Flight from the Land

During the past few years the flight from the land has continued to accelerate. The Irish Farmers Journal predicted that within the next decade the number of farms will be down from 100,000 to 20,000, and 80,000 farmers will be forced to leave the land – everywhere doom and gloom. Farmers wonder where it’s all going to end, even those who are still making a good living say the joy has been taken out of farming and moan about the filling in of forms, the Catch 22 situation with subsidies and expensive chemical inputs.
Many feel trapped and see no way forward and reluctantly encourage their children to pursue alternative careers no matter how strong their love for the land may be. However, this feeling of hopelessness is not shared by everyone. A few weeks ago I attended the Conference of the Soil Association at Cirencester Agricultural College. The mood among the capacity audience of over 600 delegates was optimistic and upbeat. Sainsbury’s sponsored the conference as they have for four years now, and reiterated their support for the organic movement, and confirmed the amazing 40% growth in demand for organic produce yet again, in the year 2000. In fact in the UK, the major supermarkets are vying with each other to sponsor organic events. Waitrose, together with the Mail on Sunday You Magazine sponsor the prestigious Organic Food Awards.
Three Government Ministers attended the Soil Association Conference. The Rt. Hon Michael Meacher, Minister for the Environment, Nick Brown Minister for Agriculture, and the Danish Minister of Agriculture- a dynamic gutsy woman called Ritt Bjerregaard. She explained how 20% of Denmark’s milk is now organic . The surplus milk on the home market is now being exported. Is it possible we will see Danish Organic milk on the shelves over here, instead of Irish organic milk which the market is crying out for. I was bringing milk from Glenisk in Co Offaly because I cannot get a supply of organic milk closer to home. Another interesting fact from fascinating Ritt Bjerregaard’s speech- Denmark has banned the use of pesticides and herbicides for use in private gardens or public parks.
The Oxford Farmers’ Conference on the same weekend was less than three-quarters full – no government minister attended, and God knows the conventional farmers could have done with the support.
Is there at last a realization, as the Danish Minister and other speakers were of the view, that sustainable agriculture and organic farming are the only way forward, and the only route out of this sad mess that agriculture has got into.
This is a similar view to the one articulated by the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder some weeks ago, when he addressed the German nation to break the devastating news that there were indeed cases of BSE in Germany. His message was loud and clear. ‘This spells the end of industrial farming in Germany – we simply have to find a new model.’
The new Minister Of Agriculture from the Green Party Mrs. Kunast, is determined to put the interests of the consumer first, but she warned this will mean that consumers must be prepared to pay more for less intensively produced food. At present the prices paid to farmers and food producers particularly for staples, are forcing them to cut costs and intensify further. In this situation we are all losers – it is simply not possible to produce really wholesome flavourful health-giving food for half nothing. Pushing yields beyond natural limits results in everything cracking as we can clearly see with BSE, Salmonella, E-Coli, Camphylocbactor……..
Those of you who are concerned about these matters may want to seek out a book called ‘Another Turn of the Crank’, written by Wendell Barry who was cited by the New York Review of Books as “perhaps the greatest moral essayist of our day”. He, like many others, fears for the future, unless we radically rethink our ways. In his book of six essays he reiterated his wish to restore local life by means of local economies. Even though the book is written from an American perspective, what he writes is also relevant to Ireland. After the second world war; there was a huge change in how land was farmed, both in the USA and here. What should have happened was for us to have carried on refining established practices and correcting, where necessary, any fertility deficit. What happened instead was that an agenda was adopted that called for a shift from the cheap, clean, and, for all purposes limitless energy of the sun to the expensive, filthy and limited energy of the fossil fuels. It called for the massive use of chemical fertilisers to offset the destruction of topsoil and the depletion of natural fertility. It called also for the displacement of nearly the entire farming population and the replacement of their labour and good farming practices by machine and toxic chemicals. Land was being wasted, farmers were finding times exceptionally hard and rural communities were breaking up through lack of employment. No one, with the exception of the businesses who supplied the machines, fuels and chemicals, benefited. As the ‘supposed abundance of cheap and healthful food is to a considerable extent illusory’ not even us, the consumers, were gaining. Patently, to carry on ploughing the same furrow would be a madness particularly, as Mr Berry predicts, soon there would be pitiably few farmers left able to earn a decent living. ‘If they will not control production and if they will not reduce their dependence on purchased supplies, they will keep failing.’
All is not lost, however; or rather; not yet. There is time – just, but only if we mend our ways. First, farmers must change their ways and learn, or learn again, to farm sustainably. The second change involves us all as it calls for ‘co-operation between local farmers and local consumers. The long-broken connections between towns and cities and their surrounding landscapes will have to be restored.
Could Farmers Markets be part of the answer? – find out next week.
Root vegetables are at their absolute best just now.

Moroccan Spiced Carrot Soup


Serves 4
2 tablesp olive oil or 30g (1oz) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablesp. grated ginger
1 teasp. ground cumin
1 teasp. ground coriander
¼ teasp. cayenne pepper
750g (1½lb) carrots, roughly chopped
1.5l (2½ pints) chicken or vegetable stock
1 teasp. honey
2 tablesp. lemon or orange juice
salt, black pepper

Heat the oil or butter in a heavy-based pot. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cayenne, carrot and potato and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium low heat until the vegetables are soft, 10 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat, partially cover and simmer gently until the potato is tender, 30 minutes.
Leave to cool slightly. Puree until smooth with a hand blender or in a food processor. Stir in honey and lemon or orange juice. Thin with water as needed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into warm bowls and serve hot.

Variation:
Carrot and Parsnip Soup with Ginger
Omit the cumin, coriander and cayenne. Replace half the carrots with 2 chopped medium parsnips. Cook as directed.

 

Roast Winter Roots


Serves 4 as an accompaniment
1.25kg (2½lb) mixed root vegetables (see below)
1 head garlic, separated into cloves, but unpeeled
½ teasp. crumbled dried rosemary or 1 teasp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
½ teasp. balsamic vinegar
4 tables. Extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt, black pepper
Any roots or combinations of roots will work for this recipe. To minimise differences in cooking times, you will need to cut the fast-cooking vegetables into slightly larger pieces than the slow-cookers. Choose from:
Potatoes, quartered
Carrots, halved lengthwise
Medium parsnips, quartered lengthwise
Celeriac, peeled and cut into wedges
Turnips, quartered
Beetroot, quartered
Shallots, whole and peeled
Onions, peeled and quartered but still attached by the root end
Swede, peeled and cut into wedges
Jerusalem artichokes, halved

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) Gas 6.
Place the vegetables and garlic in a single layer in a roasting dish. Sprinkle with rosemary, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat. Roast until golden and tender: 40 minutes to 1 hour.

 

Creamy Parsnip Gratin


Serves 4
750g (1½lb) medium parsnips, cut into 5mm (¼ inch) slices.
175ml (6 fl.ozs) double cream
125g (4oz) gruyere or cheddar cheese, grated
salt, black pepper

Cook in boiling water until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 5-8 minutes. Drain well. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) Gas 6.
Layer the parsnip slices in a buttered baking dish. Pour over the cream and sprinkle with cheese, salt and pepper.
Bake until the topping is golden and just crisp, 15-20 minutes.
These recipes are from Planet Organic Cookbook by Renee Elliott and Eric Treuille, published by Dorling Kindersley.


Celeriac with Turmeric


Serves 4-6
2 celeriac (about 1kg/2lb)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
5 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ teasp. turmeric
salt and pepper
2 teasp. sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Peel and wash the celeriac and cut into pieces of roughly the same size. Put them into a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients and enough water to cover.
Cook, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes over a low heat until the celeriac is soft and the liquid is absorbed, turning the pieces over and raising the heat, if necessary, to reduce the sauce a little at the end.
Serve cold.
This recipe is from Tamarind and Saffron by Claudia Roden, published by Penguin Books.

 

A Slow Food Party

We’ve just had a wonderful party at the Ballymaloe Cookery School – a Slow Food celebration for the special people who produce our food all year round – the gardeners, farmers, cheesemakers, fish smokers, bread bakers, organic producers… This was our way of saying thank you to at least some of the dedicated people who provide us with fine quality, fresh natural produce, which enables us to serve the kind of food for which Ballymaloe has become famous. Much is local and whenever possible organic.

This food is produced by a variety of passionate people, many artisanal producers, others with larger concerns, all with one thing in common, each and every one is committed to producing top quality, safe, wholesome, health-giving food.

We had a lively gathering, there was music and fun and a wonderful conviviality. People came laden with gifts of their lovely produce, wonderful smoked fish – warm and cold smoked tuna, real kippers and wild salmon from Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery near Castletownshend, haunting juicy smoked chicken and wild salmon from Anthony Cresswell of Ummera in Timoleague, smoked sprats and more gorgeous smoked salmon, and a fresh organic salmon from Frank Hederman which we promptly cooked and served warm with a homemade mayonnaise. Fingal Ferguson of Gubbeen cooked some of his maple smoked bacon and Willie and Avril Howe from Rosscarbery who produce free range pork, cooked pan after pan of their juicy sausages.

