Darina's Saturday Letter

Ballymaloe Cookery School

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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)
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
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
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.

The Endlessly Versatile Kuku

Rushed off your feet, riddled with guilt, must cook supper, haven’t got time – well, a frittata could well be the solution to your problem.  The endlessly versatile flat omelette or kuku as its known in the Middle East, is a simple formula with endless variations.
Although the ingredients sound the same, an omelette and a frittata look quite different, taste quite different, and cook in a different way.
Omelettes are certainly the quintessential fast food – the best French omelettes are literally made in 30 seconds or 45 if you need to add a little filling. You’ll need to master the technique and arm yourself with a very hot pan, preferably non-stick. Unlike omelettes, there is really no technique involved in making a frittata.
Just whisk up the eggs, add the chosen flavourings, season well and pour into a buttery pan. Now you have a choice, the frittata can be cooked on the gentlest of heat on top of the stove or alternatively the whole pan, provided the handle is ovenproof, may be transferred to a moderate oven, 180C/250F/ regulo 4, for approx. 15 minutes. Meanwhile you will have time to make a salad to complement it A mixture of lettuces and salad leaves with a good dressing would be delicious and perhaps a tomato and mint or basil salad.
As with omelettes, the possible fillings are many and diverse. Start off with the basis of eggs, cheese and herbs. Eggs should be the very best eggs you can find, laid by free-range hens. Vary the mixture of cheese and experiment with different combinations  – combinations that we have enjoyed are –
Chorizo, Potato and Flat Parsley
Use 6 ozs (170g) of Chorizo cut in slices and 2-3 cooked, peeled, diced potatoes, depending on size.
Ardsallagh, or St. Tola Goat Cheese, Red Pepper and Basil
Use 1-2 sliced or diced red peppers softened in olive oil and 3-4 ozs (85-110g) crumbled goat cheese
Fennel, Red Onion and Fontina.
Use 1 fennel bulb thinly sliced, 1 medium red onion, chopped and sweated and 3 ozs (85g) grated Fontina.
Chick Pea, Kale and Cumin
Use 1 can of drained chick peas, about 3 cups of chopped kale or spinach and a teaspoon of freshly roasted and ground cumin and coriander seeds.
Crispy Bacon, Salami, Smoked Mackerel, Swiss Chard, Asparagus in season –
The possibilities are endless. Start to experiment and you’ll soon find that a Frittata is the greatest standby of your culinary repertoire, whether you are a student in a bedsit , a busy mum or a professional chef.

Gruyere Frittata with Cheese and Fresh Herbs

Serves 2-4
8 large eggs, preferably free range
1 teasp. salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
3 ozs (85g/scant 1 cup) Gruyére cheese, grated
1 oz (30g/ cup) Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teasp. parsley, chopped
1 teasp. thyme leaves
1 dessertsp. (2 American teasp.) basil or marjoram
1 oz (30g/ stick) butter
Non stick pan – 7 inch (19cm) bottom, 9 inch (23cm) top rim
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, grated cheese into the eggs. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs. Turn down the heat, as low as it will go. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 12 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.
Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set but not brown the surface.
Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate.
Serve cut in wedges with a good green salad and perhaps a Tomato salad.

Mushroom Frittata

Serves 6-8
In recent weeks we have been using the wild mushrooms from the fields around us here in Shanagarry to make this delicious frittata.
2 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil
450g (1lb) flat mushrooms – washed and sliced.
8 large eggs, preferably free range
1 teasp. salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
125g (4½oz) Gruyére cheese, freshly grated
40g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon. + 1 teaspoon) parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) basil or marjoram
25g (1oz) butter
Non stick pan – 7½ inch (19cm) bottom, 9 inch (23cm) top rim
a heat diffuser mat optional
Heat some olive oil in a hot pan, add the sliced mushrooms. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook over a high heat until just wilted, cool.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, chopped herbs, mushrooms and grated cheese into the egg mixture.
Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the egg mixture. Turn down the heat as low as it will go, use a heat diffuser mat if necessary. Alternatively transfer to a moderate oven until just set. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 15 minutes, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.
Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set and barely brown the surface.
Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate.
Serve cut in wedges with a good green salad and perhaps a vine-ripened Tomato Salad and a few olives.
Tip: Slice the mushroom stalk into thin rounds up to the cap, then lay the mushroom gills down on the chopping board, slice, use both stalk and caps for extra flavour and less waste. Alternatively put the stalks into a vegetable stock.

