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Simply Salads – Barny Haughton

This week lots and lots of salads, just what we all yearn for during this unexpected spell of beautiful weather. Recently chef and cookery teacher Barny Haughton from Bristol came to Ballymaloe Cookery School to do a whole morning on salads.

Barny cooked his first serious meal in St Tropez aged 9, when there was a Saturday market on the harbour side and Bridget Bardot hung out in the Hotel de Paris drinking crème de menthe. He was, for twenty four years a restaurateur/chef in Bristol, and for seven of these, event caterer to HRH The Prince of Wales. He is a member of the Academy of Culinary Arts, chair of judges of the Soil Association’s Organic Food Awards, 2007 winner of the Glennfiddich Food and Drinks Independent Spirit Award for his pioneering work in food training and education in the restaurant industry, a teacher at the University of Gastronomy in Italy, Chef Ambassador to Slow Food UK, and founder of Bordeaux Quay and the Cookery School at Bordeaux Quay in Bristol. He appears regularly at food festivals and conferences giving demonstrations and talks and teaches in Bristol and at other cookery schools and colleges in the UK. He is a consultant on sustainable food systems and ‘eco-gastronomy’ advising businesses, restaurants, schools and community centres and teaches cooking to students, teachers and school cooks. Barny also now runs the Budleigh Farm Project in Somerset with his partner Gaye Donaldson. Budleigh Farm is a 14 acre mixed ‘model’ small-holding, shortly to include a farm shop and cookery school workshops. 00441823421300 barny@barnyhaughton.com

Here is a selection of the delicious salads he made for us.

 

Roast Chicken Salad Sicilian Style

Serves 6 people

 

1 x 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) organic chicken

a clove of garlic

10 needles rosemary

salt and pepper

a little olive oil

1/2 a lemon

a clove of garlic

2 bay leaves

12 small waxy potatoes, new if in season

a little olive oil

1 bay leaf

1-2 slices of lemon

a good pinch of salt

1 tablespoon sultanas

small bunch parsley leaves

zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon pinenuts

1/2 tablespoon capers

 

Dressing

olive oil

red wine vinegar

Balsamic vinegar

Chop the garlic, rosemary to a paste and add salt and pepper and a little olive oil. Rub well into the chicken. Stuff the chicken with half a lemon, a clove of garlic and a couple of bay leaves. Roast in the normal way. Leave to cool and strip the meat off the carcass, removing sinew and any gristly bits. Reserve the chicken carcass for stock

Cut the potatoes into 2cm (3/4 inch) thick slices, place in sauce pan with barely enough water to cover, a splash of olive oil, a bay leaf, a slice or two of lemon and a good pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover with parchment or lid, but leave a little gap so that the steam evaporates and by the time the potatoes are cooked (about 20 mins) there is barely any liquid in the pan. Leave to cool.

Put the potatoes in a bowl with sultanas, parsley, lemon zest, pinenuts and capers and toss together.

Make a dressing of 6 parts olive oil to 1 part red wine vinegar and 1 part balsamic vinegar.

Toss together with other ingredients in bowl. Add generous quantity of dressing and serve.

Lovely with broad beans or peas as well

Smoked Mackerel, Fennel and Orange Salad

Serves 8

1 head fennel

a pinch of salt

1 juicy, sweet orange

pepper

a sprig of dill

6 small waxy potatoes, new if in season

1 bay leaf

1 slice of lemon

225ml (8fl oz) water

drizzle of olive oil

4 fillets of smoked mackerel

2 large handfuls watercress

Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

To Finish

freshly squeezed lemon juice

 

Finely slice the fennel long-ways and toss in a pinch of salt. Segment the orange, slice the segments into small pieces, and add to the fennel. Squeeze remaining juice from the orange over the fennel and mix gently together with a little freshly ground black pepper and the chopped dill.

Slice the potatoes long-ways into 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick slices. Put them in a pan with a bay leaf, a slice of lemon, a cup of water and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook gently until the liquor has evaporated. Add a little more water if necessary. Leave to cool.

Take the skin off the mackerel fillets and break them up into bite size pieces.

To assemble the salad: toss the potatoes and fennel together. Dress the watercress with a little vinaigrette, mix gently with the fennel and potatoes and transfer to salad bowl. Scatter the mackerel pieces over this. Finish with a squeeze of lemon

Garden Salad of Raw Vegetables and Herbs

This is a salad of thinly sliced seasonal vegetables. Now it is mid summer and the list of possible ingredients is endless. In the winter you could use turnip or swede of finely shredded black cabbage or sprouts. Cauliflower, broke into tiny florettes is good too. Use asparagus in the asparagus season. Kholrabi works as well. You get the drift.

The vegetables need to be fresh, firm and crunchy. Beware of combining too many different vegetables however tempting it is; four or five is enough, plus some carefully chosen salad leaves and herbs.

Keep the beetroot separate until the last minute so that it doesn’t stain the other vegetables.

A salad for four people will need:

2 courgettes

2 peeled carrots

1 bulb of fennel

4 scrubbed baby beetroot

a handful of fresh podded broad beans and/or peas

a big handful of peppery salad leaves (rocket, watercress, pea-shoots, mustard leaves etc)

a small bunch of mixed fresh herbs: eg mint, basil, tarragon and parsley

Making the dressing

In a big salad bowl, make a dressing with the juice of a lemon and a splash of white wine vinegar mixed with half a teaspoon of salt, to four parts of olive oil. Pour a little of this dressing into a smaller bowl for the beetroot.

Preparing the vegetables

Using a very sharp knife or mandolin, slice the courgettes, carrots and fennel into thin ribbon lengths. Transfer to the big bowl. Slice the beetroot, thin as the petals of a rose and transfer to the smaller bowl. Toss the vegetables in the dressing, then add the leaves and mint and toss gently together. Arrange the beetroot prettily over the top

Chicory, Watercress, Apple and Hazelnut Salad

Serves 8

The dressing for this salad doesn’t need the more robust flavour of olive oil. Groundnut or hazelnut or a mix of both are best, but sunflower will do fine.

Tart/sweet? I mean that the tartness is the first thing I am looking for in the taste.

a handful of whole unblanched hazelnuts

2 bunch watercress

2 bulbs chicory

4 medium sized tart/sweet crisp apples eg Worcester, Orange Pippen

Dressing

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

pinch of salt

10 tablespoons groundnut oil/hazelnut oil

To Serve

a small bunch of chives cut into inch or so lengths

Maldon sea salt

Toss the hazelnuts in a little oil and a sprinkle of salt and roast in a hot oven until toasty brown. Leave to cool. Break them into coarse pieces with a rolling pin

Make the dressing in a large mixing bowl; mix the vinegar and a pinch of salt along with the groundnut or hazelnut oil into an emulsion.

Remove the more fibrous stalks from the watercress and separate the leaves of chicory. Cut the apples into slim wedges, removing the core with a sharp knife.

Just before serving.

Gently toss the chicory, watercress and apple in the dressing and transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle liberally with the broken hazelnuts and chives and a pinch of Maldon sea salt

Serve with baked potatoes or good bread.

 

Tomato, Cucumber and Chickpea Salad with Harissa

200g (7oz) chickpeas

1 tablespoon harissa (see recipe)

1 red onion, finely diced

1 bulb confit garlic (see recipe)

juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

salt and pepper

150g (5oz) cherry tomatoes

1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced

small bunch mint

small bunch coriander

Soak the chickpeas overnight in PLENTY of water.

Cook the chickpeas. Add salt towards the end of cooking. Leave to cool.

Mix the chickpeas with harissa (generous amount). Add finely diced red onion, puréed confit garlic, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

To Serve

Add cherry tomatoes (halved/quartered, depending on size) and peeled and diced cucumber, mint and coriander.

Harissa Oil

 

Serve with grilled meat, fish and vegetables and in soups

6 chillies, roasted, seeded and peeled

6 tablespoons of tomato purée

8 cloves of garlic crushed

3 teaspoons of ground and roasted cumin seeds

3 teaspoons of ground and roasted coriander

6 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaf

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Put the prepared chillies, tomato purée, garlic and ground spices in a food processor. Puree until smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil and vinegar. Remove and add the fresh coriander. Correct seasoning and add a little more olive oil if necessary.

 

Confit Garlic

 

6 fat firm bulbs of garlic

olive oil

salt and pepper

baking foil or parchment paper

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

Cut 4 sufficiently big squares of foil or parchment paper to wrap each bulb. Brush each bulb with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper and wrap them in the foil. Bake them in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until the bulbs are soft and slightly browned. Remove and leave to cool. The cloves can then be easily removed from the bulbs.

To preserve: mash the cloves with a fork until a paste, mix with a little olive oil and salt, put in a lidded jam jar and refridgerate.

 

Puy Lentil, Spelt Grain, Bean and Vegetable Salad

Main course for 6 people

100g (3 1/2oz) dried puy lentils

4 bay leaves

100g (3 1/2oz) spelt grain

100g (3 1/2oz) dried borlotti or other, soaked in cold water for 24 hours

a little salt and olive oil

1 aubergine

2 red peppers

2 courgettes

salt and pepper

30g (1oz) raisins, soaked until plump but firm

2 cloves garlic

big bunch parsley

75ml (3fl oz) red wine vinegar, soy sauce and olive oil dressing: 1 part vinegar, 1 part soy sauce 3 parts olive oilWash and cook the lentils with a couple of bay leaves and as little water as you can get away with but always enough to cover. When cooked (don’t under cook; they should be firm but absolutely not crunchy). Leave to cool, then drain, reserving the liquor for soup.

Cook the spelt and beans in the same way. Mix them together with a little salt and olive oil

Dice the aubergines, peppers and courgettes into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes and separately season with salt and pepper and fry until they take a good colour but are still a little crunchy.

Fine slice the garlic, fry until nutty brown.

Coarsely chop the parsley, including an tender stalky bits.

Toss everything together with the dressing.

Feta cheese crumbled over this lot is lovely but not necessary.

 

Summer Fruit Salad with Pea-Shoots and Broad Beans with Ricotta

Serves 4 people

1/4 a cucumber, peeled, halved longways, de-seeded and thinly sliced

a little salt

juice of 1 lemon

500g (18oz) mix of fresh raspberries, strawberries and redcurrants

400g (14oz) broad beans, podded, blanched and peeled

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

a large handful of peashoots or rocket

100g (3 1/2oz) fresh ricotta

a little pepper

Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Toss the sliced cucumber in a little salt and the lemon juice. Refridgerate for 30 minutes.

Make a dressing with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and seasoning.

Drain the sliced cucumber of any water. Gently mix the fruit together with the broad beans and mint.

Arrange the fruit mixture, cucumber, pea-shoots and ricotta on a serving dish anddrizzle with balsamic dressing. Finish with a little black pepper.

Salad Paysanne

Found everywhere in France; sometimes named after the region – La salade de Perigord for instance and meaning peasant salad.. Classic ingredients may include duck confit, duck pate, duck or chicken livers, croutons, bacon, cured duck or goose giblets (heart, gizzard, neck), along with frisee or chicory, parsley and capers. Green beans and walnuts are also often included. The dressing needs to be made with a good red wine vinegar

Serves 6 people

4 slices good bread

olive oil

salt and pepper

2 cooked cured duck legs, torn into small pieces, bones discarded, skin retained

2 big handsful of frisee, washed, dried and torn into fork-size pieces

chives or parsley

a small handful green beans – if in season

1 desertspoon full of drained capers

50g (2oz) lardons or 2 slices streaky bacon cut into strips

100g (3 1/2oz) duck or chicken livers, trimmed

Dressing

olive oil and or walnut oil

red wine vinegar

To make the croutons: cut 4 thick slices of good stale bread into bite-sized cubes and toss them with olive oil and seasoning in a bowl. Transfer to a baking tray and bake in a medium oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Fry the duck skin gently until crisp and not brown. Break into little pieces

Make the dressing:

5 parts oil, 2 part vinegar; a standard dressing should be 5:1, but you need more vinegar to meet the richness and fat of the meat in this salad.

Put frisee, croutons, crispy duck skin, chives or parsley and capers in a big bowl.

In a hot pan fry the lardons until crispy, then the livers until brown on the outside but pink inside and then the duck just to warm it through, one after the other, and add them all to the bowl.

Dress, toss, eat.

 

 

 

Hot Tips

Denny Lane Gourmet Foods

in Tralee is loosely modelled on the Avoca style where customers queue as they come in the door with most of the menu on display in large serveovers, salads, quiches, sandwiches, desserts and cake stands on the top displaying the biscuits and buns. They cater very well for coeliacs, all their soups and chowder are gluten free and their fish pies.  “Delicious – Gluten Free Bakery” in Ballincollig in Cork supply them with gluten free bread, brownies, carrot cake and apple slices. Check their facebook page where they update our soups and specials daily. Julianne Reen who is a graduate of Ballymaloe Cookery School tries to source most of her produce locally – 066 719 4319 sweets@dennylanecafe.ie www.dennylanecafe.ieTipperary Food Producers Network

 

will host their annual ‘Long Table Dinner’ in Tipperary to showcase local produce to encourage people to buy local. The dinner is based on the old Irish long table tradition and this year is the fourth annual dinner. The event takes place on August 25th 2010 around the Festival of Tipperary Food. For further details contact Pat Whelan 0872433100

Splash from the Sea – Cooking with Seawater

Sometimes if I wake up early enough in the morning to catch Farming Today on BBC Radio 4. It’s always interesting and keeps me in touch with the farming scene across the water. Recently I heard an interesting interview with Andy Inglis from Dunbar, Scotland, who had decided to sell Hebridean seawater as a commercial venture, Acquamara Seawater – www.acquamara.com

Remember when we first heard that some ‘prime boy’ was actually bottling water and selling it. Maybe, you didn’t think it was a daft idea but I certainly did. No doubt many will be jut as sceptical about this and perhaps they are right but if you are fortunate enough to be close to the sea where water is clean and relatively unpolluted make use of this wonderful resource plus the seaweed on the strand. Years ago coastal communities fought pitch battles over seaweed. They knew the value of algae as a fertiliser. Nowadays, scarcely anyone bothers to collect, so if you are one of the new urban farmers or if you’ve been bitten by the vegetable gardening bug, next time you go for a walk on the beach take along a string bag and fill it with seaweed! Our grandfathers knew well the extra ‘blás’ it gave a crop of potatoes. We did a trial this year and then compared the flavour and they were totally right.