Our son Isaac fired up the wood-burning oven and turned out the most delicious thin crust pizzas topped with oven roasted tomato sauce, melting cheese, chorizo sausage and marjoram. Others had Gubbeen bacon and buttery cabbage, others were topped with garlic butter, all were gobbled up appreciatively.

Nora Aherne who rears us the most delicious free range ducks, geese and turkeys was there, Michael Cuddigan our local butcher couldn’t make it, he was busy looking after his Saturday afternoon customers.

There was a wonderful gathering of cheesemakers, Mary Burns of Ardrahan arrived first bearing a box of the most exquisite mature baby Ardrahan cheeses, rich and pungent. Next came a bus load of wonderful people from West Cork led by cheesemakers Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen and Jeffa Gill of Durrus – all the way from Tipperary came Breda Maher who makes the much loved Cooleeney Cheese and Jane and Louis Grubb with a gorgeous Cashel Blue Cheese and one of their sheep’s milk cheeses, and Dick and Anne Keating who make the delicious Baylough cheese near Clogheen. Dicky and Sinead Willems whose superb Coolea Cheese won the Supreme Award at the British Cheese Show last year also came along and Veronica Steele journeyed all the way from the Beara Peninsula. New to me was Maja Binder from Castlegregory in Co Kerry who makes raw milk washed rind cheeses, she sells it to the lucky people of West Cork at the Bantry Fair on Fridays. Fiona Corbett, cheese guru from Sheridans Cheese Shop in Dublin drove all the way from the capital to be with us all, she brought a gorgeous hunk of Giorgio Cavero 2 year old Parmigiano Reggiano and some delicious Membrillo Spanish Quince Paste.
Last time I met Fiona, she and Seamus Sheridan and Marianne Kraus were manning the Irish Farmhouse Cheese stall at the Slow Food Salone del Gusto in Turin last October – always a joy to meet these passionate foodies with such an uncompromising commitment to quality food – their enthusiasm, even for the uninitiated is infectious, it is thanks to them that Ireland has a presence we can be proud of at the largest artisanal food fair in the world.
Can you imagine the feast we had. We had a huge salad bowl of organic salad leaves from the greenhouses, cucumber pickle, a chunky mushroom soup, and some gorgeous breads – at a guess about 14 or 15 different types. Many of the Slow Food members brought home made breads and other goodies. Patsy Ryan of Arbutus arrived with a huge basket of Declan’s freshly baked breads. Caroline Dare brought a selection of her organic breads from Organico in Bantry, Cornelia O’Keeffe contributed several varieties of multi-grain bread Olivier Baugouan from Tralee drove over to Shanagarry after he had packed up in Limerick Farmers’ Market and brought a seaweed tapenade and some gorgeous pickled herrings.

Yom Colbert and Gar Granville who were gardeners here last summer, played terrific music with their friends oyster farmer Rupert Hugh Jones and masseur Pete Thompson.

Many of our friends from the Farmers Market in Midleton came too and brought lots of goodies

 

Melted Gubbeen Cheese with Winter Herbs

Giana Ferguson tells me that this is also irresistible with Cooleeney Cheese
Serves 6-8
1 baby Gubbeen
freshly chopped thyme
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
freshly ground pepper
tin foil
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Regulo 4. Cut a square of tin foil approximately 12 inches.
Split the cheese in half around the equator. Put the base on to the centre of the tin foil, sprinkle the cut surface generously with freshly chopped herbs, choped garlic and some freshly ground black pepper.
Top with the other part of the cheese. Gather up the edges but allow a little vent for the steam to escape. Bake in a moderate oven for 20-30 minutes or until soft and melting. Cooleeney would be perfect in about 10 minutes.
Open the parcel. Lift off the rind and eat the soft herby, melting cheese with lots of crusty bread, boiled potatoes and a green salad. Exquisite!

Baked Eggs with Smoked Salmon or Smoked Mackerel


These may be served as a starter or snack and there are infinite variations on the theme. A delicious treat using some locally smoked fish and free range eggs.
Serves 4
4 fresh eggs, preferably free-range
½ oz (15 g/1/8 stick) butter
6-8 tablespoons cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 small ramekins
Lightly butter the 4 ramekins. Put 1 tablespoon of chopped smoked salmon or flaked smoked mackerel in the base of each ramekin. Add 1 –2 tablespoons (¼oz – ¼ cup) of chopped parsley to the cream and proceed as in the basic recipe.
Heat the cream; when it is hot, spoon about 1 tablespoon into each ramekin and break an egg into the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spoon the remainder of the cream over the top of the eggs. Place the ramekins in a bain-marie of hot water, cover with tin foil or a lid and bring to simmering point on top of the stove. Continue to cook either gently on top of the stove, or in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, 12 minutes approx. for a soft egg, 15 minutes for a medium egg and 18-20 minutes for a hard egg. Serve immediately.

 

Carrot Cake


Frank O’Neill brought some of the delicious carrot and chocolate cakes that people beat a path to his stall for at the Midleton Farmers Market every Saturday. I don’t feel it would be quite fair to ask Frank for his secret recipe, so here is another one given to me by Iris Sheane. We make it with local carrots from Patrick Walsh here in Shanagarry.
7 oz (200g) brown sugar
6 fl.oz (170ml) vegetable oil
2 eggs
4 oz (110g) wholemeal flour
5 oz (140g) grated carrot
2 oz (50g) chopped walnuts
1 teasp. cinnamon
1 teasp. bread soda
Using mixer, slowly add oil to sugar, beat well. Add eggs and beat again. Fold in all the other ingredients. Put into a lined 8 inch (20.5cm) high sided round tin.
Bake in preheated oven 350F/180C/regulo 4) for 1-1½ hours.
When cool top with this cream cheese topping.
Topping (this makes enough to ice 2 cakes)
4½ oz (125g) cream cheese
3 oz (85g) icing sugar
3 oz (85g) butter
grated rind of 1 orange.
Cream all the ingredients together.

Simply Nutritious Wholemeal Bread


This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldn’t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well greased tin.
This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.
Makes 1 loaf
400g (14 oz/scant 3 cups) stone ground wholemeal flour
55g (2oz) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) bran
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) wheatgerm
1 level teaspoon (2 American teaspoon) bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
1 teaspoon (1 American teaspoon) salt
1 teaspoon (1 American teaspoon) soft dark brown sugar
1 egg, preferably free range
1-2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) arachide or sunflower oil, unscented
450ml (15fl oz/12 cups) buttermilk or sour milk approx. (put all the milk in)
Sunflower or sesame seeds optional
Loaf tin – 9 inches (23cm) x 5 inches (12.5cm) x 2 inches (5cm)

Preheat oven to 2001C/4001F/regulo 6.
Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and most of the buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin and bake for 60 minutes approx, or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

 

What a waste

Many members of the farming community all over the country, as well as urban dwellers, are sickened and nauseated by the recent cull of cattle.~

The public are deeply confused as to why this seemingly barbaric exercise was necessary – Was there a suspicion that a high percentage of these cattle have BSE? If not why are so many fine grass-fed Irish cattle being wantonly slaughtered, sprayed with dye and dumped.

Over 20,000 animals have been slaughtered to date and the plan is to destroy up to 25,000 a week. Only 17,000 have been tested and none tested positive for BSE.
The truth, for those who cannot understand why perfectly good beef should be dumped, is even more difficult to stomach. Minister Joe Walsh admitted on the Pat Kenny Show recently that the cull was in fact designed as a market support measure. Recently the beef markets in Egypt and on the continent have collapsed as a result of the BSE scare, hence the EU agricultural ministers have negotiated the purchase for destruction option – Ireland is the only country that has opted to go ahead with a wholesale cull. The cull is funded 70% by EU and 30% by the Irish taxpayer. In addition, each member state was given the option of including a 5% top up payment. In Ireland this was used to increase the premium for the steers in the 30-40 month category, rather than cows. It is estimated that the whole exercise will cost the taxpayers in the region of £400 million and has already created a huge disposal problem.
In an age when approximately one third of the world’s population in starving, it is difficult to justify any waste, not to speak of wanton waste on this scale. Those who remember harder times shake their heads in disbelief and speak of their gut feeling that no luck will come from it!

In Limerick, Quaker Charles Lamb resigned from his job in a local abattoir in protest because his conscience would not allow him to condone this. He asked why the beef could not be sold or given to an entrepreneur who might can the prime beef as a strategic reserve. Norway did just this some years ago when they had a surplus of beef, It was distributed in Kosovo under the humanitarian division of the WHO where it was badly needed and greatly appreciated. If we had another nuclear disaster which we all know in our heart of hearts is not beyond the bounds of possibility, would we not be very glad of Irish canned beef?

