Darina’s Saturday Letter

Latest stories

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to you all! What extraordinary weather we’re having as we spring into Summer and back into Winter again. Just a few mornings ago there was a bitter frost and then a glorious Summer day…..The leaves of my poor little beetroot seedlings got frizzled in the garden so I hope they’ll recover…

This weather ‘roller coaster’ is kinda spooky…Normally the pale yellow stalks of sea kale are in season in April but this year we’ve been harvesting them from under the cloches for over a month, in fact the crop is almost finished. Even more extraordinary is our asparagus crop usually in season in May. This year we ate the first meal at the end of February and have had several cuttings since.

Super charged, climate change whether cyclical or man-made or a combination of both is a terrifying reality, however as a consequence, this Easter we can enjoy not just the first of the rhubarb but both Irish asparagus and the last of the seasons sea kale.

In every village shop and on the high street, the shelves are groaning with Easter eggs, ever cheaper and if the truth be known, less good chocolate in many. As we scramble for the cheaper and cheaper food, I can’t help thinking about the poor cocoa bean farmers, who are forced to take less and less for their raw materials – price takers, not price makers…

As with Christmas, the blatant excess and consumerism makes me deeply uneasy and almost feel queasy. Somehow it makes me focus even more on the true meaning of the Feast of Easter, I vividly remember a time when we all fasted throughout Lent and took on a penance of our choice. We ‘gave up’ sweets or ‘the drink’ or some other secret obsession….and then there was the satisfaction of having kept to our resolution and the joy of the first bite of an Easter egg on Easter Sunday after Mass or Church – one lovely little chocolate egg that we ate morsel by morsel often over several days.

The hens in our ‘Palais de Poulets’ have gone into overdrive, they hate the cold, wet Winter days, and only lay haphazardly but coming up to Easter they start to lay again with gay abandon so if you have a few hens and I hope I’ve managed to persuade you by now to have a little moveable chicken coup on your lawn – you can enjoy dipping those tender asparagus spears into a freshly boiled egg or try this Easter Sunday Benny….

Pam has already made the traditional Simnel Cake with a layer of marzipan in the centre and 11 balls on top to symbolise the apostles. Yes, I know there were 12 but Judas doesn’t make it to the top of the cake…

We’ll roast a shoulder of sweet succulent Easter lamb and enjoy it with the already prolific spearmint in the herb garden and then of course there will be a juicy rhubarb tart. This year I’m using the Ballymaloe cream pastry recipe, it sounds super decadent and is but it’s extraordinarily good and super easy to make so don’t balk at the ingredients – just try it!

Easter Eggs Benedict with Asparagus

This recipe is a combination of two forgotten skills: poaching eggs and making Hollandaise sauce (which also involves eggs). It is the perfect breakfast for a lazy weekend.

Serves 4

Hollandaise Sauce (see recipe)

4 – 8 organic eggs

4 slices good sourdough bread a homemade yeast bread

butter

12 stalks of asparagus

First, make the Hollandaise sauce and keep it warm. Poach the eggs. Meanwhile, toast the bread. Slather a little butter on the hot bread and lay 3 slices of cooked asparagus on the base. Prop a beautifully poached egg on top and coat generously with the Hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce

A classic Hollandaise is based on a reduction of dry white wine, vinegar and finely chopped shallots. In the version we make at the Cookery School we simply emulsify rich butter with egg yolks by whisking and then sharpen with a little lemon juice. Unless you have a heavy-based saucepan, don’t attempt this recipe without a bain-marie. Even on the lowest heat, cooking a Hollandaise sauce in a pot that isn’t heavy-based may scramble the eggs.

Once the sauce is made, it must be kept warm, though the temperature should not go above 80ºC (180ºF), or the sauce will curdle. A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale; otherwise put the sauce into a Pyrex jug in a saucepan of hot, but not simmering, water. Hollandaise sauce cannot be reheated very successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need. If, however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or mashed potatoes. When it solidifies, it makes a delicious Hollandaise butter to melt over fish.

Serves 4–6

2 organic egg yolks

125g (4 1/2oz/scant 1 1/4 sticks) cold butter, cut into dice

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the egg yolks in a heavy, stainless-steel saucepan on a low heat or in a bowl over hot water. Add 2 teaspoons water and whisk thoroughly. Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water to cool it quickly. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add the lemon juice to taste.

If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency.

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

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

To prepare and cook the asparagus:

Hold each spear of asparagus over your index finger down near the root end, it will snap at the point where it begins to get tough. Some people like to peel the asparagus but we rarely do.

To boil:

Tie similar sized bundles of asparagus in bundles with raffia.  Choose a tall saucepan.

Cook in about 2.5cm of boiling salted water (1 teaspoon salt to every 600ml) in an oval cast iron casserole. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes or until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily.  Drain and serve immediately as above.

Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Wild Garlic Champ & Myrtle’s Mint Sauce

Shoulder of lamb is easily available and here the shoulder is cooked whole with just a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. If the shoulder is excessively fatty, as may be the case later on in the lamb season, trim some of it off, or ask your butcher to do it for you.

Serves 8-10

1 whole shoulder of lamb on the bone, weighing 3.6kg (8lbs)

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

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

Place the lamb shoulder in a wide roasting tin or oven tray with the skin side up. Score the skin several times to encourage the fat to run out during the cooking and to crisp up the skin. Season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes before turning the temperature down to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 for a further 3 1/2 hours.

To test if the lamb is cooked to a melting tenderness, pull the shank bone and it and some of the meat should come away easily from the bone.

When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven. There will be plenty of fatty cooking juices. Strain these off the roasting tin through a sieve into a bowl. Keep the lamb warm in the oven with the temperature reduced to 100°C/200°F/Gas Mark 1/4.

When the fat has risen to the surface of the lamb cooking juices, skim off the fat carefully and thoroughly with a large spoon.

Bring the juices to a simmer and taste and correct seasoning.

To serve the lamb, a tongs or serving fork and spoon is the best way to remove the meat from the bones.  Prise largish pieces off the bones and serve on hot plates with some of the hot cooking juices.