But back to the sea water, you can’t imagine how much more delicious many foods are when cooked in sea water – it’s not just about the salt, it’s also about all those extra mineral flavours, traces of iodine…

Try cooking new potatoes in sea water, you’ll be amazed at the difference in flavour, shrimps, prawns, lobster, crabs are all immeasurably better cooked in seawater, even a few fresh mackerel turn into a feast when poached in a marine bath.

Green vegetables, pasta, broccoli, French or runner beans, even the flavour of carrots is greatly enhanced.

In the same radio piece the interviewer asked a local chef for his opinion. The chef displaying an arrogant ignorance dismissed the suggestion as ridiculous – sea water was in his opinion exactly the same as well salted water – well try and see what you think.

Check out www.myguideireland.com/irelands-blue-flag-beaches to find the location of Blue Flag beaches around our coast.

 

 

New Potatoes cooked in Seawater

Serves 4-5

2 lbs (900g) new potatoes e.g., Home Guard, British Queens

2 pints (1.2 litres) seawater or 2 pints (1.2 litres) tap water plus 1 teaspoon salt

a sprig of seaweed if available

Bring the seawater to the boil. Scrub the potatoes. Add salt if using tap water and a sprig of seaweed to the water, and then add the potatoes. Cover the saucepan, bring back to the boil and cook for 15-25 minutes or until fully cooked depending on size.

Drain and serve immediately in a hot serving dish with good Irish butter.

Note

It’s vitally important for flavour to add salt to the water when cooking potatoes.

 

 

 

Salmon Poached in Seawater with Hollandaise SauceMost cookbooks you look up will tell you to poach salmon in a ‘court-bouillon’. This is a mixture of wine and water with perhaps some sliced carrots, onion, peppercorns and a bouquet garni including a bay-leaf, but I’ve found that a beautiful salmon is at its best poached gently in just boiling seawater.

 

If seawater is not available use 1 rounded tablespoon of salt to every 40 fl ozs (2 pints) of water. Although the fish or piece of fish should be just covered with water, the aim is to use the minimum amount of water to preserve the maximum flavour, so therefore one should use a saucepan that will fit the fish exactly.

Serves 8

1.4 kg (3-3 1/2 lbs) centre-cut of fresh salmon

Seawater or tap water and salt (see above)

Hollandaise Sauce (see recipe)

Garnish

fennel, chervil or parsley

8 segments of lemon

Choose a saucepan which will barely fit the piece of fish: an oval cast-iron saucepan is usually perfect. Half fill with measured sea water, bring to the boil, put in the piece of fish, cover, bring back to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, allow to sit in the water for 5-6 minutes and serve within 15-20 minutes.

If a small piece of fish is cooked in a large saucepan of water, much of the flavour will escape into the water, so for this reason we use the smallest saucepan possible. Needless to say we never poach a salmon cutlet because in that case one has the maximum surface exposed to the water and therefore maximum loss of flavour. A salmon cutlet is best dipped in a little seasoned flour and cooked slowly in a little butter on a pan, or alternatively pan-grilled with a little butter. Serve with a few pats of Maître d’hôtel and a wedge of lemon.

 

Hollandaise Sauce

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

Hollandaise is the mother of all the warm emulsion sauces. The version we use here is easy to make and quite delicious with fish. Like Mayonnaise it takes less than 5 minutes to make and transforms any fish into a feast. Once the sauce is made it must be kept warm: the temperature should not go above 70-80C/180F or the sauce will curdle. A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale; otherwise put the Hollandaise Sauce into a delph or plastic bowl in a saucepan of hot but not simmering water. Hollandaise Sauce cannot be reheated absolutely successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need. If however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or mashed potato.

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic

125 g (5ozs) butter cut into dice

1 dessertspoon cold water

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, approx.

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

It is important to remember that if you are making Hollandaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce.

Another good tip if you are making Hollandaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.

Keep the sauce warm until service either in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water (do not have gas jet on). A thermos flask is also a good option.

Hollandaise Sauce is best served with poached fish not pan-fried or pan-grilled fish.

Mackerel Poached in Seawater with Bretonne Sauce

Serves 4 as a main course

8 as a starter

Fresh mackerel gently poached and served warm with this simple sauce is an absolute feast without question one of my favourite foods. .

4 fresh mackerel

1.2 litres (40 fl ozs) seawater or 1.2 litres (40fl ozs) water plus 1 teaspoon salt

Bretonne Sauce

55g (2ozs) butter, melted

2 eggs yolks, preferably free range

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (We use Maille Verte Aux Herbs)

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped or a mixture of chervil, chives, tarragon and fennel, chopped

 

Cut the heads off very fresh mackerel. Gut and clean them but keep whole. Bring the seawater to the boil; add the mackerel. Bring back to boiling point, and remove from the heat, keep covered. After about 5-8 minutes, check to see whether the fish are cooked. The flesh should lift off the bone. It will be tender and melting.

Meanwhile make the sauce. Melt the butter and allow to boil. Put the egg yolks into a bowl; add the mustard, wine vinegar and the herbs – mix well. Whisk the hot melted butter into the egg yolk mixture little by little so that the sauce emulsifies. Keep warm, by placing the Pyrex bowl in a saucepan of hot but not boiling water.

When the mackerel is cool enough to handle, remove to a plate. Skin, lift the flesh carefully from the bones and arrange on a serving dish. Coat with the sauce and serve while still warm with a good green salad and new potatoes.

 

How to Cook Crab

Put the crab/s into a saucepan, cover with cold or barely lukewarm seawater, alternatively (use 6 ozs (175g) salt to every 2.3 litres (4 pints). This sounds like an incredible amount of salt but try it: the crab will taste deliciously sweet. Cover, bring to the boil and then simmer from there on, allowing 15 minutes for first 1 lb (450g), 10 minutes for the second and third (I’ve never come across a crab bigger than that!). We usually pour off two-thirds of the water as soon as it comes to the boil, cover and steam the crab for the remainder of the time. As soon as it is cooked remove it from the saucepan and allow to get cold.

To extract the crab meat from the shell and claws:

First remove the large claws. Hold the crab with the underside uppermost and lever out the centre portion – I do this by catching the little lip of the projecting centre shell against the edge of the table and pressing down firmly. The Dead Man’s Fingers (lungs) usually come out with this central piece, but check in case some are left in the body and if so remove them.

Press your thumb down over the light shell just behind the eyes so that the shell cracks slightly, and then the sac which is underneath can be removed easily and discarded. Everything else inside the body of the crab is edible. The soft meat varies in colour from cream to coffee to dark tan, and towards the end of the season it can contain quite a bit of bright orange coral which is stronger in flavour. Scoop it all out and put it into a bowl. There will also be one or two teaspoonfuls of soft meat in the centre portion attached to the small claws – add that to the bowl also. Scrub the shell and keep it aside if you need it for dressed crab.

Crack the large claws with a hammer or weight and extract every bit of white meat from them, poke out the meat from the small claws also, using a lobster pick, skewer or even the handle of a teaspoon.

Mix the brown and white meat together or use separately, depending on the recipe. Delicious served simply with homemade mayonnaise or make into a crab cakes or use as a filling for a juicy crab sandwich.

 

French Beans Cooked in Seawater

Serves 8

We’ve got a wonderful crop of French beans this summer. I find that they need a lot of salt in the cooking water to bring up the flavour, so seawater works perfectly. They don’t benefit from being kept in a hostess trolley, so if you need to cook them ahead try the method I suggest below. I think it works very well. The proportion of salt to water is vitally important for the flavour of the beans.

900g (2 lb) French beans

1.1 litres (2 pint) seawater or tap water plus 3 teaspoons sea salt

30-50g (1-2 oz) butter or extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Top and tail the beans. If they are small and thin leave them whole, if they are larger cut them into 2.5-4cm (1-1

 

1/2 inch) pieces at an angle.

 

www.prannie.com

 

www.carlowfoods.com

 

info@coford.ie

Flower Power

For years and years, I’ve scattered flower petals over food for extra colour and pizzazz. At first I was pretty cautious, using mostly flowers of fresh herbs from the garden; I sprinkled thyme, sage and rocket flowers and little purple chive blossoms over salads and starters plates. In late spring when wild garlic was in season we enjoyed the pretty star (allium ursinum) and bell like (allium triquetrum) flowers in a myriad of ways.

Gradually I discovered that lots of garden flowers were also edible so I became more daring and flamboyant. I distinctly remember the first time I saw nasturtium flowers in a salad rather than a flower vase – what a revelation! We were having supper with artists Anne and Louis Le Broque at their house near Ardgroom in Co. Kerry. It was a memorable meal for several reasons, the boys had caught a bucket of fresh mackerel so Anne decided to salt and warm smoke them for supper. While they were smoking she cooked some new potatoes from the village shop – they were freshly dug, floury and beautiful. While they were still warm, Anne chopped them into chunky cubes, seasoned them with salt and freshly ground pepper and tossed them in good extra virgin olive oil, wine vinegar and lots of chopped scallions and freshly snipped herbs. Then she gathered some red, yellow and orange nasturtium flowers and sprinkled them over the top of the green flecked potato salad. Warm smoked mackerel, potato and nasturtium salad, followed by strawberries and thick rich cream for pudding – exquisitely simple but nonetheless a perfect feast.

I’ve just realised it was over 30 years ago! Since then I’ve discovered there are literally hundreds and for all I know probably thousands of edible flowers – I discover more all the time and new ways to use them. As I sit in the garden writing this article I see six or seven edible flowers around me, daisies, red roses, day lilies, marigolds, pansies and the small johnny jump-ups, lavender….

On a recent trip to Cornwall, cook and garden photographer Melanie Eclare, who lives in Devon, also put the flowers of Pink Campion and Stitchwort into our salad for lunch – yet another discovery. I’ve added them to my ever growing list. Flowers are of course more plentiful in Summer but even in the depths of Winter there are fragrant violets and early primrose blossoms and you’ll find some gorse flowers virtually year round They too are pretty scattered over salads and make a delicious wine provided you are patient enough to wait for the best part of the year to drink it.

Here’s a short list to whet your appetite. Violets, primroses, dandelions flowers, daisies, jasmine, hyssop, elderflowers, rocket flowers, day lilies, nasturtiums, chrysanthemums, marigolds, lavender, violas, zucchini blossom, camomile, pansies, pinks, borage… Let me know your favourites and how you use them

Seek out organic flowers – a word of caution, don’t use flowers that have been heavily sprayed for obvious reasons,

 

Elderflower Champagne

 

This magical recipe transforms perfectly ordinary ingredients into a delicious sparkling drink. The children make it religiously every year and then share the bubbly with their friends.

 

2 heads of elderflowers

560g (11/4lb) sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

4.5L (8pints) water

1 lemon

Remove the peel from the lemon with a swivel top peeler. Pick the elderflowers in full bloom. Put into a bowl with the lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, vinegar and cold water. Leave for 24 hours, and then strain into strong screw top bottles. Lay them on their sides in a cool place. After 2 weeks it should be sparkling and ready to drink. Despite the sparkle this drink is non-alcoholic.

The bottles need to be strong and well sealed; otherwise the Elderflower champagne will pop its cork.

 

Rose Petal Syrup

Pour a little of this rose petal syrup into a champagne glass and top up with Cava or Prosecco to make a gorgeous perfumed aperitif. Stir well and float a rose petal on top. Makes 800ml (1 1/2 pints)

225g (8oz) fragrant rose petals from an old variety of unsprayed roses

500ml (18fl oz) water

700g (11/2lb) white sugar, warmed

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juicePut the petals into a stainless-steel saucepan with the cold water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat and simmer gently for 20–30 minutes. Strain the petals through a sieve, pressing to get out as much of the liquid as possible. Add the warmed sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice, bring back to the boil and simmer, uncovered, until thick and syrupy. Pour into bottles and seal.

 

 

 

 

 

Ice-Cubes with Mint, Herbs, Lemon Verbena, Flowers and Berries

 

Fill ice trays with water and pop in each one…

1. Sugared Cranberries

2. Redcurrants and Mint leaves

3. Lemon Segments

4. Pomegranate Seeds

5. Star Anise

Summer Parties

Fill ice trays with mint, lemon balm, sweet geranium or sweet cicely leaves, violas or violets, rose or marigold petals…use in drinks or homemade lemonade.

Sarah Raven’s Edible Flower Couscous Salad

This recipe comes from Sarah Raven’s new book ‘Food for Family and Friends’ with photography by Jonathan Buckley – published by Bloomsbury.

Serves 4-5

Ready in 15 minutes

A couscous or bulgur wheat salad makes a good change from new potatoes and goes with almost any meat or fish.

500ml good quality vegetable stock (of bouillon powder)

275g couscous

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Large handful fresh mint, chopped

Large handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

Large handful edible flowers, such as runner bean and chicory flowers, marigolds, violas, rocket flowers and nasturtiums

Put the stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil, or dissolve the bouillon in boiling salted water according to pack instructions. Put the couscous into a deep bowl, pour over the olive oil and stock or bouillon and stir just once to combine. Cover and leave for 10 minutes to allow the grains to soften before forking it through. Done this way, your couscous should be dry, with each grain separated rather than a claggy mush, Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the herbs, lemon and lime juice and zest. Transfer the cous cous to a serving bowl. Sprinkle over the edible flowers and serve.

Ballymaloe Ice Bowl

This is the solution my mother-in-law Myrtle Allen created for keeping the ice-cream cold on the sweet trolley in Ballymaloe House.

