Home Cooking

It’s all about home cooking these days, encouraging busy people to readjust priorities around food and how we feed both ourselves and our families.

Thomasina Miers, Tommi to her friends is an enchanting bubbly cook from the UK who cofounded the hugely popular Mexican restaurant group Wahaca in London. In 2002 she came here to the school to do a 12 Week Certificate course when as she said herself she was at a ‘bit of a crossroads’. She fell in love with Ireland, embraced country life and grasped every opportunity to learn new skills. She headed off to West Cork to meet the artisan producers and spent many happy months absorbing knowledge about cheese making, charcuterie and farmers markets from the inspirational Ferguson family at Gubeen. She is The Guardian’s Weekend Cook and somewhere in the midst of all her many awards and accomplishment, she won Masterchef 2005, has done lots of TV and to date has written five bestselling cookbooks. Her latest Home Cook is the one she’d enjoyed writing even more than the other. It’s jam packed full of the kind of food she loves to cook for her lovely husband and three little dotes.

“When I sat down to write this book, I wanted to gather together the recipes that have meant the most to me over the years. They include family favourites, versions of dishes I grew up with and those that I love to cook for my husband and children. There are recipes that have been the biggest hits when feeding friends as well as exotic recipes that I’ve picked up on travels. There are some that I have created on the hoof and others inspired by my much loved, dog eared collection of cookbooks.”

Tommi is yet another crazily busy mum who is doing her best to balance her hectic schedule with feeding herself and her family healthy wholesome seasonal food. She believes in having a well-stocked store cupboard, lots of spices and her beloved chilli to add oomph to simple vegetable and pasta dishes.
She too found it difficult to make sense of the confusing and conflicting messages on what constitutes healthy wholesome food – but now years later she’s developed her own food philosophy simply and easy to employ and guilt free.
She know the importance of shopping for great fresh ingredients, she has learned the skills of prepping methodically like a masterchef (doesn’t have to take longer) and the relaxing effect of spending time cooking in the kitchen after a busy day in the city and the sheer joy of sitting down with her family and friends around the kitchen table. Check out Home Cook and prepare to be inspired. Here are a few recipes to whet your appetite.

HOT TIPS

Support Cork Penny Dinners Fundraising night ‘Mum’s Dish 2017’.
A cookery demonstration with several chefs including Bryan McCarthy from Greene’s restaurant, Ali Honour of Ali’s Kitchen, Ciaran Scully of Bayview Hotel and many more…. will cook some of their favourite dishes while you sit back with a glass of wine and nibbles. Wednesday, 8th March 2017 at 7.30pm. The Hospitality Suite, Irish Independent Park (Musgrave Park), Cork.
Tickets are €25.00 and available www.mumsdish2017.eventbrite.ie.
Contact Grace Coffey for further information gcoff30@yahoo.ie

Just Cook It!
Join us on Monday 10th April 2017 at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for an afternoon of fun – cook a couple of delicious seasonal dishes with the guidance of our experienced tutors followed by a relaxed and informal meal.
www.cookingisfun.ie for further information.

Brand Storytelling: The Foundation of Your Growth Strategy
The ability to communicate an authentic and engaging brand story is a powerful component of any business’ growth strategy in the evolving marketplace for food and drink. Join Taste Cork on Tuesday 7th March at the Macdonald Kinsale Hotel from 9am to hear from our guest speakers including Conor Pope, Sinead Hennessy, Caroline Hennessy, Justin Green ….Booking Essential, contact Rebecca O Keeffe rebecca@tastecork.com

Thomasina Miers’ Beetroot and Fennel Seed Soup with Ginger and Crème Fraîche

Feeds four – six

For the Soup
6 medium beetroots
3-4 floury potatoes (about 500 g)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
A few pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
1.5 litres chicken, beef or vegetable stock

For the crème fraîche
Large thumb size piece of fresh ginger, peeled
250 ml crème fraîche
Finely grated zest of 1 lime and juice of ½ lime

Top and tail the beetroot, rinse the top stalks and any leaves in cold water, roughly chop and set aside. Scrub the beets and potatoes clean and roughly dice the beets (I always use rubber gloves for this to avoid pink stained fingers). Peel the potatoes and dice into the same size as the beets.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a casserole over a medium heat and add the onions, fennel seeds and chilli. Sweat for 8 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent, then add the garlic and vegetables. Cook the vegetables in the oil for about 5 minutes, stirring them to coat in the spices. Season generously with salt and pepper, pour in the stock to cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, by which time the vegetables should be completely soft. Blitz with a stick blender and adjust the thickness by adding more water, or simmering to reduce and thicken.

Meanwhile grate the ginger into the crème fraîche. Add the lime zest and juice and season with a pinch of salt.

Just before serving, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and sauté the beet tops for a few minutes until just soft and hot. Season with a pinch of salt. Serve the soup in warmed bowls with a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkling of the tops. It is delicious right away but improves substantially if you can rest it overnight; mostly I am too impatient.
Home Cook published by Guardian and Faber Publishing
Photography by Tara Fisher

Thomasina Miers’ Pomegranate Chicken Thighs with Red Quinoa Salad

Feeds four
For the Chicken
1 garlic clove
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
Pinch of black peppercorns
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra to fry
Squeeze of lemon juice
6 boneless chicken thighs
Seeds form ½ small pomegranate

For the Quinoa Salad
125 g red or white quinoa, rinsed
2 handfuls of gently toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
¼ red onion, finely chopped
Seeds from ½ small pomegranate
1 celery heart, finely sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and finely diced
½ bunch of parsley leaves and stalks, finely chopped
2 large handfuls of mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

Place the garlic in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt and crush to a paste. Add the cumin seeds and peppercorns and crush them too, then stir in the molasses, oil and lemon juice. Transfer to a large bowl, then add the chicken thighs and rub the marinade into them thoroughly. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile prepare the salad. Place the quinoa in a pan with a few pinches of salt and cover with 180 ml of boiling water. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15-17 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain in a sieve, then sit the sieve on top of the hot pan and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave to steam dry for at least 10 minutes.

Combine the remaining salad ingredients in a bowl (except for the oil and lemon juice) and lightly season. When the quinoa has steamed dry, fluff it up with a fork. While still hot, pour over the oil and half the lemon juice, mix well and season lightly. Combine with the other salad ingredients, squeeze over the remaining lemon and mix well. Set aside.
Add a small splash of oil to a lidded frying a pan and place over a medium high heat. Season the thighs with a little salt and ad d them skin side down to the pan when hot. Fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden and crisp. Turn them over once more, add the pomegranate seeds, any marinating liquid and a splash of water. Cover, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for a further 3 minutes until cooked through (the juices should run clear when you insert a skewer). Uncover and leave to rest for 3 minutes.
Cut the thighs into thirds and sit them on top of the salad, spooning over the cooking juices and cooked pomegranate seeds.
Taken from Home Cook by Thomasina Miers, published by Guardian and Faber Publishing
Photography by Tara Fisher

Thomasina Miers’ Honey and Walnut Tart

Feeds eight to ten

For the pastry
130 g butter, chilled
50 g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
225 g plain flour, plus extra to dust
¼ teaspoon fine salt
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the filling
200 g your favourite local honey
60 g dark muscovado sugar
40 g soft light brown sugar
100 g butter
¼ teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon fine salt
½ teaspoon lemon juice
350 g shelled walnuts, two thirds bashed into rough crumbs, the rest left in halves
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

To make the pastry, blitz together the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a food processor. Pulse in the flour and salt until just combined then briefly beat in the egg. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead to bring together, working it as little as possible. Shape into a disc and roll out onto a lightly floured surface to 5 mm thick and large enough to generously fit a 23 cm loose bottomed, fluted tart tin. roll the pastry around the rolling pin, then lift and unroll it into the tin. press the pastry well into the sides and corners of the tin using your knuckles. Cover loosely with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6 and place a flat baking sheet in the oven to heat up.

Line the pastry with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Slide the tart tin onto the heated baking sheet in the oven and blind bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans, trim the pastry with a sharp knife and bake for a further 7 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 180C/gas 4.

Meanwhile gently heat the honey, sugars and butter in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the mixed spice, vanilla, salt, lemon juice and crumbled walnuts. Stir in the beaten eggs until the mixture has emulsified and spoon into the baked tart case. Top with the whole walnuts and slide back into the oven for 20-25 minutes until nut brown and set. Allow to cool before removing from the tin.

Serve in slices with softly whipped cream or ice cream

Home Cook by Thomasina Miers, published by Guardian and Faber Publishing
Photography by Tara Fisher

Shrove Tuesday

I love, love, love pancakes, bit fat juicy ones, thin crispy lacy ones, teeny weeny piklets, soft spongy crumpets, blousey Dutch babies…
Pancake batter is totally magical, one can make a million variations by just changing the proportions of egg and flour to liquid.
Half milk and water will give you a lacier crepe, less liquid will result in a thickish pancake. Use buttermilk instead and you can turn out a stack of fluffy American pancakes.

Everyone has their favourites, but simple pancakes conjure up the happiest memories of Pancake Tuesdays of our childhood. Mummy made a huge bowl of pancake batter and then cooked pancake after pancake for what seemed like hours. There were nine of us so we took turns to have the next one straight from the pan. We brushed the speckled pancakes with melted butter, sprinkled on some castor sugar and squeezed some lemon juice to zip up the flavour, rolled them up and then ate them slowly cut into little slices until it was our turn again. When my own children were little, pancakes were our quintessential fast food made in minutes when we arrived home from a shopping trip or an afternoon at the beach. Just pop a pan on the Aga, shoot a mug of white flour into a blender, add 3 eggs and 15 fl oz of milk, a dessertspoon of castor sugar. Whizz, bang – batter made. Melt a little butter in the pan, pour in a small ladel full of batter, tilt the pan to cover the base, cook on the highest heat for a minute or two until its easy to flip over. Slide it onto a hot plate, then fill or top with your favourite choice – chocolate spread is right up there, soft and easy to spread but now we know that the well-known brand is made with controversial palm oil you may want to make your own with good quality hazelnuts and chocolate.

Kumquat compote, a homemade lemon curd and crème fraîche are so morish. Honey, butter is also hard to beat but orange butter and freshly squeezed lemon juice are a quintessential favourite. Ring up the pals and arrange a pancake party – fun and delicious for all the ages from nine to ninety.
Here are some of my favourite recipes

 

Hot Tips

Date for the Diary
The Weston A. Price Foundation will be hosting their third conference at Thomond Park Stadium in Limerick on March 25th & 26th March 2017. ‘Changing Our Minds’ will focus on the nutritional foundations of a healthy mind and ways in which we can make profound positive changes to our health.
Contact Deirdre McMahon deirdremacmahon@gmail.com

Fairtrade Fortnight
From February 27th to March 12th 2017. Join your friends, neighbours, colleagues and communities to put Fairtrade products in your shopping basket whenever possible. Everything tastes better when you can enjoy it knowing that those who laboured to produce the food are fairly treated and compensated.
Check out http://www.fairtrade.ie/ for the Fairtrade Fortnight Action Guide.

Slow Food East Cork Event Fair Trade Nicaraguan Chocolate
Heydi Mairena from Jinotega in Nicaragua will share the story of her fair trade artisan Quetzalcoatl chocolate on Wednesday March 1st 2017 at 7pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. www.slowfoodireland.com

Posh Shrove Tuesday Pancakes with Orange Butter

Every Shrove Tuesday we make pancakes at the School, the students queue up to eat them hot from the pan, with much swapping of stories about how mothers made them – this year one was heard to remark ruefully – ‘my mother’s pancakes never tasted like these- these are delicious! In fact these are very nearly as good as Crepes Suzette but half the bother.

Serves 6 – makes 12 approx.

Basic Pancake Batter
175g (6oz/generous 1 cup) white flour, preferably unbleached
A good pinch of salt
1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) castor sugar
2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range
425ml (scant ¾ pint) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) melted butter

Orange Butter
175g (6oz/1½ sticks) butter
3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
200g (7oz/scant 2 cups) icing sugar
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Grand Marnier (optional)

Freshly squeezed juice of 5 oranges

8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crepe pan

First make the batter. Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour from the sides. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of castor sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).
Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so – longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the pancakes stir in 2 tablespoons melted butter. This will make all
the difference to the flavour and texture of the pancakes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.
Next make the Orange butter.
Cream the butter with the finely grated orange rind. Then add the sifted icing sugar and beat until fluffy, add the orange liqueur if using.
Make the pancakes in the usual way.
Heat a non stick pan until very hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base when you tilt and swirl the pan. Put the pan back on the heat, loosen the pancake around the edge with a non metal slice. Flip over, cook for a few seconds on the reverse side. Slide over onto a plate. Repeat until all the batter has been used up.
Pancakes and orange butter can be make ahead and finished later. The pancakes will keep overnight covered in a fridge. They will peel apart easily – no need to interleaf them with greaseproof paper.
To Serve
Melt a large blob of the Orange butter in the pan, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and toss the pancakes in the foaming butter, fold in half and then in quarters (fan shapes). Serve 2 per person on warm plates. Repeat until all the pancakes and butter have been used.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Spread

You’ll never go back to the well known brand

Makes 2 small jars

250 g (9 oz) hazelnuts
150 g (5 oz) icing sugar
45 g (1.5 oz) cocoa powder (we use Valrhona)
4 tablespoons hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salt, between 1/8 and ¼ teaspoon

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Spread the hazelnuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes or until the skin start to loosen and the nuts are golden and evenly roasted. Rub the skins off the hazelnuts and discard.

Cool and transfer to a food processor. Whizz the hazelnuts for 2-5 minutes or until the oil begins to separate from the soft paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder, hazelnut oil, vanilla extract and salt to taste. Keep whizzing until the spread is loose, glossy and spreadable texture. Taste, it may need another pinch of salt or another tablespoon of hazelnut oil.
Spoon into little jars, cover and use within a month but usually it doesn’t last that long!

Reynard’s Dutch Babies

Makes 4
3 free range eggs
175ml (6fl ozs/3/4 cup) milk
75oz (3oz/1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
salt to taste
3/4 tablespoons (1 American tablespoons) clarified butter

Topping
4 slices cooked ham
75-110g (3-4ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated
maple syrup (optional)
2 teaspoon thyme leaves
freshly ground pepper

We use small, 15cm (6 inch) cast iron pans for ours.
Preheat an oven to 230°/450°F/Gas Mark 8.
Whisk all the ingredients together for the batter. Melt a scant tablespoon of clarified butter in each of the cast iron pans over a high heat, pour 1/4 of the batter into the hot pan. Transfer into the preheated oven, they will bubble up. Reduce temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add a slice of cooked ham and a good sprinkle of grated Gruyére cheese. Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the cheese melts. Slide onto a warm plate.

Drizzle with maple syrup (optional), sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and a grind of freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.

Drop Scones with Loads of Toppings

These can be sweet or savoury, just omit the sugar.

Makes 12

110g (4ozs/1 cup) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
25g (1oz/1/8 cup) caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
110ml (4fl ozs/1/2 cup) milk
drop of sunflower oil, for greasing

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and stir to mix. Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and whisk, gradually drawing in the flour from the edge. Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time, to form a smooth batter.

Lightly grease a frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat. Drop 3 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons + 3 teaspoons) of the batter into the pan, keeping well apart so they don’t stick together. Cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and begin to burst and the drop scones are golden underneath, then flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or until golden on this side as well.

Remove from the pan to a wire rack. Serve warm with whichever topping you fancy.