Wild Garlic Champ

Serves 4-6

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with wild garlic leaves and a blob of butter melting in the centre is ‘comfort’ food at its best.

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

Add 50-75g (2-3oz) roughly chopped wild garlic leaves

350ml (10-12fl oz) milk

50-110g (2-4oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Pour the milk into a pot and bring slowly to the boil.  Add the wild garlic leaves to the milk just as it comes to the boil. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.  Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and wild garlic, beat in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  The mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with parchment paper while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin.

Mint Sauce

Traditional mint sauce, made with tender young shoots of fresh mint, takes only minutes to make. For those who are expecting a bright green jelly, real mint sauce has a slightly dull colour and watery texture.

Makes about 175ml (6fl oz)

Serves about 6

25g (1oz) fresh mint, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

110ml (4fl oz1) boiling water

25ml (1fl oz) white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the freshly chopped mint and sugar into a sauce boat. Add the boiling water and vinegar or lemon juice. Allow to infuse for 5–10 minutes, before serving.

 

Easter Rhubarb Tart

Serves 8-12

Ballymaloe Cream Pastry

This pastry keeps in the fridge for up to 6 days.

110g (4oz) cold salted butter

110g (4oz) plain flour

150ml (5floz) cold cream


Filling

680g (1 1/2lb) red rhubarb

275-340g (10-12 oz) sugar approximately

 

Egg Wash

1 beaten free-range organic egg with a little milk, to glaze

1 x 23cm (9 inch) tin with 4cm (1 ½ inch) sides

First make the pastry. Sieve the flour into the bowl of an electric food mixer. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour using the paddle attachment until the mixture forms a coarse texture (slow speed and then a little faster).  (DO NOT over mix, if you do the mixture will form a shortbread like ball! Pour the cold cream into the coarse mixture and mix on a low speed until a smooth pastry forms. Wrap the pastry in parchment paper and chill overnight.

Always roll cream pastry straight from the fridge. If the pastry comes to room temperature it will be too soft to handle! Roll out half the pastry to about 3mm(1/2 inch) thick and line a round tin measuring 20.5 x 30.5cm (8 x 11.5 inches).

Slice the rhubarb into 1 cm rounds, fill the tart and sprinkle with the sugar.

Roll the remaining pastry, cover the rhubarb and seal the edges.  Decorate with pastry leaves. Paint with egg wash and bake in a preheated oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 until the tart is golden and the rhubarb is soft (45 minutes to 1 hour).  When cooked, sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

Note: This tart can also be filled with Bramley apples, gooseberries and elderflower, Worcesterberries, damsons, plums, blackberry and apples, peaches and raspberries, rhubarb and strawberries as they come into season.

Easter Egg Nests

These are a lovely simple fun recipe to make with the children or grandchildren over the Easter holidays.

Makes 24

4ozs (110g) Rice krispies

6ozs (175g) Chocolate

72 mini eggs

cup cake papers or ring moulds

Put the chocolate in a pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water.  Bring just to the boil, turn off the heat and allow to melt in the bowl.  Stir in the rice krispies.

Spoon into cup cake cases.  Flatten a little and make a well in the centre.  Fill with three speckled chocolate mini eggs.  Allow to set. 

Where to Eat in New York….

I spent a week in New York over the St Patricks’ Day festival. Even though the primary reason was to do events and interviews to promote Ireland and my latest book, Darina Allen, Simply Delicious: The Classic Collection, (quite a mouthful!), so it was also a brilliant opportunity to check out the New York and Brooklyn food scene. I am regularly asked to share my New York list so here are some of my favourite spots and new finds.

Brooklyn, just over the bridge from Manhattan has many tempting options, one could spend ones entire week checking out different exciting spots. I love Roman’s, Marlow & Sons, The Diner, Hometown Bar B Que and I also hear good things about Ugly Baby but we chose Chez Ma Tante this time, and had a super delicious Sunday brunch, in fact so good that I and wished I’d been able to get back for dinner. We particularly loved the oysters with parsley oil and yuyu, a 3 inch high kale quiche with a bitter leaf salad, chips with aioli, stracciatella with toasted almonds, raisins, preserved lemons and marjoram with sourdough toast, but the stand out dish was their craggy meltingly rich corn pancakes with maple butter. There are pancakes and there are pancakes but these were by far the best I ever tasted, sweet, salty, crisp and buttery on the outside, soft melting and irresistibly gritty inside. Definitely one of the highlights of the week with pure Vermont maple butter melting over the top.

Chez Ma Tante, 90 Calyer Street, Brooklyn.

Tiny, Japanese panelled restaurant called Hall is another little gem in the Flatiron. The juicy Washu (not wagyu) beef burger served deliciously pink on a brioche bun was particularly delectable and only $5.99.

You also need to know about Superiority Burger, a tiny cult café on 430 East 9th Street, in the East Village. It’s a veggie burger spot and to quote the forthright chef owner Brooks Headley “occasionally vegan by accident”! In this kitchen the produce is superb, don’t miss the must-get Superiority burger. Different specialities every day including homemade gelato and sorbet. There’s very little seating and often a queue but worth it. Unquestionably one of the best restaurants in lower Manhattan and surprisingly cheap for the quality.

I Sodi and Via Carota in the West Village are two of my enduring favourites. I love the simple rustic but always edgy food that much loved chefs, Rita Sodi and Jody Williams offer. Their version of cacio e pepe, the creamy peppery Roman pasta dish, is the best in New York and here’s the spot to also enjoy  a homey plate of braised tripe. No reservations at Via Carota, it’s open till midnight so is particularly worth remembering for late night dining.

King on King’s Street is wowing New Yorkers with their seasonal Italian menu – home style cooking with a daily changing menu. The light is particularly wonderful at lunch time in the chic but cosy dining room with the bonus of beautiful art on the walls.

La Mercerie Café and Roman and William’s Guild is a café on 53 Howard Street in Soho and a luxury design store, super chic, expensive but worth checking out.

I also returned to both Café Altro Paradiso and Cervo’s, another favourite with lots of small plates, great salads and cocktails. I particularly loved the tortilla with butter beans and chorizo.