“In desperation I produced an ice bowl. It turned out to be a stunning and practical presentation for a restaurant trolley or a party buffet”

Ballymaloe Ice Bowl with Flowers

Take two bowls, one about double the capacity of the other. Half fill the big bowl with cold water. Float the second bowl inside the first. Weight it down with water or ice cubes until the rims are level. Tuck some leaves in between the two bowls. Place a square of fabric on top and secure it with a strong rubber band or string under the rim of the lower bowl, as one would tie on a jam pot cover. Adjust the small bowl to a central position. The cloth holds it in place. Put the bowls on a Swiss roll tin and place in a deep freeze, if necessary re-adjusting the position of the small bowl as you put it in. After 24 hours or more take it out of the deep freeze.

Remove the cloth and leaves for 15-20 minutes, by which time the small bowl should lift out easily. Then try to lift out the ice-bowl. It should be starting to melt slightly from the outside bowl, in which case it will slip out easily. If it isn’t, then just leave for 5 or 10 minutes more, don’t attempt to run it under the hot or even cold tap, or it may crack. If you are in a great rush, the best solution is to wring out a tea-towel in hot water and wrap that around the large bowl for a few minutes. Altogether the best course of action is to perform this operation early in the day and then fill the ice bowl with scoops of ice-cream, so that all you have to do when it comes to serving the ice-cream is to pick up the ice bowl from the freezer and place it on the serving dish. Put a folded serviette under the ice bowl on the serving dish to catch any drips.

At Ballymaloe, Myrtle Allen surrounds the ice bowl with vine leaves in Summer, scarlet Virginia creeper in Autumn and red-berried holly at Christmas. However, as you can see I’m a bit less restrained and I can’t resist surrounding it with flowers! However you present it, ice-cream served in a bowl of ice like this usually draws gasps of admiration when you bring it to the table.

In the restaurant we make a new ice-bowl every night, but at home when the dessert would be on the table for barely half an hour, it should be possible to use the ice bowl several times. As soon as you have finished serving, give the bowl a quick wash under the cold tap and get it back into the freezer again. This way you can often get 2 or 3 turns from a single ice bowl.

Note

Don’t leave a serving spoon resting against the side of the bowl or it will melt a notch in the rim.

Honey and Lavender Ice-Cream

 

Honey and lavender is a particularly delicious marriage of flavours. We make this richly scented ice cream when the lavender flowers are in bloom in early Summer. Lavender is at its most aromatic just before the flowers burst open. Serve it totally alone on chilled plates and savour every mouthful.

 

Serves 8-10

 

250ml (9floz) milk

450ml (16floz) cream

40 sprigs of fresh lavender or less of dried (use the blossom end only)

6 organic egg yolks

175ml (6floz) pure Irish honey, we use our own apple blossom honey, although Provencal lavender honey would also be wonderful

 

Garnish

sprigs of lavender

 

Put the milk and cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the lavender sprigs, bring slowly to the boil and leave to infuse for 15-20 minutes. This will both flavour and perfume the cream deliciously. Whisk the egg yolks, add a little of the lavender flavoured liquid and then mix the two together. Cook over a low heat until the mixture barely thickens and lightly coats the back of a spoon (careful it doesn’t curdle). Melt the honey gently, just to liquefy, whisk into the custard. Strain out lavender heads.

 

Chill thoroughly and freeze, preferably in an ice-cream maker.

 

Serve garnished with sprigs of fresh or frozen lavender.

 

Frosted Lavender

Frosted lavender sprigs are adorable and delicious to use for garnish. Pick lavender in dry weather while the flowers are still closed. Whisk a little egg white lightly, just enough to break it up, brush the entire lavender sprig with the egg white, sprinkle all over with sieved, dry castor sugar. Lay on a sheet of silicone paper. Allow to dry and crisp in a warm spot – hot press or near a radiator until dry and crisp. Store in an airtight tin.

Wild Food

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) When to Pick: flowers in profusion in early summer but you’ll find some blooms almost all year round.

As the old saying goes, ‘When the gorse is out of bloom, kissing’s out of fashion!’ The ubiquity of gorse – or furze as it is called in Ireland – around the Irish landscape, meant that it was once widely used as fuel, as fodder for livestock, to make fences, hurleys and walking sticks, for harrowing, for cleaning chimneys, to fuel bakers’ ovens and limekilns. We love a few blossoms added to salad, steeped in boiling water for tea or dropped into a whiskey glass for a fragrant tipple. Look for the spiky bushes growing near the sea, with yellow flowers that stay in bloom nearly all year. Wear gloves to harvest the flowers, as the thorns can be very sharp.

 

Roger Phillip’s Gorse Wine

We loved this recipe – it makes a fragrant, slightly effervescent, very refreshing summer drink. It comes from Roger Phillip’s Wild Food – a book no serious forager should be without.

Makes about 4.8 litres (8 pints)

2 litres (31

2 pints) gorse flowers

about 1 teaspoon general purpose non-GM yeast

1kg (2.2lb) granulated sugar

juice and zest of 2 organic lemons

juice and zest of 2 organic oranges

Pick nice fresh flowers that have come out fully. Activate the yeast by stirring into a little tepid water. Simmer the flowers in 4.5 litres (1 gallon) water for 15 minutes then dissolve the sugar, pour into a bucket and add citrus juice and zest. Allow to cool to blood heat, add the yeast and let it stand with a cloth over it. After 3 days, strain off the solids and pour into a fermentation jar, fit an airlock and allow it to ferment until it is finished. Rack off into a clean jar, making it up to the full amount with cold boiled water. Leave for a month and then filter, or leave until completely clear then bottle in sterilised bottles.

 

Hottips

The Brown Bear Restaurant

www.thebrownbear.ie

The Forgotten Skills marquee

www.borbia.ie.New life skills Country Courses

What could be nicer than a day spent learning valuable life and food skills in the idyllic surrounds of Bantry House in West Cork?  This summer you can spend a day learning how to keep bees, how to weave baskets, master vegetable growing, work farm horses and get to grips with hen keeping – amongst other subjects. All the courses will be hands on learning conducted by working practitioners. Prices start from €80 www.bantryhousecountrycourses.com

This will build into a precious library of our Irish Food Heritage and be an invaluable reference for generations to come.

organised by Bord Bia and the Taste Council of Ireland at this year’s Bloom and Taste of Dublin was an overwhelming success. As well as many demonstrations and talks, Una Fitzgibbons of Bord Bia asked people to write down or email their favourite memory connected to food or food production to Bord Bia, Lower Mount St, Dublin 2 or in Co Kildare, recently won the Restaurant Association of Ireland’s ‘Best New Comer’ award, has a varied and delicious menu that lists the name of the local suppliers with the dishes. Contact owner Eugene Brennan on 045 883 561 or

Healthy Eating for Kids

It is absolutely vital to feed our children well – their energy, vitality, and ability to concentrate all depends on the quality of the food we feed them. When I say well I mean wholesome, nourishing naturally produced food, free of chemicals, additives and artificial colourings. Kid’s palettes are very sensitive and can pick up nuances of flavour or lack of much more acutely then we often can, I have observed this many times over with my own children and grandchildren. Little Amelia Peggy was first introduced to tomatoes and baby cucumbers where she as about 8 months old in the Summer of 2008. She loved them and ate them like fruit. It was quite noticeable that she ate less at the end of the season when both vegetables and fruit lose their sweetness through lack of sunshine. Eventually the crop was finished, but she was too young to ask where they had disappeared to. Some months later while she rode around the supermarket in her Mum’s trolley she got very excited when she suddenly spotted some cherry tomatoes in the vegetable section and gesticulated wildly in their direction. She was a bit baffled at the packaging but she couldn’t wait to get at them. She popped one into her mouth chewed a little, grimaced and promptly spat it out. She literally didn’t eat another tomato until she plucked one off the plant the following Summer. This and many other examples have led me to believe my theory about children’s palates but this is only anecdotal evidence (I would welcome some research)

Parents who grow their own vegetables, herbs and fruit will confirm that their children will eat everything particularly if they have helped to grow it. Visitors are constantly amazed to see our grandchildren tucking into platefuls of mussels or peeling shrimps or wiggling periwinkles out of their shells, no one bats an eyelid – they don’t think there is anything peculiar about it. The little ones run into the greenhouse and pluck the beans off the plants and eat them there and then. They love shelling the broad beans to find the tiny beans cuddled up inside the furry lining. Of course they also eat them cooked but many never even make it into the kitchen not to speak of the pot!

Porridge or fruit muesli is their favourite breakfast; several of the grandchildren don’t know any other breakfast cereal exists. When our eldest grandson Joshua was about 5 he arrived home from school one day and much to Rachel’s surprise asked for Corn Flakes, she wondered why he wanted them. It transpired that he had no idea what they were but wanted to have the little toys from the packet like his pals at school, so Myrtle collected them from the cornflakes in Ballymaloe House and then he was happy. They also baffle their friends by fighting over the drum sticks on a chicken which causes a bit of a problem considering each chicken only has two drumsticks, so far we have managed to pass off the delicious crispy wings as mini drum sticks!

Good food habits are unquestionably laid down when children are young. If they are introduced early to a variety of foods, they seem to enjoy them as the norm. One can control their diet well when they are little but it becomes more of a challenge when they go to school. It’s a huge help to parents if the school have a healthy eating policy and refuse to allow fizzy drinks and bars into school lunch. Nonetheless – once they go to school they’ll get to taste all kinds of foods that include flavours specially formulated to stimulate a craving. Still if you have managed to foster good eating habits when they are little you are likely to experience less difficulty.

I’m quite sure my grand children would tuck into a well known brand of burger as good as the rest, but it’s a rare treat. Nourishing food does not have to be expensive, food is cheaper and has a much better flavour when it is in season.

Radishes with Cream Cheese and Parsley

Get your kids growing radishes, even in a little timber box, at this time of year they will only take 12 – 14 days to be ready to eat. Then they can pick, wash and enjoy them.

Fresh Radishes complete with leaves

Cream Cheese

Chopped Parsley

Crusty bread

Gently wash the radishes, trim the tail and the top of the leaves if they are large.

To serve.

Put 7 or 8 chilled radishes on each plate; put a blob of cream cheese close by.

To eat, smear the radishes with a little cream cheese, dip in chopped parsley and eat – delicious.

Traditional Roast Stuffed Organic Chicken with Gravy and lots of Roast Spuds

Serves 6

In my experience all children love a roast stuffed chicken with lots of gravy and roast spuds. Nowadays, many people buy chicken pieces rather than a whole chicken, so a traditional roast chicken is a forgotten flavour for many, partly because unless you have access to a really good bird the smell and flavour will be quite different to ones childhood memory. People often feel that making stuffing is too bothersome but if you keep some breadcrumbs in the freezer it can literally be make in minutes. Should I cook the stuffing inside the bird or separately? The best place for the stuffing is inside the bird where it absorbs lots of delicious juices as it cooks. Do not overfill the bird otherwise the heat may not penetrate fully. This is particularly important if you are using an intensively reared bird which may be infected with salmonella and or campylobacter.

 

4 1/2 – 5 lbs (1.5 – 2.3kg) free range chicken,

preferably organic

 

Stuffing

1 1/2 ozs (45g) butter

3 ozs (75g) chopped onion

3-3 1/2 ozs (75-95g) soft white breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives and annual marjoram

salt and freshly ground pepper

a little soft butter

 

Gravy

1 – 1 1/2 pints (600-900mls) of stock from giblets or chicken stock

 

Garnish

Sprigs of flat parsley

 

First remove the wish bone from the neck end of the chicken, this is easily done by lifting back the loose neck, skin and cutting around the wish bone with a small knife – tug to remove, this isn’t at all essential but it does make carving much easier later on. Tuck the wing tips underneath the chicken to make a neat shape. Put the wish bone, giblets, thickly sliced carrot, onions, a stick of celery and a few parsley and thyme stalks into a saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, skin and simmer gently while the chicken is roasting. This is the basis of the gravy.

Next make the stuffing,

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo4. Weight the chicken and allow about 20 minutes to the lb and 20 minutes over – put on middle shelf in oven. Baste a couple of times during the cooking with the buttery juices. The chicken is done when the juices are running clear.

 

To test prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh, hold a spoon underneath to collect the liquid, examine the juices – they should be clear.

 

Remove the chicken to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow to rest while you make the gravy.

 

To make the gravy

If possible serve the chicken on a nice carving dish surrounded by crispy roast potatoes and some sprigs of flat parsley then arm yourself with a sharp knife and bring it to the table. Carve as best you can and ignore rude remarks if you are still practicing but do try to organise it so that each person gets some brown and some white meat. Serve with gravy and roast spuds.

 

Use the cooked carcass for stock.

, tilt the roasting tin to one corner and spoon off the surplus fat from the juices and return the roasting pan to the stove. De glaze the pan juices with the fat free stock from the giblets and bones (you will need 1 1/2 pints depending on the size of the chicken). Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelized meat juices in the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like (the gravy should not be thick). Taste and correct seasoning, serve in a hot gravy boat. sweat the onions gently in the butter in a covered saucepan until soft, 10 minutes approx. then stir in the white bread crumbs, the freshly chopped herbs, a little salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold unless you are going to cook the chicken immediately. If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half fill with stuffing. Season the breast and legs, smear with a little soft butter.

 

Roast Spuds

 

8 potatoes, unwashed Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

 

Choose medium to large potatoes of even size. Scrub and peel. Put into a saucepan, cover with cold salted water and bring to the boil. Drain thoroughly. Lightly scratch the surface with a fork and season with salt.

 

Put the potatoes into smoking hot fat or olive oil. Baste occasionally. Cook until soft in a hot oven 230°C/450°F/regulo 8 for 30-45 minutes depending on the size. Drain well on kitchen paper. Serve immediately.

 

Alternatively, put the potatoes into smoking hot fat in the same tin as the meat, 40-45 minutes before the meat is fully cooked and baste well. Cook until soft. (Baste the potatoes when you baste the meat and turn them over after 25 minutes). Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately.