Kumquat Compote and Crème Fraiche and Shredded Mint
Blood Orange, Labne, Roast Rhubarb and Pistachios
Labne, Pomegranates and Mint
Blueberries, Lemon Cream and Mint Leaves
Dulce de Leche, Bananas, Pecans and slivered almonds
Roast cherry tomatoes and Rocket Leaves
Blackberries, Lemon Curd, Cream and Blueberries

American Buttermilk Pancakes with Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup

Serves 4-6 depending on the size or helping

Makes 14 – 3” pancakes

We love to cook American pancakes on the Aga for Sunday brunch – it’s so difficult to know when to stop!

250ml (8 flozs/1cup) buttermilk
1 free-range egg, preferably organic
15g (1/2 oz/1/8 stick) butter, melted
150g (5oz/generous 1 cup) plain white flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bread soda

To Serve
butter
12-18 pieces crispy bacon
Maple syrup or Irish honey

Mix the buttermilk, egg and melted butter in a large bowl, until smooth and blended. Sieve the flour, salt and baking soda together, stir into the buttermilk until the ingredients are barely combined, don’t worry about the lumps. Do not over mix or the pancakes will be heavy.

Heat a heavy iron or non-stick pan until medium hot. Grease with a little clarified butter. Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of batter onto the pan, spread slightly with the back of the spoon to a round about 7.5cm (3inch) across. Cook until the bubbles rise and break on the top of the pancake (about a minute). Flip over gently. Cook until pale golden on the other side. Spread each with butter.

Serve a stack of three with crispy streaky bacon and maple syrup.
OR:

Loganberry jam, sour cream and sausages
Serve pancakes with loganberry jam, sour cream and sausages

Cornmeal Pancakes

Substitute 25g (1 oz/1/4 cup) of cornmeal for 25g (1 oz/1/4 cup) of flour in the above recipe.

Russian Fluffy Pancakes

Julija Makejeva, who works with us at the Cookery School, taught me how to make these pancakes, known as oladushki in Russian.

Serves 6

225ml (8fl oz) buttermilk
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda or bread soda)
2 organic eggs, whisked
scant 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons caster sugar
250g (9oz) white flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Put the buttermilk into a bowl, sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda on top and leave for 3–4 minutes to allow the mixture to bubble.
Whisk the egg, salt and caster sugar into the buttermilk mixture. Slowly add the flour to the batter, whisking all the time, until the mixture has an even consistency. The batter should be very thick and reluctantly fall off the spoon.
Heat a wide frying pan on a medium heat. Add the vegetable oil. Pour a tablespoon of batter into the pan and repeat – you should be able to fit about 5 more pancakes in the pan, spaced evenly apart. Fry until golden brown on one side, flip over once bubbles have appeared on the surface and popped. Repeat the process until all of the batter is used. Serve with sour cream mixed with raspberry jam or sour cream sprinkled with brown sugar.

Marrakesh

Exotic, crazy, colourful Marrakesh, so many intriguing cultural experiences but for the cook it’s a brave new world of tagines, cous cous, pastilla, meschoi, briouts, tangia, rfusa……

At first, the experience is virtually overwhelming. The souks and medina cover an area of approximately 19km and are not for the fainthearted. Acres of stalls selling everything you can imagine and much that you can’t. I armed myself with a map and the phone number of the manger of the Riad where I was staying so they could come and rescue me if and when I got hopelessly lost.

Before you venture into the Medina, sit down with a glass of frothy mint tea and a plate of Moroccan pastries and plan your adventure. I only had five days but I was determined to make the most of every moment.

I’d chosen to stay at a beautiful chic riad owned by Jasper Conran, with just five elegant bedrooms surrounding an inner courtyard garden with orange and banana trees, a date palm and a trickling fountain in the centre even a 10 metre lap pool for those who might like a refreshing dip even in Winter. The food was delicious – breakfast, lunch and dinner –Bouchra is the cook (dada) here. The elegant dining room has tall metal windows, huge mirrors and portraits of Indian maharajah. Billie Halliday crooned and the candles flickered as I enjoyed my first dinner at a low round table by the fireside. Three little Moroccan salads, zaalouk (aubergine), taktouta (red and yellow pepper), cooked carrot and cumin and then a superb lamb tagine with artichoke hearts, fennel and cooked to melting tenderness so all the flavours melded together. The dessert was layers of flaky warka with pastry cream and a chocolate caramel sauce. We’d hit the jackpot. ….

Breakfast was another little feast, four different Moroccan breads and lacy Beghrir, the tender Moroccan pancakes. I was determined to learn how to make at least these light lacy pancakes. I cheekily knocked on the kitchen door; Bouchra welcomed me into her kitchen and over the next few days showed me how to make a whole range of breads. Many, ingenious variations on the well-known Moroccan flat bread – M-semen. Some were cooked on the griddle others, shallow fried then drizzled with honey and sprinkled with coconut. Some were savoury to enjoy with eggs or B-Sara (buttara), the thick lentil and bean soup often eaten for breakfast. Others were light, flaky and slathered with honey butter. Then there are all the tagines which take their name from the earthenware pot with the conical lid in which they are served and if you are lucky also cooked. These can be vegetarian or made from seafood, chicken, beef, lamb or rabbit with seasonal fresh vegetables and fresh or dried fruit, olives and maybe nuts.

Tagine Royale with dates or prunes, almonds and apricots, is one of the best loved of all. But there’s also chicken with preserved lemon and green olives or with caramelised onion and raisins or with caramelised onion and tomato. I ate superb versions of these at Al Fassia on 55 Boulevard Mohamed Zerktouni in the Ville Nouvelle, owned by the Marraskhi sisters and almost entirely run by women. The food is superb but you must book ahead. I managed to do it on the internet from Ireland and confirmed when I arrived in Marrakech. Don’t miss the pasilla with pigeon and the mezze made up of fifteen Moroccan salads, I had both lunch and dinner, sounds beyond greedy but I simply couldn’t taste as many dishes are I wanted in one sitting.

Cardoons were in season during my visit and they too make a wonderful addition to a tagine.

Close to the L-hotel Marrakesh riad on Derb Sidi L’ahcen St there were lots of little shops and stalls piled high with freshly harvested vegetables and fruit, others offered an enormous variety of spices, olives of every hue and preserved lemons, an essential flavouring in so many Moroccan dishes.

Lots of little butcher shops too. Everything was very fresh– there doesn’t seem to be a tradition of hanging meat and every scrap of the animal is sold and used, heads, feet and all the offal and entrails. Street food of every hue, apart from M-semen, round or square, flat bread, cooked on a griddle and served with butter and honey. One stall just sold goats feet to add to tangia, a stew cooked in an earthenware pot in the underground woodfired ovens that heat the water for the famous hamman (baths).

The flavour and texture of the slow cooked meat that emerges from the earthenware pots is rich and delicious and continues a long tradition.

You’ll find a little cluster of cafes that serve tangia and meschoi, meltingly delicious slow roasted lamb falling off the bones served with cumin and salt on Meschoi alley on the East side of Djemaa El Fna just around the corner from the olive and pickled lemon souk.
For Harira and Bsara head for Djemaa El Fna, Marrakesh’s central square, a crazy open theatre. There are snake charmers, henna tattoo artistis, colourful water sellers in fringed hats that make more money from having photos taken than they do from selling water. At night the square ramps up several notches, over 100 chefs arrive with their grills, utensils and set up their stalls. Musicians tune their instruments and the fun begins in earnest. Everywhere vendors are trying to entice you to try their specialities. The adventurous shouldn’t miss the snails and sheep’s head and other miscellaneous parts. Slide onto a bench beside a stall and enjoy every second of the spectacle and the food – unlikely to be a gastronomic experience but the atmosphere is unforgettable. www.l-hotelmarrakech.com

Here are a few recipes to give you a flavour of Morocco.

Hot Tips

For Moroccan ingredients and lots of other good things seek out Mr Bell’s stall in the English Market. Tel: 021 4318655

Masterclass in Wild Fowl with Slow Food Galway
On Sunday February 5th 2017, at the Cait Curran Siol Centre, Moycullen, Eoin Warner will give a short talk and slide show as well as bringing a selection of wild birds. There will be hands on experience in plucking and preparing the wild fowl, followed by lunch of game casserole and other dishes.
Phone Kate 087 931 2333 or www.slowfoodireland.com for further information.

Pizza, Calzone, Panzerotti, Piadina…..
Sadly, this wonderful dish has had its reputation besmirched by fast and frozen food manufacturers. However, in the space of a single morning (including a pizza-orientated light lunch) you will learn how to prepare indescribably delicious, melt-in-the-mouth pizza! We shall cover everything from different sorts of pizza bases to innovative toppings, how to cook first class pizza in a domestic oven or a wood burning oven to the importance of using the right olive oil. Plus, we will look at all the other exciting things you can make with the same dough including a Calzone, Piadini, Sfinciuni, Foccacia with Maldon Sea Salt and Rosemary, Carta Musica as well as Dough balls with garlic butter. Friday February 17th, 2017 www.cookingisfun.ie

Moroccan Mint Tea

How this frothy mint tea transports one straight to Morocco – seek out little decorative Moroccan glasses, so pretty.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons Chinese green tea
4 tablespoons chopped mint, preferably spearmint
900ml 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 from a height into Moroccan glasses edged with gold. Add sugar to taste (remember, in Morocco tea is supposed to be very sweet).
Variation: Iced Mint Tea

Add the sugar to the pot with the tea and mint. After steeping, pour the tea through a strainer over cracked ice, so it cools quickly. Serve in cold glasses with ice cubes, decorated in the same way.

Claudia Roden’s Preserved Lemons.

There are several methods. These come from ‘Tamarind and Saffron’ published by Penguin Books in 1999.

Claudia Roden’s Lemons preserved in salt and lemon juice
In this method, considered most prestigious, no water is used. 65g(2 ½ ozs) of salt is required for 500g(1lb) of lemons. This works out at about 75g(3ozs) or 4 tablespoons of salt for 4 lemons.

4 lemons
4 tablespoons sea salt
juice of 4 more lemons or more.

Wash and scrub the lemons. The classic Moroccan way is to cut each lemon in quarters but not right through, so that the pieces are still attached at the stem end, and to stuff each with plenty of salt. Put them into a glass jar, pressing them down so that they are squashed together, and close the jar. Leave for 3-4 days, by which time the lemons will have released some of their juices and the skins will have softened a little. Press them down as much as you can and add fresh lemon juice to cover them entirely. Close the jar and leave in a cool place for at least a month, by which time the lemons should be ready. The longer they are left the better the flavour. (If a piece of lemon is not covered it develops a white mould which is harmless and just needs to be washed off.)
Before using, rinse to get rid of salt.

Lemons boiled in brine and preserved in oil.
This is a brilliant stand by recipe which yields tender preserved lemon almost immediately

With a sharp knife make 8 fine-superficial, not deep-incisions into the lemon skin from one end of the lemon to the other. Put the lemons in a large pan with salted water (the same proportion of salt as above-for instance 8 tablespoons for 8 lemons) to cover. Put a smaller lid on top of them to keep them down as they float, and boil for about 25 minutes or until the peels are very soft. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, pack the skins into a glass jar and cover with sunflower or light vegetable oil.

Tagine of Chicken with Green Olives

Serves 6

1 free range and organic chicken, jointed
2 onions chopped
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons coriander leaves
1 small cinnamon stick
1/2 preserved lemon, cut into dice (see recipe) (optional, depending on size, leave whole)
175g (6oz) green olives, rinsed and stoned
juice of 1/2 lemon

Marinade
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
pinch of saffron strands
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin, toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

coriander leaves
couscous

First prepare the marinade. Mix the garlic, saffron, ginger, cumin, paprika, salt, freshly ground pepper and the olive oil in a bowl. Spread over the chicken, transfer the meat to a shallow dish, cover with cling-film and leave overnight to marinate in the fridge.

Next day, transfer the chicken and the marinade to a casserole. Add the onions, parsley, coriander and cinnamon stick and half cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, turning the chicken pieces frequently in the liquid. Add more water if it starts to reduce. Cook for a further 15 minutes, partly covered, until the chicken is tender and almost falls from the bone. Add the preserved lemons and the olives and continue cooking for a further 5-6 minutes so the flavours combine.

Transfer the chicken pieces, lemon and olives to a serving dish and cover to keep warm. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Boil the sauce uncovered until it is about 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup). Add the lemon juice and season to taste with more salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately with lots of fresh coriander and couscous.

Brother Hubbard’s Semolina Pancakes (Beghrir)

Makes about 8 pancakes

250ml milk
250ml water
2 eggs
10g dried fast action yeast
½ tsp salt
250g fine semolina (the finest grade, almost flour-like)
sunflower or Irish rapeseed oil, for cooking

Put the milk and water into a pot set over a medium heat. Heat this for a few minutes, stirring – you want to get it to the point that it should be just a little warmer than your body temperature. Remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl.
Crack the eggs into the bowl, then add the yeast and salt. Whisk well. Still using the whisk, whisk in the semolina – a good energetic go will do it. The mix will get a little thicker. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside to rest in a warm place, such as beside your oven or in a cosy corner of your kitchen. After a while, you will see the batter bubble up as the yeast works its magic. The batter should be ready after 20–30 minutes, once it’s good and frothy with lots of bubbles.
Place a non-stick medium frying pan (ideally 15–18cm diameter) on a medium-high heat and let it get fully heated. When it’s hot, add a tiny splash of oil and swirl it around the pan, then turn the heat down to medium.
Gently stir the pancake batter with a medium ladle, then add one
ladleful to the pan or enough of the batter to cover the pan with 3–4mm depth of batter, swirling gently so the surface is fully covered. Cook for 1–2 minutes. You will see bubbles form in the batter and then it will set as the wet texture on the surface gradually disappears towards the centre of the pancake. When it’s set, lift it up and flip it over to sear for a few moments – this side should almost be undercooked. Give the pan a shake so the pancake moves from side to side. Take off the heat and remove the pancake onto a plate. Keep covered with a cloth while you cook the remaining pancakes, stacking the cooked ones together under the cloth so they stay warm.

Brother Hubbard’s Sweet Beghrir Pancakes with Rose Mascarpone, Berry and Rose Compote and Fresh Mint

A real delight on the plate – the tang of the mascarpone works beautifully against the sweet burst of the berries!
Serves 4

1 batch of beghrir pancakes (see master recipe)
½ batch of berry and rose compote (see recipe)
1–2 sprigs of fresh mint
a few tablespoons of praline (optional) or toasted chopped nuts

Rose Mascarpone Cream
1 x 250g tub of mascarpone
approx. 2 dessertspoons honey
½–1 tsp rosewater or orange blossom water or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod

Make the pancakes as per the master recipe and warm up the berry compote.
To make the mascarpone cream, put the mascarpone into a bowl and gently stir in enough honey to give the mix a light sweetness and ½ teaspoon of rosewater. Stir well and taste, adding more of either ingredient if desired. However, this should not be overly sweet, as you want the creaminess and acidity of the mascarpone to cut through the warm berry compote.

When ready to build the plates, place the warm pancakes on a warm plate, overlapping in the middle (like a Venn diagram). Divide the mascarpone across the plates, placing a dollop on the centre of each pancake (2 dollops per plate). Divide the compote across the plates, placing a large spoonful of the warm compote around the mascarpone. Tear some mint leaves over and serve immediately with some praline sprinkled over, if using, or even just some toasted chopped nuts.