Daily Provisions on East 19th is my all-time favourite breakfast or brunch spot, certainly the very best house-cured bacon and egg sandwich in New York. They serve it in a brioche bun, both the texture and flavour are totally delicious. Don’t miss the gougère filled with mushrooms or spinach scrambled eggs. The lively little Parisian style café, Buvette, on 42 Grove Street is also top of my list. Super coffee, viennoiserie and little plates and then there’s Maialino for many good things but if you haven’t already had their cacio et pepe scrambled eggs with sourdough toast put it on your bucket list.

This time I sat at the counter and had a few little snacks, loved the grilled organic chicken hearts on rosemary skewers and the white bean puree with sage pesto, espelette pepper and carta musica. www.maialinonyc.com

La Mercerie Café, 53, Howard Street, in Soho.

There’s lots more but all of the above are favourites of mine….For upcoming courses and events at Ballymaloe Cookery School check out…

Cacio e Pepe Scrambled Eggs

Inspired by the delicious cacio e pepe scrambled eggs at Maialino.

Serves 4 

15g (1/2oz) butter

8-10 organic eggs 

50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) milk and cream, mixed

50g (2oz/1/2 cup) Pecorino, grated

1 tablespoon (1 1/4 American tablespoons) freshly cracked best quality black pepper 

salt 

chargrilled sourdough bread or toast 

Whisk the eggs with the milk/cream and salt.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan.  Pour in the egg and cook over a medium hear stirring continually with a straight ended wooden spoon.  As soon as it begins to scramble, add the cracked pepper and grated Pecorino.

Continue to cook for another couple of minutes until cooked to a soft loose scrabble.  Taste, adjust the seasoning.

Turn out onto warm plates, sprinkle with a little more Pecorino and serve with grilled bread or toast.

Stracciatella with Raisins, Toasted Almonds, Preserved Lemons and Marjoram

Stracciatella is soft creamy cheese made from Buffalo milk in Bergamot near Puglia. It has a similar texture to the centre of Burrata.*

Serves 6

110g (4oz) toasted almonds, coarsely and unevenly chopped

110g (4oz) plump raisins

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

35-50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) preserved lemon, coarsely diced (see recipe)

Espelette or Aleppo pepper

225g (8oz) stracciatella

flaky sea salt

fresh annual marjoram leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6.

Blanch and peel the almonds, spread out on a baking tray and toast in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. (You can also do this in a frying pan on a medium heat.) Set aside to cool, then chop coarsely and unevenly.

Put the raisins into a little bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to plump up for 10 – 15 minutes.

Drain and dry the raisins, put into a bowl with the toasted almonds and diced preserved lemon. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, toss gently.

To serve, put a couple of tablespoons of stracciatella onto a serving plate, spoon some of the raisin, almond and preserved lemon mixture on top. Scatter with annual marjoram leaves. Sprinkle with a little pinch of Espelette or Aleppo pepper and flaky sea salt. Serve with a few pieces of sourdough toast. Repeat with the other plates.

*Note: If stracciatella is difficult to source, buy the best mozzarella you can find, coarsely chop and cover with 2-3 tablespoons of rich cream. Marinade for an hour or so.

Superiority Burger

Makes 8 – 10 patties

200g (7oz) of red quinoa

110g (4oz) onion, chopped

2 teaspoons ground toasted fennel seeds

1 teaspoon chilli powder

200g of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

150g (5oz) diced carrots

25g (1oz) coarse breadcrumbs

75g (3oz) walnuts, toasted and crushed

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon hot chilli sauce

2 tablespoons non-modified potato starch

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for frying patties

To Serve

Toasted Buns, shredded lettuce, roasted tomatoes, pickles, Muenster cheese (if you like sauces honey, mustard, or a sauce of your choice.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F)

Cook the quinoa in 300mls (10floz) of salted water until fluffy, about 45 minutes, cool and reserve.

In a separate pan, sauté the onion until translucent and browned, and season with salt and pepper, the fennel seeds and chilli powder.

Add the chickpeas and keep on the heat for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Deglaze the hot pan with the white wine vinegar and scrape everything stuck to the bottom of the pan back into the mix.

Using a potato masher, roughly smash the onion-chickpea mixture. Mix the chickpea mash by hand with the cooled quinoa.

Roast the carrots in the oven until dark around the edges and soft, about 25 minutes.

Add the carrots to the chickpea-quinoa mixture. Add the breadcrumbs, walnuts, lemon, parsley, and chilli sauce and season again with salt and pepper, until it tastes sharp.

Mix the potato starch with 1 tablespoon of water to create a cloudy, thick slurry. Fold the slurry into the burger mix as the binding agent.

Form the mixture into 8 to 10 patties and sear in oil in a hot frying pan or cast iron skillet until fully browned, about 3 minutes on each side.

To serve, place each patty on a toasted bun with shredded iceberg lettuce, Roasted Red Tomatoes, 2 pickle slices, Muenster cheese (if you like), and sauces such as honey mustard or of your choice.

Taken from Superiority Burger Cookbook by Brooks Headley

Thrice Cooked Chips with Aioli

 Almost everyone who ate at Chez ma Tante in Brooklyn ordered these chips, they come piled high on a plate, piping hot and crisp with a bowl of garlic aioli for dipping on the side.

Serves 4-6

4 -6 large potatoes (Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks)

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until almost fully cooked.  Peel, cut into chips to desired size.

Heat dripping or good quality oil to 160ºC/320°F. 

Cook the chips in batches until golden, drain well.

Note: (do not overload the basket, otherwise the temperature of the oil will be lowered, consequently the chips will be greasy rather than crisp. Shake the pan once or twice, to separate the chips while cooking).

To Serve

Heat the oil to 190ºC/375ºF and fry once more until crisp and a deep golden colour.  Shake the basket, drain well, toss onto kitchen paper, sprinkle with a little salt, pile high on a serving plate and serve with a bowl of aioli on the side for delicious dipping.

Variation

Dripping Chips

Cook the chips in dripping rather than oil.

Note: make sure the deep-fry has plenty of dripping. 