 

 

Sweet Sticky Carrots

 

Serves 4-6

 

You might like to try this method of cooking carrots. Admittedly it takes a little vigilance but the resulting flavour is a revelation to many people.

 

450g (1lb) organic carrots, Early Nantes and Autumn King have particularly good flavour

15g (1/2 oz) butter

125ml (4fl oz) cold water

Pinch of salt

Good pinch of sugar

 

Garnish:

Freshly chopped parsley or fresh mint

 

Cut off the tops and tips, scrub and peel thinly if necessary. Cut into slices 7mm

(1/2 inch) thick, either straight across or at an angle. Leave very young carrots whole. Put them in a saucepan with butter, water, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil, cover and cook over a gentle heat until tender, by which time the liquid should have all been absorbed into the carrots, but if not remove the lid and increase the heat until all the water has evaporated. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shake the saucepan so the carrots become coated with the buttery glaze.

 

Serve in a hot vegetable dish sprinkled with chopped parsley or mint.

 

 

Note: It is really important to cut the carrots into the same thickness. Otherwise they will cook unevenly.

Baby carrots:

Scrub the carrots with a brush but don’t peel. Trim the tails but if the tops are really fresh, leave a little of the stalks still attached. Cook and glaze as above, scatter with a little fresh parsley and mint.

 

Rhubarb Fool with Shortbread Dippers

 

Kids love dipping and fruit fools make a delicious dessert.

 

Serves 6 approx.

 

450g (1 lb) red rhubarb, cut into chunks

175-225g (6-8ozs sugar

2 tablespoons water

300ml (10fl oz) cream whipped or a mixture of cream and natural yoghurt

 

Shortbread Dippers (see recipe)

 

Top and tail the rhubarb stalks – rub with a damp cloth. Cut into approximately 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks.

 

Put the rhubarb into a stainless saucepan with the sugar and water, stir, cover, bring to the boil and simmer until soft, 20 minutes approx. Stir with a wooden spoon until the rhubarb dissolves into a mush. Allow to get quite cold. Fold in the softly whipped cream to taste. Serve chilled with shortbread dippers.

 

Shortbread Dippers

 

Makes 25 Approx

 

175g (6 oz) plain white flour

110g (4 oz) butter

50g (2 oz) castor sugar

 

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl; rub in the butter as for Shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 7mm (1/8 or 1/4 inch) thick. Cut into strips to make ¾ inch to 2 ½ inch pieces to make nice dippers. Bake in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4 to pale brown, 5-15 minutes, depending on size.

 

 

Fool Proof Food

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

Oatmeal, a brilliant food with high glycemic index is very inexpensive and will provide breakfast for a week or more. Porridge in winter but try this irresistible fruit muesli in Summer. Everyone from kids to grannies and grandpas love it. This is a huge favourite with all our family and friends – it’s a good recipe to know about because it’s made in minutes and so good. We vary the fruit through the seasons – strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blueberries and grated Cox’s Orange Pippin apples or Ergemont Russet in the Autumn.

Serves 8

 

6 tablespoons rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)

8 tablespoons water

250g (8oz) fresh Irish strawberries

2-4 teaspoons pure Irish honey, preferably local to your area

 

Soak the oatmeal in the water for a few minutes. Meanwhile, mash the strawberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a couple of teaspoons are usually enough but it depends on how sweet the strawberries are.

Serve with pouring cream and soft brown sugar.

 

 

Hottips

A great new Irish fizz

A great new Irish fizz

has just come onto the market; it’s called Dunhill Castle Sparkling Spirit. It’s made using a triple distilled natural Irish spirit from Carbery in West Cork and juice from an old fashioned flavoured apple called Karmine that grows very well locally in Kilkenny. There are no sweeteners, additives or preservatives. None of the sulphites that are found in most champagne and wines, so no headache the following day. I’ve been enjoying this fruity fizz as an aperitif on Summer evenings – it’s already available in 21 locations in the south east, to find out where your closest stockist is visit www.irishartisanbeverages.com – just what we need to perk us up!

Keeping it Local in Lismore

All Slow Food events have an educational element as well as a hedonistic one. So when we gathered in Lismore recently we started our evening at Michael McGrath butchers shop on Main Street. We were all anxious to learn from this man whose skills have come down through four generations of the family – his father, grandfather and great grandfather were butchers. Michael and his wife Mary are one of only a handful of Irish butchers who still finish animals on their own farm, have their own abattoir and consequently are in charge of the process from beginning to end. The skill of butchery is not merely cutting up meat; it starts by being able to judge good pasture and then being able to judge a fine animal in the field. Good meat is not just about the breed and the feed, although both are crucially important. The slaughtering process must be stress free and humane and then there’s the skill of hanging, butchering and the ability to use every scrap – waste can so easily be the difference between profit and loss. Michael kills only Aberdeen Angus and Hereford Cross heifers from about 15 months to 24 months. He, like me, likes a nice bit of fat for juiciness and flavour and favours grass-fed animals with rich yellow fat rather than the white fat of predominantly grain fed cattle. Although the demand for cheaper cuts and offal is growing again, particularly among chefs, he doesn’t expect that there will be a queue for several weeks for pickled tongue like there was in the past. Michael, a traditional butcher, was taught the trade by his father and grandfather and has resisted the trend to toss his meat in sweet and sour sauce, he just sells excellent meat and people are prepared to travel for it. The Slow Food Feast was held at O’Brien Chop is Lismore. An old fashioned pub cum grocery shop now minimally converted into a charming bar and restaurant with a beguiling secret garden behind. Slow Food is all about supporting local. While we were sipping our Rhubarb Bellinis, two local producers also joined us and told us about their product. The Dungarvan Brewing Company is a family affair, they are passionate about real ale and beer, Cormac O’Dwyer is the head brewer who makes Helvick Gold, a blond ale, Copper Coast, a red ale and Black Rock, an Irish stout. It’s a relatively new venture and up to recently the beers could just be bought locally but they have big plans and now supply some pubs in Cork and Dublin. Julian Keane from nearby Cappoquin dropped in some of her Crinaghtaun Apple Juice freshly made from apples grown in their family orchards Local cheese makers, Agnes and Wolfgang Schliebitz originally from Germany told us how they make their ewes milk Knockalara Cheeses. Some cheese is coated with black pepper or garden herbs. Ewe’s milk is even easier to digest than goat’s milk and all vitamins and minerals are almost double those in cow’s milk and it’s lower in cholesterol. They also preserve Ewe’s milk cheese in extra virgin olive oil and they have a mature rind washed cheese, aged for ten months called Mature Knockalara.

Justin Green and his head chef Eddie Baguio had planned a delicious menu for the Slow Food feast. We started with a rhubarb bellini and nibbled some delicious freshly spiced nuts. We then had a salad of Knockalara Ewe’s Milk Cheese with asparagus Toasted Hazelnuts and Fresh Mint Leaves

Justin managed to get just one wild salmon from the Blackwater River close by and he managed to do a ‘loaves and fishes job’ so each and every one of us got a taste of the new seasons salmon with some buttery hollandaise.

For main course we had roast butterflied leg of Michael McGrath’s Spring lamb with salsa verde, new potatoes and spring garden greens. For pudding Jenny Green chose new seasons rhubarb with meringue and cream, then as an extra treat, we finished our meal with a fresh mint tisane.

The asparagus, rocket, baby salad leaves and rhubarb were grown by Justin’s father Jeremy in the walled garden at Ballyvolane House.

It’s so wonderful to find a restaurant that serves local food proudly not only for a special Slow Food event but on an ongoing basis. To hear more about upcoming Slow Food events go to www.slowfoodireland.com

 

 

Rhubarb Bellini & Rhubarb Lemon Fizz

The base for both of these is a Rhubarb purée

Rhubarb Purée

(Makes 1 litre)

1 kg local Irish rhubarb

300g sugar

zest of ½ orange

juice of ½ orange

Cook all the above ingredients till rhubarb is soft and tender. Blend this into a purée

Sugar Syrup

1 kg (2¼lb) sugar

1 litre (1¾ pints) water

slices of half a lemon

6 cloves

Boil all ingredients until sugar has dissolved, remove lemon slices and cloves.

Add 300m (10fl oz (½ pint) l of Sugar syrup to rhubarb purée and store in a jug.

 

 

 

For the Bellini;

pour into a glass some of the purée / sugar syrup mixture then top up with a nice dry Prosecco and stir. The amount of purée will depend upon your own taste.For the Fizz;

pour into a glass some of the purée sugar syrup mixture, add a dash of lemon juice, ice cubes and top up with sparkling water. “Muddle” and serve.A Salad of Knockalara Ewe Milk Cheese with Asparagus, Toasted Hazelnuts and Fresh Mint Leaves

500g local Irish asparagus

300g Knockalara Ewe’s milk cheese

100g. Unsalted peeled hazelnuts

3 tbs olive oil

Bake the asparagus with the hazelnuts and olive oil for 15 minutes at 200˚C and then allow to cool.

Mint Salad

200gr. Baby Spinach leaves

200g Rocket leaves

100g Mint leaves

Simple Vinaigrette

3 tbs. olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

salt & freshly ground pepper

 

Toss all the above leaves in the Simple vinaigrette, mix with the cooled asparagus & hazelnuts and top with crumbled Knockalara cheese.

Steamed Wild Atlantic Salmon, Sauce Hollandaise.

900g wild salmon fillet (Ask your fishmonger to skin and cut your fish into 6 equal pieces)

½ onion

2 stalks of celery

1 chopped leek

2 spring onions

4 Bay leaves

8 whole peppercorns

1 litre water

salt & pepper to taste

Boil all the above ingredients (except the salmon) together for 1 hour. Then add the salmon pieces and poach for 10 minutes, then remove and drain.

Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yolks

1 dessertspoon of cold water

150g diced butter

1 ½ tsp. lemon juice

salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring a pan of water to the boil and place a stainless steel bowl over the water. Into the bowl put the egg yolks, add the water and whisk. Add the butter, piece by piece, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens. Season to taste.

Serve the warm fillets of salmon with the hollandaise.

O’Brien’s Chop House Roast Marinated Leg of Lamb, Salsa verde, Boiled New Potatoes with Creamed Spring Greens

Lamb & Marinade

1 ½ kg boned leg of lamb

50g thyme leaves

50g rosemary – chopped

50g parsley – chopped

1 bulb of garlic – peeled and chopped

200ml olive oil

Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blend all the herbs, garlic, olive oil and seasoning then spread generously over the lamb, securely wrap with cling film and allow to marinade overnight in the fridge.

To cook the lamb;

Remove from marinade and cook in a very hot oven, 250˚C for 30 minutes (for Medium rare) or longer if preferred.

Boiled Potatoes

1 kg new season Irish potatoes

100g butter

50g finely chopped mint

salt & pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in boiling water until tender then just before serving toss the potatoes in a pan with the melted butter, mint and seasoning.

Creamed Garden Greens

1 York Cabbage

500g Baby Spinach leaves

 

Chop cabbage into small strips and blanch with the spinach in boiling water for 2 minutes.

O’Brien’s Chop House Cream sauce

300 ml. cream

½ diced onion

2 sprigs rosemary leaves finely chopped

100 ml white wine

100 ml chicken stock

Reduce the white wine in a saucepan with the rosemary and onion by half to 50ml. Add the cream and reduce again to about 85ml. Add the chicken stock and reduce for around 10 minutes. Taste and add a little salt and pepper if necessary.

To serve, toss the blanched greens in a pan with the reduced cream sauce for a couple of minutes, season and serve.

Ballyvolane House Walled-Garden Rhubarb Mess

500g rhubarb

zest of ½ orange

juice of ½ orange

150gr sugar

6 scoops vanilla ice-cream

200g homemade meringue

150 ml. cream, whipped

Method for Rhubarb

Cook all the ingredients until the rhubarb is soft and tender. It should have started to break up a little.

Scoop out 6 portions of vanilla ice-cream and return the scoops to the freezer to harden. Crumble the meringue into the whipped cream with ¾ of the cooked rhubarb and mix. Remove the deep-frozen ice-cream scoops from the freezer and break into pieces and stir into the above mixture. Portion this mixture onto your serving plates and pour over the remainder of the cooked rhubarb.

Fool Proof Food

Ballyvolane House Spiced Nuts

800g mixed nuts (peanuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia, cashew nuts, almonds)
3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic (2 cloves)
2 teaspoons olive oil

Bake in oven at 160 degrees for 20 minutes or until brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hottips

Clare Food Scene

Lots of excitement on the food front in Co Clare. Ballyvaughan Farmers Market has launched their new cook book compiled from recipes using produce from the market. The recent Burren Slow Food Festival highlighted the wealth of local produce – Burren lamb, smoked salmon…where can I get beef from those beautiful cattle I saw grazing in the buttercup filled fields around Lisdoonvarna – why aren’t we capitalising more on region specific foods? I loved staying at Sheedy’s family run hotel over looking the spa. Wild Honey

is another option and you get to enjoy chef and owner Aidan McGrath’s creative classics using lots of local produce, look our for the ham hock terrine with celeriac remoulade and crab royale with seared scallops. Phone: +353 65 7074300 email: info@wildhoneyinn.comThe Crescent Farmers Market

in Limerick is going from strength to strength after their recent re-launch; there are a wonderful range of stalls with delicious fresh local and organic produce. I picked up some really good loaves of organic spelt bread from Coolfin Organic Bakery contact Jonas 0872045593. Market every Wednesday, Contact market manager Gar Granville 0868069605.Mani –Bläuel

olive oil have now notched up five awards this year after recently winning a Gold Award at the Expo and Competition ‘Monocultivaroliveoil’ organised by Frantoi Celleti Cultivar in Milan and a DIPLOMA DI GRAN MENZIONE in Parma at the 4th International Olive Oil Competition ‘ARMONIA’ – ALMA Trophy – the first time a Greek oil was among the winners at this competition. Available in Ballymaloe Cookery School shop and Midleton Farmers Market.