Brother Hubbard’s Berry and Rose Compote

A very easy and versatile recipe, this compote will hold in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Makes 1 large jar

500 g mixed berries
200 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon rosewater

Put the berries and sugar into a large pot. Put on a medium heat and slowly cook, stirring regularly until the sugar has dissolved and the compote has slightly thickened.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Stir in the rosewater, then taste and add a little more if you feel it needs it. However, please note that whenever you use rosewater, it should not be overpowering – a little goes along way, as you all you ever want is a hint of rose. Brother Hubbard, Garrett Fitzgerald

Moroccan Snake

One of the glories of Moroccan confectionery, great for a party. Individual “snakes” can be made with a single sheet of filo.

Serves 10-15 people

1 packet best quality filo pastry

Filling
1 lb (450g) ground almonds
11oz (325g) castor sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3-4 fl oz (75-110ml) orange flower water

3-4oz (75-110g) melted butter

Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl to form a paste.

To Assemble
Lay one sheet of filo on the work top, brush with melted butter. Take a fist full of the paste and make into a snake about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick. Lay this along the long side of the sheet of filo, about 1 inch (2.5cm) in from the edge. Roll up and bend into an accordian shape and then roll up into a ‘snail’. Put a sheet of tin foil on a baking sheet and lay the snail on top, continue with the rest of the filo and paste. Press the ends together to seal the joining and continue to make the snake. Brush with egg wash and then with melted butter. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for approx. 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Dust with icing sugar and perhaps a little sweet cinnamon.

Valentine’s Day

Are we all ‘loved up’ and ready to celebrate? Here it comes again, can’t have escaped your notice that St Valentine’s Day is right around the corner – every year the excitement ratchets up another notch, creative marketing teams have been brain storming for quick cool ways to engage a public who are increasingly tiring of overt consumerism.

If you are short of ideas beyond a bunch of red roses and a glass of fizz, take to the internet to be inspired and amused. You can’t imagine how many creative suggestions you’ll find for ways to enthusiastically celebrate Valentine’s Day.
How about an early morning visit to Dublin Zoo, collect a romantic breakfast picnic, wander around and enjoy a talk on the courtship and romantic rituals of some of the animals. A romantic hike up Croagh Patrick or the Knockmealdown mountains…..

You could rent a bicycle made for two for a romantic cycle and a giggle. Go along to a comedy show together and nibble some popcorn. If none of these ideas appeal how about whale or dolphin watching or ice skating followed by cocktails and a romantic dinner for two.

But if the whole palaver of Valentine’s Day sends shivers down your spine and if you are a singleton or haven’t been planning to spend the day canoodling with a loved one you could check out the growing Valentine’s day back-lash. There’s a myriad of exciting anti Valentine shindigs planned. Lots of parties and events to chase away the singleton blues.

One way or other have fun. If you’re not ‘coupled up’ how about making Valentine’s Day your own – send a family member some flowers, send a Valentine’s day card or leave a little pressie for that little old lady or man with the dog who live close by or create a celebration by cooking a wonderful meal for your friends – the very best way to warm the hearts and tummies of your ‘besties’ including your very special loved one. Of course a romantic dinner in a gorgeous restaurant is a wonderful way to spend the evening if you haven’t booked by now you may well be too late to secure a table but believe me rustling up a delicious cosy brunch, lunch or dinner could well be the best way to bring on a proposal if you’ve been waiting on that magic question or keep the home fires burning. Happy Valentines’ Day

Here are a few suggestions

Hot Tips
Smoked Chilli Flakes
I’m super excited by some smoked chilli flakes that I found on Frank Hederman’s, Belvelly Smokehouse stall at the Midleton Farmers Market on Saturday last. Sprinkle some over grilled chicken breast. Add a pinch to a tomato fondue, a stew, tagine or chowder to introduce a perky smoky flavour.

Ballymaloe House
Now reopened following winter renovations. Check out their special breakaways – Valentine’s Getaway, Hello Spring, Ballymaloe Spring Breather….www.ballymaloe.ie. Tel: 021 4652 531

Avocado Toasts with Lime and Coriander

Enjoy a romantic brunch, avocado toasts are everyone’s favourites, there are so many variations on the theme – combine with scrambled egg for a more substantial brunch.

Much more than the sum of its parts!

Serves 2

1 ripe Hass avocados

Dressing
1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 slices of sourdough, toasted or pan-grilled

Garnish
Maldon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh coriander

Whisk the lime juice and extra virgin olive oil together.

Just before serving.
Toast or grill the bread.

Stone and peel the avocado and slice into chunky segments. Place the avocado on top of the toast – allow 1/2 per person. Drizzle with the dressing. Garnish with coriander and a few flakes of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

Oyster Stew with Hot Buttered Toast

We’ve always been told that oysters are an aphrodisiac, I love them au natural and without question natural Irish oysters are the best in the world. However this oyster stew given to me by one of my favourite American cooks, the late Marion Cunningham, is super easy to make and delicious to share.

Serves 2
8 fl ozs (250ml) milk
8 fl ozs (250ml) cream
14 shelled oysters (7 ozs/200g approx. after shelling) with their liquor reserved
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 oz (15g) butter, optional
To serve
lots of hot buttered toast

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan, but don’t let it boil. Add the oysters and their strained liquor. Simmer just until the edges of the oysters curl a little. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the butter and serve very hot with lots of hot buttered toast.

Cod Chraymeh

We found this recipe in Observer Food Monthly by Tomer Amedi and loved it. I’ve adapted it ever so slightly and reduce the quantity to serve two for a delightful one pot wonder.

Serves 2

1½ tablespoons olive oil
1 red chilli, depending on hot you like it, sliced
1 red pepper, cored, deseeded and cut into 1½ cm fingers
1 yellow pepper, cored, deseeded and cut into 1½ cm fingers
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1½ teaspoons hawaij spice mix (see recipe), optional
40 ml (1½ fl oz/2½ tablespoons) of Aniseed flavoured spirit, such as arak, pernod or ouzo, optional
75 ml (2½ fl oz) water
200 g tin good quality chopped tomatoes
A pinch of sugar
2 x 200 g (7 oz) cod fillets, skinned
Salt to taste
1 large bunch of coriander, chopped
Lemon juice, a squeeze

For the Hawaij Spice Mix
2 tablespoons black peppercorns or 1 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted or 1 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1tablespoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cloves, 10 cloves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon dried coriander leaves

2 tablespoons Labne, to serve
Fresh coriander leaves

To make the hawaij spice mix, toast the seeds for 2-3 minutes in a dry pan over a medium heat, then grind all the ingredients in a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar. This will keep in an airtight container for 1-2 months.

Heat a large saucepan or a wide shallow pan over a medium heat, add the oil, chillies and peppers and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the aniseed flavoured spirit, if using and crank up the heat to allow the alcohol to evaporate, then add the water and stir for a while.

Next add the tomatoes and sugar, then leave the stew to simmer for a further 10-15 minutes.

Season the cod fillets with salt, then gently slide them into the stew. Add half the coriander and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Add the squeeze of lemon juice, give the stew a good shake and check for salt, then turn the heat off and leave it to rest for 5 minutes before you serve, topped with the rest of the coriander and add a blob of labne.

Risotto with Shrimps and Lemon Thyme

Few dishes are more comforting than risotto, here we add the lovely little shrimps from Ballycotton but of course you could add scallops or mussels if you prefer or enjoy a vegetarian version. Follow with a salad of organic leaves. There’s ample here for four helpings so save the remainder for a second meal or make arancini.

Serves 4

½ l-3/4 litre broth or homemade chicken stock
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
10 g butter
½ onion, finely chopped
200g Carnaroli or Arboria rice
10 g butter
11/2 teaspoons lemon thyme leaves
110 g cooked and peeled shrimps
25 g freshly grated Parmesan
Sea salt

First bring the broth or stock to the boil, turn down the heat and keep it simmering. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the rice and stir until well coated (so far the technique is the same as for a pilaff and this is where people become confused). Cook for a minute or so and then add 150 ml of the simmering broth, stir continuously and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 150 ml of broth. Continue to cook, stirring continuously. The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if it’s too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside. If it’s too slow, the rice will be gluey. It’s difficult to know which is worse, so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously. The risotto should take about 25-30 minutes to cook. Add the lemon thyme leaves.

When it is cooking for about 20 minutes, add the broth about 4 tablespoons at a time. Watch it very carefully from there on. The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly ‘al dente’. It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick. The moment you are happy with the texture, stir in the warmed shrimps and the remaining butter and Parmesan. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve immediately. Risotto does not benefit from hanging around.

Taste, carefully – you may not need all the cheese. Follow with a salad of organic leaves.

Arancini
Arancini are crispy rice balls usually made from left over risotto (spread the risotto onto a baking tray to cool), coated in bread crumbs and then deep fried. The name literally translated means ‘little orange’. There are regional variations in shape, the Sicilian version tends to be more conical rather than round. Flavour the risotto as desired – they can be plain or flavoured with a myriad of tasty additions – ragu, wild mushrooms, mozzarella, aubergines, wild fennel, shellfish, pistachio…..they sometimes have a little surprise filing in the centre though not always. Scoop up a fist full of cold mixture, shape into a round slightly oval or conical shape. Dip in breadcrumbs and deep-fry in hot oil until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.

White Chocolate Mendiants with Dried Cherries and Pistachios

A fresh cherry with stalk attached is also pretty good.

Makes 28

110g white chocolate (we use Valrhona)
12g dried cherries
12g shelled pistachios
50g dark chocolate

parchment paper

Put the white chocolate into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Just as soon as the water comes to the boil, turn off the heat and allow the bowl to sit until the chocolate has melted.

Put teaspoons of the melted white chocolate a little apart onto the parchment paper. Shake gently to level, then shape in heart shapes, quickly dot a few dried cherries and coarsely chopped pistachios on top. Allow to set.

Meanwhile, melt and cool the dark chocolate. Peel the medallions of white chocolate off the paper and brush the bases with dark chocolate. Allow to set and cool on the parchment paper. They look wonderfully festive served on a gold doyley on a chilled plate.

Coeur a la Crème with Summer or Autumn Fruits

Serves 4

A most exquisite summer pudding. You may use one large mould or individual moulds. In France they are traditionally heart-shaped. The moulds must be well perforated to allow the cheese to drain. Also delicious with a compote of blackcurrants, Kumquat compote, green gooseberry and elderflower compote. Save some for another meal. A heart shaped dessert that melts in the mouth.

225g (8oz) unsalted cream cheese or homemade cottage cheese
300ml (1/2 pint/1 1/4 cups) softly whipped thick double cream
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) castor sugar
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Accompaniment
Berries, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackberries……
300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) cream, softly whipped
castor sugar

Garnish
mint leaves

Press the cheese through a fine meshed nylon sieve and blend it gently with the double cream. Stir in the sugar and lightly but thoroughly fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Turn the mixture into muslin lined heart shaped moulds. Stand them on a wide plate, cover with a large plastic bag and leave in the refrigerator overnight to drain.

Just before serving, turn the moulded cheese hearts out on to white plates. Scatter a selection of summer fruits around the cheese hearts.

Serve with a fresh strawberry coulis, raspberry coulis or blackcurrant coulis, softly whipped cream and castor sugar.

Note: If you have not got the traditional heart shaped moulds, one can make Coeur a la Crème in a muslin lined bread basket or even a sieve.

Strawberry Coulis

450g (16ozs) fresh strawberries
70g (2 1/2ozs/1/2 cup) icing sugar
lemon juice

Clean and hull the strawberries, add to the blender with sugar and blend. Strain through a nylon sieve. Taste and add lemon juice if necessary, it should taste deliciously bitter sweet. Store in a fridge.

Stock Syrup

Makes 825ml (825 ml/3 1/2 cups)

350g (12oz/1 1/2 cups) sugar
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water

To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.

Valentine’s Chocolate and Almond Cake with Raspberries and Chocolate Curls

Serves 10
150g (dark bitter chocolate or baking chocolate such as the Menier Chocolat Patissier, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons water
150g (5oz/1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, separated
100g (3 1/2oz/scant 1/2 cup) caster sugar
100g (3 1/2oz) ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) rum

Topping
50g (2oz) dark bitter chocolate, broken into pieces
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) water
50g (2oz/1/4 cup) caster sugar
25g (1oz/1/4 stick) unsalted butter

Chocolate Curls, see below
1 lb (12 oz) fresh raspberries

9 inch tin, preferably heart shaped

butter, to grease the cake tin
flour, to dust the cake tin

Heat the chocolate with the water in a Pyrex bowl or small pan that is sitting on top of a pan containing water over a low heat so that the top pan or bowl does not touch the boiling water (this is a double boiler), until almost melted. Add the butter and let them both melt.

In a bowl mix the egg yolks, sugar, ground almonds, baking powder and rum very well. Add the melted chocolate and butter and mix vigorously. Beat the egg whites until stiff with an electric mixer and fold them into the mixture.

Grease a 23cm (9 inch) (in diameter (preferably non-stick) with butter and dust it with flour. Pour in the cake mixture and bake in an oven preheated to 160°C/310°F/Gas Mark 3 for about 35 minutes until firm. Turn out when it is cool.

For the optional topping, melt the chocolate with the water in the small bowl or pan over boiling water, as above. Add the sugar and the butter, let them melt and mix well. Spread over the cake. Top with fresh raspberries and chocolate curls. Sprinkle with a little icing sugar. Decorate with fresh mint leaves and serve with lots of softly whipped cream.

Chocolate Curls

Makes enough to cover 1 x 18cm (7 inch) cake

300g (11oz) dark, milk or white chocolate, in drops or chopped into pieces

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of water on a medium heat and bring to a rolling boil, then turn off the heat. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly, stirring occasionally.

Place a baking tray or roasting tin upside down on your work surface. Once the chocolate has completely melted, pour it over the upside-down try or tin and, using a palette knife, spread it out so that it’s 3-4mm (1/8 inch) thick and about the size of an A4 sheet of paper.

Place the chocolate somewhere cool (but not the fridge as this will be too cold – see tip below) and allow it to slowly set. The chocolate is set when it is no longer shiny – it should become matt in appearance.

Using a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler or a cheese slier, run along the top of the chocolate and shave off curls. Either place the curls directly onto the cake or, if you’d like to make them ahead of time, transfer them onto a plate or into an airtight box and place somewhere cool (but not the fridge). Stored in an airtight container, they will keep for up to two weeks.

Tip
It’s important that the chocolate is completely set before using it, yet not too cold. If it’s too cold, it will not ‘curl’, but if it’s not sufficiently set the curls will collapse.

Gluten Free Recipe of the Week
Raspberry and Nut Brownies

For Valentine’s Day we stamped out two heart shapes from the tin, added a blob of softly whipped cream, piled some fresh raspberries on top and garnished it with a few fresh mint leaves. It looked adorable and tasted moist, rich and delicious. Can be an irresistible nibble or a gorgeous pud with a blob of crème fraiche.

Makes 24 medium or 18 large squares

175g (6 ozs) butter, cut into dice
150 g (5ozs) caster sugar
150 g (5 ozs) soft brown sugar
175g (6oz) dark chocolate, broken into pieces
100g (4oz) Doves gluten free self-raising flour
100g (4oz) hazelnuts chopped
3 organic eggs
110 g (4 ozs) raspberries, fresh or frozen

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

20cm x 30cm (8 x 12 inch) swiss roll tin (deep tin)

Line the swiss roll tin with silicone paper.