Aioli (Garlic Mayonnaise)

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

8 fl ozs (225ml/1 cup) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 6 fl ozs (175ml/3/4 cup) arachide oil and 2 fl ozs (50ml/1/4 cup) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

2 teaspoons of freshly chopped parsley (optional)

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, garlic salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Add the chopped parsley. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

If the aioli curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons  of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled aioli, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

A Food Lovers Weekend in Paris

The Paris restaurant scene has sprung back into life. That may sound like a bizarre observation considering its reputation as the gastronomic capital of the world. However, throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s Paris sat haughtily on its laurels, ignoring the food revolution that was taking place from Sydney to LA. The Michelin starred establishments continued to hike up their prices serving predictable food with lots of foams, gels and ‘skid marks’ on the plates, plus liquid pearls, powders, swirls and fronds unaware or un-phased by the change in millennial eating habits and taste.

Then Daniel Rose opened Spring in 2006 and Greg Marchand followed in 2009 with Frenchie on Rue-de-Nel –  a breath of fresh air, simple fresh contemporary food made with superb ingredients. The media and customers flocked eager for change and the revolution was born and so it continues.

As criticism grows about the astronomical prices and poor value for money offered by many of the Michelin starred restaurants, a whole plethora of tiny restaurants, bistros, cafés and coffee bars have sprung up all over the city, serving small plates and sharing platters of simple delicious food. I squashed into as many as possible over a busy weekend in Paris recently – most don’t take reservations so you’ll need to be prepared to queue but all of the following are worth the wait.

Here are my top picks:

La Buvette on Rue Saint-Maur, not to be confused with another of my favourites, Buvette in Manhattan. This tiny restaurant chalks up the menus on a mirror on the wall – close to the tiny open kitchen. I loved the huge meltingly tender white haricot beans with cedre zest and extra virgin olive oil and a few flakes of sea salt. This was followed by a tiny burrata rolled in mandarin dust and a super coarse terrine with pickled pears and some sourdough bread. I still had room for the pickled egg with black sesame and bonita flakes. I love this kind of food, edgy and delicious but possible to recreate at home.

Sometimes you only need to be famous for just one thing….In the case of tiny Comme à Libonne on Rue du Roi de Sicile in Le Marais it’s their Portuguese custard tart. There will be a queue all along the sidewalk. They bake just 24 tarts at a time…they are snapped up like the proverbial hotcakes. If you are lucky there may be space along a tiny shelf in the shop to enjoy with a cup of espresso with your little treat.

Fed up and disheartened by ‘no shows’, many of the chicest places no longer take bookings. There was an hour and a half wait for Clamato, a seafood restaurant on Rue de Charonne. So we had a little plate of some saucisson and a couple of glasses of natural wine  from their superb list at Septime, a tiny wine bar across the road.

Eventually we gave up on Clamato and had dinner at Semilla, a much talked about and now super busy restaurant serving modern French food.

Veal sweetbreads with salsify confit was the stand out dish rather better than some of the more bizarre combinations e.g. sea urchins with coffee mousse.

Watch Parisians shop, there are numerous markets around Paris, check out the nearest Farmers Markets to where you are staying by searching for Farmers Markets on Google Maps. On Sunday, the organic market on Rue Raspail is worth an amble although, quality didn’t seem as good as hitherto.

There are many coffee bars serving superb brews. Try Télescope on 5 Rue Villedo but it’s closed on Sunday. Farine & O on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoin  and Ten Belles on Rue de la Grange aux Belles are also worth a detour. As is Boot Café, a hole in the wall on Rue du Pont aux Choux.

Mokonuts, on Rue Saint-Bernard is a definite favourite, can’t wait to go back for breakfast, brunch or dinner. It’s a tiny café run by Moko Hirayama and Omar Koreitem. Loved the labneh on toast with olives and the flatbread with sumac and melted scarmosa on top. They also make what is perhaps the best chocolate chip and oatmeal cookie I have ever eaten, plus superb coffee.

E Dehillerin on Rue Coquillière is like Hamleys or Smyths Toys for cook and chefs. Every time I visit, I feel like a kid in a candy shop surrounded by tempting cookware and gadgets in this ‘no frills’ store which has remained pretty much the same  since it first opened in 1820, narrow aisles, wooden shelves and  metal  canisters full of superb quality utensils. Just around the corner on Rue Montmartre, you’ll find M.O.R.A., another iconic cook and bakeware store, that also sells a huge range of cake decorations and baubles for pastry chefs  Both shops are geared towards culinary professionals but also welcome keen cooks.

Paris is full of exciting patisserie; swing by Yann Couvreur Pâtisserie, Courou in the Marais and La Pâtisserie du Meurice par Cédric Grolet on Rue de Castiglione

L’As du Fallafel on rue des Roses is justly famous for its falafel.

Sunday brunch was at Racines, a bistro in the charming Passage des Panoramas Arcade

A whole series of little plates of real food from the chalk board, the least ‘cheffie’ but elegantly earthy comfort food. Loved his winter tomato salad with extra virgin olive oil or the pan grilled scallops on mashed potato and dill. No swirls, pearls, powder or fronds here, just real food and a suberb natural wine list.

Breizh Café on Rue Vieille du Temple, is another good spot for breakfast or lunch….

A long weekend is nowhere long enough and I haven’t even mentioned chocolatiers, cheese shops or cocktail bars. Daily flights to Paris from Cork, Dublin, Shannon….

 

 

Yemeni Style Falafel 

Sarit and Itamar shared this recipe with us at a recent visit to Ballymaloe Cookery School. They are returning this summer, see hot tips below for details…

Itamar is a quarter Yemeni on his grandfather’s side.  This falafel is a tribute to that heritage, and it is great – the traditional Yemeni combo of coriander, cardamom and garlic makes it super-vibrant in colour and flavour.

Makes 20 approximately (25g/1oz weight)

1/2 onion (approx. 60g/2 1/4oz)

1 clove of garlic (peeled)

250g (9oz) soaked chickpeas (125g (4 1/2oz) dried)

1 green chilli, seeds and all

3 springs of parsley, picked

1 small bunch of coriander (about 15-20g/1/2 – 3/4oz), leaves and top part of stems only

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom pods

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons garam flour (use plain if needs be)

1 teaspoon baking powder

 

To make the falafel

If using a meat grinder.