Zucchini and Mint (Basil or Marjoram) Frittata

Serves 6-8
8 free range eggs
4 green or golden or mixture zucchini (not more than 5 inch long)
1 large garlic clove, crushed
2-3 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon and 2 teaspoon – 4 American tablespoon) of freshly chopped mint or marjoram or torn basil leaves
1 teasp.ea salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
2 oz (50g) freshly grated Desmond, Gabriel or Parmesan ( Parmigiano Reggiano)
2 ozs (50g) Gruyere
Non-stick pan – 7½ inch (19cm) bottom, 9 inch (23cm) top rim
Top and tail the zucchini and cut in half lengthwise into thin slices at an angle.
Heat 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoon and 2 teaspoon) of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan, over a medium heat. Add the crushed garlic and then toss in the zucchini. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Add freshly chopped herbs, the zucchini should still be slightly al dente. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave the oil in the pan.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add zucchini and most of the freshly grated Parmesan. Add one teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.
Preheat the grill.
Reheat olive oil in the frying pan, add the egg mixture, reduce the heat to the lowest and cook gently until set on the bottom, about 10 minutes. Then sprinkle with the remainder of the Parmesan cheese, flash under the grill until just set and speckled. Sprinkle with a little more chopped herbs and serve immediately.

Blue Fin Tuna

This week I tasted the most divine new fish, or at least it was new to me, Blue Fin Tuna. When Tim was shopping in the Cork Market he spotted a crowd of people clustered around O’Connell’s fish stall. The extra buzz of excitement was generated by the arrival of a truly magnificent Blue Fin Tuna.
It weighed 240kg and took several strong men to lift it onto the huge block. Irrepressible Cork chef Seamus O’Connell of Ivory Tower and Yumi Yuki bounded in to stake his claim to some of the catch for his new restaurant Pi. He and Denis O’Connell set about carving up the tuna and apparently broke three knives in the process. The fish which was landed at Union Hall was in immaculate condition. The Japanese according to Seamus, go crazy for Blue Fin Tuna for sushi and sashimi but there are lots of other ways to serve it also. Sprinkled simply with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and pan-grilled with a little dash of olive oil, it tastes sublime.
Whichever way you decide to serve it, beware of overcooking. Treat it like a fillet steak and cook it medium rare. It will continue to cook after it leaves the pan and will be moist and tender. If you overcook it you will wonder what all the fuss is about, it will be dry and dull. Blue fin tuna is juicier and more gorgeous than any other tuna I’ve tasted.
Pat O’Connell told me that they sold every scrap of the huge fish in one day. It is rare for them to get a blue fish but yellow fin tuna is more common and sells in the fish market amazingly well.
Pat told me that people have become astonishingly more adventurous in recent times. After years of trying to tempt people to taste what many considered to be poor man’s food or penitential fare, fish has suddenly become hip and cool. Its ironic that this new interest coincides with many of the common species becoming scarcer and consequently jolly expensive.
People are according to Pat ‘going mad’ for the many new species being landed. Black Scabbard, Swordfish and Grenadier are hugely popular. Louvar is landed occasionally at Castletownbere and is a divine fish with snow white flesh and a fabulous flaky texture. They can weigh about 20 kgs, the biggest swordfish they sold this year was 500 lbs in weight and is apparently hugely popular with Cork people.
Pi, Courthouse Chambers, Washington Street, Cork Tel. 021-4222858

Seared Tuna with Piperonata and Tapenade

The secret of cooking tuna is to undercook it like a rare steak otherwise it becomes dry and dull. The sweetness of Piperonata and the gutsy taste of Tapenade are great with it.
Serves 6
6 x 175g (6oz) pieces of tuna
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Piperonata (See recipe)
Tapenade (See recipe)
6-8 leaves of flat parsley
First make the Piperonata and Tapenade.
Preheat the pan- grill. Brush the tuna with oil and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Sear the tuna on the hot grill pan, first in one direction and then the other. Cook on both sides for 2- 3 minutes. The centre should still be ‘pink’. Tuna is moist and juicy if served rare but becomes dry and dull if well cooked.
Meanwhile reheat the Piperonata if necessary, put a few tablespoons onto each plate, place a piece of sizzling tuna on top. Put a little Tapenade on top or dot irregularly around the edge of the Piperonata. Add a few sprigs of flat parsley or basil and serve immediately.