Put the butter, sugar and chocolate in a saucepan on a gentle heat stirring until it’s smooth and melted. Remove the pan from the heat, cool a little.

Sieve the flour, add the chopped nuts. Beat the eggs and add to the chocolate. Next add the chocolate mixture into the flour, mix well and pour into the prepared tin. Scatter the raspberries over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until almost firm in the centre. Cool in the tin, then turn out and cut into heart shapes.

New Year Resolutions

Wonder how many of your New Year resolutions you’ve managed to keep so far – I’ve been hopeless about lots of things but this year I am determined to encourage as many people as I possibly can to grow some of their own food. Join the now worldwide renaissance in urban as well as rural farming and gardening.

It’s extraordinary what’s going on, particularly in the US where many people are further down the road of desperation than we are.
There’s a grass roots revolution, people are growing up walls, down walls, in window boxes, hanging baskets, on roofs, balconies, even on fire escapes although that’s not encouraged for obvious reasons. The ‘Grow Food not Lawns’ Movement attracts more devotees all the time.

Here in Ireland, allotments are in peak demand and the sales of polytunnels have skyrocketed. Once you’ve planted a few seeds and waited for the plants to grow into something delicious to eat – life changes. We appreciate the work of the growers and gardeners so much more plus one has the reassurance that the herbs, vegetables and fruit haven’t been sprayed with a cocktail of pesticides.

So if you haven’t already, got the bug, don’t worry, it’s not too late for this year – you’ve got several weeks to cogitate. Maybe get together with a few pals who live close by and make a plan. Each agree to grow 5 or 6 vegetables and then share. My best Top Tip is don’t be over ambitious, start small but you could be preparing the soil now. Put a layer of compost and maybe some powdered seaweed on top of the ground and let it sit until the weather warms up. The soil temperature needs to be 7°C before you sow seeds, otherwise they won’t germinate.

Well this is a cooking column but as we all know good nourishing food starts (whether its veg or meat) in rich fertile soil….but you could even start with a seed tray on your window sill, I live in the middle of a farm and I feel so blessed to have space to grow and produce quite a lot of our own food and it’s surprising how much is in the garden still in the depths of winter. All the gutsy hardy perennial herbs, rosemary, thyme, sage are thriving and ever more exciting the new seasons chives are already well above the ground, much earlier than usual – one of the bonus’s of climate change.

We also have lots of leeks, a few Brussels sprouts, masses of knobbly Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, kale, chard…. Our carrots are finished but we have lots of cabbage that would never make it onto a supermarket shelf . A few slugs have discovered them but some careful washing in salted water sorts that out and they are sweet and delicious after a few nights frost. As are the black radishes, celeriac and swede…..turnips which are having their moment. Can you imagine the humble swede is becoming cool and swede chips are featuring on lots of menus.

Well that long list is certainly enough to rustle up lots of tasty meals either vegetarian or vegan and to serve as an accompanying dish to meat or fish. Think I’ll start with this Leek Framiche, like a quiche but super delicious.

Hot Tips
Date for the Diary:-
Pop up Dinner with our Winter 12 Week Certificate students on Saturday March 11th 2017. Welcome Aperitif at 6.30pm; three course dinner at 7pm. Tickets are €40 for Slow Food members, €45 non Slow Food members. Further details in a few weeks’ time.

Cooking for Baby and Toddlers: Natural and Wholesome Food
Everyone wants to feed their baby nourishing and wholesome food. Yet it’s difficult to know how and when to start offering solids. Many of us lack the confidence to make our own baby food Darina Allen is happy to pass on the tips and advice gleaned over years of feeding children and grandchildren totally without packets, cans or jars! An invaluable half-day course covers everything – choosing the ingredients, recipes, preparation tips, menus, storage, health and nutrition – the lot. Not only will it save you a small fortune but also it will be infinitely better for your baby. You’ll soon discover that making your own, nourishing baby food is quick, easy and surprisingly good fun. Also, by giving your baby lots of variety you’ll ensure that as they grow up they don’t become fussy eaters. This course is subsidised by the Ballymaloe Cookery. If you need to bring a child minder with you they are very welcome to take a walk around our gardens free of charge while you are attending the course.
Friday March 3rd 2017 at 2.30pm. www.cookingisfun.ie

Leek Flamiche

There are many variations on this theme, some have no cheese, others no bacon. Similar leek tarts and pies are made in Belgium, France and many parts of the UK, including Wales and Cornwall. One can use the filling to make into a gorgeous pie with pastry underneath and on top, or just on top. Either way it is delicious.

Serves 6-8
A pre-baked 22.5cm tart shell (see p.00) made with 225g shortcrust pastry –
Made with 175g flour
75g butter
1 egg yolk and a little water

450g white part of leeks, sliced in 1cm thick rings
50g butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 eggs or 1 large egg and one egg yolk
300ml cream

100g rindless streaky raw bacon or cooked ham cut into lardons
75g Gruyère cheese, grated

22.5cm tart tin with removable base.
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat. When it foams, add the sliced leeks. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss, cover and cook gently until soft and tender but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Drain if necessary and allow to cool. Cut the bacon or bacon or ham into 5mm lardons. Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add bacon and cook for 5-6 minutes or until slightly golden and cooked through. No need to re cook ham.
Meanwhile whisk the eggs and cream together, stir in the cooled leeks and ham or bacon and most of the grated cheese. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spoon into the pre-baked tart shell, sprinkle the remainder of the grated cheese on top and bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes or until just set in the centre and golden on top. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm.

Salad of Jerusalem Artichokes with Smoked Almonds and Preserved Lemon Dressing

Everyone loves this combination but if you’d rather have cooked artichokes, roast them in slices before combining the salad.

Serves 4

Salad
4 good handfuls of perky bitter lettuce leaves
2 small Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean
a little freshly squeezed lemon juice
110g (4oz) of smoked almonds, rough chopped *(see note at end of recipe)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dressing
3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey or agave syrup
a good pinch of sea salt
1/2 preserved lemon, seeds removed and finely chopped (see last week’s column)

Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together, add the preserved lemon.

Wash and dry the salad leaves.

Next, use a mandolin to slice the artichokes paper thin – otherwise slice with a very sharp knife. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the artichokes to prevent them from discolouring whilst also adding some flavour.

Put the salad leaves into a bowl, add the artichoke slices and roughly chopped almonds. Pour over enough of the dressing and toss to coat the leaves. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately.

Note
* To Smoke Almonds
We hot smoke a lot of different ingredients in a biscuit tin over a gas jet. Just scatter 2 heaped tablespoons of apple wood chips on the bottom of the tin. Put a rack on top. Place the almond on top of the wire rack. Pop on top of the gas on a high heat until the wood chips start to smoke and cover the box. Lower the heat and smoke for 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and continue to smoke for a further 1 minute.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Chorizo Crumbs

Serves 8-10

Jerusalem artichokes were a sadly neglected winter vegetable, but many people have discovered them in recent years. We love the flavour and of course they are brilliantly nutritious – packed with inulin. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants!

50g (2oz) butter
560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped
1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock
600ml (1 pint) creamy milk approx.

Chorizo Crumbs

Makes 175g (6oz)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
125g (4 1/2oz) chorizo, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
100g (3 1/2oz) coarse breadcrumbs

First make the chorizo crumbs. Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo. Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to run and the chorizo begins to crisp. Careful it’s easy to burn the chorizo, drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan.

Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden. Drain and add to the chorizo. (You’ll have more than you need but they’ll keep in a covered box in your fridge and are great to sprinkle over gratins, stews, etc)

Next make the soup. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onions and artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk, and adjust the seasoning.

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Scatter with a spoonful of chorizo crumbs.

Note
This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required.

Gillian Hegarty’s Chickpea, Swiss Chard and Tomato Stew

Gillian Hegarty, originally of Ballymaloe House originally brought this recipe from Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers from the River Café. Perfect for a winter evening.

Serves 6 – 8

175g (6oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 large garlic clove, peeled
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
900g (2lb) Swiss chard leaves, washed and large stems removed (set aside to use in the recipe)
1 head of celery outer stalks removed peeled and diced finely
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 dried chillies, crumbled
3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons of fresh picked thyme leaves
225ml (8fl oz) white wine
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
3 handfuls flat leaf parsley chopped
extra virgin olive oil

Drain the chickpeas and place in a saucepan with water to cover, add the garlic, and 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of olive oil. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. Keep in their liquid until ready to use. Blanch the chard leaves and chop coarsely. Chop the chard stalks into half inch pieces.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onion and fry for a minute then season with salt and pepper. Put the lid on and cook for a further 20 minutes stirring frequently until they have completely collapsed.

Add the carrot, chard stalks and celery cook slowly for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Season with salt, pepper and chilli. Add the garlic and thyme leaves. Cook for a further 5mins with the lid off. Pour in the wine and reduce almost completely. Add the tomato sauce and reduce until very thick. Add the chickpeas and mix. Season and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the chopped chard leaves at the very end to retain the colour and freshness.

Chop the parsley just before you are about to serve, Stir into the chickpeas, Drizzle with about 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil.

Salad of Shaved Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts with Red Onion, Raisins and Parmesan

This is a refreshing salad that can be served as a light starter or as part of a selection of salads. It goes particularly well with cold ham or cured meats such as salamis and chorizos. I also like it with spiced beef or coarse terrines.

Serves 6 – 8

50g (2oz) raisins soaked on boiling water for 1 hour
1 small cauliflower
12 Brussels sprouts peeled
225g (8oz) red onion
50g (2oz) roasted, peeled and chopped hazelnuts
2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
8 tablespoons Caesar Dressing (see recipe)
50g (2oz) grated parmesan
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds optional

Trim the outside leaves and tough stalk off the cauliflower and break it into florets. Slice the cauliflower florets thinly, 1/2cm (1/4 inch), by hand or with a mandolin and place in a large bowl. Slice the peeled red onion and sprouts even more thinly and add to the cauliflower. Add in the drained raisins. Dress the salad with half of the olive oil and the Caesar dressing and toss thoroughly but gently. Add in 3/4 of the grated parmesan and mix again. Taste and correct seasoning add salt and pepper as necessary. Spread out in a large shallow bowl or plate and sprinkle on the hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds if using.

A final drizzle of oil and the remaining parmesan sprinkled over the salad and it is ready to serve. The salad can sit for an hour before serving.

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 x 2oz (50g) tin anchovies
1 clove garlic, crushed
a generous pinch of English mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
6fl oz (175ml) sunflower oil
2fl oz (50ml) extra virgin olive oil
2fl oz (50ml) cold water

I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together. As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

Chinese New Year

All over the world Chinese communities are ramping up to celebrate Chinese New Year which begins today – Saturday January 28th and lasts until February 15th 2018.

This is the Year of the Rooster – the date changes every year because it is connected to the lunisolar Chinese calendar.
Each New Year is characterised by one of 12 animals which appear in the Chinese Zodiac. The latter is divided into 12 blocks or houses but each lasts a year rather than a month. People who are born in the year of the Rooster are said to be honest, energetic, intelligent, resourceful, flamboyant, flexible, diverse and confident, contagious, charming….

Huge colourful noisy parades with traditional lion dances, bell ringing, fireworks, music….. take place all over the world and the celebrations last for at least two full weeks.
Traditionally, it’s a very special time of the year for Chinese families.

On New Year’s Eve they gather together all over the world for a reunion dinner and ‘spring clean’ their houses to sweep away bad fortune for the coming years. Lots of presents, for everyone traditionally children would be given red envelopes stuffed with ‘lucky money’ and positive good wishes on New Year’s Day. You’ll be amused to hear that nowadays they are more likely to have a red envelope app so their relatives can transfer money digitally….

There are many superstitions and customs associated with New Year, several associated with food. An empty rice jar is considered to be a bad omen for the coming year. Porridge should not be eaten for breakfast on Chinese New Year Day – it’s considered to be the food of the poor and doesn’t bode well for the future either.

As with all celebrations, food is an integral part of Chinese New Year. There are many simple recipes that can be made at home some in minutes with easily available ingredients. But, I absolutely love to visit the Chinese shops and supermarkets in many of our cities. In Dublin one my favourites is the Asia Market in Drury Street which has recently had a makeover. I’m intrigued with the many ‘strange’ ingredients that I’m unfamiliar with and bombard the always busy staff with questions about what to do with’ this and that’ and always leave the shop with bags full of beautiful fresh vegetables, tropical fruit and lots of jars and bottles of exotic sounding ingredients to experiment with.

They’ve also got quite a range of Chinese porcelain, bamboo steamers, clay pots and cool utensils. In Cork there are several tempting Chinese shops that I also enjoy rummaging in, like Jia Jia Market on Cornmarket Street and Asian Foods on North Main Street.

If you were born in the Year of the Rooster your lucky numbers are 5, 7, 8, lucky colours brown, gold and yellow, lucky flowers gladiola and cockscomb and lucky direction south, southwest.
So now you know, let’s all celebrate together and Happy New Year of the Rooster. Here are some more of my favourite Chinese recipes.

HOT TIPS
Masterclass in Wild Fowl with Slow Food Galway
On Sunday February 5th 2017, at the Cáit Curran Síol Centre, Moycullen, Eoin Warner will give a short talk and slide show as well as bringing a selection of wild birds. There will be hands on experience in plucking and preparing the wild fowl, followed by lunch of game casserole and other dishes.
Phone Kate 087 931 2333 or www.slowfoodireland.com for further information.

Top Favourite Utensils
Chinese Steamer – no house should be without a Chinese bamboo steamer. They have two or three tiers and cost tuppence halfpenny! Even if you never cook a dumpling, steam a fish or a boa bun in your life they are brilliant for steaming vegetables or even potatoes and look chic on the table to serve poppadums, bread or floury steamed potatoes.
Available in several sizes from Asian shops.

Pizza, Calzone, Panzerotti, Piadina…..
Sadly, this wonderful dish has had its reputation besmirched by fast and frozen food manufacturers. However, in the space of a single morning (including a pizza-orientated light lunch) you will learn how to prepare indescribably delicious, melt-in-the-mouth pizza! We shall cover everything from different sorts of pizza bases to innovative toppings, how to cook first class pizza in a domestic oven or a wood burning oven to the importance of using the right olive oil. Plus, we will look at all the other exciting things you can make with the same dough including a Calzone, Piadini, Sfinciuni, Foccacia with Maldon Sea Salt and Rosemary, Carta Musica as well as Dough balls with garlic butter. Friday February 17th, 2017 www.cookingisfun.ie

Stevie Parle’s Chinese Lettuce Cups

A past pupil of the Ballymaloe Cookery School who has recently opened his fifth restaurant Palatino in London

A great starter or canapé

Serves 4-6

50g/2oz of vermicelli noodles
Vegetable oil
½ red onion, chopped
1 red chili, deseeded and sliced
½ small bunch of coriander, roots chopped and leaves separated
A thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
350g/12oz pork mince
½ teaspoon of crushed white pepper
2 tablespoon hoisin
1 tablespoon soy
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 castelfranco or soft lettuce, separated into leaves
3 spring onions, shredded
2 handfuls of peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Bring a pan of water to the boil, pour over the vermicelli and leave to soak for five minutes. Pour into a sieve and rinse under cold water. Chop into small lengths and put to one side.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok over a medium heat. Add the onion, chilli, coriander roots, ginger and garlic and stir fry until softened. Remove from the pan, then add another small splash of oil to the pan and turn up the heat.