The argument against sending the beef to the Third World seems to centre on the concern about not depressing prices in some of their markets also. Surely it should not be beyond the powers of ingenuity of the aid agencies to distribute it sagely Probably the most serious aspect of this entire episode is that the cull is taking place in the low risk group, steers of 30 months and over. No case of BSE has been recorded in Ireland in animals born since 1996. It would seem that the main problem has been found in old cows, yet few of these are being destroyed, mostly because the top-up payment is for steers. This group are the main reservoir of BSE, so they need to be excluded from the food chain without delay.
The EU has brought in a regulation that beef over 30 months must be tested before being sold for human consumption or else destroyed. This presents very little problem for local butchers and small abbatoirs who were killing mostly heifer beef around 18 months anyway. However, the market for these under 30 month animals has now increased dramatically as a result of this ruling, consequently local butchers are finding it difficult to compete with the meat factories who are buying up stocks for export to Europe. The net result is that the price of beef will increase for the consumer.
Perhaps however, the 30 month ruling will inadvertently have the beneficial side effect of increasing the popularity of the Irish traditional Irish breeds, like Hereford, Aberdeen Angus, Shorthorn and Pol Angus, breeds which mature early and can be fattened on grass, rather than the continental breeds which take longer to mature and need huge inputs of grain to fatten.
Local butchers and small abbatoirs have been having a tough time trying to cope with the tidal wave of new regulations that have engulfed them in recent years. The risk of something going wrong is much lower in an operation where the butcher knows the source of the meat and the people who produce it In 1988 there were 800 small abbatoirs, now just 350 remain in operation. These small abbatoirs supply 1,700 local butchers who provide two thirds of the meat for Irish consumers. Many hand pick their animals – they are reared locally, slaughtered locally, sold locally, eaten locally, this is the ultimate in traceability and the emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. Many of these abbatoirs kill as few as 2 to a maximum of 6 beasts a week, as opposed to approximately 100 an hour in the big abbatoirs. There is room and need for both types of operation. Small abbatoirs and butchers have the space to hang the carcasses for up to two weeks and sometimes more, a vitally important factor which affects the eating quality of the meat.
This is a forgotten sector, they receive no grants and the local authority inspectorate has been neglected. In 1999, 10 local authorities did not have a full time vet, even though this is a legal requirement.
What return is the taxpayer getting from the £400 million this purchase for destruction scheme is estimated to cost? – none. If the government is serious about protecting the health of the Irish electorate rather than an overseas market, an investment in this sector would yield returns in terms of food safety, food quality, consumer confidence, animal welfare and environmental protection.
Conscientious local butchers and small abbatoirs are an important part of our food culture and a vital link to safe food and real traceability – they desperately need our support – support them now or one of these days we will turn around and they will be gone.
While I was writing this piece, George Bush was being inaugurated as President of America – apparently Spaghetti and Meatballs are one of his favourite foods.

 

Spaghetti with Meatballs


Serves 6-8
8 ozs (225g) extra lean minced beef
1 egg
1 oz (25g) breadcrumbs
½ teasp. salt
¼ teasp. pepper
1 tablesp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 x 28 fl.oz (800ml) tin of plum tomatoes with juices
1 lb (450g) spaghetti
1oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablesp. chopped fresh basil or parsley
Combine the minced beef with egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Form mixture into about 24 small meatballs. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheet and reserve.
In large, deep non-stick skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil. Add onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Cook gently for about 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Cook over a medium heat until thickened, about 10 minutes.
Add meatballs to boiling sauce. Cover, reduce heat and cook gently for 20-25 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through. Stir occasionally. (Add a little water or tomato juice at any time if the mixture seems dry.) Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add spaghetti and cook until tender but firm. Drain well and combine with sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and basil. Serve immediately.

(From Simply HeartSmart Cooking by Bonnie Stern)

Sirloin Steak Sandwich with Bonnie Stern’s Barbecued Onion Sauce

Serves 8
1½ lb (675 g) sirloin, cut into generous 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick steaks
2 tablespoon (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Barbecued Onion Sauce


2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) olive oil
3 large onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 ozs (110 g/½ cup) tinned tomatoes
3½ ozs (100 g/½ cup) brown sugar
4 fl ozs (120 ml/½ cup) rice vinegar or cider vinegar
4 fl ozs (120 ml/½ cup) strong coffee
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Worcestershire sauce
2 thin French sticks cut into 24 inches (60 cm)
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Pat steak dry. Mix the balsamic vinegar, mustard, pepper and crushed garlic in a small bowl. Rub all over the meat. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and chopped garlic and cook until soft but not coloured.
Add tomatoes, sugar, rice vinegar, coffee and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to boil. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Just before serving, barbecue or pan-grill steak, 4-6 minutes on each side for sirloin steak depending on the thickness. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice thinly.
Slice crusty French stick and make hot juicy sandwiches with the steak and Barbecued Onion Sauce. Sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley and eat immediately.

‘Appetite’ by Nigel Slater

Eight or nine years ago I remember being asked if there was any natural successor to Elizabeth David or Jane Grigson emerging on the food scene. I replied without hesitation that I thought young Nigel Slater was certainly someone to watch, I no longer have any doubts, I am his biggest fan.

His new book ‘Appetite’ has me licking my lips all over again – he writes about food in the most irresistible way. Even if you never cook, never want to cook, don’t even want to be persuaded to cook, you should buy this book and keep it in the loo. Sneak a look at it every now and then, read a page or two and I guarantee you, you’ll never be the same again.

In this radical new book, Nigel Slater argues that we should not be slavishly following recipes, but following our instincts. ‘Appetite’ shows us how to break the rules, experiment with recipes and satisfy our appetite.

Slater gives us brilliant templates for a large range of classic dishes from a simple supper of chicken, wine and herbs, a big fish pie for friends, to a curry to make you sweat. With his unique blend of simplicity, wit and relish, he casts aside the insecurities of normal recipes. There are hundreds of ideas and suggestions for how you might adapt each dish to produce something quite different. Each recipe becomes a key to discovering a multitude of meals. Readers are liberated to use their own judgement and often encouraged to skip half the ingredients; at the end of each recipe are suggestions for changing or taking it further. A cheap spaghetti meal has eight variations, and soon you will start to discover combinations that are all your own.
Slater rejects the tendency to make our daily cooking too complicated, believing there is more pleasure to be had in good ingredients uncontrived. The first half of the book goes back to first principles and explores, among much else, shopping ingredient by ingredient and month by month, the basic kitchen kit, how to cut down the work and what goes with what.

Jonathan Lovekin’s photos are exquisite and don’t forget to read the chapter about the art of washing up.

‘Appetite’ by Nigel Slater, published by Fourth Estate, London, priced at £30 in Ireland and worth every penny.

Two weeks before Christmas

Tim and I spent a blissfully relaxing week in Morocco just before Christmas, a perfect and much needed break to recharge the batteries before the festive season. We were staying at a little hotel called La Gazelle d’Or just outside Taroudant which is east of Agadir.

I’m rather drawn to Morocco, not just for the food which I love, but because it is the closest place where the culture and way of life are completely different – just three and a half hours by plane. For us the climate too is wonderful – two weeks before Christmas it was like our best summer weather and there were virtually no tourists.
The hotel where we stayed was set in the midst of a 200 hectare organic farm and orange groves. The 30 bedrooms in stone cottages were scattered through the gardens and each one covered with jasmine, bougainvillea, and lemon trees. Each had its own little veranda and an open fireplace, with lots of timber to light a fire when the evenings turned chilly – bliss.

By about 9.30am it was warm enough to have breakfast on the veranda overlooking the gardens in view of the Atlas mountain. Habib or Rachid dressed in the long flowing Moroccan djellaba would bring in the tray laden with steaming hot coffee, freshly baked homemade breads, croissants and brioche. Mercifully none of the par baked frozen stuff here, home made jams and marmalade, fresh fruit and warm Moroccan honeycomb pancakes called Baghrir oozing with melted butter and honey. They came in little blue and white tagines hidden under the distinctive conical lid. There was of course freshly squeezed orange juice, large glasses of fruity juice pressed from oranges picked just minutes earlier – bliss.
While we ate our breakfast in leisurely fashion, listening to the birds squabbling over the dates in the palm tree, we would flirt with the idea of doing something energetic, but apart from a few little forays into Taroudant and an expedition to Marrakech, we couldn’t tear ourselves away from our oasis. We had many lovely walks through orange groves and fields of vegetables and herbs. We simply read for hours on end, relaxed , had occasional swims in the pool, the most stressful decisions we had to make were whether we would have lunch beside the pool or on the balcony or in the dining room and what kind of massage we would like – what decadence!
Well, that’s not quite true, because both of us are actually writing books. Tim’s is on bread and needs to be in to the publishers Gill & Macmillan by the end of January, mine is a terrifying tome of over 500 recipes – loosely entitled the Darina Allen Cookery Course, which, if I manage to keep to my new and final deadlines, should be in the shops by next Christmas. Not surprisingly everywhere we go we’re always on the look out for new and delicious recipes. At Gazelle d’Or we spent some very happy hours in the kitchen with the chefs and cooks learning how to make the delicious little Moroccan pancakes and the Berber breads we ate by the pool for lunch.
We ordered Pastilla, Couscous and various tagines for dinner. The pastilla was made with pigeon and paper thin sheets of warka. All of these extraordinary skills were passed on from mother to daughter and to the sons also.
Tagines take their name from the terracotta pot with the distinctive conical lid. Essentially they are stews of meat, vegetables or fish, often with the addition of nuts, fruit and olives. Traditionally they are cooked long and slowly in the clay tagine over a charcoal fire which of course impacts a particular flavour. Nowadays however, the stew is often cooked in a regular pot and served in the tagine.
We were in Morocco during the Ramadan which is the Muslim equivalent of the Christian Lent. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, it commemorates the time in which the Koran was revealed to Muhammad. In contrast to the Christian West, though, the Muslim world observes the fast extremely rigorously – indeed Moroccans are forbidden by law from ‘public disrespect’ of the fast, and a few are jailed for this each year. The Ramadan fast involves abstention from food, drink, smoking and sex during daylight hours throughout the month. With most local cafes and restaurants closed during the day, and people getting on edge towards the month’s end, it is in some respects a disastrous time to travel, although we didn’t find it so. The staff were wonderfully courteous and although they must have been feeling weak and tetchy by sundown when they break their fast with the traditional bowl of Harira, they never showed it.
Dinner was served after eight, by then it was completely dark and the way to the candlelit dining room was lit by Moroccan lanterns – so beautiful. La Gazelle d’Or was quite a find – rare to discover a gem like this and right in the centre of a bio-dynamic farm – what more could we ask.
La Gazelle d’Or, Taroudant, Morocco Tel. (212.4) 8.85 20 48/20 39
Fax (212.4) 8.85 27 37. 