Use the coarse grinder blade if you have one we find it gives the best texture.  Cut the onion and garlic into dice so that you can easily feed them through the grinder.  Mince the chickpeas, onions, garlic, chilli and herbs into a bowl.

Add all the spices, salt, flour and baking powder and mix well to a very thick mass.

 

If using a food processor.

Start with the onion, garlic, chilli and herbs and pulse them to chop roughly, then add the chickpeas and blitz until everything becomes a thick paste with small, even-sized bits.   You may need to scrape the sides down and blitz for another pulse or two to make sure that everything is evenly chopped, but do not overwork.  The best way to check whether it is done enough is to scoop up a small amount and squeeze it together in your palm – it should hold its shape.  If it falls apart, return it to the processor for another spin.  Tip the mixture into a large bowl, add the spices, salt, flour and baking powder and mix until all is combined well.

Preheat the deep fry 170C/325F.

Test the oil temperature by placing a small piece of bread or falafel mix in the hot oil – as soon as it starts to bubble up and float, you are ready to go.

You can shape the falafel mix in a few different ways:

Use damp hands and make little balls or torpedo shapes or you can simply drop in spoonfuls of the mixture for free-form falafel.  You want to be making them about the size of a walnut, no bigger, so that they cook through and crisp up at the same time.

Carefully place the falafel in the oil – don’t overcrowd the pan and fry until the exterior is browned and crisped (about 2-3 minutes).  Remove to a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil and repeat the process until you have fried them all.

Serve immediately with tahini (see recipe).

Tahini 

The quality of your tahini depends hugely on the type of tahini paste you use.

We use Al-Yaman from Lebanon which is delicious, but if you are lucky enough to find any of the Palestinian varieties, especially the Prince and Dove brands, you are in for a treat.  As a rule, you are looking for something from Lebanon, Palestine or Turkey.

We make our tahini in a food processor, as it gives a smooth, airy, mousse-like texture, but you can achieve good results with a bowl, a spoon and some wrist action.

Makes about 240g (8 3/4oz)

 

125g (4 1/2oz) tahini paste

1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced

a pinch of salt, plus more to taste

juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste

about 120ml (4 1/3fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) water

Place the tahini, minced garlic, salt and lemon juice in a bowl or food processor, add half the water and mix. It will go thick and pasty but don’t fear – just continue adding water while mixing until it loosens up to a creamy texture. Don’t be tempted to add too much water as the mixture will go runny, but if this happens, you can always bring it back with a little extra tahini paste. Taste and adjust salt and lemon to suit your taste buds.

Note

You can keep tahini in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days, but it will thicken and the flavour may need adjusting with a little more salt and/or lemon.  As a result we think it’s best to make it and eat it the same day – fresh is best.

Recipe courtesy of ‘Honey & Co – Food from the Middle-East’.

 

Scallops with Dill Mash and Beurre Blanc

A delectable combination, scallops are really good at the moment.

 

Serves 4

10 scallops

Clarified butter

900g (2 lbs) unpeeled potatoes, preferably Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

300ml (10fl oz) creamy milk approx.

25-50g (1-2oz) butter or extra virgin olive oil

4 – 6 tablespoons freshly chopped dill

Beurre Blanc see recipe below.

Garnish

Sprigs of fresh dill and dill flowers.

Slice the scallops in half and keep the corals aside, cover and chill.

First make the dill mash. Scrub the potatoes well. Put them into a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for ‘old’ potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put on to a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are fully cooked. Peel immediately by just pulling off the skins, so you have as little waste as possible, mash while hot (see below). (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes into the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade).

While the potatoes are being peeled, bring about 300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) of milk to the boil. Add enough boiling creamy milk into the hot mashed potato to mix to a soft light consistency suitable for piping, add the freshly chopped dill and then beat in the butter or olive oil, the amount depending on how rich you like your potatoes. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Keep hot. Next make the beurre blanc.

Note: If the potatoes are not peeled and mashed while hot and if the boiling milk is not added immediately, the potato will be lumpy and gluey.

To Serve:

Heat a non stick pan. Sprinkle the scallops with a little flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook the scallops for 1 minute on each side, until they are barely coloured.

Spoon a dollop of hot dill mash on each plate. Scatter 5 – 6 pieces of scallop and 2 pieces of coral on top of the mash.

Drizzle some Beurre Blanc over the top and around the edge, add a few sprigs of dill and dill flowers if you have them and serve.

Beurre Blanc Sauce

Makes about 250ml (8fl oz)

Beurre blanc is super rich, however a little served with freshly poached fish is exquisite.

3 tablespoons dry white wine

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots

pinch of ground white pepper

1 tablespoon cream

175g (6oz) unsalted butter, diced

salt, freshly ground pepper

freshly squeezed lemon juice

 

Put the first four ingredients into a heavy stainless steel saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and reduce down to about a tablespoon.  Add 1 generous tablespoon of cream and reduce again until the cream begins to thicken. Whisk in the chilled butter a couple of piece at a time, keeping the sauce just warm enough to absorb the butter.  Season with salt, taste and add a little lemon juice if necessary.  Strain through a fine sieve.  Transfer to a pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot but not boiling water. Keep warm until needed.

Useful Tip

Keep warm in a flask until needed. Beurre Blanc can curdle if the pan gets too hot.  If this should happen put 1-2 tablespoons of cream into a clean saucepan, reduce to about half, then vigorously whisk in the curdled mixture, little by little.  Serve as quickly as possible.  The flavour will be a little ‘softer’ so a little more lemon juice may be needed to sharpen it up and cut the richness.

 

Labneh on Sourdough Toast with Za’atar and Olives

This is my interpretation of the delicious Labneh Toast at Mokonuts in Paris.

Serves 2

 

2 slices of sourdough bread

1 large clove of garlic

4 tablespoons of Labneh (dripped natural yoghurt) (see recipe below)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons za’atar

4 black Kalamata olives, halved and stoned

Pinch of Aleppo pepper

1 generous teaspoon chopped pistachio nuts

 

First mix the za’atar, with the oil, chopped pistachio nuts, a pinch of Aleppo pepper and a little flaky sea salt.