Lightly season the pork, then add to the hot pan and fry for a few minutes until cooked through. Return the ginger, etc, to the pan and add the noodles, white pepper, hoisin, soy, sugar, vinegar and sesame oil.
Cook for another minute, then take off the heat and stir in the coriander leaves. Check the seasoning and adjust to suit your tastes. Place a heaped tablespoonful into the centre of each lettuce leaf, then top with the spring onions and peanuts.

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Cold Chicken with a Spicy Sichuanese Sauce

Serves 2-4

About 3/4 lb (300–350g) cold, cooked chicken, without bones
3 spring onions
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

For the Sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinkiang (brown rice) vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon chicken stock
3–4 tablespoons chilli oil with 1/2 tablespoon of its sediment (or more, if you wish)
1/4–1/2 teaspoon ground, roasted Sichuan pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Cut or tear the chicken as evenly as possible into bite-sized strips or slivers and place them in a deep bowl. Cut the spring onions at a steep angle into thin slices. Mix them and the salt with the chicken.
If using sesame seeds, toast them gently in a dry wok or frying pan for a few minutes, until they are fragrant and starting to turn golden, then tip out into a small dish.
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
When you are ready to eat, pour the sauce over the chicken, and mix well with chopsticks or salad servers. Arrange on a serving dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Taken from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, by Fuchsia Dunlop

Kenneth Lo’s Egg Fried Rice

Simple as it is, this is a satisfying dish to eat even with only a very limited amount of accompaniments, such as some chopped pickles, or just a tablespoon or two of soy sauce.
Serves 2-3, with at least one other dish

1 onion
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 spring onions
3½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ bowls of cooked rice, cold
Slice and coarsely chop the onion. Break the eggs into a cup, add the salt and beat with a fork for 10 seconds. Clean and cut the spring onions into fine shavings.
Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok. When hot, add the chopped onions and stir fry in the hot oil for 45 seconds. Pour the salted beaten egg into one side of the pan or wok, and add the rice on the other side. When the eggs are about to set, scramble them, then bring them over and mix evenly with the rice which is being stir-fried in the same pan. Sprinkle the contents with half the spring onion shavings. Turn and stir the ingredients together.
Serve by transferring the contents into a large serving bowl or into individual bowls, and sprinkle the top of the fried rice with the remainder of the spring onion shavings.

From New Chinese Vegetarian Cooking by Kenneth Lo

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Fish Fragrant Aubergines

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as part of a Chinese meal

600 g aubergines
salt
cooking oil for deep-frying (400ml will do if you are using a round-bottomed wok)
1½ tablespoons Sichuanese chilli bean pastep, or Sichuan pickled chilli paste, or a mixture of the two
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
150 ml stock
2 teaspoons caster sugar
¾ teaspoon potato flour, mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
4 tablespoons spring onion greens, finely sliced

Cut the aubergines lengthways into three thick slices, then cut these into evenly sized batons. Sprinkle them with salt, mix well and leave in a colander for at least 30 minutes to drain.
In a wok, heat the oil for deep-frying to 180C. Add the aubergines in batches and deep-fry for 3-4 minutes until slightly golden on the outside and soft and buttery within. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Drain off the deep-frying oil, rinse the wok if necessary, then return it to a medium flame. When the wok is hot again, add 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the chilli bean paste and stir fry until the oil is red and fragrant, then add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir fry until you can smell their aromas. Take care not to burn these seasonings; remove the wok from the heat for a few seconds if necessary to control the temperature (you want a gentle, coaxing sizzle, not a scorching heat).
Add the stock and sugar and mix well. Season with salt to taste if necessary. Add the fried aubergines to the sauce and let them simmer gently for a minute or so to absorb some of the flavours. Then stir the potato flour mixture, pour it over the aubergines and stir in gently to thicken the sauce. Add the vinegar and spring onions and stir a few times, then serve.

From Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Beef with Cumin

You may use prime steak if you wish, but I usually make do with braising steak.
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as part of a Chinese meal

340 g beefsteak, trimmed
400 ml groundnut oil, for frying
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
2 fresh red chillies, seeds and stalks discarded and finely chopped
2-4 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
salt
2 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
For the marinade
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato flour
1 tablespoon water

Cut the beef across the grain into thin slices, ideally 4 x 3 cm. Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.
Heat the groundnut oil to about 140C. Add the beef and stir gently. As soon as the pieces have separated, remove them from the oil and drain well; set aside.

Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil. Over a high flame, add the ginger, garlic, fresh chillies, chilli flakes and cumin and stir fry briefly until fragrant. Return the beef to the wok and stir well, seasoning with salt to taste.
When all the ingredients are sizzlingly fragrant and delicious, add the spring onions and toss briefly. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.

From Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

New Food Trends

What will we be eating in 2017?

Well for most of us it will probably be more of the same but my top tip for what it’s worth is – eat a wide variety of real food and no food products – real food are not the same as food products. We need lots of bio diversity to feed and nourish our gut biome – the health of our gut flora has a phenomenal impact on both our mental and physical health.
When I say real, I mean unprocessed, unpasteurised organic, chemical free, vegetables directly from our garden or from a real farmer or gardener in your local Farmers or Country Market. Today I want to give a glimpse into trends and the food scene for 2017.

Flexitarian
There is a significant rise in the number of part time vegetarians – people who are reducing their meat consumption because of health, sustainability and animal welfare concerns. The rise and rise of vegan diets continues to confound the sceptics…..

Free from…..everything…..
Continues to gain market share even among those who do not have allergies or intolerances – the perception is its healthier – this epidemic of faddism is dangerous for our health, the more we removed from our diet the less diversity we have in our systems.

Sports Nutrition is moving main stream, energy balls, power drinks…. The virtuous triangle of great food, exercise and great sleep rings true. Bone Broths are huge. Turmeric, climbs and climbs, it contains, curcumin, a super healthy compound, you see it in health sports drinks as well as food. Flavoured waters are exploding. Watermelon water is set to take over from coconut water in 2017. Kombucha, water and milk kefir and raw organic jersey milk and cream are virtually mainstream but there are increasingly bizarre flavours, birch water, cactus water and then there are drinkable meals and regional cocktails.

Less Processed Food
Consumer demand for less processed foods is forcing companies to remove artificial ingredients and to reduce sugar and salt in their products. What was formerly alternative is moving towards main stream.

Rise and Rise of Online Shopping
Traffic chaos in towns and cities is fuelling the phenomenal increase in online shopping and home deliveries.

Organic, Antibiotic Free, Hormone Free, GM Free….
Demand is steadily rising as consumers become more aware and educated through the internet, media, films and Utube. Healthy Kids Meals is attracting a huge R & D budget as the obesity challenge deepens.

The Home Delivery Revolution – Meal Kits
Technology continues to play a greater role. Home delivery is well established in most major cities. The trend for ‘dining in’ instead of ‘dining out’ is beginning to cause concern to restaurateurs.
Meal Kits with all the ingredients prepped in a box complete with step by step instructions for how to finish the dish at home ticks all the boxes for busy commuters and parents who want the convenience and feel good factor without the hassle and waste. What’s not to like about that…. Drones may soon be delivering our meal kits and takeaway food….. Both Google and Virginia Tech are trialling this in the US.

Chefs getting more involved with farmers….
Either buying or renting land themselves or partnering with farmers so they can use what freshest and best in season and have the option to use all parts of the plant or animal. Artisan Butchery – house made charcuterie; chefs are using more unsung cuts of meat and experimenting with grass fed jerky, seafood jerky, pickles, artisan condiments Fermented foods will get even bigger.
Fine dining continues to lose out to casual neighbourhood places doing edgy reasonably priced food.

Clean labels
In response to growing consumer unease, food manufactures are scrambling to produce simpler products with fewer more natural sounding ingredients and greater transparency. The clean food frenzy is also running out of puff and credibility. Low fat, carbohydrates and sugar rich foods are the villains of 2016 and 2017.

Plant Proteins
Perhaps the strongest food trend of all, not just vegetables but also expect to see more and more fungi and algae. (low cal, high in nutrients). Yoghurt with vegetables of course
Brussel Sprouts are having their moment; move over kale, beets are all the rage – the flavour of 2017. Kaleina, a mini version of kale and swede turnip chips are already with us. Meat and fish substitutes abound. A veggie burger that bleeds launched in 2016 is only the beginning. The term ‘plant butcher’ has already been coined according to the sustainable food focused media.

Insect Protein
Bugs will be the next big thing in protein. I’ve seen this coming for a number of years now; I’ve eaten ants in Copenhagen. Grasshoppers in Mexico and Tarantulas in Loas but despite the convincing nutritional arguments I can’t see it coming ‘main stream’ in this decade.

The sous wide craze is waning at last (cooking food in a plastic bag in a temperature controlled water bath). Have to say, I was never convinced and am so delighted to see this particular practice slipping out of favour in favour of cooking over fire.

Cooking over Fire
We can’t get enough of charred, blackened, torched and smoked food not just fish but meat, vegetables, drinks, even cordials and cocktails……

Souping
Is the new juicing….did wonder about that craze, surprise, surprise! turns out that soup contains the fibre, seeds, rind and pulp that juicing often discards.

Hot, Hotter, Hottest……our appetite for heat continues, chillies and ever hotter sauces, Sri Racha is now virtually looked on as a sauce for wimps but we are also loving and having fun with Shichimi ogarashi from Japan. Sweet and spicy, Gochujang from Korea, Sambal Oelek from Indonesia, Harrissa from North Africa, Tsire, a spice mixture from West Africa, Zhoug a Yemeni green chilli sauce and spicy Berbere from Ethiopia….

Heirloom varieties beyond Tomatoes, Apples and Potatoes…
Ancient grains, chilies and pulses, Kamut, Einkorn, Teff from Ethopia, Amaranth the ancient grain of the Aztec, Sorghum is the new quinoa. Sorghum is an ancient cereal grain and is used for food, fodder and the production of alcoholic beverages. It is regarded as the fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world. Some of the health benefits of sorghum include its ability to prevent certain types of cancer, help control diabetes, improve digestive health. And who knew that porridge would become so cool, we’ll see porridge served at breakfast, lunch and any time in between with sweet and savoury toppings.

Food Trucks and Shacks
Street inspired foods – authentic ethnic both in cafés, restaurants and in food truck, pierogi, boa buns, multi ethnic dumplings, Japanese crepes – Okonomi yaki.
Sprouting Seeds (I remember that well) is predicted to be another strong food trend. Not just seeds but nuts, beans and grains. This hugely increases the nutritional value and creates enzymes that make plant proteins, essential fatty acids, starches and vitamins more available to the body.

Bowl Food, another hot trend. We love serving food in bowls everything from ramen to noodles, pasta, curries, conghee, tagines, rendang….. Check out Bowls of Goodness by Nina Olsson published by Kyle Books

Build your own Pizza
Pizzerias are inviting customers to build their own pizza from a range of toppings laid out like a salad bar. Can certainly see the appeal of this….

Quest for less Familiar Flavours
Expect to see more Eastern European food, Georgian, Middle Eastern, African flavours particularly Ethiopian….Poke pronounced po-kay is sweeping across the US, cubed fish or shellfish often yellow fin tuna or octopus with soy sauce, cucumber, spring onions, sesame oil served over rice. The taco craze continues unabated for 2017.
So there you have it and a few of the hot trends for 2017 but there’s much much more….

Hot Tips
Ballymaloe Good Living Day and Ballymaloe Relish 5k Lucky Run
Join us for a day- long event devoted to wellness of mind, body and spirit. The objective of the Ballymaloe Good Living Day is for visitors to learn at least one new life enhancing ide or thought to carry through 2017 and beyond. Don’t miss many inspiring talks – Communicating the Sugar Message, Life Begins in the Garden, Mindfulness and Stress Management, Change your Food, Change your Life with myself at 11am…. http://www.ballymaloegrainstore.com/portfolio/ballymaloe-good-living-day

Saturday Pizza Masterclass
Imagine, the perfect pizza. Its base is made from a delicious sourdough with a thin bottom and a crunchy crust. Its topping is homemade tomato sauce, the freshest buffalo mozzarella and a few leaves of basil or perhaps wild mushrooms, chorizo and homemade goat’s cheese, shrimps from Ballycotton, local smoked salmon or maybe even fresh broccoli from the garden. This three-hour masterclass will take you through all the basics (choosing ingredients, making dough, getting the best results from your oven) before explaining how to create both traditional and contemporary pizzas. We’re talking everything from the classics (Margherita, Pepperoni and Calzone) to modern gourmet masterpieces – think Shrimp with watercress and dill-mayo and Homemade Cottage Cheese with mint, caramelized red onion and salsa verde!
Friday February 10th 2017 from 2.30-5pm. www.cookingisfun.ie

Nina Olsson’s Bowl of Miso Happy Soup

Miso soup with ginger, tofu, soba noodles and shiitake mushrooms

This easy-to-make soup is the perfect, light comfort food all year around. Miso is a big deal in Japan where it’s a staple of daily life. The uses for it are endless and its rich flavour makes it a great addition to any kitchen. Miso paste is made from fermented soya beans and is available in different varieties – lighter miso is milder in taste and has been fermented for less time than the darker variety.
Miso soup is popular for fasting and weight loss as it contains very few calories. It’s also a perfect restorative soup when you want to recharge with something light. This recipe delivers the lightness of miso soup while adding a little extra texture and flavour.

Serves 4

Dashi (Makes 1 litre)
1 strip of kombu seaweed
1 litre water

Miso Soup
250g soba noodles
drizzle of rapeseed oil
75g shiitake mushrooms
150g firm tofu, cut into small cubes
salt
few pinches of shichimi togarashi or chilli flakes
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons shoyu
75g broccolini or broccoli florets
75g miso paste (I use white or yellow)
1 tablespoon lime juice
drizzle of sesame oil

Toppings (Optional)
cucumber, cut in thin sticks
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
handful of sesame seeds
handful of fresh herbs (chives or coriander fit perfectly)

To make the dashi, soak the kombu in the water overnight in the fridge, or for a minimum of 1 hour. Transfer to a large saucepan, bring to a simmer then remove the kombu. Strain the liquid through a sieve and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Cook the soba noodles according to the packet instructions. Rinse in cold water and drain.

Heat a frying pan over a medium–high heat and add a drizzle of rapeseed oil. Stir-fry the shiitake mushrooms over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes then remove from the pan. Clean the pan and add another drizzle of rapeseed oil, then stir-fry the tofu cubes until golden and sprinkle with salt and a little shichimi togarashi. Remove from the heat.

Bring the dashi to the boil in a soup pot, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Add the ginger, shoyu, mushrooms and broccolini and simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Separate 200ml of the dashi broth and dissolve the miso in it. Pour the concentrated miso dashi back into the pot with the rest of the dashi and add the lime juice and sesame oil. Taste and adjust the flavour with additional miso paste, if needed.

Pour the miso soup into four bowls then add the tofu cubes and soba noodles. Top with cucumber, spring onions and sesame seeds, chives
or coriander.

Taken from Nina Olsson’s Bowls of Goodness

Butchine’s Buttermilk Chicken Bun

Serves 6

350 ml buttermilk
500 g chicken thighs, boneless (6 pieces)
Oil for frying or beef dripping
100 g plain white flour
1 teaspoon oregano or marjoram
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix the buttermilk and chicken in a bowl. Cover and allow to marinade for at least 2 hours, better still overnight.
When ready to cook:- heat the oil in a deep fry to 175C. mix the flour, oregano, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, sea salt, freshly ground pepper in a shallow dish. Remove the chicken pieces one at a time, shake off excess buttermilk. Quickly coat in seasoned flour. Fry in the oil until fully cooked through and golden brown 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, split a bun, spread a good dollop of guacamole and a leaf of lettuce on the side and some chipotle mayonnaise on the other, some shredded lettuce plus a crisp streaky rasher on the other.
When the chicken is cooked through, drain on kitchen paper. Lay on top of the bacon and top with the other bun. Press together and enjoy right away.