The strong gutsy flavour of Tapenade can be an acquired taste – however it becomes addictive and has become a “new basic”.
2 ozs (55g) anchovy fillets
3½ ozs (100g/½ cup) stoned black olives
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) capers
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons (37ml/scant ¼ cup) olive oil
Whizz up the anchovy fillets (preferably in a food processor) with the stoned black olives, capers, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper.
Alternatively, use a pestle and mortar. Add the olive oil as you whisk and process to a course or smooth puree as you prefer.
Serves 8-10
1 onion, sliced
2 red peppers
2 green peppers
6 large tomatoes (dark red and very ripe)
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) olive oil
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
A clove of garlic, crushed
A few leaves of fresh basil
Heat the olive oil in a casserole, add the garlic and cook for a few seconds, then add the sliced onion, toss in the oil and allow to soften over a gentle heat in a covered casserole while the peppers are being prepared. Halve the peppers, remove the seeds carefully, cut into quarters and then into strips across rather that lengthways. Add to the onion and toss in the oil; replace the lid and continue to cook.
Meanwhile peel the tomatoes (scald in boiling water for 10 seconds, pour off the water and peel immediately). Slice the tomatoes and add to the casserole, season with salt, freshly ground pepper, sugar and a few leaves of fresh basil if available. Cook until the vegetables are just soft, 30 minutes approx.

Grilled Tuna Nicoise

This recipe is from The ABC of AWT by Antony Worrall-Thompson published by Headline.
Serves 4
3 tablesp. balsamic vinegar
135ml (4½ fl.oz) extra virgin olive oil
2 tablesp. chopped parsley
2 tablesp. snipped chives
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ teasp. salt
½ teasp. ground black pepper
4 tuna steaks, 2.5cm (1 in) thick
2 Little Gem lettuce hearts
16 black olives in oil, halved
3 plum tomatoes, quartered
115g (4oz) extra fine French beans, topped
1 red onion, finely sliced
6 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
8 cooked new potatoes, halved
3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
8 basil leaves, ripped
Make a marinade for the tuna by whisking together the vinegar, 7 tablespoons of the olive oil, the parsley, chives, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour half of this over the tuna in a non-reactive bowl, and chill for 2-4 hours.
Heat a ridged griddle pan on the hob for 5 minutes. Drain the tuna. Cook the tuna steaks for between 1-3 minutes each side, depending on how rare you like your fish.
Toss together the lettuce, olives, tomato, beans (cooked for 4 minutes and refreshed in cold water), onion, anchovy and potato, and add the remaining marinade plus the remaining extra virgin olive oil. Toss to combine.
Arrange the salad on a platter; place the tuna on top and garnish with the hard-boiled eggs and ripped basil.

Japanese-style Tuna Brochettes

This recipe is from ‘Cook at Home with Peter Gordon’, published by Hodder & Stoughton.
This is a great way to eat fish on a picnic as the tuna stays delicious for up to 12 hours once cooked, so long as it’s kept cool. Swordfish works well too.
Serves 8
100ml (4 fl.ozs) light soy sauce
50ml (2 fl.ozs) sake or dry sherry
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 teasps. Demerara sugar
800g fresh tuna loin, sinews and skin removed, cut into 2cm cubes.
1 tube instant wasabi paste, to serve *
8 satay sticks
Mix together the soy sauce, sake, ginger and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Then add the tuna and stir gently. Leave it to marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours. Drain the marinade from the tuna and discard the liquid. Divide the fish into 8 equal amounts and skewer it on the satay sticks. Heat either a grill or a heavy pan and cook for just 45 seconds on 2 sides – you want the tuna to remain rare inside. Leave it to cool before putting it into your picnic container. Serve with a little wasabi, squeezed on at the last minute.
* Available from Asian shops or shops selling Asian ingredients.