Baghrir


From Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian published by Ebury Press
These soft, spongy Moroccan pancakes have the airy holes of a muffin but a texture that is much more satiny and pliable. They are perfect for absorbing butter and honey at breakfast, when they are eaten as sweet pancakes, and equally good at lunchtime when they can be wrapped around beans and vegetables and eaten as a bread.
1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
200g (7oz) semolina flour
200g (7oz) plain flour
½ teasp. salt
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
250ml (8 fl.oz) honey plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (for pouring over the pancakes)
9-10 tablespoons unsalted butter for serving the pancakes
Combine the yeast, sugar and 2 tablespoons warm water 40-46C (105-115F) in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve the yeast completely. Set aside for 5 minutes, or until the yeast begins to bubble up.  Meanwhile, put the flour, semolina flour, salt, egg and yeast mixture in a blender. Add 600ml (20 fl.oz) warm water 40-46C (105-115F). Blend until smooth and free of lumps. You may need to push down with a rubber spatula several times. Empty into a bowl, cover and set aside in a warm place for 2½-3 hours.  Get everything ready to make the pancakes. You need a medium-sized, non-stick frying pan, a plate with a large tea towel on it to hold the pancakes as they get cooked, a ladle with a round bottom in which you have measured 85ml (3 fl.ozs) so that you know how much batter to pick up each time, and a spatula to pick up the pancakes.
Set the frying pan on medium heat. Grease the pan lightly with the teaspoon of oil (you will only need to grease the pan once). Let the pan get very hot. Ladle in 85ml (3 fl.oz) of batter into the pan. Using the rounded underside of the ladle and a very light touch, quickly spread the batter into a 15cm (6 inch) round. Cover and cook on a medium heat for 1 minute. Uncover and continue cooking for another minute, or until the bottom has turned golden and top is not only filled with airy holes, but is also cooked through (you might find that the pancakes take less time to cook during the uncovered period as the pan gets hotter. Lift it up with a spatula and place on the tea towel. Fold the four corners of the tea towel over the pancake and keep it covered. Make all the pancakes in this way, stacking them on top of each other, and covering them each time. You can keep the pancakes like this for a couple of hours.  To serve, put the combined honey-butter mixture into a small pot and heat until both the honey and butter have liquefied and mixed. Stir once or twice. Keep warm.  For each pancake, melt about 2 teaspoons butter into a non-stick pan on medium-low heat. Place one pancake, the bubbly surface side down, gently into the pan. Heat for 15-20 seconds. Put on to a plate, bubbly side up. Pour some of the honey-butter mixture over the top and serve hot. Makes about 12-13 pancakes.

 

Gazelle’s Horns


From Mediterranean Cookery by Claudia Roden, published by BBC books
The most popular Moroccan pastries are best known abroad by their French name cornes de gazelles. They are stuffed with almond paste and curved into horn-shaped crescents
Makes about 16.
For the filling:
200g (7oz) ground almonds
100g (3½ oz) castor sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons orange blossom water
For the pastry:
200g (7oz) flour
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
Scant 175ml (6 fl.oz) orange blossom water
Icing sugar for dusting.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C (350F, gas mark 4)
Mix the ground almonds, sugar, cinnamon and orange blossom water and knead with your hands into a stiff paste. It will seem dry at first but will soon stick well together as the almonds give out their oil.  To make the pastry, mix the flour and salt with the oil and add just enough orange blossom water to make it hold together in a soft dough. Knead vigorously for about 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Roll the dough out with a floured rolling pin as thinly as possible on a floured board and cut into long strips about 8cm (3 in) wide.
Take lumps out of the almond paste filling about the size of a large walnut and roll them into thin sausages about 8cm (3in) long and with tapering ends. Place them end to end in a row along one side of each strip of pastry about 3cm (1¼ in) apart. Wet the pastry edges slightly with water, then fold the pastry over to cover the almond paste and press the edges together to enclose the ‘sausages’ completely.
Cut round the ‘sausages’ with a pastry wheel or a sharp knife and pinch the edges firmly together. Curve the pastries gently into a crescent or horn shapes. Prick the tops with a fork or make a design with a sharp knife. Put the pastries on a greased baking tray and bake for about 20-35 minutes or until lightly coloured. Let them cool, then dust with icing sugar.

The Flavours of Asia

Free stuff, take it! A big sign outside the wine country bistro in Napa Valley in California. There are several couches, a chair or two and miscellaneous household items, all apparently in perfect condition. Here in this golden strip of some of the most expensive real estate in the world, it will probably be tough to get someone to take it. The grape harvest is over, its been a really good one, the countryside looks utterly beautiful, gorgeous autumn colours, bright yellows, reds and burnished gold.
I’ve scarcely had time to unpack my cases for the past few weeks. First it was the Slow Food Salone del Gusto in Turin, a few days later I was in London to attend the Waterford Wedgwood Awards where I felt deeply honoured to receive a Hospitality Award to mark outstanding achievement in the hospitality industry.
Then on to Paris for a foodie weekend. Home for a couple of days and then off to the Napa Valley in California to attend the Flavours of Asia course at the Culinary Institute of America in Greystone. The CIA as it is confusingly called in St. Helena, is the flagship of culinary schools, committed to using fresh and as far as possible, organic produce.
There are herb and vegetable gardens and 13 acres of vines. At last a culinary school where students are reminded of the connection between the good earth and the quality of the food we eat. The students who come to the Ballymaloe Cookery School are very familiar with this message. On the first day of the Certificate Course they are introduced to the gardeners and shown around the gardens, greenhouses and farm which will yield much of the produce they will eat and cook with for the next 12 weeks.
They learn how to make compost and understand the logic of using the leftover organic waste to make compost which will be used to enrich the soil to grow more good food. Without good soil there can be no health-giving food or clean water, a fact we urgently need to remind ourselves of in this day and age. There is growing concern about the decreasing levels of vitamins and minerals in our food, and the increase in pollution of our group water schemes.
The Flavours of Asia course was if anything over-ambitious – just imagine trying to condense the essence of Asian food into 3 days, even though they did start at 7.00am and finish at 10.30pm. My jet-lagged brain was numb by Saturday night, with images of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Burma, India … all swirling around in my head.
Madhur Jaffrey and Mai Pham were co-chairs of this extraordinary event. The best traditional cooks and chefs from each of the countries had been flown to Greystone for the event, each one passionate about their culture and cuisine and each anxious to share their knowledge . Hundreds of people, mostly from the US attended the conference, the interest in Asian food has grown at an extraordinary rate, in fact I have never seen any food trend escalate so fast as the interest in hot spicy food.
Here in Ireland for those of us who have got hooked on the flavour of freshly ground spices, lemon grass, fish sauce, wild lime and curry leaves, trasi, soy sauce, bonita flakes….there is no going back.
Here are a few tastes to whet your appetite.