Mackerel Poke

Pronounced poh-kay – this is a Hawaiian version of sashimi or ceviche. It would be made with really fresh raw tuna, raw mackerel is also delicious.

Serves 8

Sushi Rice

450g (1lb) sushi rice ‘No 1 Extra Fancy’
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water

Vinegar Water
50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 1/2 American tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons) sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
juice of 2 limes

4 super fresh mackerel – 8 fillets or 800g (1 3/4lbs) tuna cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes
1 small cucumber, diced
2 avocados, roughly cubed

8 spring onions, sliced at an angle
toasted sesame seeds, black and white
4 sheets of nori seaweed, snipped into strips
fresh coriander leaves

First cook the sushi rice. Rinse the rice for 10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.

‘Wake up’ the rice by sitting it in 600ml (1pint/2 1/2 cups) cold water for 30 to 45 minutes. In the same water, bring to the boil and then cook for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Do not stir, do not even take off the lid. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds before turning the heat off. Remove the lid, place a tea towel over the rice, replace the lid and sit for 20 minutes.

Next make the vinegar water. Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together in a bowl until dissolved. Turn the rice out onto a big flat plate (preferably wooden). While the rice is still hot pour the vinegar solution over the rice and mix the rice and vinegar together in a slicing action with the aid of a wooden spoon. Don’t stir. You must do it quickly preferably fanning the rice with the fan. This is much easier if you have a helper. Allow to cool on the plate and cover with kitchen paper or a tea towel. (It will soak up the liquid as it cools.)

Scoop out into a timber or flat plate. Sprinkle with rice vinegar, toss and allow to cool.

Whisk the sesame oil, mirin, soy sauce, lime juice in a bowl. Add the diced mackerel or tuna. Toss in the dressing. Add the diced cucumber and cubed avocado. Toss gently.

Divide the rice between shallow bowls (or boxes for street food). Fill with the mackerel mixture. Sprinkle with spring onions, sesame seeds, some nori seaweed shards and garnish with coriander leaves. Drizzle any remaining dressing over the top and serve right away.

Agnes’ Pierogi and Uszka

Pierogi and Uszka are plump little Russian dumplings with delicious fillings. Pierogi are larger than Uszka. Serve with some cream.

Serves 5 approx. Makes approx 25 pierogi or 30-35 uszka.

Dough
300g strong white flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon oil
Approx.300ml water

First make the dough: Sieve the flour into a bowl, add salt. Boil the water. Let it cool down a little. Mix egg yolk into the flour. Add oil to the hot water and pour into the flour. Mix to a dough. Cover and leave to rest for 15mins. Meanwhile make the filling of your choice.
Potato and cheese filling:

50g grated onion
50g butter
450g cold mashed potatoes (750g whole potatoes)
225g cream cheese or more
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in salted water, peel and mash, add salt, freshly ground pepper and 25g butter.
Cook the onion in the remaining 25g butter until pale golden for 8-10 minutes. Combine with the potatoes and cheese. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Meat filling (left over roast meat is ideal)

250g chicken, lamb or pork, chopped
225g onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

To make the meat filling: Cook the meat until tender. Chop the onion and garlic finely. Cook uncovered in olive oil until just coloured. Whizz the meat in a food processor, add the onion, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, mix well.

Mushroom and Cabbage stuffing
1 x 500g jar sauerkraut, one can also use fresh white cabbage, thinly shredded
50g dried mushroom (use porcini or shiitake mushrooms), chopped
225g onion, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Next make the dried mushroom filling: Soak the mushrooms in cold water for a few hours before cooking. Chop the cabbage finely. Rinse and cook in until almost tender. Cook the mushroom in one tablespoon olive oil until tender. Chop the onion and sweat in olive oil until golden. Drain the mushroom and chop finely. Mix mushroom, cabbage and onion together, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Caramelized Onions
450g onions, sliced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

First start the caramelized onions because they take a long time to cook, heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan, toss in the onions and cook over a low heat for whatever length of time it takes for the onions to soften and caramelize to a golden brown, 30-45 minutes.

To make the pierogi: Roll dough to a thickness of 5mm, stamp out circles with a glass or scone cutter (6 cm). Use a smaller cutter for uszka. Put a teaspoon of stuffing in the middle of each circle and seal the edges to make crescents or half moon shapes.

To cook the pierogi: Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, cook the pierogi or uszka for few minutes till tender. (They will rise to the top of the saucepan when cooked through – 7 mins.) Melt some butter in a pan and fry pierogi until golden on the both sides.

Serve with a blob of crème fraiche and caramelized onion rings on top.

Trine Hahnemann’s Winter Apple Layer Cake

Danes have a special love for layer cakes, especially homemade ones; there are a lot of family recipes! These crisp layers are a classic Danish way to make the layer cake at home, and I always make this in winter. The cream for this is partly inspired by my favourite Danish author Karen Blixen – she has described the cake as part of her dinner party repertoire.

SERVES 8

For the apple sauce
600g/1lb 5oz Bramley apples
40g/¼ cup caster (granulated) sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
For the layers
175g/¾ cup minus 1 tsp soft butter
175g/¾ cup caster (granulated) sugar
1 egg
175g/1⅓ cups plain (all-purpose) flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
For the cream
100g/3½oz hazelnuts
400ml/generous 1½ cups double (heavy) cream
100ml/scant ½ cup single (light) cream
2 tsp icing (confectioners’) sugar

Peel and dice the apples and put them into a pan with the sugar and lemon juice. Let them simmer for 15–20 minutes until you have a smooth sauce. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Draw a 20-cm/8-in circle using a pencil on 7 sheets of baking parchment. Turn these over and arrange on as many baking sheets as necessary to fit (you may have to bake these in batches).
Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then beat in the egg. Mix the flour and spices together and fold into the creamed mixture. Using a spatula, spread the mixture as evenly as possible inside each visible circle on the pieces of baking parchment.
Bake in the oven, in batches if necessary, for 6–8 minutes or until the edges start to take on some colour. Set aside to cool on the sheets of baking parchment on a wire rack.
While the layers are cooling, roast the hazelnuts. Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven, then wrap them in a clean tea towel and give them a good rub, so the skins come off. Roughly chop them.
Whip both creams together with the icing (confectioners’) sugar and stir in two-thirds of the chopped hazelnuts.
Assemble the cake just before serving, and no sooner as it goes soft very quickly. Place a crisp layer on a serving plate and add some apple sauce, then add another crisp layer, then some cream. Repeat this layer pattern twice, then add the last crisp layer and some apple sauce on top. Sprinkle the remaining chopped hazelnuts on top and serve right away.
Taken from Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hahnemann (Quadrille, £25)
Photography by Columbus Leth

Watermelon Lemonade

4 ozs (110 g/½ cup) sugar
4 fl oz (110 ml/½ cup) water
600 g (20 ozs/4 cups) cubed watermelon
675 ml (24 fl ozs/3 cups) cold water
110 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) fresh lemon juice

Place the watermelon into a blender. Cover and puree until smooth, then strain through a fine mesh sieve.
Next bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cold water and lemon juice. Put lots of ice cubes into 12 glasses, scoop 2 or 3 tablespoons of watermelon puree over the ice, then top with the lemonade. Gently stir before serving.

Tribute to Veronica Steele

This week’s column was to be about Food Trends for 2017 but as I penned the first few paragraphs the sad news of the passing of Veronica Steele’s, the matriarch of the Irish cheesemakers, passing came through and stopped me in my tracks. So instead, I want to write a little tribute to an extraordinary woman who has touched so many of our lives and whose legacy will continue to remind us of this, bright, beautiful, charismatic, self-deprecating character who unwittingly started the artisan food movement in Ireland.
I can’t begin to improve on this wonderfully description of how it all began in Veronica’s own words on the Milleens website (www.milleenscheese.com).
“The origin of the initial concept is fading in the mists of time. Hunger and shame. There was nothing to eat: nothing interesting. The old shop in Castletownbere with its saucepans and shovels and Goulding’s Manures clock wagging away the time, and smoked hams hanging from hooks in the ceiling and huge truckles of cheddar on the wooden counter with their mouldy bandages the crumbs of the cheese strewn around, scrumptious, tempting, melt-in-the-mouth crumbs which you could nibble at as you queued to be served, with your message list. And then she would cut a fine big chunk, golden or white and what I missed the most is the way it crumbled. So they closed it and gutted it and extended it and re-opened it. Enter the trolley. Spotless, sterile, pre-packed portions sweating in their plastic. Tidy piles. Electronic scales. Keep moving. Don’t block the aisles. No idle chatter. Big brother is watching you. Don’t ask for credit. Oh Boy!
And then one day in a different shop that jolly French pair of geriatrics asking for the local cheese and being given Calvita.
And then we bought a farm and a cow. Her name was Brisket and she only had one horn. She lost the other one gadding down a hill. tail-waving, full of the joys of Spring. Her brakes must have failed. We had to put Stockholm tar on the hole right through the hot Summer. And all the milk she had. At least three gallons a day. Wonder of wonders and what to do with it all. And then remembering those marvelous cheddars. So for two years I made cheddars. They were never as good as the ones in Castletownbere had been but they were infinitely better than the sweaty vac-packed bits.
Very little control at first but each failed batch spurred me on to achieve, I was hooked. Once I had four little cheddars on a sunny windowsill outside, airing themselves and Prince, the dog, stole them and buried them in the garden. They were nasty and sour and over salted anyway. Those were the days.
So one day Norman said, ‘Why don;t you try making a soft cheese for a change’. So I did. It was a quare hawk alright. Wild, weird, and wonderful. Never to be repeated. You can never step twice into the same stream. Now while this was all going on we had a mighty vegetable garden full of fresh spinach and courgette’s and french beans, and little peas, and all the sorts of things you couldn’t buy in a shop for love or money. And we would sell the superfluity to a friend who was a chef in a restaurant and took great pains with her ingredients. She would badger the fishermen for the pick of their catch and come on a Monday morning with her sacks to root through our treasure house of a garden for the freshest and the bestest. Now I was no mean cook myself and would have ready each Monday for her batches of yogurt, plain and choc-nut, quiches, game pies (Made with hare and cream – beautiful), pork pies, all adorned with pastry leaves and rosettes as light and delicious as you can imagine, and fish pies, and, my specialty, gateau St Honore – those were the days.
So there was this soft cheese beginning to run. We wrapped up about twelve ounces of it and away it went with the vegetables and the pies and all the other good things to Sneem and the Blue Bull restaurant where it made its debut. Not just any old debut, because, as luck would have it, guess who was having dinner there that very same night? Attracted no doubt by Annie’s growing reputation and being a pal of the manager’s, Declan Ryan of the Arbutus Lodge Hotel in Cork had ventured forth to sample the delights of Sneem and the greatest delight of them all just happened to be our humble cheese . The first, the one and only, Irish Farmhouse Cheese. At last, the real thing after so long. Rumor has it that there was a full eclipse of the Sun and earth tremors when the first Milleens was presented on an Irish cheese board.
The product had now been tested and launched. Its performance, post launch left nothing to be desired. The very next night Ms Myrtle Allen, accompanied no doubt by other family members, of Ballymaloe House, similarly engaged in testing the waters of Sneem, polished off the last sliver of the wonderful new cheese and was impressed by its greatness. And then began the second phase of research and development. Improvement.
For eight years, this was written in 1986, now we have devoted our energies to the continued improvement and development of Milleens cheese, and show no intention of stopping. The changes in the product have been gradual and subtle and in line with increases in production which are always kept in line with the growth in demand.
As the product developed so too has the packaging which is both simple and highly sophisticated. As Milleens must travel by both post and refrigerated transport a package had to be strong enough for the rigors of the postal system yet with sufficient ventilation to avail of the benefits of refrigeration where available. Our strong wooden boxes met these requirements. It was also thought necessary that the box serve as an attractive display for the cheese ensuring that the name Milleens was displayed prominently, and differentiating it from other products. It has been most successful in this area too and customers invariably display the cheese in the box. Very clever altogether. The boxes are made and stenciled here in our workshop by ourselves and members of the staff. Apart from growing and felling the timber all the phases of their manufacture take place at Milleens. They compare most favorably in price with any box on the market.
When Milleens was first made we knew enough about cheese making to write a slim volume, vast quantities of knowledge have since been ingested form all available sources form Scientific American to the Journals of Dairy Science and pamphlets from New Zealand on Bacteriophage. Grist to the mill. Making Milleens is no longer a slap-happy matter but has become a carefully controlled scientific process. thermometers have replaced elbows. Acidometers play their part now. But most of all milk quality is carefully monitored. Starters have long been recognized to have a most important influence on cheese flavor and quality, and are as well looked after as the crown jewels and to better effect.”

Oh, to be able to write so evocatively – I too remember when Annie Goulding at the Blue Bull in Sneem gave me a taste of her ‘friend over the hills’ cheese in the early 1980’s. At the time, as Veronica said we were a nation of Calvita eaters and one can but imagine the excitement when we discovered this feisty flavourful cheese that tasted of that place and tasted of Ireland. A new cheese was born – the beginning of a new era that has totally changed the image of Irish food both at home and abroad and has us bursting with pride.
Veronica had a vision for Ireland – farmhouse cheesemakers in parishes all over the country making cheese from their rich milk of their pasture fed cows. As she continued to experiment herself, she generously shared her knowledge, and encouraged so many others to get started. Jeffa Gill of Durrus, Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen, Mary Burns of Ardrahan and a whole host of others lovingly acknowledge Veronica’s influence. We visited Milleens many times and brought students and dignatories from all over the world to meet Veronica and her equally charismatic husband Norman. Always an open door, always a warm welcome. Nowadays their son Quinlan, the next generation, continues to make Milleens and build on his parents work.
And here at Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School we still serve Milleens cheese proudly and give thanks for the life of Veronica, the matriarch of all the Irish farmhouse cheese makers.

HOT TIPS
Midleton Farmers Market
It’s all about a healthy gut flora these days so if you want to boost your gut biome seek out Jerusalem Artichokes the wonder root that is higher in inulin than any other vegetable. Check out the BCS stall at Midleton Farmers Market which reopens today, 9.00am-1.30pm
Native Irish Oysters are at their very best at present. The only accompaniment they need is a squeeze of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a slice of soda bread. Kelly Oysters www.kellyoysters.com, Dungarvan Oysters www.hartyoysters.com, Sherkin Oysters 087 2029898 or enjoy a dozen in the English Market

It’s marmalade time again. Seville and Malaga oranges are in the shops, snap them up because the season is short. If you can’t get round to making marmalade at present, pop them into the freezer and make whole orange marmalade in a few weeks.