The Hidden Cost Of Cheap Food

Every time I turn on the television and hear the supermarket moguls rolling off the latest set of bargains and boasting about the way they have slashed prices even further, my heart sinks. Far from being delighted by low prices, I think of the farmers and food producers who once more are being forced to produce food below its economic level by our unreasonable expectation that cheap food is our right. Cheap food is not our right and in reality the price of cheap food is far too high, both in health terms and in socio-economic terms. In fact when we refuse to pay producers a fair price for their produce we force them into an increasingly intolerable situation.
They are left with little option but to intensify further or go out of business altogether.
The result of this ever-increasing scenario is that we are all losers. The quality and flavour of the food drops because realistically whenever food is produced at the least cost, there are problems for man, beast and land.
Already we have seen the disastrous consequences of pushing animal and plant way beyond their natural limits for the past 20 years – BSE and stronger and stronger strains of salmonella, camphylobactor and E-coli. Where will it end?
Instead of relentlessly squeezing farmers and food producers, the government and supermarkets and all food departments ought to come together to educate the public about how real food is produced and why if it is to be wholesome and health-giving, it needs to cost a reasonable price.
Now there’s talk of a milk and bread war – cheaper bread doesn’t bear thinking about. How many of these wise boys in their suits in the supermarkets have any idea what a dairy farmer’s life is like, getting up at the crack of dawn to milk cows, rain, hail or snow and again at night, 365 days a year. Why shouldn’t these people expect to be paid a fair price for their milk, why should they have to subsidise our demand for cheap food? If we continue to make them work for virtually no return, who is to blame them when they decide to throw their hat at it. What then?- no milk and more and more people flocking into the already overcrowded cities.
Next time you pick up a ‘bargain’, think of the farmer and remember that the reality is that the more people we put out of business, the more it will cost us the taxpayers in the end.
Meanwhile, how about making your own bread. Soda breads are literally made in minutes.

White Soda Bread and Scones

Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 20-30 minutes to bake. It is certainly another of my ‘great convertibles’. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses. It’s also great with olives, sun-dried tomatoes or caramelized onions added, so the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.
1 lb (450g/3¼ cups) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon/½ American teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon/½ American teaspoon breadsoda
Sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-14 fl ozs (350-412 ml) approx.
First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8.
Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up and flip over gently. Pat the dough into a round about 1½ inches (2.5cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/regulo 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

White Soda Scones

Make the dough as above but flatten the dough into a round 1 inch (2.5cm) deep approx. Cut into scones. Cook for 20 minutes approx. in a hot oven (see above).
White Soda Bread with Herbs
Add 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoon + 2 teaspoons) of freshly chopped herbs eg. rosemary or sage, thyme, chives, parsley, lemon balm to the dry ingredients and continue as above. Shape into a loaf or scones and bake as for soda bread.
Cheddar Cheese and Thyme Leaf Scones
Substitute thyme leaves for mixed herbs in above recipe.
Cheese Scones or Herb and Cheese Scones
4 ozs (110g/1 cup) grated mature Cheddar cheese
Egg wash
Make the White Soda bread or herb dough. Stamp into scones, brush the top of each one with egg wash and then dip into grated cheddar cheese, bake as for soda scones, or use to cover the top of a casserole or stew.
Rosemary and Olive Scones
Add 1½ tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary and 2 tablespoons roughly chopped stoned black olives to the dry ingredients and proceed as in the master recipe.
Rosemary and Sundried Tomatoes
Add 1-2 tablespoons (1½ – 2½ tablespoons) of chopped rosemary, 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) of chopped sundried tomatoes to the flour and continue as in the basic recipe. Form into a loaf of bread or scones.

Olive Scones

Make a white soda bread dough with or without herbs. Flatten into a 1 inch square. Dot the top with whole olives. Brush generously with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, cut into square scones and bake as above.
Brown Soda Bread and Scones
560g/1lb/scant 4 cups brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)
560g/1lb/4 cups) plain white flour
2 rounded teaspoons (10g/2 American teaspoons) dairy salt
2 rounded teaspoons (10g/2 American teaspoons) bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda) sieved
860g/1 pints approx./3 cups sour milk or buttermilk
First preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl, make a well in the centre and pour all of the sour milk or buttermilk. Using one hand, stir in a full circle starting in the centre of the bowl working towards the outside of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it out onto a well floured board. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Roll around gently with floury hands for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Flip over and flatten slightly to about 2 inches (5cm) approx. Sprinkle a little flour onto a baking sheet and place the loaf on top of the flour. Make with a deep cross and bake in a hot oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 after 15-20 minutes reduce the heat to 200C/400F/regulo 6 for approx. 20-25 minutes or until the bread is cooked (In some ovens it is necessary to turn the bread upside down on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before the end of baking) It will sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
Note: One could add 30g/1 oz/ cup fine oatmeal, 1 egg and 30g/1 oz/ stick) butter to the above to make a richer soda bread dough.