Toast or pan grill the sourdough bread, rub with a cut clove of garlic. Spread with a generous layer of labneh, drizzle with the za’atar oil, add 4 black olive halves. Serve immediately.

 

Labneh (dripped natural yoghurt)

Use whole-milk yogurt for a creamier cheese – this can be made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk. You can also use commercial yogurt.

 

Makes 500g (18oz) labneh approx.

 

1kg (2 1/4lb) natural yoghurt

 

To make the labneh, line a strainer with a double thickness of sterilised cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl. Pour in the yogurt. Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth to make a loose bundle and suspend the bag of yogurt over a bowl.

Leave it in a cool place to drip into the bowl for 8 hours. Jersey milk yogurt is thicker and needs only 2–3 hours to drip. Then remove the cheesecloth and put the labneh in a bowl. Refrigerate overnight, and store until needed in a covered glass or plastic container. The liquid whey that has drained off can be fed to pigs or hens or used for fermented dishes and in whey lemonade.

 

Portuguese Custard Tarts

Makes 24

 

1 large egg

2 egg yolks

115g golden caster sugar

2 tablespoons cornflour

400ml whole milk

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

900g (2lb) puff pastry

 

Lightly grease 2 x 12 muffin tins.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

 

Put the egg, yolk, sugar and cornflour in a saucepan and whisk, gradually add the milk and whisk until smooth.

Cook on a medium heat and stirring constantly with a whisk until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil, continue to cook for 2 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract.

Transfer to a Pyrex bowl, allow to cool.  Cover with cling film to prevent a skin from forming – prick here and there to allow steam to escape.

Roll the chilled puff pastry into a 3mm (1/8 inch) thick sheet, stamp out 7.5cm (3 inch) discs.  Press into the muffin tins.

Spoon a generous dessertspoon of the cool custard into each pastry case. Bake in the preheated oven for 16-20 minutes or golden on top.  Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack.  Eat warm or at room temperature.

 

Mokonuts’ Cookies

Dorie Greenspan managed to discover the secret of these cookies and shared it in the New York Times so here you go.

Makes approx. 20 cookies

Once the dough is made and formed into balls, it should be refrigerated overnight before baking. Fresh from the oven, the cookies are fragile; they firm as they cool. They’ll keep for about three days at room temperature or they can be frozen for up to two months; in either case, they should be wrapped well.

130g medium rye flour

85 all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon sea salt (grind in a pestle)

½ teaspoon baking soda

140g butter

100g sugar

100g light brown sugar

1 large egg

50g poppy seeds

80g moist, plump dried cranberries (plump in hot water)

110g bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks (62%)

flaky sea salt

 

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

 

Mix the rye flour, plain white flour, baking powder, fine sea salt and baking soda in a bowl.

Cream the soft butter and both sugars together in a food mixer.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, and beat well for a minute or two. Reduce the speed, add the dry ingredients, then mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Then add the poppy seeds, cranberries and chocolate.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 15 – 20 pieces, roll each piece into a ball (40g approx.) and arrange on the baking sheet leaving space for expansion, about 5cm (2 inch).

Note: Cover, and refrigerate the dough for an hour or better still overnight or for up to 3 days. (If you’d like, you can wrap the balls airtight and freeze them for up to 1 month. Defrost them overnight in the fridge before baking.)

Sprinkle each cookie with a little flaky salt.

Bake for 10 minutes, pull the baking sheet from the oven and, using a metal spatula, a pancake turner or the bottom of a glass, tap each cookie lightly. Let the cookies rest on the sheet for 3 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining dough, always using cold dough and a cool baking sheet.

Serve after the cookies have cooled for about 10 minutes, or wait until they reach room temperature.

Irish Food Writers Guild Awards

How fortunate are we here in Ireland to have such an abundance of artisan products and more emerging virtually every week.  This sector is incredibly creative and has helped to enhance the diversity and image of Irish food hugely, both at home and abroad.  Visitors to Ireland are thrilled to taste the farm house cheese, charcuterie, preserves, pickles, ferments, smoked fish and increasing real bread from the growing number of artisan bakeries who are making real natural sourdough bread free of the almost 20 additives, enzymes, improvers and processing aids, which can be legally included without being on the label.  No wonder so many people are finding they have a gluten intolerance.

In their 25 years, several awards recognise the efforts and creativity of this sector, Eurotoque, Dingle and The Food Writers Guild…..

The latter awards were held recently at Glovers Alley restaurant in Dublin.  The selection process is meticulously conducted. Nominations are in confidence, received from Guild members, shortlisted, tasted and chosen individually to a carefully agreed list of criteria.

An Irish Food Writers Guild award is much coveted by the recipients.

This year three of the eight biggest awards went to Cork – just saying! One of the awards went to Hegarty’s Cheese for their new Teampall Gael cheese.  The Hegarty family are fifth generation dairy farmers in Whitechurch in North Cork. To add value to the milk of their large Friesian herd,  they experimented first with yogurt and cheese and eventually launched a traditional cloth bound truckle of Cheddar in 2001.  Jean-Baptiste Enjelvin from Bordeaux in France joined them in 2015 and a Comté style cheese, Teampall Gael is the result of this collaboration.  This sweet, delicate, nutty, alpine style cheese is made only from the raw milk of pasture fed cows (no silage).  The huge 40kg wheels are matured for at least nine months-a really exciting addition to the Irish farmhouse cheese family.

Mike Thompson’s beautiful Young Buck Cheese from Co Down also won an award. This raw milk, Stilton type blue cheese, comes from a single herd and was the first artisan cheese to be made in Northern Ireland.

The Irish Drink Award also went to Cork’s Killahora Orchards near Carrigtwohill for their Rare Apple Ice Wine. A really exciting ice wine, delicious to serve with desserts or made into a granita. Andy McFadden and his team at Glovers Alley served it with a sheep’s yoghurt mousse, honey and lime.