Struggling with Gluten Free Cooking?
As anyone who is coeliac, or who cooks for someone who has a gluten intolerance, will testify it can be challenging to produce really delicious, balanced meals. Finally, help is to hand – on Saturday January 28th, this intensive half day course is ideal for those on a gluten free diet who face the dilemma of longing to taste ‘real’ food. You’ll learn about a whole range of tasty and easy-to-prepare dishes including gluten-free sweet and savoury pastry, crackling salmon with coriander pesto and gluten free raspberry muffins. Advice on alternative ingredients and lots of baking tips will help take the mystery out of successful gluten-free cooking. www.cookingisfun.ie

Bernadette O’ Shea’s Milleens Pizza – from Pizza Defined

This is one step up from a pizza baked blind. It doesn’t have a sauce, it doesn’t have Mozzarella, it doesn’t have any of the traditional things you associate with a pizza.
When Milleens is cooked and melts, it has a buttery, slightly nutty sharp taste and the perfect pairing for that is sun-dried tomatoes, and a glut of soft herbs on top, always soft herbs: yellow marjoram, sweet marjoram, basil and oregano. These suit the herbaceousness of one the great West Cork cheeses.

140g (5oz) basic pizza dough
Basil oil or sun-dried tomato oil
85g (3oz) sundried tomatoes, excess oil squeezed out, shredded into strips
85g (3oz) cream cheese
85g (3oz) Milleens cheese, very finely sliced
Fresh herbs (marjoram, oregano, basil, yellow marjoram, lemon thyme etc.)
Rosemary oil or sun-dried tomato oil

Place Pizza Tile on floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.
Assembling the pizza –
Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8 inch) circle
Brush the surface with basil oil, or sun-dried tomato oil
Scatter the sundried tomatoes on top of the base
Dot with cream cheese to prevent from burning
Cover with Milleens
Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.
After cooking brush the outer edge of the pizza with either rosemary oil or olive oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and scatter over a generous amount of the fresh herbs.

Tagliatelle with Milleens

Not sure who gave me this recipe but it’s truly delicious

Serves 4

225g/8oz grated Milleens or other rind-washed cheese
300ml/½ pint cream
a handful of fresh sage leaves
350g/12oz tagliatelle
8 pints water
2 tablespoons salt

Place the sage leaves in a saucepan and pour in the cream. Warm the cream, but be careful not to overheat. Allow to sit in a warm place until the cream has absorbed the flavour of the sage and then strain. Add the Milleens and, if necessary, warm gently and stir until the cheese has completely melted. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil (8 pints water to 2 tablespoons salt) Cook the tagliatelle until al dente. Drain. Pour the creamy sauce over the tagliatelle, taste and correct the seasoning. Mix and serve.
This dish stands alone, but can be made more substantial by the addition of ham, which has been cut into strips the same width as the pasta or alternatively some white or smoked fish or chopped cooked spinach, or some lightly cooked fennel.

Watercress, Blood Orange and New Season Macroom Mozzarella Salad

The new seasons blood oranges from Italy are in the shops, here we pair them with Macroom Mozzarella winner of World Cheese Awards 2016-2017 to the astonishment and chagrin of the Italian Cheesemakers.

The rich West Cork pasture that the buffalos feed on give the cheese its quintessentially Irish taste.

A few beautiful fresh ingredients put together simply make an irresistible starter.

Serves 4

2-3 balls of fresh Macroom Mozzarella
2 blood oranges
a bunch of fresh watercress
2-3 tablespoons Irish honey
a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
some coarsely ground black pepper
50g (2oz) unskinned almonds, toasted and sliced

Toast the almonds in a preheated oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool and then slice each almond lengthwise into 2-3 pieces.

Just before serving, scatter a few watercress leaves over the base of each plate, slice or tear some mozzarella over the top. With a sharp knife remove the peel and pith from the blood oranges, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices, tuck a few here and there in between the watercress and mozzarella. Drizzle with honey and really good extra virgin olive oil. Scatter with toasted almonds. Finally add a little coarsely ground fresh black pepper and serve.

Bitter Orange Marmalade

This is a dark marmalade, made with whole Seville or Malaga oranges for those who, like me enjoy a more bitter-tasting preserve.

Makes 4.5kg (10lb)

1.3kg (3lb) Seville oranges (organic if possible)
juice of 2 lemons
2kg (41⁄2lb) white sugar, warmed
225g (8oz) soft brown sugar, warmed

Scrub the oranges and put them into a large preserving pan. Put a plate on top to weigh them down and add enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, cover and cook until tender, about 2 hours. Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon, reserve the cooking liquid and when the fruit is cool enough to handle, cut it in half. Put the pips and fibrous bits from the centre aside. Cut the peel into 5mm (1⁄4in) strips. Put the pips and fibrous bits into a small pan with some of the reserved cooking liquid and boil for 10 minutes.
Strain the cooking liquid back into the preserving pan into the preserving pan. You should have about 1.6 litres (23⁄4 pints) of cooking liquid; add more water if necessary. Add the sliced orange peel and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Bring to boiling point. Add warmed white and brown sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring, and cook rapidly until setting point is reached, about 20 minutes. Skim and leave to cool for a further 20 minutes. Pot into hot, sterilised jars. Cover and store in a cool, dry place.

Ballymaloe Cookery School ‘Pop Up’ Dinner

A student ‘Pop Up’ dinner has become an established tradition on the three month course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The students who come from all over the world (11 nationalities this time) get together with two of our senior tutors Pam Black and Tracie Daly to plan every single detail of the meal from the theme to designing the menus, décor, table laying……They do all the graphics, cooking, collect the produce…..

Everything is done from ‘scratch’. The theme this Autumn was Wild and Slow – Forgotten Flavours and Foraged Food. The chosen menu which was arrived at after much conjucating, the starter was Roast and parmesan crusted Jerusalem artichokes on Ballymaloe pumpkin puree. Pan seared breast of pheasant and confit of leg. Most of the food came from the farm and garden and local area.

The Jerusalem artichokes were dug from the vegetable field at the greenhouses by several students who on their own admission would scarcely have recognised a digging fork not to speak of knobbly Jerusalem artichokes just a few months ago.

They chose Kuri pumpkins from the selection of 8 or 10 that we grow and magiced these ingredients into a properly impressive cheffy starter.

While the chefs were prepping in the kitchen others were baking a variety of gluten free sourdough and yeast breads. Meanwhile, their friends were busy making handmade butter from the Jersey cream.

Others opted to collect barrel loads of autumn leaves to make into garlands and scatter on the conservatory floor and over the table tops.

The menu design was done by Hermione Hill and Keiko Ebisu from Japan did artwork on the night.

It’s the game season so lots of pheasant for main course. The birds were jointed, the breasts were marinated and the legs made into a light confit with flaky sea salt and fresh herbs.

This was served on a bed of chestnut and caramelised onion stuffing with scallion champ and organic Brussels sprouts which had also been picked in the freezing cold – now they all have the greater appreciation of the farmers who grow sprouts.

Something was needed to compliment the plate so several others went foraging in the orchard and made a Bramley apple, medlar and quince jelly from the autumn bounty.

Next a salad of organic leaves and foraged greens to aid digestion and make room for dessert.

For pudding, Ballyandreen meets Italy…….a carrageen panna cotta light and super delicious served in little glasses with a wild blackberry and lemon verbena compote.

Alongside was coconut macaroon with lime zest and a chunk of almond brittle.

The event was totally oversubscribed and the guests seemed to really relish the experience and convivial atmosphere. So typical of Slow Food events.

Guests were invited to go ‘foraging’ for the petit fours. The garden room had been transformed into‘woodland’ where the petit fours were hidden among the branches. Homemade fudge, chocolate and orange marshmallow, rose geranium jellies, praline dust, chocolate soil, crystallised rose petals and chocolate bark and chunks of homemade honeycomb.

Lots to nibble with freshly brewed coffee and lemon verbena tisane.

There was a resounding round of applause for the entire team before they headed back into the kitchen to tackle the washing up and leave everything ship shape for the next day. All part of the learning curve, but they loved the experience and as the 70+ guests left many asked to be put on the mailing list for the next event.

The event is sponsored by the Ballymaloe Cookery School and the proceeds of the ‘Pop Up’ dinner were donated to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project which teaches children in 8 local primary schools how to cook and grow some of their own food.

Roasted and Parmesan Crusted Jerusalem Artichokes with Pumpkin Puree

Lucas Ruault came up with this delicious combination to use the Jerusalem artichokes in season at the moment.

Serves 6-8

16 Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed
150 g parmesan, finely grated
75 g plain flour, well seasoned
2-3 free range eggs, lightly whisked
Olive oil

500 g pumpkin, peeled and roughly diced
175 onions, sliced
5-6 garlic cloves, minced or roughly crushed
125 g salted butter
1 scant tablespoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Splash of cognac and or chardonnay, optional
1 lemon wedge

Watercress

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.

First melt 25 g of butter in a large heavy bottomed saucepan, when it begins to foam, add the sliced onions and garlic. Cook stirring often until the onions are deeply caramelised. This will take some time.

Meanwhile, roast the pumpkin; toss the pumpkin in a little olive oil with a small amount of salt and pepper, arrange on a baking tray and put into the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until tender and soft.

When the onions are caramelised and the pumpkin is tender, transfer to a food processor. Deglaze the saucepan with a little cognac or chardonnay if available. Add to the pumpkin, caramelised onions, with fresh thyme leaves and freshly grated nutmeg and puree.

Allow the mixture to rest until it’s just pleasantly warm and then add the remaining 100 g of butter and puree until smooth and glossy. Taste and season.

The puree can be made one or two days before using, allowing the flavours to meld and mature overnight in the fridge. However it can be used immediately.

Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes under cold water with a brush, dry and cut half of them into 1-2 bite sized wedges. Toss in olive oil, season with salt and pepper (and a little chopped rosemary or sage if available). Arrange on a baking tray and roast in a 220°C oven until tender and golden brown.

Peel the rest of the artichokes and cut them into wedges slightly larger than the roasted ones. Blanch them in heavily salted boiling water for 2 minutes or so, or until just cooked through.

Once the boiled artichokes are cooked, plunge them immediately into iced water. Dry them and prepare the oil for frying. Set your deep fryer to 190°C.

Put the seasoned flour, eggs and grated parmesan into 3 separate bowls. Dredge the dried artichokes in flour, dip into the eggs until coated and roll them in the parmesan. Fry them until golden brown, cut in half and sprinkle with sea salt.

Reheat the pumpkin puree in a saucepan, spread onto a plate and arrange an assortment of artichokes on top. Place watercress around, top with left over parmesan and olive oil. Squeeze of lemon.

Andre Longardi’s Pheasant Breast with Red Wine Jus

Serves 8

8 pheasant breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
Flaky salt and freshly ground pepper

Season the pheasant with salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Preheat a cast iron pan, sear the breasts and place them in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for 8-10 minutes.

Remove the pheasant and keep warm.

Pheasant Jus

1 bottle of red wine, we use organic wine, La Marouette
½ litre of pheasant or chicken stock, made with the carcass and giblets (not liver)
Cooking juices

Put the wine into a wide stainless steel saucepan over a high heat. Reduce the wine by 2/3, add the stock and reduce by half. Deglaze the cast iron pan with some stock to dissolve the pheasant juices and add it to the wine reduction. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Pheasant Leg Confit
This dish was covered tightly and cooked on top of the stove but one could cook it in the oven at 80°C or until tender and almost melting.

Serves 8

8 pheasant legs
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
3½ tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped
Enough olive oil to completely submerge the legs

Marinade the legs for at least two hours in the herb and spice mix. Arrange the marinated legs in a large saucepan and cover with enough olive oil to completely submerge the legs. Simmer on the lowest heat possible for about 5 hours. The oil must never bubble up.

Chestnut and Caramelised Onion Stuffing

Serves 8

250 g onions, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
125 cooked chestnuts
2 cloves garlic
100 g streaky bacon, fine lardons
1 tablespoon cognac
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium heat, add the bacon lardons and cook until the fat runs and the bacon is crisp. Remove to a plate, add the onions and garlic to the pan and continue to cook stirring regularly until the onions are caramelised. Add the brandy and allow to bubble for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the chestnuts, add back in the bacon and the chestnuts, continue to cook for 4-5 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning.

To Serve: put a generous tablespoon of chestnut and caramelised onion stuffing on a plate, put a piece of pheasant breast and leg on top. Garnish with a sprig of watercress.

Debbie and Sheila’s Gluten-Free Focaccia with Roast Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic Slivers

20g (3/4oz) fresh yeast (or 10g fast-acting yeast, I use McDougall’s)
2 teaspoons of honey
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of warm water

550g (20oz) of “Bob’s Red Mill” All Purpose gluten-free flour (this is the best brand for this recipe, however you can also use Dove’s Farm plain flour or bread flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
2 beaten free range, organic eggs
3 tablespoons of natural, probiotic yoghurt (natural soya yoghurt for dairy-free option)
300mls (10fl oz/) of lukewarm cow’s/goat’s milk (rice milk or soya milk for dairy-free option)
extra virgin olive oil
8-10 cherry tomatoes, roasted
Maldon sea salt for sprinkling
1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic slivers

First, roast the cherry tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 250°C/400°F/Mark 6.

Lay the cherry tomatoes on the vine on a baking tray. Drizzle with extra virgin oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and roast for 8 – 10 minutes until the tomatoes just burst.
Squash the tomatoes to get rid of excess juice.

Put the yeast, honey and warm water in a small bowl in a warm place for 10-15 minutes.

Sift the flour and xanthan gum into a large bowl and add the salt, vinegar, beaten eggs, yoghurt, milk and yeast mixture, and mix well. Place the dough in a 33 x 23cm (13x 19 inch) brownie tin oiled well with olive oil. Wet your fingers with cold water and make dimples in the dough. Place the roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic slivers in some of the dimples, drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil. Place a clean, damp cloth over the tin and put the tin in a warm place to rise for 1-1 1/2 hours until double in size. The rising depends on how hot the day is and how strong the fresh yeast is, as every batch is different. Sprinkle the top of dough with a little Maldon sea salt and place in the oven gently, not to let the air out. Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C/375 °F/Gas Mark 5 for 35 minutes, until it sounds hollow and light.

Rachel Allen’s Carrageen Panna Cotta

A little seaweed that grows all around our coast, we harvest and dry it on local strands including Ballyandreen.

Serves 4–6

8g (1/3oz) carrageen (this fills my semi-closed fist)
400ml (14fl oz/1 3/4 cups) double or regular cream
200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) milk
50g (2oz) caster or granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod, slightly split

Put a small plate in your freezer.

Put the dry carrageen into a bowl, cover with tepid water and soak for 10 minutes.
Drain, then put the reconstituted carrageen in a saucepan with the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla pod (if using). Don’t add the extract yet. Stir on a medium heat and bring to the boil, then cover, turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat. Take the plate out of the freezer and place a small spoonful of the carrageen mixture on it, then pop it back in the freezer for 1 minute. Take out and run your finger through it – it should be set. If it is still runny, place the mixture back on the heat and cook for a further minute before testing again.

Pour the mixture through a sieve (you can wash the vanilla pod and use it again another time) but don’t push the seaweed through the sieve, just the liquid that is clinging to it. Scrape the mixture from under the sieve and, using a whisk, mix it with the drained cream mixture and the vanilla extract (if using). Pour into four or six small bowls or glasses and place in the fridge to set.

Serve with Wild Blackberry Compote

Nancy Lair’s Coconut Macaroons

Nancy’s delicious little coconut macaroons are’ easy peasy’ to make. I’ve reduced the sugar from 2/3 cup to ½ cup and still find them delectable.
Makes 3 dozen approximately

400 g (14oz) flaked coconut
110 g (4 oz/1/2 cup) granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
4 egg whites
½-1 teaspoon almond extract (to taste)
zest of 2 limes

Mix coconut, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in egg whites (not whisked) and almond extract until well blended. Drop by tablespoonful onto parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 325°F/160°C for 20 minutes or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Immediately remove from baking tray to wire racks. Cool completely. Before serving, zest 2 limes over the top of the cookies. Makes about 3 dozen.