Brown Soda Scones

Make the dough as above. Form it into a round and flatten to 4cm/1½ inch thick approx. Stamp out into scones with a cutter, or cut with a knife. Bake for about 30 minutes in a hot oven (see above).
Note: Bread should always be cooked in a fully pre-heated oven, but ovens vary enormously so it is necessary to adjust the temperature accordingly.
If a lighter bread is preferred, use 675g (1½ lbs g) white flour and 450g (1lb) brown wholemeal flour.

Blueberries are the latest wonder food

Surprise, surprise – blueberries are the latest wonder food according to a recent press release from An Bord Glas.
Can you imagine the delight of the blueberry farmers in the Midlands when this was announced. A huge bonus in marketing terms, as we realise the importance of anti-oxidants in our diet to combat cancer. US medical studies have linked anthocyanins in blueberries (the pigment that makes the berries blue) to preventing cancer since they contain large amounts of these antioxidants. They are responsible for mopping up ‘free radicals’ in our body which can lead to cancer. The antioxidants in blueberries are also linked to slowing the effects of ageing such as joint and vascular disorders, loss of memory, skin wrinkling and varicose veins- just what I need!
Further studies have indicated that the high pectin content in blueberries can assist in reducing cholestrol in the bloodstream while the berries have also been found to be beneficial in treating and preventing urinary tract infections. Additional claimed health benefits include improving night vision, helping the eyes adjust to bright light and helping to reduce eye strain.
Fancy that – I didn’t need an excuse to eat blueberries, I’ve always loved them and have feasted on them every year during the short season when Irish blueberries are in the shops. The plump juicy blueberries that are now abundant are the cultivated relatives of the wild bilberries, herts or fraughans, as the intensively flavoured wild blueberries are called in different parts of the country.
They were traditionally picked on the first Sunday of August during Lughnasa and eaten mashed with sugar or in pies. In good years when they were particularly plentiful, they were even made into jams.
The tiny blue/black berries grow on scratchy little bushes and are quite a challenge to pick in the wild. They are sublime, just simply crushed and sprinkled with sugar and eaten with a blob of softly whipped cream, or spooned onto a sheet of tender sponge cake. They are also a delicious accompaniment to Carrigeen Moss pudding.
The season is short but the flavour is so intense that it is worth organising a family expedition to go blueberry picking on a hilltop near you.
Alternatively, look for Irish blueberries – they’ll be in the shops until early September so enjoy them while you can.

Autumn Fruit Salad

Serves 4-6
This recipe made in seconds makes a delicious fresh fruit salad. Use the best fruit you can find and dress it at the table just before you eat it.
4 ozs (110g/1 cup) Blackberries
4 ozs (110g/1 cup) Blueberries
4 ozs (110g/1 cup) Wild Strawberries (fraises du bois) or small strawberries
4 ozs (110g/ 1 cup) Raspberries
1 or 2 Peaches or Nectarines
Juice of 2-1 lemon
2 ozs (55g/scant 3 cup) sugar
Fresh mint leaves
Combine the berries and the sliced peaches or nectarines in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar and fresh lemon juice. Tear some fresh mint leaves into the fruit stir, taste and add more sugar or juice if necessary.
Serve immediately.

Blueberry Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 6-8
We’ve been having fun ringing the changes with our Bread and Butter Pudding recipe. It is also delicious with apple and cinnamon or even mixed spice.
12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed
55g (2oz/½ stick) butter, preferably unsalted
450g (1 lb) blueberries
450ml (16 fl oz/2 cups) cream
230ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) milk
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
175g (6oz/¾ cup) sugar
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding
Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish
Put the blueberries into a dish and sprinkle with sugar, leave to macerate for an hour.
Butter the bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle the bread with half the blueberries, arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the blueberries. Cover with the remaining bread, buttered side down.
In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence and sugar. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, covered loosely, for at least 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.
Bake in a bain-marie – the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding 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.