 

O’Brien Chop House 058 53810

info@obrienchophouse.ie

Ballyvolane House 025 36349

info@ballyvolanehouse.ie

Knockalara Farmhouse Cheese 024 96326

Michael McGrath Butchers Lismore 058 54350

Dungarvan Brewing Company 058 24000

info@dungarvanbrewingcompany.com

Crinaghtaun Apple Juice 058 54258

sales@irishjuiceco.com

Cornwall

It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow someone some good. Even the volcanic ash has benefitted some people – The mâitre d’hotel at Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant in Padstow was beaming from ear to ear when I was there recently. Although they are virtually always full anyway, they have experienced a definite increase in business over the past few weeks as many British people decided to holiday at home rather than risk the hassle of cancelled flights. Let’s hope for the sake of the beleaguered Irish tourism industry the same sentiment prevails here.

We were in Cornwall for a few days to trace some ancient ancestors. Like Ireland Cornwall is utterly beautiful at this time of the year. Lots of gorse lighting up the countryside, hedgerows illuminated with pink and white campion, wild garlic, Queen Anne’s lace, forget-me-nots, buttercups, bluebells… As one drives through the Cornish lanes there are lots of signs for home baking and preserves. Little farm stands selling farm produce with honesty boxes for locals to pop in the money and of course signs for Cornish cream teas. I still dream about those delicious scones topped with homemade jam and clotted cream.

We booked out the super little pub with rooms at Gurnards Head, south of New Quay, and used that as a base for lots of cliff walks and expeditions to local villages and the Quaker graveyard in St Just where Nicholas Jose, tenth great grandfather of our grandchildren was buried. We couldn’t have found a better base for a family gathering; the extra bonus was the delicious breakfast and dinner menus of local food and cracking good soda bread. Walking gives one a terrific appetite and a virtuous feeling so one can tuck into beautiful meals without having a conscience. After a long walk to Landsend we had a smashing lunch at the Beach Restaurant overlooking the brilliant surfing beach at Sennen Cove. Roast fish and chips and homemade tartare sauce, a fritto misto of squid salted mackerel and gurnard with aioli and piperonata, a towering salad of local crab and fresh organic leaves, some lovely thin crust pizzas – compensation for the grim café and tourist centre at Landsend.

Rick Stein’s latest venture is a Fish and Chip restaurant in Falmouth beside the Maritime Museum. Seven different types of fish, battered and cooked in beef dripping, served with chips – cod, haddock, sea bream, lemon sole, ray, plaice and monkfish – grilled fish and charcoal roasted and fried fish galore – you can’t book so it works on a first come first served basis and there is a take-away next door.

Down in the Penzance area we also had a delicious pub lunch in the Victoria Inn. I particularly remember the faggots with swede turnips, not everyone’s cups of tea but I loved them. The little café out at the Tresco gardens on the Scilly Isles was also delightful and the gardens worth the effort – my third attempt to see them.

It’s easy peasy to get to Cornwall, there are regular daily flights to New Quay, so don’t miss Jamie Oliver’s 15 Restaurant at Watergate Bay, just 5 minutes drive from the airport, I didn’t make it on this trip but have had several excellent meals there on other occasions. For a treat check out the designer hotel, everyone is talking about; the Scarlet Hotel is again in a breathtakingly beautiful location on a cliff top site, over looking Mawgan Porth and very good food from Chef Ben Tunnicliffe.

If you get ‘ashed’ you’re not too far from the car ferries back to Ireland – we came back on the Julia from Swansea into Cork, perfect.

 

Gurnards Head Chicken Liver Pate

350g chicken livers, de-veined

225g unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 onion, peeled and diced

15ml Marsala

Chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

Melt 25g of the butter in a frying pan and cook the livers with a little salt and the garlic until they firm up but remain pink in the centre. Put the chicken livers into a food processor. Deglaze the pan with the Marsala and add the pan-juices to the food processor. Melt another 25g of the butter in the pan and gently cook the onions with a pinch of salt until they are translucent and soft but without colouring them. Add the onions to the food processor along with the remaining butter and chopped parsley and blend the ingredients until they are smooth. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Put the pate into suitable containers or dishes and put them into the fridge to set completely.

 

Gurnards Head Presse Of Tomato, Spider Crab, Haas Avocado

Tomato Presse

1kg vine tomatoes

500ml water

8 basil leaves

1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced

½ tsp celery salt

Tabasco to taste

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp caster sugar

Lemon juice to taste

Salt to taste

Put the vinegar and sugar into a pan and heat it gently to dissolve the sugar. Allow it to cool, this is the ‘gastric’. Halve the tomatoes, remove the seeds and place the rest into a blender. Add the basil, garlic, water, salt and celery salt to the blender along with the water. Blend the ingredients together lightly so the mix remains chunky.

Add the Tabasco, lemon, juice and gastric to taste and pulse it again quickly.

Transfer the contents of the blender into a cloth suspended over a clean bowl to catch the clear liquid that runs out. Allow the cloth to hang until all of the liquid has drained from the pulp in the cloth. Chill the consommé well before serving it.

To finish

300g picked white crab meat

2 lemons

4 tablespoons of olive oil

Maldon sea salt

A selection of mixed salad leaves

2 Haas avocadoes

6 tsp chopped fresh coriander

Remove the skin from the avocadoes and cut the flesh into 1cm dice. Put the avocado dice into a bowl and season it with a little salt, coriander and a little lemon juice to taste and mix it well together. Spoon a little of the avocado into a ring mould onto each plate. Remove any visible pieces of crab shell from the meat. Season the crab with the salt and lemon juice and stir in the olive oil. Spoon the crab into the rings on top of the avocado mix on the plates. Dress some mixed leaves with a little olive oil and lemon juice and season with little Maldon Salt. Place the salad on top of the crab.

 

Gurnards Head Squid Braised In Red Wine and Tomato

1kg whole squid

1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced

500ml red wine

250ml good quality tomato juice

800ml fresh chicken stock

I tsp salt

100 g unsalted butter

1 handful fresh curly parsley, finely chopped

Cut the squid into slices as thin as possible. Melt 50g of the butter in a wide pan and cook the onions and garlic gently for 5 minutes without colouring. Add the squid to the pan, season with a little salt, and continue to cook for a further 3-4mins. Add 1/3 of the red wine and turn the heat to full, reducing the wine to almost a glaze. Repeat this until all of the wine has been added, reducing the wine by ¾ only on the final turn. Add the tomato juice and mix well with the squid.

Pour in the chicken stock, bring to the boil and turn down the heat so the squid is barely simmering. Cover the pan with a round piece of greaseproof paper and leave to cook for 60-90 minutes or until the squid becomes very tender.

 

NOTE: (if the stock reduces to much before the squid has cooked then add a little water)

Serving

When the squid is cooked and the sauce is thick stir in the rest of the butter and the chopped parsley. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve.

Smoked Eel Salad with Dandelion Leaves and Crispy Capers

Serves 4

6ozs (170g) or more, smoked eel

a selection of salad leaves

dandelion leaves

preferably blanched frisee

chervil leaves

capers

Dressing

3 tablesp. extra virgin Olive oil

1 tablesp. Forum Chardonnay vinegar

sea salt

freshly ground pepper

Skin the eel and discard the skin. Cut down towards the bone and then into thin slivers horizontally about 1 1/2inches long.

Heat ½ inch of Extra virgin olive oil in a deep fry or frying pan. Dry the capers, fry for 3 or 4 minutes until they fluff out and crisp up.

Dry on kitchen paper. Whisk the ingredients for the dressing together.

To Serve:

Sprinkle a little dressing over the salad leaves and toss gently.

Divide between four plates, piling the leaves in a little pyramid. Lay 2 or 3 pieces of smoked eel on top. Scatter each salad with crispy capers and serve as soon as possible.

 

Cornish Cream Tea

Scones with homemade jam and lots of clotted cream – bliss.

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

900g (2lb) plain white flour

175g (6oz) butter

3 free-range eggs

pinch of salt

50g (2oz) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix

Glaze

egg wash (see below)

granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/gas mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Don’t knead but shape just enough to make a round. Roll out to about 21/2cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones. Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with home made jam and a blob of clotted cream.

Egg Wash

Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

 

Hottips

If you would like to try the smoked eel salad contact Frank Hederman’s Belvelly Smokehouse – on the way to Cobh – or visit his stall at the Cobh Farmer’s Market every Friday morning and the Midleton Farmer’s Market every Saturday. My brother Rory O’ Connell also folds smoked eel through soft scrambled eggs, adds a pinch of chopped chives and serves on Melba toast. Yum. Phone 021 4811089.

If you’re peckish in Cork in the morning, Kay Harte serves a terrific breakfast at the Farmgate Cafe in the Market from 9:00am to 11:00am Monday to Saturday. All the ingredients come from the market downstairs, bacon from Tom Durcan butchers, apple and pork sausages from Catherine O’Mahony and Son butchers, and black puddings from Jack and Tim McCarthy in Kanturk and free range eggs from Gerry Moynihan. Start with a bowl of organic oats porridge and freshly squeezed oranges to order or Paddy O’s Granola and lots of fresh fruit and hot buttery toast made with bread from Sheila Fitzpatrick from ABC Breadshop and Arbutus Bakery. The Farmgate Café caters brilliantly for coeliacs. Phone 021 4278134.

Taste of Dublin restaurant festival is back from Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th June in Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens – dine your way around Dublin’s top restaurants, for a full program of events visit www.tasteofdublin.ie

Nuala Kenny from Ballydehob in West Cork has produced a Seasonal Food Calendar that lists, season by season, the foods we should be eating with a shopping guide to help you choose foods from each of the food groups.

Phone 087 9719174 email: core-nutrition@hotmail.com

Scarlet Hotel 0044 1637 861 800 www.scarlethotel.co.uk

The Victoria Inn 0044 1736 710 309 www.victoriainn-penzance.co.uk

The Gurnard’s Head 0044 1736 796928 www.gurnardshead.co.uk

Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant Padstow 0044 1841532700 www.rickstein.com

Beach Restaurant 0044 1736871191 www.thebeachrestaurant.com

A Berry Nice Treat

I’m not sure why gooseberries haven’t had quite the same revival and surge of popularity in recent times that rhubarb has, but I totally love them.

Everyone should have a couple of gooseberry and black currant bushes in their garden as well as a few rhubarb stools. They are all perennial so once you’ve chosen good varieties and planted them; they will delight you year after year.

In this article I’ll concentrate on green gooseberries, which although later than usual this year are now perfect for tarts, pie, fools and sauces. By a fortuitous coincidence in nature, elderflowers bloom in the hedgerows all over the country just at the time the green gooseberries are best for cooking – mind you it takes an act of faith to pick the green under ripe berries at present they are still hard as hailstone – surely they can’t palatable and trust me, they make the best desserts and are even more delicious if you add a couple of those elderflowers while they are bubbling away in the pot or oven.

Compote of green gooseberries flavoured with these wild blossoms is delicious alone, with carrageen moss pudding or panna cotta. It’s vital that the berries burst in the elderflower flavoured syrup otherwise they will be too tart, so don’t worry about the appearance, it should look like stewed gooseberries This compote is good served warm with rice pudding or chilled and also lasts in the fridge for a week or more.

Green gooseberry sauce (really just stewed gooseberries) makes a delicious alternative to Bramley apple sauce with roast pork and the combination of grilled mackerel with green gooseberry sauce is a marriage made in heaven.

These tart green gooseberries also make the most delicious jam but there is just a brief window of opportunity to make this each year because the berries swell and sweeten by the day.

The old fashioned gooseberry sponge pudding is as yummy as ever it was; you might want to serve it with a big jug of Birds custard for old times sake but I have to say a drizzle of Jersey cream also makes it into a feast.

The best early variety is Careless but it’s also worth planting a few dessert gooseberries like Invicta, Sulphur and Black Velvet to enjoy when they are plump and ripe in June. Meanwhile rush to your garden or to your local Farmers Market and enjoy the green gooseberries in every way possible while they are in season.

Pan Grilled Mackerel with Green Gooseberry Sauce

 

 

This is a master recipe for pan grilling fish.

The simplest and possibly the most delicious way to cook really fresh mackerel. Use the tart hard green gooseberries on the bushes at the moment, they make a delicious sauce.

 

 

Serves 1 or 2

 

2-4 fillets of very fresh mackerel (allow 6 ozs (170g) fish for main course, 3 ozs (85g) for a starter)

seasoned flour

small knob of butter

 

First make the green gooseberry sauce.

 

Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on that side before you turn them over. Continue to cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with some gooseberry sauce.

 

 

Green Gooseberry Sauce

 

 

10 ozs (285g) fresh green gooseberries

stock syrup to cover (see below) – 6 fl.ozs (175 ml) approx.

a knob of butter (optional)

 

Top and tail the gooseberries, put into a stainless steel saucepan, barely cover with stock syrup, bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit bursts. Taste. Stir in a small knob of butter if you like but it is very good without it.

 

Stock Syrup

 

4 fl ozs (120ml) water

4 ozs (110g) sugar

 

Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil together for 2 minutes. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator until needed. Stock syrup can also be used for sorbets, fruit salads or as a sweetener in homemade lemonades.

 

 

Gooseberry Sponge Pudding

 

Serves 4-6

 

1lbs (450g) green gooseberries

1 tablesp. water

3-4 ozs (85-110g) approx. sugar

 

For the Topping

 

2 ozs (55g) butter

2 ozs (55g) sugar

1 beaten egg, preferably free range

3 ozs (85g) self raising flour, sieved

1-2 tablesp. milk

 

1 pie dish 1½ pint (900m) capacity

 

Set the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.

Top and tail the gooseberries and put them in a heavy saucepan with the water and sugar, cover. Stew them gently until just soft, them tip into a buttered pie dish.