Nancy Lair’s Almond Brittle

This almond brittle is like the best toffee – one could also add some pistachio or hazelnuts but it was greatly enjoyed by everyone as it is.

Makes 10-12 medium sized shards

110 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking soda (Bread Soda)
3 teaspoons salt
125g (4½ oz) butter
550 g (20 oz/2 cups) sugar
180 ml (6 fl oz/) liquid glucose
330 g (12 oz/3 cups) chopped almonds

Line a large baking tray with parchment paper. Combine sugar, liquid glucose, and water in a large sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until mixture reaches 300°F/149°F on a sugar thermometer. Stir in butter and cook until syrup is golden in color, then add the chopped almonds. Remove from heat and add baking soda, salt, and vanilla to mixture. Quickly pour the mixture onto the baking tray and tap the sheet on the counter (on a tea towel to dampen the noise!). Spread the mixture as much as possible. Allow to set, break into pieces and store in an air tight container.

Anna Tingey’s Ballymaloe Sweet Geranium Pastilles

These sweet geranium flavoured ‘jellies’ were served as a petit four. Anna called them Ballymaloe Delight – they’re all set to become a perennial favourite.

Makes 96 squares

500 g granulated sugar
8 gelatine leaves
1 tablespoon corn flour
300 ml water
Sweet Geranium Syrup – 7 tablespoons

Sweet Geranium Syrup
Makes 825ml (28fl ozs/3 1/2 cups)

350g (12oz/1 1/2 cups) sugar
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water

Dissolve the sugar in the cold water and bring to the boil. Add 150 g sweet geranium leaves to the sugar syrup and leave to infuse for 20 minutes on a low simmer. Store in the fridge until needed. Strain through a fine sieve.

Next make the Ballymaloe delight. Put the gelatine into a heavy based saucepan and add 300 ml water, leave to ‘sponge’. The gelatine will soak up all the water and become spongy in texture.

Add the granulated sugar and dissolve on a medium heat.

Leave to simmer gently for 20 minutes. Pour into a lined swiss roll tin (12 x 8 inch), lined with parchment paper and put in a fridge to set, 3 or 4 hours minimum.

Once set, cut into 96 even squares and roll each square in corn flour.

Anna Tingey’s Chocolate and Orange Marshmallows

These also disappeared within minutes.
Makes approximately 100

455g (1lb/2 cups) granulated or caster sugar
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) liquid glucose
9 gelatine leaves or 5 1/2 rounded teaspoons of powdered gelatine
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) orange essence
red food colour paste
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) icing sugar and 4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) cornflour sieved together
Zest of 2 oranges

Line the bottom of a 30 x 20cm (11 x 8 inch) baking tray with parchment paper. Dust with sieved icing sugar and cornflour.

Place sugar, glucose and 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) of water in a heavy bottom saucepan. Stir to ensure all of the sugar is wet. Using a pastry brush dipped water, remove any sugar crystals from the side of the saucepan. Place the saucepan on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling do not stir, simply tilt the pot from side to side to ensure the solution heats evenly until it reaches 127°C/260°F. It is important to keep an eye on the temperature using a sugar thermometer.

Meanwhile, rehydrate the gelatine in 140ml (4 3/4fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) water.

When the boiling syrup reaches 110°C/230°F start whipping the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

Add the rehydrated gelatine and water into the syrup when it reaches 127°C/260°F and stir with a wooden spoon. The mixture will foam slightly, this is normal. Pour the hot syrup onto the egg whites and whip on full speed for 5-10 minutes until the marshmallow thickens and the bowl of the mixer is warm to the touch. Turn the speed of the mixer to low and whisk in the rosewater and enough food colour paste to turn the marshmallow baby pink.

Spoon the thick marshmallow mix onto the lined baking tray and smooth with a palette knife. Allow to set (usually takes 2 hours).

Dust the top of the marshmallow with the icing sugar and cornflour mix. Turn out onto a work surface, peel off the paper and cut into cubes. Roll each marshmallow in cocoa powder.

So what to do with all those Christmas Book Tokens….

So what to do with all those Christmas book tokens, there may even be some since last year tucked behind the candlesticks on your mantelpiece. Of course there are hundreds of tempting volumes like
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben but this is a food column so here’s a list of my pick of the 2016 cookbooks.

This year there’s been a whole slew of books from the Middle East with wonderfully evocative titles like Samarkand. This volume by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford is a love letter to Central Asia and the Caucasus, an intriguing book. Not just recipes, there are travel essays, beautiful photography, stories and dishes that are little known in the West that have been expertly adapted for the home cook. For hundreds of years, various ethnic groups have passed through Samarkand sharing and influencing each others cuisine and leaving behind their culinary legacy. A melange of Uzbek, Tajik, Russian, Turkish, Jewish, Afghan – how evocative is that.

The Saffron Tales, Recipes from Persia by Yasmin Khan was also chosen by BBC Radio 4 Food Programme as one of their books of the year. Once again this is much more that a compilation of recipes, Yasmin is a British Iranian cook. She crisscrossed Iran with little more than a fistful of childhood memories and a notebook. Her adventure took her from the snowy mountains of Tabriz to the cosmopolitan cafes of Teheran and the pomegranate orchards of Isfahan. She was warmly welcomed into the homes and kitchens of ordinary Iranians, farmers, teachers, artists, electricians….who shares their family recipes from fesenjoon to kofte berenji (lamb meat balls with prunes and barberries) and delicious dessert with evocative names like rose and almond cake.

Naomi Duguid whose book on Burma also entranced me in 2016 has written a Taste of Persia – a cooks travels through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan. Naomi’s book has been named as best cookbook of the year by Food and Wine, The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Wall Street Journal.

Mesmerizing tales and exceptional recipes for beguiling dishes from the rich soupy stews called ash to intriguingly spiced grilled kebabs, barbari breads and alluring sweets like rosewater pudding and date halva.

If you don’t already have the Honey and Co cookbook, Food from the Middle East, check it out . This was one of the best loved and again multi awarded winning book of 2015, our copy is already dog eared. Itamar and Sarit generously share the favourite recipes from their jam packed café, keeping nothing back, leaving nothing out. There’s also Honey and Co The Baking Book, check that out too.

Well I mustn’t get stuck in the Middle East and the Caucasus’s enchanting as it is.

I’ve long been a fan of José Pizzaro, whose restaurants José and Pizzaro are two of my favourite haunts in London. José comes from Extremadura and like many Spanish natives is fiercely proud of his heritage, language and of course the food and drink. He has a particular love and admiration for the food of the Basque country, in particular its major city, San Sebastian, known for its rich food traditions and its obsession with the perfect tapa (pintxos) and for more Michelin starred restaurants per head than anywhere in the world. You’ll love José’s latest book Basque, Spanish recipes from San Sebastian and beyond – beautiful simple tapas recipes for the home cook to enjoy with friends and a glass of fino.

Salt is Essential (and other things I learned from 50 years on the stove) is the arresting title of Shaun Hill’s new book. Shaun is a hugely respected ‘elder statesman’ in the world of food. I have long been an admirer of his pragmatic approach and his food at The Walnut Tree in South Wales “all chefs, however proficient, need to remember that food must taste good, not just look good. The level of seasoning with salt and spice is crucial to the eventual success of the dish”.

This book is packed with well judged, carefully tested recipe that I love to cook.

Another book simply entitled Knife by Tim Hayward has also caused quite a stir, brilliantly researched and not just for knife nerds.
I’m running out of space but for lovers of Chinese food there are two treasures, Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop, a gifted scholar and researcher and a beautiful cook and writer. You may also want to seek out, China – the cookbook by Kei Lum Chan another awesome work, a huge hard back with gold edge pages. I’m just started to try recipes and love it so far.

For cooks who love to grow some of your own food, two books in particular caught my eye this Christmas. The Complete Book of Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit by Bob Flowerdew, Jekka McVicar and Matthew Biggs is pretty much the standard work on the subject, I usually avoid ‘complete books’ of anything but this hardback which by the way you’ll need a wheelbarrow to carry into the garden is mightily impressive, possibly the only book on the subject you’ll ever need – huge praise from me.

Another gem, but this time a light paperback from the king of ‘No Dig’. Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Garden diary could change lives – a perfect present for the cook/gardener in your life.
Finally the Scandi cook Trina Hahnemann is one to watch I have several of her books but am particularly looking forward to getting the latest, Scandinavian Comfort Food, another dose of Hygge to launch me into 2017. There are others like Palomar cookbook that I love but these are just a few titles to tempt you to rush to your local bookshop to exchange those book tokens for a good read and lots of fun in the kitchen.

Blue Cheese and Sesame Biscuits

Makes 20 small biscuits

These simple biscuits have been my favourite snack with drinks for years, so apologies if I have mentioned them before. I have made them slightly larger on occasion and squirted beetroot and horseradish purée on top so they look a little more posh and interesting. I’ve also served them alongside gravadlax and prosciutto for grand canapé situations. I’m sure you’re not silly enough to cater for this sort of event but will enjoy them as they are. I try to use Roquefort or Stilton, but any blue cheese that isn’t too soft – a mountain Gorgonzola or Bresse Bleu perhaps – will be just fine. A perfect use of leftover blue cheese in fact, better than the overpowering dressings you may have tried to use it for previously. The biscuits are crumbly, so vacuuming of carpet will be a factor next day. Serve them bite sized and warm.

100g unsalted butter – cut into cubes
100g self-raising flour
100g blue cheese – crumbled
50g sesame seeds

Use a food processor to blend the butter and flour to the texture of breadcrumbs. Add the cheese and process for a further few seconds, on the pulse setting. You don’t want a blue purée.

Turn out and knead the mixture a couple of times to evenly distribute all the ingredients, then refrigerate until needed. Chill briefly before cooking if you have time.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4.

Scoop or pinch out small pieces of the dough and roll these into balls about 2.5cm across. Toss these in the sesame seeds.

Space the balls out on a baking tray and then bake for about 10 minutes or until firm and golden.

Taken from Salt Is Essential by Shaun Hill. Published by Kyle Books. Photography: Tamin Jones

Maakouda

A traditional dish for Tunisian Jews, this is usually made by cooking the potatoes and onions in a pot of oil, then pouring the eggs in and placing the whole dish in the oven with a tray underneath to catch the oil overflow. We offer this lighter (but no less gorgeous) version.

Enough for breakfast for 4 hungry or 6 modest guests

Fills an 18-20 cm (7-8 inch) frying pan

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 cm dice (about 300 g)
½ teaspoon salt + ½ teaspoon table salt
50 g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, peeled and sliced (about 200 g)
8 eggs
100 ml double cream
2 teaspoons ras el hanut spice mix
2 tablespoons capers
1 small bunch of parsley, leaves picked and chopped
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a pan containing 500 ml of water seasoned with the first half teaspoon of salt. Boil for 5 minutes, then drain.

Melt the butter and oil together in a good non stick frying pan. Add the onions and fry on a medium heat until they soften entirely (this will take about 8-10 minutes) now add the cooked diced potatoes and continue frying for a further 6-8 minutes. In the meantime, whisk all the remaining ingredients together in a bowl.

Increase the heat to high and pour in the egg mixture. Allow 1 minute for the eggs to start cooking around the rim, then use a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to push the mixture from the sides into the centre, all around the pan. Leave to cook for another minute, then repeat.

Now smooth the top and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 2 minutes, then use the lid and pan combined to flip the maakouda. Carefully slide it back into the pan to finish cooking on a low heat for 5 minutes before transferring to a plate to serve.

You can eat this hot but it also keeps well for a packed lunch or picnic and is just as delicious cold as it is hot.

Taken from Honey and Co, The Baking Book by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich

Chicken with Cashew Nuts

Serves 4

5 boneless chicken legs cut into ¾ inch (2cm) cubes
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
1½ teaspoons cornflour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra for deep frying
¾ cup (3½ oz/100 g) cashew nuts
6 shallots, quartered
1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
2 spring onions, stems only, cut into 2 inch (5 cm) lengths
½ teaspoon sesame oil
Coriander leaves for garnish, roughly chopped
Steamed rice, to serve

Combine the chicken, garlic, salt, wine and 1 teaspoon of cornflour in a large bowl, then add the oil and marinate for 10 minutes.

Put the cashew nuts into a wok or large frying pan and add enough oil to cover them completely. Heat the oil to 285°F/140°C or until a cube of bread turns golden in 2 minutes. Deep fry the nuts for 2-3 minutes or until crunchy. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the nuts from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Pour out most of the oil leaving 1 tablespoon in the wok and heat over a medium heat. Add the shallots and stir fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Put in the chicken, increase the heat to high and toss rapidly for 2 minutes until browned.

Add the bell pepper and soy sauce and stir fry for another minute or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the spring onions.

Mix the remaining ½ teaspoon cornflour with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl and stir this mixture into the wok. Bring to a boil stirring for about 30 seconds to thicken the sauce. Add the sesame oil and garnish with coriander, if using. Serve with steamed rice.

Taken from CHINA THE COOKBOOK by Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan

Samarkand Plov

The quintessential dish of Uzbekistan, with as many variants as there are people who cook it. This Samarkand version is a little lighter than most traditional Uzbek plovs, where pools of lamb tail fat provide the dominant flavour. It can be made with lamb or beef and is distinctive for being cooked and served in layers. Plov should be eaten from one large dish placed on the table to share, each diner digging in their fork. It is said people form mutual love from a communal plate and the joy of eating plov.

You’ll need a good, heavy-bottomed pan with a close-fitting lid to make plov. In Uzbekistan, a cast-iron kazan is used; a large cast-iron casserole makes the perfect substitute.

Serves 6

450g basmati rice, rinsed
600g blade stewing steak, diced
150ml clarified butter or
sunflower oil
4 onions, cut into wedges
2 bay leaves
4 yellow and 2 orange carrots
(or use 6 orange), cut into
thick matchsticks
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
12 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 hard-boiled quail’s eggs, peeled
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the rinsed rice into a large bowl of cold water to soak while you start the recipe. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the clarified butter in the pan until hot and foaming. Brown the beef over a medium-high heat, in batches if necessary, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon leaving the butter behind. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden. Return the beef to the pan with any collected juices, the bay leaves and a small
cupful of water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down very low, cover the pan and gently simmer for 1 hour until the meat is tender.
Spread over the carrot matchsticks, but don’t stir as you want to keep the layers separate. Scatter over the spices, and cover and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Drain the rice and layer it on top of the carrots. Poke the whole garlic cloves into the rice and flatten the top with the back of a spoon. Season very generously with salt and slowly pour over enough boiling water to just cover the top of the rice. Increase
the heat and leave the pan uncovered so that the water starts to boil away.
When the liquid has cooked off, make six holes in the rice using the handle of a wooden spoon to help the steam escape. Cover the pan and cook at a low simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat without removing the lid and leave the dish to steam undisturbed for a further 10 minutes. If the rice isn’t cooked, add a splash
more boiling water and cover again. Serve the layers in reverse, first spooning the rice onto the platter, then the carrots and finally the tender chunks of meat on
the top. Circle the hard-boiled quail’s eggs around the edge. A juicy tomato salad is the perfect accompaniment.

Taken from: Samarkand by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, published by Kyle Books, priced £25. Photography by Laura Edwards.

Ballymaloe Cookery School