Blueberry Muffins – recipe courtesy of An Bord Glas

225g (8ozs) blueberries
225g (8ozs) self-raising flour
3 tablesp. sugar
½ teasp. salt
2 eggs
225ml (8fl.ozs) milk
50g (2ozs) melted then cooled butter
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/regulo 5.
Grease 24 patty tins
Sprinkle blueberries with 2 tablesp. of the sugar and a little sifted flour.
Sieve together the remaining dry ingredients, add the eggs, milk and butter and mix to a stiff batter.
Mix in the blueberries and divide the mixture into the prepared patty tins. Bake for 30 minutes.

The Avoca Café, a legend in its short life time

The Avoca Café in Kilmacanogue has already become a legend in its short life time. It has evolved in just a few years from a mere 4 tables serving home-made soup and biscuits into one of Ireland’s best loved restaurants, serving over 1,000 people a day.
The Café was originally started to facilitate people who came to browse and shop at Avoca Handweavers. Now many of the afficionados who flock to the Café come first and foremost for the delicious food, fresh-tasting salads, seasonal soup, interesting main courses and yummy puds and cakes.
Everyone has their favourite Avoca recipe, some dishes simply can’t be taken off the menu, yet there’s lots of variety for the many who drop in on a regular basis. Executive Chef Leylie Hayes graduated from a 12 week Certificate Course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in 1987. She and her team manage to keep brilliantly consistent food which is so difficult to achieve.
The many Avoca fans, of which I am certainly one, are overjoyed to hear that Leylie and Hugo Arnold have collaborated to write the Avoca Café Cookbook – its stylish and terrific. Rush out and buy it – its full to the brim with recipes you’ll want to dash into the kitchen to try.
‘Avoca Café Cookbook’ published by Avoca Handweavers Ltd, Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, £17.99.
Here are some delicious recipes from the book.

Piperade Tartlets

Shortcrust pastry, made with 225g (8oz) plain flour, 150g (5oz) butter, ½ teasp. salt and 1-2 egg yolks.
4 tablesp. olive oil
1 onion, peeled, cut in half, then sliced into semi-circles
3 red and 3 yellow peppers, cut into strips
225g (8oz) goat’s cheese log, such as Saint Loup
4 beef or plum tomatoes, sliced
a large bunch of basil
Roll the pastry out and use to line four 10cm/4 inch loose-bottomed tartlet tins, then bake blind. To make the piperade, heat half the olive oil in a saucepan, add the onion and peppers and cook over a high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring. Turn the heat down and cook for about an hour, until the mixture resembles marmalade.
Slice the goat’s cheese and crumble it over the pastry bases. Spread the piperade over it, then arrange the tomatoes on top. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for about 20 minutes. Tear up the basil and mix with the remaining olive oil. Spread over the top of the tartlets and serve warm.

Lakeshore Pork

1.3kg (3lb) diced leg of pork, well trimmed (fillet is even better)
Seasoned flour: flour, salt, pepper, mustard powder and brown sugar
Olive oil
600ml (1 pint) apple juice
300ml (½ pint) chicken stock
300g Lakeshore mustard, or other wholegrain mustard
300ml (½ pint) cream
Toss the pork in the seasoned flour and then brown it in some olive oil in small batches. Place in a flameproof casserole dish and cover with the apple juice and stock. Add the mustard and bring it to the boil, then transfer to an oven preheated to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir in the cream and return to the oven for 10 minutes.
If the sauce is a little thin, remove the meat and keep warm. Put the casserole over a moderate heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Return the meat to the pan.

