to coat evenly, and roast for 20 – 30 minutes, until tender. Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a pan. Add the onion, leek, ginger, chilli and lemon grass and sweat for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the reserved roasted sweet potatoes with the stock and tomato purée, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has slightly reduced and all of the vegetables are completely tender, stirring occasionally.

Pour the coconut milk into the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Season to taste. Remove the lemon grass and then blend with a hand blender until smooth.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and scatter over the basil.

Passion Fruit Marshmallows

180g (6 ¼ oz) passion fruit juice

20g (¾ oz) powdered gelatine

500g (18oz) caster sugar

240g (9oz) water

60g (2 ½ oz) egg white

Boil the sugar and water to 125°C. Mix the passion fruit juice and gelatine and whisk until it thickens. Add the passion fruit juice and mix into the syrup. Pour the mixture over semi-whipped egg whites. Continue to whisk the mixture to stiff peaks. Pour into a lined 15cm (6 inch) square container, the mixture should be 2cm (1 ¾ inch) deep, leave to cool. Cut into bite size pieces and roll in icing sugar before serving

Derbyshire Oatcakes

Makes 15 approximately

450 g (1 lb) fine oatmeal (we used Macroom Oatmeal)
450g (1 lb) plain white flour
25g (1 oz) fresh yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 ½ litres (2½ pint) warm water

Mix the oatmeal, flour and salt in a warm bowl. Cream the yeast with the sugar and add ½ pint of the warm water. Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and add the rest of the water, mix slowly to a thin batter. Cover and set aside in a warm place until well risen, about 30 minutes.

Grease a large heavy frying pan over a medium heat; add a very little clarified butter. Pour a ladle or cupful of the batter on to the hot pan, shake the pan until it spreads into a round. Cook like a thick pancake for 3-4 minutes on each side, don’t turn until all the bubbles have burst.

The oatcakes will keep for 2-3 days. Reheat and serve with bacon and eggs or with lemon juice and sugar or toasted with honey or cheese.

Bakewell Pudding

Bakewell is a charming little village, well worth visiting. We’ve all heard of the Bakewell Tart but in Bakewell in Derbyshire – home of the Bakewell tart and Bakewell pie – they prefer the latter. They sell them in local shops but here is a recipe to make your own.

Serves 6 approximately

6oz to 8oz puff pastry

sieved raspberry jam – ¼ lb approximately

225g (8oz) butter
1 egg and 7 egg yolks
225g (8oz) castor sugar

almond extract

Line a round or oval pie dish or plate at least one and a half inches deep with puff pastry. Spread the base with sieved raspberry jam. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a bowl over simmering water, adding the eggs and sugar. Stir until the custard is thickened. Flavour with a few drops of almond extract. Pour into the pastry, cook in a preheated oven at

180°C/350°F/Mark 4 for 45 minutes turning the heat down after 20 minutes to 160°C as necessary. Rachel’s Bakewell Bars

Derbyshire Fruit Loaf

Makes 2 loaves or with

10 – 15 slices in each

450 g (1 lb) mixed dried fruit
225g (8 oz) caster sugar
300 ml (½ pint) hot tea
1 x organic egg
450 g (1 lb) self raising flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons marmalade

4 tablespoons milk

1 x 18cm (7 inch) cake tin or 2 x 450g (1lb) loaf tins

Put the dried fruit and the sugar into a mixing bowl; add the hot tea and leave to soak overnight. Next day, preheat the oven to

180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Grease the cake tin or with grease proof paper. Stir the beaten egg, flour, spices and the marmalade into the fruit, milk, sugar and tea mixture. (We added 4 tablespoons of milk to soften the dough) Pour into the cake tin or tins/ Bake for l hour in loaf tins or for 1 ¼ hours in a cake tin or until firm to the touch or until a skewer pushed into the cake comes out clean. Do not open the oven during the first hour of baking time or the fruit will drop. This cake will keep well. Serve cut into slices.

Compote of Plums with Lemon Verbena

Poach the plums whole, they’ll taste better but quite apart from that you’ll have the fun of playing – He loves me – he loves me not! You could just fix it by making sure you take an uneven number! Greengages are delicious cooked in this way also.