Savoury Meat Pancakes – Martabak

Makes 20-25
6 oz (170g) Won ton wrappers or 40—50 x 3 inch squares of filo pastry
8 fl.ozs (250ml/1 cup) sunflower or corn oil
Filling:
1½ tablesp. olive oil
2 large onions, finely sliced
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teasp. ginger, finely chopped
1 teasp. coriander, ground
½ teasp. cumin, ground
½ teasp. turmeric or curry powder
1 teasp. salt
1 lb. 2 oz (500g) minced beef or lamb
To be added later:
1½ tablesp. lemon grass, finely chopped
4 ozs (110g) spring onions or chives
4 -5 tablesp. parsley, chopped
3 eggs, free range
Heat the olive oil in a wok or wide shallow saucepan, and fry the onions for 5 minutes, stirring most of the time. Then add the garlic and ginger. Continue stirring for 2 minutes, and add the ground ingredients. Stir again to mix, and add the minced meat and salt. Continue to stir and mix for 10-15 minutes. Put the mixture in a bowl, and leave it to cool.
Up to this point, this can be made a day in advance. Keep in the fridge until needed. Just before you are ready to fry the Martabak, mix the meat in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients for the filling, including the eggs. Adjust the seasoning. Fill the dough and fry as explained below.
Filling and frying Martabak: Lay a few Wonton wrappers or pieces of filo pastry on a flat plate or tray. Put a tablespoonful of filling onto each wonton or pastry square. Then put another square on top, and press the edges down so that they are more or less sealed.
Pour about 4-6 fl.ozs (110-170ml/½-¾ cup) of peanut oil or corn oil into a frying pan or skillet, and heat to a high temperature. Transfer the first 4 filled wonton squares to the pan, and press the martabak down with a spatula for a few seconds. Cook for 2 minutes or so, then turn them over and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. The casing should be quite crisp around the edges, but not in the middle, and should be flat and evenly filled with the meat almost to the edge. Repeat the process until all the ingredients are used up. The oil in the pan will need renewing once or twice. Serve hot or cold.

Chicken Claypot

Serves 2
9½ ozs (265g) chicken, skinless and boneless
4 tablesp. water
scant 3 tablesp. of fish sauce
2 tablesp. brown sugar
½ teasp. minced garlic
½ teasp. lime juice
½ teasp. vinegar
½ teasp. shredded ginger
1 teasp. salt
½ teasp. ground black pepper
1 Thai chilli, chopped
½ tablesp. vegetable oil
3 sprigs of coriander
Cut the chicken into half inch cubes and marinate in salt and pepper for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
In a small bowl combine the water, fish sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, lime juice and ginger.
In a clay pot or 2 pint stainless steel pot, combine the chicken and fish sauce mixture. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, add the black pepper, Thai Chilli and oil. Continually stir the chicken until cooked, about 10 minutes. The sauce should thicken and coat the chicken. Garnish with coriander sprigs and serve immediately.

Bengal Fragrant Fish Curry Maach Bhaja

Serves 4
1½ lb (680g) haddock or tuna steaks
1 teasp. mustard powder
1 teasp. ground cumin
½ teasp. turmeric
½ teasp. ground red pepper
1½ tablesp. mustard oil or vegetable oil
4 ozs (110g) onions, thinly sliced
1 scant tablesp. garlic sliced
1 scant tablesp. green chillies, shredded
12 ozs (340g) tomatoes, peeled and chopped
coarse salt to taste
juice of ½ lemon
2 ozs (50g) chopped fresh coriander leaves and stems
Place the fish steaks on a plate and sprinkle with mustard, cumin, turmeric and red pepper. Rub the spices all over the fish and set aside. Heat half of the oil in a large heavy non stick saute pan over high heat. If you are using mustard oil, let it smoke for a moment to rid it of its pungency. Add the fish and saute, turning once, until seared, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining oil, the onions, garlic and chillies. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown. Add the tomatoes, along with the accumulated juices, and salt. Continue to cook until the sauce thickens a little, about 5 minutes. Add fish steaks and cook until the sauce is bubbling and the fish is heated through, about 4 minutes. Transfer the fish and the sauce to a heated serving platter. Sprinkle with lemon juice and coriander and serve accompanied with rice.

Foodie presents

 

Foodie presents are really trendy for this festive season. Spend hours in the kitchen whipping up relishes and pickles and luscious puddings or you could just nip into the Cork Market and pick all sorts of goodies from the myriad of stalls, both avant garde and traditional.
A parcel of tripe and drisheen from O’Sullivans at the Grand Parade end of the Market will bring the light to any true ‘dyed in the wool’ Corkman’s eye. Salt Ling or Cod from Sheehans or O’Connell’s in the Fish Market was the traditional food for supper on Christmas Eve in Cork City. Swaddled in a white sauce with onions, Michael who learned the art of salt fish from his father Eddie will give you the recipe and some of the history as well.
Really hip foodie friends will be knocked out by a hamper of traditional Cork Market meats, as offal becomes the coolest new discovery on menus from London to New York. So really thrill those dedicated followers of fashion, pop a pig’s head into the basket with some bodice, a few pigs ears, offal bones, skirts and kidneys and pigs trotters from Noonans. Maybe a few lambs tongues and maybe some spiced beef or ox tongue from Willie Beechinor and a packet of real dripping to make roast potatoes like they used to be. Paul Coughlan will do corned mutton or lamb if you give him a few weeks notice and several stalls sell great corned beef, continuing a tradition which dates back to the time of the Phoenicians.
We are fortunate to still have this variety of traditional foods for sale in the market at a time when offal is becoming more and more difficult to come by.
A basket of locally grown vegetables would also be a treat, freshly dug parsnips, carrots and swede turnips, maybe a Savoy cabbage, some sprouts and a cauliflower with lots of green leaves, and a few leeks. Make sure they are locally grown and if you want organic produce seek out Caroline Robinson on the Coal Quay on Saturday morning from 9.00 to 1.30 approx. Get there early because there will be a queue of regulars.
The stalls in the Market have a tremendous selection of fruit and vegetables, including some garden produce like Jerusalem artichokes, Paul O’Callaghan at The Garden has a small selection of organic produce and lots of beautiful quality dried fruit, nuts and the much sought after hand panned salt .
A dozen buttered eggs from Moynihans tied with a big red bow and a sprig of holly would be a lovely surprise with a long Cork tradition.
For a break with tradition check out the wares of the new age traders. Pop along to the Olive stall in the middle aisle, choose a selection of olives – picholine, arlequins, kalamati… just cured or marinated. Maybe a hamper of goodies including marinated feta, with marjoram and peppers, some Greek dolmades, pickled garlic, a butter bean and sundried tomato salad, a pot of pesto or tapenade or some harissa to liven up the festive season for your foodie pals. Maybe a few bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
How about some carrageen or some dilisk to chew or if all else fails to thrill, a bar of olive oil soap from Jenny Rose.
Paul Coughlan also has a great selection of honey both in the jar and in the comb.
Freshly baked artisanal breads are always welcomed with open arms, the ABC Bread Company continue to expand their range and you ‘ll find Declan Ryan’s breads selling like the proverbial hot cakes on Isobel Sheridan’s stall ‘On the Pigs Back’. Here you’ll find lots more to tempt you – perfect treats for hedonistic friends, gorgeous cheeses, dried mushrooms, homemade coarse pates and terrines, rillettes of pork, chorizos, salami, Isobel gets in a few luxury items specially for Christmas so ask her if she still has Pate de foie gras, or a creamy Vacherin Mont d’Or still in stock.
Just opposite this stall, you’ll find one of Mr Bell’s ethnic food emporiums, a basket of exotic goodies from here could be the solution for friends who are dabbling in the cuisines of the East or the Far East, Morocco, India, Mexico – everything from cellophane noodles and sushi mats to tamarind, fresh curry leaves and chopsticks. Driss Belmajoub’s (Mr Bell’s real name) second stall is one aisle over and contains another mesmerising selection of ingredients, including potential stocking fillers like fortune cookies, prawn crackers, incense sticks, star anise, cardamon pods – whatever turns you on!
Even one of those yummy looking tarts or tartlets from Bia Beo, beautifully wrapped would be greeted with a gasp of delight.
So many temptations so far and I haven’t even mentioned Iago – Sean and Josephine Calderpotts over by the fish market. Here one can really go to town, there’s a thrilling selection of Irish and English farmhouse cheeses and a well chosen sprinkling from other countries – Manchego, aged Gouda, Corsican and Basque Brebis and an Irish Brebis called Crozier – a blue sheeps milk cheese from the makers of Cashel Blue…. Look out for the quince paste and serve that with some fresh Ardsallagh goat cheese or some St Tola from Meg and Derek Gordon in Clare. Would some fresh pasta tickle their fancy with some Iago pasta sauce or pesto to drizzle over it. How about a chunk of Parmigiana Reggiano or a bottle of Nunez de Prado oil. They may have some salted capers or anchovies or the Ortiz white Bonito tuna in olive oil. There may also be some Panforte or some Pannetone, some Cantuccini to dip in the Vin Santo wine which Sean will also have in stock, gold and silver Dragées (sugared almonds) … There are lots more temptations to endear you to your foodie friends but when you’ve filled your baskets to the brim just move to the other side of the aisle to the smoked fish stall. Local artisanal food producer Frank Hederman who smokes his own fish at Belvelly near Cobh continues to expand his range to the delight of his ever-growing band of afficionados. The original traditional smoked salmon has been joined by smoked and marinated mussels, mackerel, herring, eel and sprats in season. More recently his smoked chicken has won many fans and the latest product smoked duck is my personal most exciting new food find. Sometimes there is a moist salmon or mackerel pate – one may have to order ahead in the run up to Christmas.
Another newcomer to the market is Platos, Mairead McCorley who spent seven years in Israel is making and selling favourite comfort foods, pita bread, taramasalata, tahini, humus and other less familiar dips. These delicious dishes provide a taste of the Middle East.
Just opposite Amanda and Glena at The Kitchen Pot are cooking up lots of yummy dishes all ready to reheat, foodie friends will bless you for saving them hours sweating over the hot stove making soups and pies and lots of delectable biscuits.
By now your bags will be full to bursting and I haven’t even mentioned the butchers’ stalls that sell meat, poultry, game and nice juicy hams. Most of the butchers in the market understand the importance of having a nice little covering of fat on the meat for best flavour, so ask their advice and forget that low fat nonsense and think flavour and wholesomeness.
A few dozen oysters, a few scallops or Dublin Bay prawns are always a welcome gift, how about a fresh turbot or brill, a hake or John Dory – and there may even be some fresh herrings now because it’s the season. Seems like an unlikely present – well I’d love them and they also remind me of Ivan Allen my dear father in law whom we miss so much. He looked forward every year to the first herrings. He too would have loved some fresh herrings or a few traditionally smoked kippers as a present.
Well you’ve certainly got something for everyone there, by now you will be exhausted from carrying your overflowing bags so one more little effort, climb the stairs up to the balcony over the Princes Street end of the market to the Farmgate Restaurant and there Kay Harte and her team will pamper you with a soothing cup of tea and a warm mince pie. Happy Christmas to all our foodie friends.Salt Cod or Ling
Salt cod or ling was a staple food along the south and west coast of Ireland. Agnes Kenneally from Aran Mor – one of the islands off the west coast – explained to me when I was researching my book on Irish Traditional Cooking that in the Spring the islanders usually caught an abundance of fresh fish. They ate what they needed, shared with their neighbours and salted the surplus so that in the Winter there was salt fish and little else!
First they gutted and filleted the fish, then they salted them and packed them in an old timber barrel or keg for a few days. They then hung them out to dry. (on Aran this was done on walls or thatched roofs), If the weather was clement – dry and breezy – the salted ling might be dry in a week; otherwise it could take a month. The fish had to be brought in every night, and also if there was a sudden shower. If it didn’t dry properly it wouldn’t keep.
lorence Irwin wrote in Irish Country Recipes in the 1940s:
‘Thirty years ago as you approached Cape Clear the low hedges were covered in the month of July with what looked like white garments of even shape and size. On getting a closer view you found these were large flat fish being dried in the sun after salting. Ling, in fact. This fish was procurable in all country shops at 4d a pound and was a popular purchase for the dinner on Friday and other fast days’.