Banana Bread

225g (8oz) plain flour
1 teasp. salt
1 heaped teasp. baking powder
1 teasp. ground cinnamon
110g (4oz) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
75g (3oz) butter, melted
a few drops of vanilla essence
65g (2½ oz) pecan nuts, chopped
4 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed
Makes 1 loaf
Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Mix in the egg, butter and vanilla essence, but do not beat. Fold in the pecans and mashed bananas, using a fork. Again do not beat. Spoon into a lined 9x20cm (3½ inch x 8 inch) loaf tin and bake in an oven preheated to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 50-60 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and springs back when prodded gently with your finger. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Apple Streusel Biscuits

Makes 16-20
150g (5oz) plain flour
90g (3½ oz) icing sugar
150g (5oz) ground almonds
225g (8oz) unsalted butter, diced
6 tablesp. home-made lemon curd
a little caster sugar for dusting
For the streusel topping:
1 large red eating apple
90g (3½oz) unsalted butter, diced
190g (6½oz) plain flour, sifted
1 teasp. mixed spice
Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds. Rub in the butter until the mixture forms coarse crumbs, then work gently together to form a soft dough. Roll out to fit a 32 x 23cm/13 x 9 inch Swiss roll tin. Scoop the dough into the tin and press out to fit. Prick all over with a fork. Spoon the lemon curd on top and refrigerate while making the streusel topping.
Coarsely grate the apple and squeeze dry on kitchen paper. Put into a bowl with a little of the demerara sugar and mix to separate the strands. In a separate bowl, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the spice, apple and the remaining sugar. Sprinkle evenly over the lemon curd, pressing down gently. Bake in an over preheated to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 45-50 minutes, until lightly browned. Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into bars. Dust with caster sugar.

Sophie Grigson’s Sunshine Food

Sophie Grigson, bubbly cook of the many earrings has a passion for the Mediterranean and not just the food, warmth and colour but also the home made drinks like Limoncello and Mint tea. In her newest book sunshine Food she captures the essence of holidays in the sun. Understandably Sophie’s ideal holiday spot is not the Cost de Sol. Asked to describe her perfect place, she searches out the ever diminishing number of small towns or villages off the beaten track, with perhaps a sandy beach, a small bar and an unpretentious restaurant frequented by the locals. “ Then absolutely critical, there must be ruins and local markets and narrow old streets to wander through”. The hotel or holiday house doesn’t have to be grand but certainly won’t be one of those concrete edifices that have mushroomed like some fungal disease all along the shores of the Mediterranean. Finally the food must be good honest gutsy food, not grand, but made with fresh local ingredients, cooked in the time honoured way without frills and fuss. It’s worth remembering that the Mediterranean is of course not just the south of France, Spain and Italy. There’s also Greece, Turkey, the Lebanon, Israel and North Africa , Egypt, Tunisia and on finally to Morocco. The sunny food of these countries is immensely seductive to us northerners and Sophie seems particularly fond of the robust flavours of Morocco, Sicily and Greece. Sophie Grigson’s Sunshine Food Published by BBC Cooks £20.00 Sterling

Joshua Goes Foraging

Our adorable little grandson Joshua is now eight months. He gurgles and chuckles all day long and has just started to crawl. We are all completely besotted and much time is spent baby worshipping.

Yesterday I took him out into the fruit garden to taste some ripe berries, he didn’t much like blackcurrants or redcurrants but he loved raspberries and fraises du bois – little wild strawberries. We had the best fun, we played a game – he held out his little dimpled hand while I put a raspberry on the top of each finger which he promptly polished off.
We only have a couple of rows of raspberries but across the road local farmer Patrick Walsh and his family grow a gorgeous selection of berries and some vegetables, much to the delight and gratitude of everyone around. Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if every village and town had at least one farm shop where local people could buy local food directly from source. There’s lots of room for big and small production, but this is yet another way that some farmers could perhaps increase their income and generate tremendous goodwill in their locality.
Then we as consumers need to show an appreciation by paying a fair price so they can produce the quality we demand. Sadly our assumption that ‘cheap food’ is our right, coupled with over-production, has been the cause of much of the problems of farming in recent times. We are quite simply forcing farmers to produce food, in many cases below its economic level. Consequently many farmers are either going out of business in despair or choosing the only other course open to them – to intensify production to reduce costs, often with a resulting loss of quality and flavour.
This very serious issue needs to be debated and tackled urgently before the exodus from the land goes any further.
Here are some of the delicious recipes we have been enjoying made from local raspberries.