Cream the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg by degrees and beat well until completely incorporated. Sieve the flour and fold into the butter and egg mixture. Add about 1 tablespoon milk or enough to bring the mixture to dropping consistency. Spread this mixture gently over the apple.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponge mixture is firm to the touch in the centre. Sprinkle with castor sugar. Serve warm with home made custard or lightly whipped cream.

This comforting dessert – sometimes called Eve’s Pudding – can also be made with rhubarb, cooking apples or a mixture of blackberry and apples or rhubarb and strawberries.

 

Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote

When the elderflowers come into bloom, then I know it’s time to pick green gooseberries. They feel as hard as hailstones, but for cooking it’s the perfect time. Enlist the help of little ones to top and tail the elderflowers.

 

900g (2lb) green gooseberries

2 or 3 elderflower heads

600ml (1 pint) cold water

450g (1lb) sugar

First, top and tail the gooseberries.

Tie the elderflower heads in a little square of muslin, put the bag in a stainless-steel or enameled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the

boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts. Allow to get cold.

Serve in a pretty bowl and decorate with fresh elderflowers.

Elderflower and Green Gooseberry Jam

Makes 6 x 450g (1 lb) pots

In season: late spring

The gooseberries should be tart and green and hard as hail stones – as soon as the

elderflowers are in bloom in the hedgerows search for the gooseberries under the prickly bushes or seek them out in your local greengrocer or farmers market.

1.6kg (3 ½ lb) green gooseberries

5-6 elderflower heads

600ml (1pint) water

1.57kg (3½ lb) sugar

Wash the gooseberries if necessary. Top and tail them and put into a wide stainless steel preserving pan with the water and elderflowers tied in muslin. Simmer until the gooseberries are soft and the contents of the pan are reduced by one third, approx. 2 hour. Remove the elderflowers and add the warm sugar, stirring until it has completely dissolved. Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until setting point is reached (220F on a jam thermometer). Pour into hot clean jars, cover and store in a dry airy cupboard.

This jam should be a fresh colour, so be careful not to overcook it.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Fool

Serves 6 approx.

450g (1lb) gooseberries

3-4 elderflower heads, tied in muslin

225g (8ozs) sugar

300ml (1/2 pint) water

whipped cream

As the Summer goes on and the gooseberries mature, less sugar is needed for this fool.

Barely cover the green gooseberries with the elderflower heads tied in muslin with the stock syrup.

Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts, about 5 – 6 minutes.

Liquidise, puree or mash the fruit and syrup and measure. When the puree has cooled completely, add 1/3 – 1/2 of its volume of softly whipped cream according to taste.

 

Note:

If you want to make the fool a little less rich, use less cream, and fold in one stiffly beaten egg white instead.Gooseberry Frangipane Tart with Elderflower Cream

Serves 8

200 g (7 oz) plain flour

pinch salt

100 g (3 1/2 oz) butter

2 tablespoons natural yoghurt or water

400 g (14 oz) gooseberries

2 tablespoons sugar

100 g (3 1/2 oz) ground almonds

50 g (2 ozs) caster sugar

2 eggs

Elderflower Cream

600ml (1 pint) cream

2 tablespoons elderflower cordial

To Serve

soft brown sugar

8 inch (20.5cm) tart tin

Preheat the oven to 100°C/215°F/Gas Mark 1/4.

Rub the flour and butter together until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the sugar and the beaten egg. Mix until it comes together. Wrap in cling film and chill.

Line an 8 inch (20.5cm) tart tin with 2/3 of the pastry. Bake blind in the preheated oven for 35 minutes. Brush with egg wash (beaten egg with a pinch of salt). Turn up the oven to 175°C/330°F/Gas Mark 3. Add the gooseberries and elderflowers to the tart shell. Sprinkle with the sugar and lemon zest. Roll the leftover pastry and cover the top of the tart. Seal the edges and brush with egg wash – make a hole in the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cook in the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes. Serve with elderflower cream and soft brown sugar.

Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas 5.

Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl (or the bowl of your food processor). Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Either quickly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles damp breadcrumbs or pulse in the food processor. Stir or briefly pulse the yoghurt into the mixture, until the dough seems to want to cling together. Form into a ball; dust with extra flour if it seems too wet, adding a little extra yoghurt or water if it seems too dry. To avoid shrinkage when the pastry is cooked, cover and leave for 30 minutes before rolling. Butter a 20 cm (8 inch) loose-bottomed flan tin and roll out the pastry to fit. Cover with tinfoil and weight it with rice. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, top and tail the gooseberries and place in a saucepan with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and not quite enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat immediately and cook for 1 minute. Drain the gooseberries and leave to cool. Blitz the ground almonds, butter and caster sugar in a food processor for 1 minute. Add the eggs and pulse briefly until blended. Arrange the gooseberries in the prebaked pastry case pour over the frangipane and bake until the top is firm, risen and golden, checking after 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before removing the collar.

To make the elderflower cream.

Add the elderflower cordial to the cream and whisk lightly, should be very softly whipped.

Serve the tart in wedges with a blob of elderflower cream.

WildFood

Elder Flowers (Sambucus nigra)

The common or black elder grows in profusion around the Irish countryside and is in full bloom at presents. It’s really easy to grow – even a twig pushed into the ground will root. If you have the space, it’s really worth considering so you can have an elderflower tree of your very own. The low growing, bushy tree with it’s greyish-brown bark smells musty and unappealing, but it’s tiny white flower heads, hanging on reddish stems, are transformed on cooking and impart a delicious Muscat-like flavour to syrups, lemonades, cordials, tarts, sorbets, and compotes and more. The fact that elderflower tastes delicious and is so versatile is reason enough to gather it, but it is also known to contain antioxidants and is commonly used in remedies against hay fever, rheumatism and the common cold. The elder tree was traditionally known as the ‘village pharmacy’ and people were reluctant to cut it down. The roots, bark, leaves and berries were all used medicinally and recent studies have shown that elderflowers have the ability to inactivate viruses. We’ve noticed a growing demand for organic elderflowers at our local farmers’ market.

 

 

Hottips

Big excitement at Midleton Farmers Market as today they celebrate their 10th anniversary. Look out for green gooseberries and elderflowers as well as lots of fresh gorgeous local produce, artisan bread, fish, free range pork, farmhouse cheese…Saturdays 9:00am to 1:30pm.

Brown Envelope Seeds are having an open day at their farm in Ardagh, Skibbereen in West Cork on Sunday 6th June with a walk around the farm and a cup of tea. Contact Madeline McKeever 028 38184.

Good reports about O’Carroll’s, beach bar and restaurant in Caherdaniel, Co Kerry. Maria a graduate of the Ballymaloe Cookery School sources most of her ingredients for the restaurant locally. Lobsters, crab, oysters, mussels and lots of fresh fish come from local fishermen. They also serve really good pizzas, make all their own dressings and sauces and bake fresh bread everyday. O’Carroll’s is nestled in a sub tropical cove, with rare wild flowers and plants that don’t occur anywhere else in Ireland. Open Monday to Sunday 11am to 9pm. 0669475151.

It Will Suit you to a Tea

We love our cuppa in Ireland and are still drinking more tea per head than any other country in the world, sadly nowadays most cups of tea are made from teabags rather than good loose tea which I am totally convinced makes a far superior brew. On a recent trip to Sri Lanka I visited Handunugoda Tea Estate only a few miles from Galle, Mr Gunaratne whose family have been tea planters for 400 years, proudly showed us around.

In 2008 Sri Lanka overtook Kenya as the second most important tea producing nation after India.

Annual production of Ceylon Tea as Sri Lankan tea is called is about 330 million kilograms and enjoys premium prices at the tea auctions in Colombo.

Tea has been grown in Sri Lanka since 1869 shortly after the coffee crop was decimated by disease. The industry employs 3.5 million people and is the largest foreign income earner and the largest employer.

As a cook I am always fascinated to learn how our food is grown. I’m particularly intrigued to learn about foods not grown in our climate so part of my holidays will invariably be spent learning about spices, exotic fruit, street food, wine… depending on the part of the world. Not everyone’s idea of a fun holiday but I find it fascinating. Tea grows in altitudes between 100 and 5000ft. The gardens I visited were at just 100ft (30 meters) and specialised in white tea camillia sevensis. The tea bushes look like a green waist-high lawn. Tea in its natural state grows in the shade so the tea gardens are punctuated by tall Ghrisidia trees which provide shade and attract birds to eat the unwanted insects. Rubber trees grow where tea doesn’t.

The brightly dressed tea pickers were already in the gardens when we arrived, all women, working at lightning speed, expertly plucking the tender leaf tips with their finger tips and flicking them into the basket strapped to their backs. The Tamil Plantation workers are contracted to pick a minimum of 20 kilograms a day and receive a bonus for any extra picked. The tea bushes are pruned to one meter in height every five weeks for ease of picking. The freshly picked leaves are first withered by blowing air through them sometimes on hessian mats or on modern mechanical troughs. The partly dried leaves are then crushed which starts a fermentation process – the skill is to know when to stop this process. The technology and machinery is largely unchanged since the 19th Century, the crusher at Handunugoda Tea Estate had a brass plate Siroco Davidson and Co Ltd Belfast Ireland. www.manorparkrestaurant.co.uk www.peppermintfarm.com 028 31869www.fruithillfarm.com www.cullyandsully.com

The leaves for white tea are not picked but snipped with golden scissors so they are untouched by hand. Mr Gunaratne explained that originally in China the Mandarins insisted that the leaves for white tea were snipped by virgins with gold scissors into a gold bowl. Body sweat contaminates the flavour.

The Mandarins were convinced that white tea had extra attributes. More recently their white tea has been scientifically analysed by SGS The Swiss Company and was found to have 10% to 11% more antioxidants than any other tea and in white tea the caffeine content is very low. It also boosts the body’s immune system and is an anti carcinogenic.

Virtually the entire crop is snapped up by the posh French tea house Mariage Freres. After we walked through the tea gardens, Mr Gunaratne invited us into his bungalow to taste his tea. I inadvertently got brownie points by telling him that we drink leaf and that teabags were banned from our country house hotel restaurant, café and cookery school.

He confirmed what I already knew that teabags are the best thing that ever happened to tea companies. According to Mr Gunaratne, teabags consist of 10% excellent tea, 60% percent neutral tea and 10% is dust. Then there is the paper which is 70% of the cost of the teabag and affects the taste of the tea and according to Mr Gunaratne drinking teabag tea is akin to drinking vintage wine in a paper cup!

Since there was just one type of tea available and it was part of every occasion, every celebration from dawn till dusk – from weddings to funerals, it cheered and comforted. Now tea is the new coffee and specialist cafes are offering not just tea and sympathy but a tea menu with everything from Lapsang Souchong (also called Russian Caravan tea) to Gunpowder tea, silver needle to oolong.

In Morocco you’ll be offered mint tea at every turn in pretty little gold patterned glasses. In India spicy chai refreshes from morning until night, and is the shopkeepers’ favourite bribe to entice you to buy their tempting wares.

Moroccan Mint Tea

Serves 4

2 teaspoons Chinese green tea

4 tablespoons chopped mint, preferably spearmint

900ml (1½pints) water

sugar, to taste

To decorate

4 lemon slices, (optional)

4 small mint sprigs

Heat a teapot with boiling water. Add the tea and mint to the pot. Fill with boiling water. Allow to infuse and stand for 5 minutes.

Pour the tea through a strainer into warmed glasses or small cups. Add sugar to taste (remember, in Morocco tea is supposed to be very sweet) and decorate each glass or cup with a lemon slice, if liked, and a sprig of mint.

Spicy Indian Chai

250ml (9fl oz) full fat milk

2-3 cardamom pods

2.5cm (1inch) piece of cinnamon

3 peppercorns

3 teaspoons loose tea leaves

500ml (18fl oz) boiling water

sugar

Put all the ingredients except the tea leaves and the sugar into a saucepan, bring slowly to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Bring back to the boil, add the tea leaves, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer for 1-2 mins. Turn off the heat and allow the leaves to settle. Serve in tea cups.

Agen Stuffed Prunes with Rosewater Cream

 

This ancient Arab Recipe from the Middle East will change your opinion of prunes – a pretty and delicious dish.

 

Serves 6

 

450g (1 lb) Agen prunes, pitted

Same number of fresh walnut halves

150ml (1/4 pint) tea

300ml (1/2 pint) cream

2 tablespoons castor sugar

1 tablespoon rose blossom water

 

Decoration

a few chopped walnuts

rose petals – optional

 

We’ve experimented with taking out the stones from both soaked and dry prunes, unsoaked worked best. Use a small knife to cut out the stones and then stuff each with half a walnut. Arrange in a single layer in a sauté pan. Cover with hot tea. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add more liquid if they become a little dry. They should be plump and soft. Lift them gently onto a serving plate in a single layer and let them cool. .

 

Whip the cream to soft peaks; add the castor sugar and rose blossom water. Spoon blobs over the prunes and chill well. Just before serving sprinkle with rose petals and a few chopped walnuts.

 

Just before serving, scatter a few chopped walnuts over each blob of cream, sprinkle with rose petals and serve well chilled.

 

This dessert tastes even better next day.

 

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 recipes above).

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 (see recipe)

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.

Homemade Candied Peel

Fruit should be organic if possible, otherwise scrub the peel well.

5 organic unwaxed oranges

5 organic unwaxed lemons

5 organic unwaxed grapefruit (or all of one fruit)

water

1 teaspoon salt

3 lbs (1.35kg) sugar

Cut the fruit in half and squeeze out the juice. Reserve the juice for another use, perhaps homemade lemonade. Put the peel into a large bowl (not aluminium), add salt and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 24 hours. Next day throw away the soaking water, put the peel in a saucepan and cover with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil cover and simmer very gently until the peel is soft, 3 hours approx. Remove the peel and discard the water. Scrape out any remaining flesh and membranes from inside the cut fruit, leaving the white pith and rind intact. (You could do the next step next day if that was more convenient).

Slice the peel into nice long strips. Alternatively cut each half in half.