 

Salt Cod or Ling with White Sauce

 


Salt Cod and Ling are still on sale in Cork Market all the year round and are the traditional Cork supper on Christmas Eve.
Serves 4-6
1 lb (450g) salt ling
milk
White Sauce
1 oz (30g/3 stick) butter
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon (1a US tablespoons) flour
1 pint (600ml/22 cups) milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
Cut the salt fish in pieces. Cover with cold water and soak overnight. Next day discard the water, cover with milk and stew until tender about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the chopped onion, cover and cook on a gentle heat until soft, stir in flour and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then whisk in the milk bit by bit. Season, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes – a little chopped parsley wouldn’t do any harm. Drain the ling.
Serve with the sauce and some freshly boiled potatoes.
Salted Ling and Mashed Potatoes
In many regions of Ireland salted ling was called battleboard because the drying and salting process rendered the fish rock hard.
Sometimes the cooked salt ling was deboned and flaked and then mixed into some mashed potato with enough of the cooking liquor to make it soft and juicy. Serve hot with a lump of butter melting in the centre.

 

A Plate of Smoked Fish with Horseradish Sauce and Sweet Dill Mayonnaise

 


Serves 4
A selection of smoked fish – smoked Salmon, Mackerel, Trout, Eel, Mussels, smoked Tuna, Hake and Sprats.
Garnish
Segments of lemon
Sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves
AccompanimentHorseradish Sauce (see recipe)
Sweet Dill Mayonnaise (see recipe)
First make the Horseradish sauce and Sweet Dill Mayonnaise. Slice the Salmon into thin slices down onto the skin, allow about 2 slices per person. Cut the Mackerel into diamond shaped pieces, divide the Trout into large flakes. Skin and slice the Eel. Thinly slice the tuna.
To serve: Choose 4 large white plates drizzle each plate with Sweet Dill Mayonnaise, divide the smoked fish between the plates. Arrange appetizingly, put a blob of Horseradish sauce on each plate. Garnish with a lemon wedge and sprigs of Watercress or Rocket leaves.Plate of Charcuterie with Gherkins and Caper berries
A selection of best quality Salami e.g. Killarney Smoked Salami, Wurst Brett – Plank ( Reinert)
Milano (Negroni), Ventricina Picante (Negroni), Choriza ( Campo Frio), Pepperoni, Parma
Ham (Negroni). – 3-5 slices of Salami per person depending on size.
1-2 Gherkins per person
1-2 Caper berries per person
3-4 Olives per person
2-3 Rocket leaves
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional)
Accompaniment:Crusty Foccacia or Ciabbatta
Arrange a selection of salami for each person on a large white plate.
Garnish with Gherkins and Capers berries, add a few olives and three or four rocket leaves.
Drizzle with Olive Oil and serve immediately.

 

Chicken Breasts with cous cous, raisins and pistachio nuts

 

Serves 8

8 chicken breasts

16 fl ozs (475ml/1¾ cups) chicken stock or water
12 ozs (340g) cous cous (precooked)
4 ozs (110g) raisins
4 ozs (110g) toasted almonds (halves)
2 ozs (55g) pistachio nuts
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablesp. (5 American tablesp.) extra virgin olive oil or 2 ozs (55g\½ stick) butter
8 fl ozs (225ml/1 cup) well flavoured chicken stock
Harrissa (hot chilli paste) optional accompaniment
Garnish
sprigs of coriander and rosemary
Pour the same volume of chicken stock or water over the cous cous and allow to soak for 15 minutes, stir every now and then, add the raisins, toasted almonds and pistachio nuts. Put into covered dishes and heat through in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes. Alternatively steam over simmering water or stock, season with salt and freshly ground pepper add butter or olive oil to taste. Turn into a large serving dish, cover while you cook the chicken breasts.
Season the chicken breasts with salt, freshly ground pepper and some sprigs of rosemary. Brush with olive oil and cook on a preheated grill pan until just cooked through.
To serve, spread a little harissa on the pan grilled chicken breasts. Arrange on top of the cous cous. Degrease the grill pan and deglaze with a little well flavoured chicken stock add to the remainder of the stock and pour boiling over the cous cous. Garnish with sprigs of coriander and rosemary and serve immediately.

 

Oven-roasted Winter Root vegetables

 


About equal volume of:
Parsnips
Swede Turnips
Celeriac
Carrot
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
Freshly chopped winter herbs – Thyme, Rosemary, Chives and Parsley
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.
Peel the vegetables and cut into similar sized pieces – ½ inch (1cm) cubes are a good size. Put all the vegetables into a large bowl. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season well with salt and freshly-ground pepper. Spread them in a single layer on one or several roasting tins. Roast, uncovered, stirring occasionally until they are fully cooked and just beginning to caramelize. Be careful, a little colour makes them sweeter, but there is a narrow line between caramelizing and burning. If they become too dark they will be bitter.
Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped Winter herbs, eg. Thyme, Rosemary, Chives and Parsley.

 

Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding

 


Bread and Butter Pudding is a most irresistible way of using up leftover white bread – this is a particularly delicious recipe.
Serves 6-8
12 slices Pannetone or good-quality white bread, crusts removed
2 ozs (55g/½ stick) butter, preferably unsalted
½ teasp. freshly-grated nutmeg or cinnamon
7 ozs (200g/1¼ cups) Lexia raisins or plump sultanas
16 fl ozs (475ml/2 cups) cream
8 fl ozs (225ml/1 cup) milk
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teasp. pure vanilla essence or a dash of Eau de Vie or brandy
6 ozs (170g/¾ cup) sugar
1 tablesp. (4 American teasp.) sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding
Garnish
Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish

Butter the pannetone or bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in a dish. Sprinkle with half the nutmeg or cinnamon and half the raisins, arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the raisins, and sprinkle the remaining spice and fruit on top. Cover the raisins with the remaining pannetone or bread, buttered side down.
In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence, eau de vie or brandy if using and sugar. Pour the mixture through a sieve over the pudding. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, covered loosely, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.
Bake in a bain-marie – the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake in the middle of a preheated oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly-whipped cream.