David Watson and Barry Walsh grow over 130 varieties of apple used to make craft cider, and 40 pear varieties to make Perry. Look out for their apple port also…. It tastes like the best white port, delicious to sip on its own or with a good tonic water http://www.killahoraorchards.ie/#contact

The Community Food Award went to Cork Penny Dinners which was founded during the famine in the 1840’s. This much loved Cork charity provides up to 2000 nourishing hot meals every day of the year in a safe and nurturing environment for all those in need. Catherine Twomey and her team also run five classes a week, the Cork Music Dojo, High Hopes homeless choir, the Food for Thought mental health initiative for students, mindfulness classes and French classes. They are about to expand their facilities to include other educational opportunities, plus a clinic run by GP’s who donate their expertise for one day a year. A third accolade for Cork and

a hugely deserving winner of the Community Food Award. If you would like to donate your time or money go to http://corkpennydinners.ie/untitled-2/untitled-copy

The Outstanding Organisation Award went to 3fe Coffee in Dublin. What most impressed the Irish Food Writers Guild about 3fe is not only the fact that the 3fe brand has become synonymous with the best quality coffee in Ireland, but also the company’s commitment to sustainability in the areas of waste and energy use, purchasing principles, staff welfare and community. Colin Harmon and his team have recently opened an all-day restaurant, Gertrude to add to their cafes, add it to your Dublin list…..

The Environmental Award went to Charlie and Becky Cole of Broughgammon Farm in Ballycastle, Co Antrim. The Irish Food Writers Guild recognises them for their exceptional commitment to the environment and for rescuing male kid goats who would normally have been put down at birth. They now rear free range rose veal and seasonal wild game as well and make an exceptionally good rose veal salami. There’s also an eco-farmhouse, on-site butchery facility and farm shop that use solar thermal heating, low-flow appliances and photovoltaic solar panels.

The inspirational Workman family of Dunany Farm in Co Louth have been growing heirloom wheat varieties and milling their own organic flour for four generations. Recently they recognised a gap in the market for spelt, a challenging crop to grow and harvest but nutrient dense and low in gluten, high in fibre and B vitamins and rich in essential fatty acids and amino acids. Dunany organic spelt grains are my new best find and here I share the recipe for the spelt risotto that we enjoyed for lunch at Glovers Alley in the Fitzwilliam Hotel. I can’t wait to experiment more.

Last but certainly not least the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Peter Hannan of Hannon Meats near Moira in Co Down in recognition of his continued work as one of Ireland’s most dedicated food champions. Peter has dedicated his life to producing superb quality beef and is 50% stakeholder in the renowned Glenarm Southern Beef Scheme.  Hannon Meats are dry aged in four Himalayan salt chambers for an average of 35 – 45 days but they provide an extra aged product for special clients who want 80 – 100 days. Peter too was a worthy recipient of this award, one of numerous awards he has deservedly won over the years.

Dunany Organic Spelt Risotto

Serves 4

200g Dunany Organic Spelt Berries

25g dried porcini mushrooms

1½ tsp olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

100ml white wine

1 litre hot vegetable stock

1 tbsp crème fraîche

handful of grated Parmesan cheese

finely snipped fresh chives

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

parsley oil or fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, to serve

 

Cover the spelt with cold water. Put the dried mushrooms in a separate heatproof bowl and soak in 100ml of just-boiled water. Allow the spelt and mushrooms to soak for 20 minutes.

 

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the spelt and add to the pan along with the wine. Simmer until almost all the wine has evaporated, stirring often.

 

Drain the porcini mushrooms over a bowl so that you can reserve the soaking liquid, then discard the mushrooms. Add the soaking liquid to the vegetable stock. Stir the stock into the spelt berries a ladleful at a time and simmer, stirring often, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the spelt is tender. This will take about 20 minutes in total.

 

Stir in the crème fraîche, Parmesan and chives, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the risotto between warmed bowls and drizzle over the parsley oil or scatter over some chopped fresh parsley. Serve straight away.

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2019 by executive chef Andy McFadden of Glovers Alley, 128 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

 

Peter Hannan’s Salt-Aged Glenarm Beef Sirloin with Salt-Baked Celeriac, Hazelnuts and Truffle

Serves 4

 

1kg thick slice of Peter Hannan’s Salt-Aged Glenarm Beef Sirloin

plenty of sea salt

soft butter, for cooking

100g hazelnuts, toasted and halved, to serve

Périgord black truffle, for slicing

 

For the salt-baked celeriac:

1 large celeriac

700g table salt

110g free-range egg whites

5 sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped

 

Take the beef out of the fridge and put it on a tray without any covering or cling film. Allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before you intend to start working with it so that it has a dry surface and is not too cold when cooked.

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Place the celeriac in a roasting tray. Mix the table salt, egg whites and rosemary together in a large bowl until the mixture forms a paste. Cover the celeriac in a 2cm-thick layer of the salt paste, ensuring there are no gaps. Bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven, chip away the salt crust and scoop out the baked celeriac. Portion into nicely sized wedges and reserve until ready to plate.

A little while before you’re ready to start cooking, season the beef with plenty of salt. As it is a very big piece you will need more salt than you think. You will find that if you let the salt dissolve a little, the meat will brown more easily and uniformly.

 

Melt a large spoon of butter in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. When the butter has lightly browned, add the beef and cook until the first side is perfectly caramelised. The meat and the pan need to be kept moving at all times so that no part of the pan warms up too much, causing the fat in that part to burn, and so that no part gets too cold and stops the meat from browning.

When the first side is perfect, repeat the process with the second side, adding a little more butter as you turn it. Let the meat rest somewhere warm but not hot, brush with some butter and leave it to rest.

While the meat is resting, pour the butter and fat that have rendered out of the beef through a fine mesh sieve into a container and clean the pan. When the meat is no longer hot to touch, fry it once more in the clean pan, brush it with butter and leave it to rest again. Repeat this process until the meat is cooked to your liking.

To finish the meat, reheat the frying pan and put back the fat strained from the pan earlier. Fry the beef on both sides once more and add some more butter. Let the new butter brown, then immediately lift the meat out and place on a preheated chopping board. Cut it into four strips straight away using a very sharp knife and serve with the salt-baked celeriac, toasted hazelnuts and some shaved truffle.