Dissolve the sugar in 1 1/4 pints (750ml) water, bring it to the boil, add the peel and simmer gently until it looks translucent, 30 – 60 minutes and the syrup forms a thread when the last drop falls off a metal spoon. Remove the peel with a slotted spoon, fill the candied peel into sterilised glass jars and pour the syrup over, cover and store in a cold place or in a fridge. It should keep for 6-8 weeks or longer under refrigeration.

Alternatively spread on a baking tray or trays and allow to sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour to cool. Toss in castor sugar and store in covered glass jars until needed.

 

Wildfood

Wild garlic has been used in Ireland as a condiment or as part of a relish since earliest times. In the heyday of many large Irish estates it was apparently quite common to plant it on the edges of woodland and pasture. In late spring when the cattle and sheep were put out to grass after the long winter indoors, the garlic was thought to have a beneficial effect on them.

There are two types, Wild garlic (Allium ursinum), which grows in shady places along the banks of streams and in undisturbed mossy woodland, and Snowbells (Allium triquetrum), these resemble white bluebells and usually grow along the sides of country lanes. Hurry the season is almost over, its delicious in salad, pasta, sauces, soups, stews and this yummy pesto.

Wild Garlic Pesto

2oz (50g) wild garlic leaves (Allium ursinum or Allium triquetrum)

1oz (25g) pinenuts

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

6-8 fl ozs (170-225ml) olive oil

1½ oz (40g) freshly grated Parmesan, (Parmigiano Reggiano)

salt and sugar to taste

 

Whizz the wild garlic leaves, pine kernels, garlic and olive oil in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar. Remove to a bowl and fold in the finely grated Parmesan cheese. Taste and season. Store in a sterilized covered jar in the fridge.

 

Note:

Clean the top and sides of the jar each time you dip in. Cover with a layer of extra virgin olive oil and the lid of the jar. 

 

Hottips

On a recent trip to Armagh I had a delicious dinner at Manor Park Restaurant, known as ‘The French Restaurant’ to the locals.

Head chef James Neilly – who trained with Paul Rankin – takes classical French recipes and reinvents them using local produce. He was recently awarded Irish Best Restaurants 2010 awards, Best Restaurant for County Armagh. 0044 (0) 28 37 515535

Those of you who have caught the grow-your-own bug should know about Peppermint Farm and Garden in Toughraheen near Bantry. They grow an extensive range of herbs, organic vegetable and flower plants including some extremely rare varieties. Their plants are healthy and robust and can be purchased by mail order catalogue or direct from Bantry, Schull or Skibbereen Farmers Markets.

Fruithill Farm in West Cork stocks a range of utensils, tools and equipment suitable for small holders and small scale production. They also have a range of organic fertilizers and organic seed potatoes. All their products are available by mailorder. Contact them on 027 50710 or

Cully and Sully have done it again – they have just launched a range of delicious new puddings. Their chocolate, toffee and lemon sponges are made in small batches with ingredients you would normally have in your own kitchen. They come in handy little packs for two – just heat and eat with a dollop of fresh cream. You could make a meal of it and get one of their award winning tasty soups, pies or hot pots too and take the night off. Cully’s Mobile Number is 086 6076030 Sully’s Mobile Number is 086 6058471

Join Philip Dennhardt – of ‘Saturday Pizzas’ fame – for his class in making the perfect pizza – Friday 28th May 2010 at 2:00pm at Ballymaloe Cookery School – 021 4646785.

Capital Choices from London

At last, restaurants are reporting an increased appetite for eating out; perhaps those green shoots really are sprouting. I’ve had several requests from readers for an update on the London food scene. Lots of good things are happening over there – despite the cautious atmosphere, many young people are ‘chomping at the bit’ to open cafes, restaurants and gastro pubs. There’s also a new semi underground movement that’s gathering momentum. ‘Pop-up’ restaurants and Secret Suppers are spreading ‘virally’. Word of their location spreads among friends through Facebook, Twitter and by text. There are lots of variations but it works something like this, young cooks and chefs who often can’t afford to open a restaurant, find a vacant premises, maybe a daytime restaurant that’s closed in evening or a rowing club premises or even a warehouse. They decide on a menu, or a theme, send word to their circle of friends who pass it onto friends of friends. Each guest pays a set price and usually brings their own wine. The idea is spreading like wildfire, and many already have a cult following. Stevie Parle lives on a barge on the River Thames and was one of the first young chefs to have a ‘moveable kitchen’. Stevie did a 12 week course here at Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2002 with Clodagh McKenna and Thomasina Miers of Wahaca fame. They were all totally passionate about food. Stevie went on to work with Sam Clarke at Moro, the River Café with Rose Grey and Ruth Rodgers and then onto Petersham Nurseries to work with Skye Gyngell. A stint with April Bloomfield at the Spotted Dog in New York followed – all of these restaurants are on my ‘favourite list’

Stevie soaked up their words of wisdom and philosophy, travelled and cooked and experimented and organised many ‘pop-up’ dinners. His fan base grew and grew and now at last he’s in an ‘immoveable kitchen’, a great space next door to furniture designer Tom Dixon in what used to be the Virgin Headquarters in Portobello Dock hence the name The Dock Kitchen. A class mate Lughan Carr came from Petersham Nursery Café to work with Stevie. I had lunch there just before Easter and I loved it. When I arrived Lughan was boning a milk-fed kid for dinner, outside fresh herbs were growing, fenugreek, borage, sage…in an old builder’s bag and there was a tiny vegetable garden in a great big furniture crate. Stevie was inside the open kitchen preparing some beautiful Agretti or Barbe de Fratti. It is a type of sea weed called ‘monks beard’ that I’d never tasted before, so Stevie explained how to cook it – just boil for a couple of minutes, drain and then toss in extra virgin olive oil, he served it with a generous grating of bottargo, it was exquisite. I followed that little feast with the first of this years broad beans from the Scilly Isles with cous cous, cumin, coriander and seasoned yoghurt – also totally delicious.

For main course I chose the juicy Suffolk Spring lamb chops with smoked green wheat, turnip leaves and tahini sauce – an inspired combination. For pudding I had to make another impossible choice between roasted almond ice-cream, plum jam and hazelnut tart or a piece of Folores from the Portuguese Bakery but I passed all of that up and chose a new seasons Alphonso mango from Maharashtra with a blob of fresh yoghurt. Altogether the best lunch I’d had for a many a long day. At present Dock Kitchen is open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and Wednesday to Saturday for secret suppers.

A few other finds on the London café scene. The coffee everyone is talking about is from Square Mile coffee roasters in Hackney, this is the coffee served by Flat White Espresso on Berwick Street in Soho, a tiny café run by a couple of New Zealanders, tiny but great.

Leila’s Café and Shop on Calvert Avenue in Bethnal Green is another high street gem, simple timber tables, open kitchen and black boards – the butter is in enamel pie dishes, the sugar in white pudding bowls. They serve great toast and jam, Robert Wilson’s teas and a short seasonal menu – I loved the fried eggs with sage. Then there’s the beautiful old fashioned grocery shop next door slate tables, huge galvanise containers for rice and beans and old crates full of freshly picked organic vegetables and herbs.

Cocomaya on Connaught Street in Paddington was also charming, stacks of gorgeous wee buns, brownies, cute little short bread bunnies and chicks with pastel icing and irresistible éclairs. Teeny poppy seed cakes with lemon icing drizzled and flower petals sprinkled over the tops, choccie mousse confections, single muffins in cellophane bags, good bread, little quiches, honey cakes…

There is just one table to enjoy the treat of your choice and a cup of coffee in the brilliantly bling gold cups and saucers.

My favourite new discovery is Towpath, the teeniest café you can imagine, owned by Italian-American food writer Lori di Mori and her photographer husband Jason Lowe. It’s at the end of Regent Canal and is literally four and half feet deep with a seat by the wall covered with hessian sacks as cushions and just a few carefully chosen treats on the menu. Already the toasted Montgomery Cheddar cheese and spring onion sandwich on bread from St John Bakery has become a legend, as has Cappezanna Olive Oil Cake.

Lori doesn’t do take-away coffee so punters have an excuse to sit a while to watch the dab chicks and swans glide by. As I sat there, a river barge puttered by and the captain shouted out a compliment to Lori ‘great frittata we had at lunch time today!’

Towpath is open from 8am for breakfast, people queue up for pinhead oatmeal porridge and homemade granola. Another little gem, I can’t imagine how people find it but it’s worth the effort.

Stevie Parle from Dock Kitchen’s new book My Kitchen – Real Food from Near and Far will be published by Quadrille early July. Stevie kindly gave us a sneak preview with these delicious recipes.

Cous Cous with Broad Beans

Serves 4

Try to pick your broad beans when they are small and tender, do not peel off the skin unless they have grown too large. Often raw beans are smashed in a pestle and mortar with a little garlic, mint, basil, pecorino, olive oil and lemon juice – an excellent antipasto on bruschetta with crudo ham.

Different broad beans deserve different treatment. The first of the season’s beans should be eaten raw, even with the pods, and then as the novelty wears off and the skins thicken other dishes can be tried. Large end-of-season beans can be slow-cooked with milk and sage as they do in Italy (the milk softens the tough skins) or with off-cuts of strong ham or sausage as they do in Spain. One of the best dishes is the Roman vignole, a stew of artichokes, peas and broad beans with ham, mint and parsley, so named because it is from the crops that grow beside the vines.

At this time of year in Morocco a delicious dish of cous cous with yogurt, coriander, cumin, and broad beans is served by the side of the road. When we were driving through the mountains, I kept pestering our driver to stop to eat this most delicious of dishes one more time.

 

1 cup of fine cous cous (not the coarse precooked stuff)
1 cup of small podded broad beans
1 very small clove of spring garlic
1 tsp cumin
5 tablespoons of yoghurt – preferably home made
2 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves
Olive oil

Briefly boil the broad beans in unsalted water (salt toughens the skins) then place in a bowl with the couscous. Sprinkle with salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. Rub the couscous and beans between your hands to make sure everything is well coated in olive oil. Pour hot water over the mixture, just enough to cover and leave unti the water is absorbed.

Crush the garlic in a pestle and mortar with a little salt to a fine paste. Toast the cumin until it crackles and then grind with the garlic, add the yoghurt and black pepper.
Chop the coriander leaves.

Mix the cous cous mixture with the seasoned yoghurt, check the seasoning and serve with a little olive oil. Delicious as part of a larger mezze style lunch for a picnic, or as a starter, snack or eccentric breakfast (with less garlic and cumin perhaps) on its own.

Tlacolula Slow-Cooked Pork

Serves 6

This is a recipe from Oaxaca in Mexico. If you can’t find smoked or sun-dried Mexican chillies you can use dried Spanish ones instead, though the smoked ones are so good it is probably worth buying some from coolchile.co.uk.

8 sun-dried or smoked Mexican chillies,

1/2 pork shoulder, about 2kg (4lb 8oz)

1 whole head of garlic

200ml (7fl oz) cider vinegar

1 tbsp dried oregano,

1 tin tomatoes, drained,

6 bay leaves,

1 tbsp allspice, crushed

Break the stems off the chillies, shake out some of the seeds and discard. Soak the chillies in 300ml (10floz) boiling water. Drain off the water and briefly whizz the peppers in a food processor.

Put the pork in a big pan with all the other ingredients. Pour in enough water almost to cover and season well with salt. Cover and set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat as low as possible, and let the pork cook gently until really soft – about 2 hours.

Eat with some greens and salad of radish, celery, coriander and lime, plus crusty bread or corn tortillas.

Rhubarb and Brown Butter Tart

Serves 6

This is based on a delicious plum tart from Chez Panisse in California:

For the pastry

180g (6 1/4oz) plain flour

110g (4oz) unsalted butter

50g (1 3/4) icing sugar

2 egg yolks

For the Filling

350g 12oz (¾lb) of young rhubarb

100g (3½oz) sugar

180g (6 1/4oz) butter

juice of 1 juicy lemon or 2 not so juicy ones

2 eggs

160g (5 3/4oz) sugar

1 tbsp brandy (optional)

few drops of vanilla extract

pinch of salt

2 tbsp double cream

3 tbsp plain flour

Whizz the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor then add the egg yolks. Whizz a bit more then turn out on to an un-floured work surface and bring it together with your hands. Wrap in Clingfilm and leave in the fridge for a few hours.

Wash and slice the rhubarb into 5cm pieces and roll in 100g of sugar and roast in the oven at 160ºC until just tender. Allow to cool and drain off the syrup.

Grate the pastry on the course part of a grater into a 10in (25cm) loose-bottomed tart shell. Push down the grated pastry to cover the base and sides reasonably well. You can leave it a bit rough – try not to work the pastry too much. Put the shell in the freezer, and, after a few minutes when it is hard, put in the oven and bake until pale brown – about 15 minutes. Set the pastry case aside and turn up the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.

Put the butter in a small pan over a moderate heat. Once it has melted, let it bubble and go slightly brown. When it has reached the desired nuttiness, take off the heat; squeeze in the lemon and leave to cool.

Beat the eggs and sugar together in an electric mixer until thick and fluffy – about 5 minutes. Add the (optional) brandy, vanilla, salt, cream and flour and cooled butter. Mix with a spoon until everything is incorporated.

Arrange the drained rhubarb in the pastry case and pour over the egg mixture. Bake for about 35 minutes or until light brown and set. The tart can be eaten warm or cold, and is nice with crème fraiche.Wildfood

Nettles (Urtica dioica)

Nettles are growing in great profusion around the countryside at the moment particularly on nitrate-rich soil. Gather them while they are young and tender and not too strongly flavoured. You’ll need gloves to protect your hands. With their high iron and vitamin C content, nettles were prominent in folk medicine and, like many other wild foods, they helped in some small measure to alleviate hunger during the Irish famine. Older people knew their value and made sure to eat a feed of nettles 4 times during the month of May to clear the blood. In fact, herbalists confirm that nettles contain iron, formic acid, histamine, ammonia, silica acid and potassium. These minerals are known to help rheumatism, sciatica and other pains. They lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels to increase the haemoglobin in the blood, improve circulation and purify the system, so our ancestors weren’t far wrong. In more recent times, nettles have also become a much sought-after ingredient for trendy chefs.