75th BIRTHDAY IN STYLE

Just recently my mother celebrated her 75th birthday in style (she’s a heroine as far as we are all concerned, having won the captain’s prize at her golf club a few weeks earlier).
My brother Rory was also celebrating a landmark birthday, so the family once again decided to all chip in to give both birthday people a weekend in Paris as a special treat.
There are now 12 direct flights from Cork to Paris every week so one can pop over for a few days or a weekend.
Finding accommodation in Paris that’s reasonably central and won’t break the bank, needs time and energy. We used the Alastair Sawday Guide to Paris Hotels and eventually got rooms for seven people in Hotel de la Tulipe on 33 rue Malar on the Left Bank. This was a sweet little family run hotel with a courtyard and lots of small, simply furnished rooms. As ever one pays for location rather than luxury – we were just around the corner from the Eiffel Tower, Louvre…
Breakfast was fine, and Poujaurain which sells some of the best croissants and pain au chocolat in Paris was just around the corner. Michael Chanden’s chocolate shop was at the end of the road and one of the ‘must visit’ restaurants on my Paris list L’Affriole was 4 or 5 doors down from the hotel. We had wonderful crisp Autumn weather. We walked and walked, stopping at our favourite café to relax and watch the Parisians strutting their stuff.
Café Flore or Deux Magots or St Germain are a must. I love the Croque Monsieur and Welsh Rarebit and Salade Landaise at Café Flore. One can sit for hours watching the world go by but there’s never time enough – always so much to see.
For the most sinfully gorgeously rich hot chocolate, seek out Angelina on rue de Rivoli, this legendary salon du thé is just across the street from the Jardin des Tuileries. Don’t miss Julien on Rue du Faubourg St Denis either.
One should certainly take in a museum or two and pop around to check out the latest exhibition at the amazing Pompidou Centre. We had a delicious lunch at George on the top floor – good service and a commanding view of Paris.
Cooks and foodies should seek out Dehillerin, the legendary kitchen shop on rue Coquilliere, attach yourself to Gascon or Mimi and they will guide you through the labyrinth of kitchen gadgets and then handwrite your bill in an old-fashioned courteous way.
There are food markets virtually every day in some part of Paris, but if it’s a weekend trip you may want to get up early and go to Marche Enfant Rouges on Rue de Bretagne or Marche St Germain. . Check out Marche aux Puces de St Ouen for antiques
My favourite is the organic market on rue Raspail on Sunday mornings. Over the years I’ve watched this market grow from a few scraggledy stalls to the vibrant thriving market it is today. Since I last visited less than two years ago, it has virtually doubled in size and was simply teeming with purposeful shoppers. The quality and variety was a joy to see.
The longest queues were at the stall which sold raw milk, thick crème fraiche, yoghurt and homemade butter. There were wonderful farmhouse cheeses, an abundance of organic autumn vegetables, chunks of pumpkin, organic beef and lamb, pork and poultry. One stall holder was selling cooked chickens stuffed with fresh herbs, directly from a spit oven in the market. Another young man was doing a roaring trade in hot muffins. He too had an oven and a generator, he was offering many different types of muffin, both sweet and savoury which were being snapped up like the proverbial hot cakes.
Yet another stall was selling potato rosette pancakes and of course pancakes with various toppings. I inquired where I might buy the best boudin noir from the lady who does pickled salmon and salads, she pointed me in the direction of Monsieur Lepic who had lots of pottery terrines of country pates but was by then sold out of his speciality boudin noir. I also bought lots of little new season’s prunes and a pot of prune fool.
We were on our way to the 17th Century gardens of Versailles so we picked up some delicious things for our picnic, crusty breads, saucisson, a roast chicken, roast red and yellow pepper, a carrot, lentil, potato and avocado salad. The latter was mixed with finely shredded seaweed. We also bought my favourite salmon and pink peppercorn seviche from the lady who has been trading in the same spot in the market for 20 years. The atmosphere in the market is quite fantastic, a strong bond of trust and affection and respect has developed between the customers and the stallholders – shopping was a joy, not a chore.

Croque Monsieur

Makes 6
3 tablesp. unsalted butter
12 small, thin slices of good quality white yeast bread, not sliced pan
7 ozs (200g) or 6 thin slices of best quality cooked ham, cut to fit the bread
4½ ozs (125g) Gruyere cheese, grated
Preheat the grill.
Butter each slice of bread on one side. Place a slice of ham on each of the buttered sides, and cover with the remaining bread slices.
Place the sandwiches under the grill and grill on one side until golden. Remove the sandwiches, turn and cover each with grated Gruyere. Return to the grill and grill until the cheese is bubbling and golden.

Gateau Pithivier

Serves 8
Puff Pastry (see recipe) made with:
8 ozs (225g/generous 1½ cups) flour
8 ozs (225g/2 sticks) butter
pinch of salt
water, approx. ¼ pint (150ml/generous ½ cup)
Filling
4 ozs (110g/1 generous cup) ground almonds
4 ozs (110g/generous ½ cup) castor sugar
1½ ozs (45g) melted butter
2 egg yolks, preferably free range
2 tablesp. (2 American tablesp. + 2 teasp.) double cream
1 dessertsp. (2 American teasp.) rum (optional)
Egg wash made with 1 beaten egg and a tiny pinch of salt
Glaze
Icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8. Divide the pastry in half, roll out just less than ¼ inch thick, cut into 2 circles approx. 10 inch (25.5cm) in diameter. Put one onto a damp baking sheet, chill and chill the other piece also.
Mix all the ingredients for the filling together in a bowl until smooth. Put the filling onto the pastry base, leaving a rim of about 1 inch (2.5mm) free around the edge. Brush the rim with beaten egg or water and put on the lid of puff pastry, press it down well around the edges.
Make a small hole in the centre brush with egg wash and leave for 5 minutes in the refrigerator. With the back of a knife, nick the edge of the pastry 12 times at regular intervals to form a scalloped edge with a rose petal effect. Mark long curving lines from the central hole outwards to designate formal petals. Be careful not to cut through the pastry just score it.*
Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, then lower the heat to 200C/400F/regulo 6 and bake
for 30 minutes approx. While still hot dredge heavily with icing sugar and return to a very hot oven or pop under a grill (Do Not Leave the Grill) – the sugar will melt and caramelize to a dark brown glaze. Serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.
Note: Gateau Pithivier is best eaten warm, but it also keeps well and may be reheated.

Clowning around the veranda

I spent part of last Thursday morning clowning around the veranda of O’Connell’s Restaurant in Ballsbridge with Paul Rankin. The photographers loved it, great – photo op as Paul posed with two huge organic pumpkins which had come all the way from Rossinver in Co Leitrim. There was a Cork connection – we were both there for the launch of the partnership between Musgraves and the Organic Centre. Seamus Scally, Group Managing Director for Ireland’s largest grocery and food distributor, emphasized that Musgraves is committed to investing in the development of the Irish food sector. They have pledged £20,000 per year for three years to support the work of the Organic Centre in Co Leitrim.
The Irish organic and speciality food sector employs 1500 people across the country and has an annual turnover of £90 million at present. Unprecedented growth in the sale of organic food has resulted in Irish supermarkets importing more than 70% of organic produce. The number of organic farms in Ireland increased by 300% between 1994 and 1999.
“With 70% of organic produce sold in Ireland imported, there is real opportunity for Irish farmers to fill the growing niche market for organic food” stated John O ‘Neill, manager of the Centre.
” We at the Organic Centre aim to continue to assist Irish organic food producers through training advice and support. We also aim to encourage other farmers to consider the organic option and to provide training education and advice to organic gardeners and growers throughout Ireland.”
Since its foundation the Centre has continued to develop on its 20 acre site. In addition to its training programme, the Centre has developed extensive display gardens for visitors – including a children’s garden, a taste garden, a heritage garden, a willow sculpture area and a display of composting techniques.
Wonderfully fresh organic produce had been rushed from the organic Centre down to the kitchens in Connell’s where ‘young head chef Michael Morris was waiting with open arms.
The menu was A Salmon Salad on Organic Greens, Roast Leg of Organic Lamb * with Garlic and Rosemary with a Potato and Chick Pea Stew, Spiced Pear Cake
I struggled onto the City Gold train with three frozen wild salmon supplied by Frank Hederman, we had been planning to use fresh organic salmon but it was between batches.
Paul put little slices of warm pan grilled salmon on a salad of heirloom tomatoes and organic leaves which guests & journalists polished off in minutes.

A Salad of Warm Salmon on Organic Leaves with Tomato Salad

Serves 4
4 scallops of wild or organic salmon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A selection of organic salad leaves
8-10 small heirloom or cherry tomatoes
edible herb flowers, eg rocket, Johnny jump-ups, hyssop
Japanese seasoning. (optional)
Soy & Ginger dressing
2 tablesp. finely grated ginger root
50 ml (2 fl.oz) rice wine vinegar
2 tablesp. dark soy sauce
salt and freshly ground white pepper
100ml (3½ fl.oz) sesame oil (oriental)
100ml (3½ fl.oz) vegetable oil
First make the dressing. Combine all the dressing ingredients except the oils together in a bowl and whisk until the salt has dissolved. Slowly whisk in the oils, a drop at a time, and taste for seasoning. The dressing will not emulsify completely.
Season the pieces of salmon with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Halve or quarter the tomatoes, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange in a circle around the outside of a deep wide soup plate, put a selection of salad leaves in the centre. Sprinkle with Soy and Ginger dressing. Sprinkle a little Japanese seasoning over the tomatoes.
Preheat a pan grill. Cook the salmon for just a few minutes on each side – it should still be a little pink in the centre. Pop a piece on top of each salad and serve immediately sprinkled with some herb blossoms.

Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Rosemary

Serves 6
1 boned shoulder of lamb, about 1.25kg (2¾ lb) boned weight
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablesp. light olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
½ stick celery, chopped
120ml (4 fl.oz) red wine
15g (½ oz) butter
1 tablesp. chopped fresh rosemary
Marinade:
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cracked open
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 tablesp. light olive oil
Trim the excess fat from the lamb and cut the meat into chunky portions of about 200g (7oz) each. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl, rub into the lamb and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Pre-heat the oven to 140C/275F/gas 1. Lift out the lamb, wiping off solids from the marinade, and season the pieces with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tablesp. oil in a large casserole until almost smoking and fry the meat until well browned. Pour off any excess fat in the pan, add the onion, carrot, celery and red wine. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the lid and continue cooking, turning the meat frequently, until the meat is tender and the juices reduced to a rich glaze on the meat.
Lift out the lamb and keep warm. Add a splash of water to the cooking juices in the pan and strain through a fine sieve into a small pot. Add the butter and chopped rosemary and taste for seasoning. Serve on warm plates with a little of the sauce spooned over.  Ballybrado Certified Organic Lamb is available from Tesco Stores

Spiced Pan Roasted Pear Cake

Serves 8-10
7 ozs (200g/1 cup) soft brown sugar
4 ozs (110g/1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in four
6½ ozs (185g/1a cups) plain flour
9½ ozs (270g/1a cups) castor sugar
2 teasp. cinnamon
1¼ teasp. baking powder
½ teasp. salt
2 large eggs
¼ pint (150ml/generous ½ cup) sunflower oil
1 pear, coarsely grated
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) grated ginger
4 pears, peeled, cored and cut into 6
Preheat oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4
Sprinkle brown sugar over the bottom of a heavy 9½ inch (24 cm) cake tin with 2½ inch (6 cm) sides. Add the butter to the pan. Place the tin in an oven until butter melts (about 5 minutes).
Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt together. Beat in the eggs and oil. Mix in the grated pear and ginger.
Remove the tin from the oven. Whisk the butter and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Arrange the pear slices in the tin. Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the cake is springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean (approximately 1 hour).
Allow to cool slightly; loosen the edges of the cake with a knife and turn out onto a hot plate.
Serve warm with softly whipped cream or homemade Vanilla ice-cream.
The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim. Tel. 072-54338, Fax 072-54343e-mail:organiccentre@tinet.ieO’Connell’s Restaurant at Bewleys Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. Tel. 01-6473304 Fax 01-6473398

A Weekend With Rossisky and Borodinsky

Every now and then I like to spring a little surprise on Tim to liven up our lives – Could be anything – a breakfast picnic at Ballyandreen, a trip to visit the Organic Centre in Co Leitrim, a spot of foraging in Glenbower Wood – it has to be said that some surprises delight him more than others! This weekend I whisked him off to a remote village in Cumbria via Edinburgh, so that he could at least visit our son Toby and his adorable Scottish wife Penny.
The raison d’etre of this expedition was a course on sourdough breads in the Village Bakery in Melmerby. I got this brainwave some time ago because I felt it might provide extra inspiration while he toiled on his long-awaited bread book which is due to be published early next year by Gill & Macmillan.
It was a huge success, Andrew Whitley has been described by Derek Cooper of the Radio 4 Food Programme as one of the best and most uncompromising bakers in Britain.
Originally a BBC Russian service producer, Andrew set out in 1976, on a baking journey which has led from a wood-fired oven in a converted Cumbrian barn to recognition as one of the leaders in a revival of artisan baking which has bucked the trend towards tasteless uniformity in bread.
Having established a successful village enterprise, Andrew travelled to France and Switzerland in search of brick oven designs for a larger bakehouse completed in 1991. Around the same time, he revisited post-perestroika Russia to perfect his knowledge of traditional sourdough rye bread. Committed from the start to using organic ingredients, produced by farmers who use sustainable methods of husbandry, Andrew is also keen to share his enthusiasm and skills in the interests of better baking everywhere. He has been involved in collaborative ventures as far afield as Russia and has run courses since 1992.
Both Tim and I have a passion for bread making, I’ve been popping loaves of bread into the Aga since I learned how to make brown soda bread by my mother’s side when I was 6 or 7 years old. Tim discovered the art of bread making later in life but is now messianic about it.
Our fellow class-mates, 12 in all, were a cosmopolitan lot, several accountants, a management consultant, an energy trader, a doctor’s secretary, a restaurateur …
We were all united by the love of bread and a burning ambition to extend our repertoire and make the perfect loaf, or in the case of beginners, any loaf! This had somehow become all the more urgent and relevant in the light of the recent oil strikes in the UK when customers tussled with each other for the last few loaves of sliced pan in the supermarket.
We had all started our sourdoughs a week earlier according to Andrew’s instructions. We arrived clutching the seething ferment, ready to incorporate it into our bread. Making sourdough by harnessing the wild yeasts in the air and the flour, is a lengthy process, a far cry from whipping up a quick loaf of soda bread, but the results are immensely rewarding and diverse.
During two very full days we hung on to Andrew’s every word of wisdom and were harangued and cajoled by his two handsome bakers, Paul and Tiff who assisted with the course.
We baked an amazing array of breads, having started tantalizingly with what Andrew called a Benchmark loaf on Saturday morning.
We made North and East European breads with the exotic sounding names of Rossisky and Borodinsky, leaven bread called Campagne, Italian breads – Ciabatta, Focaccia, Tuscan Harvest bread and Olive Bread, also Croissants, Cholloh, Brioche, Stollen …
Everyone left proudly carrying baskets of the breads they had made . Tim and I nibbled our Focaccia and Ciabatta on the way to Edinburgh, the latter was certainly the best I’ve ever tasted, so if breadmaking is your thing, contact Andrew Whitley at The Village Bakery Melmerby Ltd. Melmerby, Cumbria, CA10 1HE. Tel. 01768 881515, Fax 01768 881848. Email:andrew@village-bakery.com. website: www.village-bakery.com

Ballymaloe White Yeast Bread

Makes 2 x 1 lb (450g) loaves
¾ oz (20g) fresh yeast, non GMO
15 fl.ozs (425ml/2 cups) spring water, more as needed
1 oz (30g/¼ stick) butter
2 teasp. dairy salt
½ oz (15g/1 tablesp.) sugar
1½ lbs (675g/5¼ cups) strong white flour
Poppy seeds or Sesame seeds for topping – optional
2 x loaf tins 5″ x 8″ (13 x 20cms) (optional)
Mix the yeast with ¼ pint lukewarm water until dissolved. Put the butter, salt and sugar into a bowl with ¼ pint of very hot water, stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved and butter melted. Add ¼ pint of cold water. By now, the liquid should be lukewarm or blood heat, so combine with the yeast.
Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the center and pour in most of the lukewarm liquid. Mix to a loose dough adding the remainder of the liquid, or more flour or liquid if necessary. Turn the dough onto a floured board, cover and leave to relax for 5 minutes approx. Then knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth, springy and elastic (if kneading in a food mixer with a dough hook, 5 minutes is usually long enough).
Put the dough in a pottery or delph bowl. Cover the top tightly with cling film (yeast dough rises best in a warm moist atmosphere. If you want to speed up the rising process put the bowl near your cooker, or a radiator, or close to an Aga. Rising time depends on the temperature, however the bread will taste better if it rises more slowly. When the dough has more than doubled in size, knead again for about 2 – 3 minutes or until all the air has been forced out – this is called ‘knocking back’. Leave to relax again for 10 minutes.
Shape the bread into loaves, plaits or rolls, transfer to a baking sheet and cover with a light tea towel. Allow to rise again in a warm place, this rising will be shorter, only about 20 – 30 minutes. The bread is ready for baking when a small dent remains when the dough is pressed lightly with the finger. Brush with water and sprinkle with flour. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds if using.
Bake in a fully preheated hot oven, 230C/450F/regulo 9 for 30 – 45 minutes depending on size.
N.B. If you are using tins brush well with oil before putting in the dough.
The bread should sound hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.
If you prefer to test the internal temperature with a thermometer, it should register ?? when inserted into the centre of the loaf.
To make a plait:
Take one quantity of white yeast bread dough after it has been ‘knocked back’, divide into three equal pieces. With both hands roll each one into a rope, thickness depends on how fat you want the plait. Then pinch the three ends together at the top, bring each outside strand into the centre alternatively to form a plait, pinch the ends and tuck in neatly. Transfer onto a baking tray. Allow to double in size. Egg wash or mist with water and dredge with flour.

Ballymaloe Cookery School