Serves 4

400g (14ozs) sugar

450ml (16 fl ozs) cold water

6 to 8 lemon verbena leaves

900g (2 lbs) fresh Plums, Victoria, Opal or those dark Italian plums that come into the shops in Autumn

Put the sugar, water and verbena leaves into a saucepan, bring slowly to the boil. Tip in the plums and poach, cover the saucepan and simmer until they begin to burst. Turn into a bowl, serve warm with a blob of softly whipped cream. Divine!

*The poached plums keep very well in the fridge and are delicious for breakfast without the cream!

Note: If plums are sweet use less sugar in syrup

Wild Food

Sloe or Damson Gin

It’s great fun to organise a few pals to pick sloes and have a sloe gin-making party. Sloes make a terrific beverage for Christmas presents. Either enjoy it neat or put a measure of damson or sloe gin in a glass, add ice, a slice of lemon and top it up with tonic.

700g (112lb) sloes or damsons

350g (12oz) granulated sugar

1.2 litres (2 pints) gin

Wash and dry the fruit and prick it in several places (we use a sterilised darning needle). Put the fruit into a sterilised glass Kilner jar and cover with the sugar and gin. Seal tightly.

Shake the jar every couple of days to start with and then every now and then for 3–4 months, by which time it will be ready to strain and bottle. It will improve on keeping so try to resist drinking it for another few months.

Gallweys Whiskey Truffles

www.gallweys.ie 051334970

The local food crusade continues to gather momentum

walter@localcampus.com for more details.

There’s just time to catch the last of the sloes

Wait for Me! Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford sister, by Deborah Devonshire – published by John Murray

Chatsworth Estate, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP: 00 44 1246 565 300

Hardwick Hall, Chesterfield, Derbyshire S44 5QJ: 00 44 1246 850 430

Stainsby Mill, Heath, Chesterfield, Derbyshire: 00 44 1246 850 430

Fischer’s Baslow Hall, Calver Road, Baslow, Derbyshire:

00 44 1246 583 259

reservations@fischers-baslowhall.co.uk, easy and fun to gather. If you make a batch of sloe gin now it’ll be ready to sip for Christmas. (see Wildfood). Fields in Skibbereen and Scallys in Clonakilty have been flying the flag for quite a long time. If you are in Schull look out for the ‘local produce shelf’ in Centra, on a recent visit, there were, cucumbers and leeks from Lisacahill, courgettes from Castletownsend, tomatoes from Rosbrinn, apples from Ballydehob carrots, cabbages from Goleen…Alternatively for more local produce visit Skibbereen Farmers Market every Saturday and the Schull Farmers Market every Sunday. Email are one of my favourite melting moments – fans will be delighted to hear that they have opened two Gallweys chocolate cafes – one in Tramore, the other in Waterford city – where you can not only sip hot chocolate guiltily but also have freshly roasted coffee, sandwiches, Panini, homemade soup and a couple of delicious desserts.

This is a delicious tray bake perfect for school lunches or to nibble with a cup of tea.

Makes 12 Bars

75g (3oz) butter, softened

25g (1oz) caster sugar

1 egg yolk

175g (6oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

200g (7oz) raspberry jam

Topping

100g (3 1/2oz) butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 eggs, beaten

a few drops of almond extract

100g (3 1/2oz) ground almonds

100g (3 1/2oz) semolina

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

flaked almonds for sprinkling

20 x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) square cake tin

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

Butter the sides of the cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.

First, make the biscuit base. Cream the butter in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and mix well, then sift in the flour and mix together to form a dough.

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface to the right size to fit the base of the tin and then press into the prepared tin. Spread the raspberry jam over the top then allow to chill in the fridge while you make the topping.

Place the melted butter in a bowl, add the beaten eggs and almond extract and mix well. Stir in the ground almonds, semolina and caster sugar.

Take the tin out of the fridge and spread the almond dough over the jam, being careful not to mess up the jam too much. (I usually place the almond dough in dots over the jam, then join it all together using the back of a spoon).

Sprinkle the top with the flaked almonds and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden and set in the centre. Allow to cool in the tin, then cut into fingers.