Roger’s Nettle Beer

My research assistant for my Forgotten Skills book Nathalie found this recipe in Roger Phillips’ book, Wild Food. It makes delicious beer – sweet, fizzy, perfect for summertime. But she bottled it before it had finished fermenting, and one night, the glass bottles exploded. Oh well, practice makes perfect!

Makes 12 litres

100 nettle stalks, with leaves

11 litres (3 gallons) water

1.3kg (3lb) granulated sugar

50g (2oz) cream of tartar

10g (12 oz) live yeast

Boil the nettles in the water for 10 minutes. Strain, and add the sugar and the cream of tartar. Heat and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and leave until tepid, then add the yeast and stir well. Cover with muslin and leave for several days.

Remove the scum and decant without disturbing the sediment. Bottle, cork and tie down.

Hottips

To celebrate the revamp of their dining room, The Crawford Gallery Cafe is launching their One a Month Dinner Nights starting on Thursday May 20th. A six course tasting menu of local, seasonal food will be on offer for €50.00 a head Reservations only, to book, phone 021 4274415 crawfordcafe@gmail.com

 

Are you thinking of re-skilling? Would you like to own/operate a food business with passion and professionalism – while making a profit? Consider the 12 Week course at ‘The Restaurant Advisor’ Blathnaid Bergin’s new School of Restaurant and Kitchen Management in Abbeyleix, Co. Laois. For more information on the course that starts on 23rd August visit http://www.therestaurantadvisor.ie/restaurant-mangement or telephone +353 (0) 87 679 0854 info@therestaurantadvisor.ie

Truly Tasty – the brainchild of Valerie Twomey – is a cookery book especially for adults living with kidney disease. Some of Ireland’s top chefs including Rachel Allen, Rory O’Connell, Neven Maguire, Paul Flynn and Clodagh McKenna have contributed to this book and each recipe has been analysed by dieticians and the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute. Published by Atrium with beautiful images by photographer Hugh McElveen.

 

Dock Kitchen www.dockkitchen.co.uk 0044 2089621610

Towpath Café by Regents Canal 42 De Beauvoir Crescent, N1 5SB London

Square Mile Coffee Roasters www.squaremilecoffee.com

Thomasina Miers Wahaca www.wahaca.com

Moro Restaurant www.moro.co.uk

The River Café www.rivercafe.co.uk

The Café Restaurant Petersham Nurseries www.petershamnurseries.com

Cocomaya Restaurant: www.cocomaya.co.uk

Brooklyn USA

In New York, I lost track of the number of people who told me that the most exciting and diverse food scene was out in Brooklyn, so needless to say I sped over the bridge in search of the super cool foodie set. Brooklyn is all about graffiti, galvanise, peeling paint, iron grills and salvaged furnishings. Everyone seems to be 150% into food in that brilliant intense American way. Real estate is less expensive than in Manhattan so many creative young cooks and chefs can get started over there.

I’ve been a fan of Franny’s in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn for some time now. It’s always packed and noisy, a simple neighbourhood restaurant where the most irresistible pizza comes out of their brick wood oven topped with the freshest local and seasonal ingredients – one can’t book but while you wait you can sip a couple of their sophisticated cocktails to while the time deliciously away.

On this trip I concentrated on the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn which is completely choc a bloc with restaurants and food shops – I particularly wanted to see Marlow and Son and its sister shop and butchery down the road called Marlow and Daughter. This is one of the much hyped new retro butcher shops with an intense commitment to sell only sustainable grass fed meats – no feed lot-beef here – all the meat is from heritage breeds and small scale local farmers. There is also a strong and refreshing ‘waste not’ philosophy so every scrap from the nose to the tail is used, the dry aged meat is respectfully displayed, not a scrap of sweet sour sauce in sight – just superb quality well hung meat, home made sausages, terrines. At the back of the shop two young men were deep in discussion about how to get the best use out of the carcass of Gloucester Old Spot pork they had on the butchers block in front of them. Butchers are the new food heroes in New York at present. There is a sudden surge in the number of young people trying to get into Butcher School and all the top chefs are making their own in-house charcuterie as well as pickles and preserves.

It’s all about meat, even three star restaurants are doing burgers and there seems to be ‘burger mania’ among the blogging set, but of course these are no ordinary burgers, it must be grass fed beef, great buns, organic tomatoes and salad leaves, farmstead cheese and in some cases a slab of foie gras on top.

Back to Brooklyn, I popped into Diner as well, a tiny restaurant right next door to Marlow and Son and with the same owner. People flock to this ‘box car diner’ (circa 1927) for breakfast lunch and dinner to eat New American seasonal food. Up the road we found Saltie, one of the newest additions to the Brooklyn food scene owned by three women chefs, Caroline Fidadza, Rebecca Collerton, and Elizabeth Schula.

A tiny blue and white sandwich shop with a nautical theme. News has spread and people come all the way from Manhattan for their buckwheat olive bars – this buttery salty buckwheat shortbread with chunks of Kalamata olives – a new take on a ships biscuit. The menu is small but well chosen. Just a few perfectly composed sandwiches on great bread and 2 or 3 cakes. I chose the ‘Captain’s Daughter’ a thick wedge of Focaccia stuffed with sardines, pickled eggs, a tangle of coriander and rocket leaves with a few capers and radish julienne to perk it up, a perfect picnic for the plane with a slice of their olive oil and caraway seed cake.

For cheese lovers, Bedford cheese shop a few blocks away has a fantastic selection of cheese and really knowledgeable staff.

It goes on and on, Brooklyn Star is also close by, here the food is Southern and also terrific.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg; eleven new restaurants have also opened in Williamsburg in the last few months, mostly small places but so happening. There’s great coffee, ice cream, fish, offal, vegetables, charcuterie and ethnic food. Locals keep hens.

Try to get over on your next trip to New York, it’s less than 30 minutes from mid-town by cab and possibly even less time on the underground.

Websites to visit…

www.frannysbrooklyn.com

 
 

 

www.marlowandsons.com

 
 

 

www.saltieny.com

 
 

 

www.bedfordcheeseshop.com

www.thebrooklynstar.com

 
 

 

Homemade Burgers

 
 

 

The top US chefs insist on grass fed beef, dry-aged and freshly minced with at least 25% fat for succulence. Try to find Hereford, Aberdeen Angus or Pol Angus beef for extra flavour. The ‘haute burger’ has no internal seasoning just the flavour of good quality beef. Instead of buying mincemeat choose a cut of meat from your butcher and ask them to mince it for you.

 

Serves 4-6 depending on size

1 lb (450g) best quality freshly minced beef – flank, chump or shin would be perfect

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

pork caul fat, optional

olive oil

hamburger buns (see recipe)

Put the fresh mince into a chilled bowl, season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fry off a tiny bit on the pan to check the seasoning, correct if necessary. Then shape into burgers, 4-6 depending on the size you require. Wrap each one loosely in pork caul fat if using. Cook to your taste on a medium-hot grill pan in a little oil, turning once.

Little tip…If the hamburgers are being cooked in batches make sure to wash and dry the pan between batches.

The Great American Hamburger

 

 

 

The Great American Hamburger is served in a bun with lettuce, sliced onions and tomato, gherkins, a dill pickle, mayonnaise and tomato sauce and of course lots of crispy chips (French fries).

Evie Lanitis Hamburger Buns

 

 

 

Makes about 20 buns large buns

2 1/2 lbs (1.1kg) strong white Bakers flour

1 1/2 oz (35g) fresh yeast

2 level teaspoons salt

2 1/2 level tablespoons sugar

500ml (18 fl ozs) tepid milk

200ml (7 fl ozs) organic yogurt

1 beaten egg

3 1/2 ozs (100g) butter

Glaze
 

 

1 free-range egg beaten with 3fl ozs (75ml) water

water sprayer

Cookie cutter (size 2 – 2 1/2 inch/6cm)

Conventional oven 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the sugar. Rub in the butter. Dissolve the yeast in the tepid milk. Add the beaten egg to the yoghurt. Pour the milk, then the yoghurt into the flour; knead in the food mixer with the dough hook fitted for 5-6 minutes. Cover and leave to rise until the dough doubles in size – this takes about 1 hour. Knock back, divide the dough into 4 pieces, shape each into a roll and divide each into 6 pieces about 3ozs (75g) each.

Roll each piece in a ball, and then flatten with the heel of your hand. Put 6 buns on a baking tray. Cover and allow to rise about 1 1/2 hours (they don’t rise too much). Brush them gently with egg wash.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas 8, open quickly and spray the inside of the oven well with water, close the door then put tray in at once.

Spray with water twice more during baking – around oven, bottom, sides and over the buns. They will take about 10-15 minutes to cook.

Cool on wire tray.

 

Pickled Eggs

 

 

Pickled eggs are a living tradition still served in many country pubs. Originally, pickling would’ve been yet another way of preserving the eggs in times of glut, but the pickle added interest and flavour, so just because we have fridges now doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pickle eggs any more.

850ml (112 pints) white wine vinegar

10g (12oz) fresh root ginger

7g (14oz) white peppercorns

7g (14oz) black peppercorns

1 tablespoon turmeric (optional)

1 chilli

12 organic free range eggs, hard-boiled

Put the vinegar and spices, including turmeric if using, into a stainless-steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, sieve and leave to cool.

Peel the eggs, run under a cold tap to remove any traces of shell and put into a sterilised Kilner jar. Pour in the spiced vinegar. The eggs must be completely covered; otherwise they won’t keep. Seal the jar with the clip and keep for 3–4 weeks before using. These are great eaten in the traditional way with a beer, but I like them on a salad of organic leaves or watercress, mint, cherry tomatoes and batons of cucumber.

Olive Oil Cake

 

 

 

This olive oil cake was all the rage in cafes and tea shops – I adored the Saltie version which included caraway seeds but omit them if you don’t love them as much as I do! I use Primo or Mani extra virgin olive oil. Also great for those who want a dairy free cake.

Serves 8 – 10
 

 

165g (6oz) 1 ½ cups all purpose white flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

3 large free range organic eggs

225g (8oz) 1 cup sugar

175ml (6fl oz) ¾ cup plain full fat yoghurt

3 lemons, the finely grated zest

175ml (6 fl oz) ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for greasing the dish

23cm (9 inch) springform tin

Pre-heat the oven 170°C/325°F/ Mark 3. Lightly oil the base and sides of the tin.

Mix all the dry ingredients together including the caraway seeds in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Preferably in a food mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar on high speed for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is pale and voluminous.

Add the natural yoghurt and lemon zest, continue to whisk for a minute or two more. Add the extra virgin olive oil all at once and reduce speed to low. Gradually fold the flour mixture into the mousse gently but thoroughly.

Pour the cake mixture into the oiled tin and put into the oven. Transfer to the centre of the preheated oven and cook until the cake is golden – about 40 minutes. A tester should come out clean when inserted into the centre. The edges will have shrunk away from the tin slightly.

Allow to cool in the tin for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove and transfer to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.

Serve with a coffee or with a blob of crème fraiche and some summer berries.

Oatmeal Biscuit Sandwich

 

 

 

I tasted a cookie similar to this at the little coffee shop beside the restaurant Locanda Verde in Manhattan.

 

Makes 22 – approx

1 lb (450g) butter

8ozs (225g) castor sugar

8ozs (225g) plain white flour

¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1lb 4ozs (560g) organic porridge oats

egg wash and granulated sugar

Coffee filling

 
3

ozs (85g) butter

6 ozs (190g) icing sugar

coffee essence – 2 teaspoon approx.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sieve the flour and bread soda together and gradually add into the creamed mixture with the porridge oats.

Turn onto a board sprinkled with oatmeal and roll out to a thickness of 1/3 inch (1cm). Cut into 3″ round biscuits with a sharp cutter. Glaze with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake in a preheated moderate oven at 180°C/350°F/gas 4 until pale and golden, about 20 – 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile make the coffee filling, cream the butter and add in the sieved icing sugar, beat until light and fluffy and then add the coffee essence.

Spread a little on each biscuit and sandwich two together and enjoy.

Fool Proof Food

Captain’s Daughter

 

 

 

This is my version of the super sandwich I picked up at Saltie in Brooklyn.

a piece of Focaccia approximately 4 ½ inches (11 ½ cm) square

fresh rocket and coriander leaves

extra virgin olive oil

sardines

pickled eggs (see recipe)

1 teaspoon tiny capers

4 radishes cut into julienne

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Split the Focaccia in half horizontally. Put the base on a plate, drizzle the rocket and coriander leaves in extra virgin olive oil and pile on the bread base, arrange the sardines side by side on the leaves. Top with slices of pickled egg. Sprinkle capers and julienne of radish on top. Season with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top with rocket and the other slice of Focaccia.

Hottips
Interior Living – 11 McCurtain Street in Cork city – has a little pantry at the

back of their shop that stocks Primo Olive oil. This award winning extra virgin olive oil is harvested by hand and extracted by the continuous cold cycle method from using only early green harvest Tonda Iblea olives that produce an intense, fresh tasting, totally delicious oil – 021 4505819 – info@interiorliving.ie.

Discover the truth behind unhealthy food addictions
and learn how to break the cycle. David Kessler delves into the psychology and neuroscience of our junk-food cravings in his book – The End of Overeating – Taking control of our Insatiable Appetite, published by Penguin. Available in the Ballymaloe Cookery School farm shop and in most good book shops.

 

Shape up for Summer with Lucy
Hyland’s healthy cookery classes at Brennan’s in Cork city over two evenings – Thursday 20th May and Thursday 27th May 6:45pm to 9:30pm €95.00 for both classes – 0868179964 or lucy@foodforliving.ie.

 

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