A Jelly of Fresh Raspberries with Fresh Mint Cream


Makes 9-10 ramekins
1 lb (450g) fresh raspberries
8 ozs (225g/generous1 cup) sugar
8 fl ozs (225ml/1 cup) water
4 sprigs fresh mint
1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) Framboise
1 tablesp. (1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) lemon juice
3 rounded teasp. gelatine, 3 tablesp. water
Mint Cream
15 mint leaves approx.
1 tablesp. (1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) lemon juice
6 fl ozs (170ml/ ¾ cup) cream
Make a syrup by bringing sugar, water and mint leaves slowly to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, allow to cool, add Framboise and lemon juice,
Meanwhile line the moulds with cling film.
Sponge the gelatine in two tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl or pint measure, then place the bowl in a pan of simmering water until gelatine completely dissolves. Remove the mint leaves from the syrup, then pour the syrup onto the gelatine and then add the raspberries. Fill into the lined moulds. Put into the fridge and leave to set for 3-4 hours.
Meanwhile make the mint cream. Crush the mint leaves in a pestle and mortar with the lemon juice, add the cream and stir, (the lemon juice will thicken the cream, if the cream becomes too thick add a little water.)
To assemble
Spread a little mint cream on a white plate, turn out a raspberry jelly and place in the centre. Place five mint leaves on the mint cream around the jelly. Decorate with a few perfect raspberries. Serve chilled.


Liz Grieve’s Raspberry & Almond Torte with Raspberry Compote


Liz, a past student of ours shared this delicious recipe with us.
Serves 8
5oz (135g/1¼ stick) softened butter
5oz (135g) castor sugar
5oz (135g) ground almonds
5oz (135g) self raising flour
1 egg, free range
8-12 ozs (225-350g) fresh raspberries (if using frozen drain well!)
Use 8-9 inch baking tin with detachable base, greased.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4
Cream the butter, beat in the castor sugar, stir in the ground almonds and flour. The mixture will be quite soft. Spread half of this mixture onto the base of the greased tin. Put a layer of raspberries on top and cover with the remaining mix. Bake for approximately 1 hour until firm and golden.
It is best served warm with softly whipped cream and Raspberry Compote. (see below).


Raspberry Compote


1 lb (450g) raspberries
6-8 ozs (175-225g) sugar
Cook raspberries gently for about 2-3 minutes and add sugar to taste.
Raspberry Ice cream
Serves 6
1 lb (450g) fresh raspberries
10 ozs (285g) sugar
5 fl ozs (150ml) water
1 teasp. gelatine
1 pint (600ml) whipped cream
Puree and sieve the raspberries. Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil for 2 minutes, sponge the gelatine in 1 tablespoon water and dissolve in a saucepan of simmering water. Blend raspberries, puree with the syrup add a little to the gelatine and then mix the two together. Fold in whipped cream and freeze.


Raspberry Buns


Raspberry Buns have a very special place in my heart because as far as I can remember they were the very first thing I learned how to make under the watchful eye of my Aunt Florence.
Makes 10
6 ozs (170g/generous 1 cup) plain white flour
pinch of salt
2 ozs (55g/½ stick) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
1 egg
a little milk
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) home-made raspberry jam
1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar and baking powder. Whisk the egg and add a little milk. Mix with the dry ingredients to form a stiffish dough. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions and roll into balls using a little flour. Lay them on a greased tray and make a hole in the top of each with a floured thumb. Fill with a small quantity of raspberry jam and pinch the dough together again. flatten the buns slightly. Brush with a little egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in the good preheated oven for about 15 minutes. When the buns are ready they will crack on top and the jam will peep out, irresistible straight from the oven.


Raspberry & Loganberry Jam


Makes 3 x 1 lb (450g) pots
This recipe may also be used for loganberries or raspberries on their own. Reduce the sugar to 1¾ lb (785g/4 cups) for raspberry jam.
1 lb (450g/4 cups) raspberries
1 lb (450g/4 cups) loganberries
2 lbs (900g/4½ cups) white sugar
Wash, dry and sterilize the jars in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 15 minutes. Heat the sugar in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes.
Put the fruit into a wide stainless steel saucepan and cook for 3-4 minutes until the juice begins to run, then add the hot sugar and stir over a gentle heat until fully dissolved.
Increase the heat and boil steadily for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Test for a set by putting about one teaspoon of jam on a cold plate, leave it for a few minutes in a cool place. It should wrinkle when pressed with a finger. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim and pour into sterilized jam jars. Cover immediately.


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