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2019 by executive chef Andy McFadden of Glovers Alley, 128 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

 

Killahora Orchards Rare Apple Ice Wine Granita, Sheep’s Yogurt Mousse, Honey and Lime

Serves 4

For the granita:

200g caster sugar

100ml lemon juice

100ml water

800g Killahora Orchards Rare Apple Ice Wine

 

For the sheep’s yogurt mousse:

6 gelatine leaves

500g sheep’s yogurt

130g caster sugar

500g cream

 

To serve:

Irish honey

zest of 1 lime

 

To make the yogurt mousse, bloom the gelatine in a bowl of cold water. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt and sugar. Lightly whip 400g of the cream and boil the remaining 100g of cream (weigh the cream instead of measuring it by volume). Dissolve the gelatine in the boiled cream, then pour onto the yogurt. Fold in the whipped cream and allow to set in the fridge.

To make the granita, place the sugar, lemon juice and water in a pan and heat just until the sugar dissolves. Add the apple ice wine and warm until the mix comes together. Pour into a baking tray or large plastic container. Place in the freezer for about 30 minutes, until it’s becoming icy around the edges. Stir with a fork and place back in the freezer for another 90 minutes, stirring it every 20 or 30 minutes with a fork to scrape the granita into icy crystals, until the granita is completely frozen. This can be made a day ahead and kept tightly covered in the freezer.

To serve, pipe the yogurt mousse into the centre of a serving bowl. Drizzle the honey over the top. Spoon the granita on top and finish with freshly grated lime zest.

 

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2019 by executive chef Andy McFadden of Glovers Alley, 128 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

 

Teampall Gael and Young Buck Cheese with Rhubarb and Apple Chutney

 

10 cloves

4 star anise

3 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

250g rhubarb, chopped

250g Bramley apple, peeled, cored and chopped

100g Demerara sugar

100ml balsamic vinegar

100ml water

zest of 1 orange

Teampall Gael cheese, to serve

Young Buck cheese, to serve

 

To make the chutney, wrap the cloves, star anise, bay leaves and cinnamon stick in a piece of muslin. Put the rhubarb, apple, sugar, balsamic vinegar, water and the muslin of spices in a pan on a medium heat. Cook until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and cook until thick and syrupy and the rhubarb and apple have softened. Stir in the orange zest and allow to cool.

Serve the Teampall Gael and Young Buck cheese on a cheeseboard with the rhubarb and apple chutney alongside.

 

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2019 by executive chef Andy McFadden of Glovers Alley, 128 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

A Recent Trip To India

To celebrate Holi, the festival of colour and love-  a piece on India. Recently I spent a couple of weeks in India in Ahilya Fort, a small heritage hotel overlooking the Narmada, one of the most sacred rivers in India. From dawn to dark, there’s endless activity below the fort on the ghats, along the river bank. Local devotees and pilgrims worshipping and offering prayers to the holy river which nourishes and waters their crops. They perform a variety of puja and aarti and bathe in the river to wash away their sins. Women wash their clothes along the waters edge, children feed the fish and dive into the chilly waters giggling with delight. It’s a riot of colour, women bath in their saris and then hold them up in the gentle breeze to dry. Little wooden boats with gaily painted canopies ferry people across the river to the Shalivan Temple in Naodatodi, a village of a few hundred friendly people who earn their living from basic farming, growing bananas, corn and cotton. There’s a brick works close to the village where it’s intriguing to watch the handmade bricks being individually made by both men and women then dried in the sun and baked in a hand built kiln.

The village is tranquil, with a wonderfully welcoming friendly atmosphere, children run out of their houses to meet us…..another household invited us in to share a cup of chai. ..

The little town is still deliciously rural, all the needs of the local community are catered for by the numerous small shops and stalls. But Maheshwari is most famous for its hand weaving industry both silk and cotton which employs over 5,000 people.

Women come from all over India to choose a Maheswari silk saree from Rehwra. Buyers from posh shops from all over the world order superb handwoven cotton scarves and fabric from Women Weave.

There’s a tiny shoe makers shop at the bottom of the hill below the fort, close by the miller, where local farmers bring their corn and wheat to be ground, a Pan maker, several little flower shops where chrysanthemum flowers, roses and other blossoms are threaded onto cotton to make garlands to embellish the temple gods or to welcome visitors. Several potters made utilitarian earthenware vessels both for the household and temple ceremonies. Many jewellers sell gold and silver, drapers sitting cross legged sell wildly colourful sarees and bolts of materiel side by side with tailors peddling away on old treadle sewing machines. Half way down the main street a man chats to passers-by while he presses clothes ‘en plain air’ with a heavy iron filled with hot coals – all the shop fronts are fully open and customers remove their shoes before they enter.

Barbers lather up their customers chins and snip their hair in full view of passers-by…It’s all very colourful and convivial. Hardware shops are packed from floor to ceiling with kitchen utensils, farm implements, rat traps, kari (metal woks), water coolers. Now more and more brightly coloured plastic is replacing tin, metal and earthenware.

Not a supermarket in sight, lots of little grocery shops also selling snacks, sev, namkin and lottery tickets.

The Fish Market is down by the river but the huge bustling produce market takes place on Friday. Fresh fruit, vegetables and roast water chestnuts are sold from street carts by women sitting cross legged on the ground surrounded by the freshest produce. Sadly, many of the older houses with their delightful timber shutters and balconies are being demolished to make way for soul-less cement structures all in the way of progress, none the less Mahesware is still utterly enthralling in a charming, chaotic sort of way. An enchanting mix of medieval and 21st century plus – There are even lots of satellite dishes and five ATM machines which occasionally deliver money.

But the focus of this column is on the variety of street food one finds. In the morning, stalls sell poha, a mixture of soaked flattened rice and spices sold on little squares of newspaper, nourishing wholesome food for a couple of Rupees, I love street food and eat it where ever I go, with street food you taste the real flavours of a country….

Poha

Poha is served for breakfast all over India, there are many versions, some also include diced, cooked potato and red and yellow pepper.

(Serve 8)

500g (18oz) Poha (Beaten Rice)

100g (3.5oz) Green Peas, unless really fresh use frozen

200g (7oz) Sev (Indian chick pea vermicelli)

1 tbsp Fennel seeds

1 tbsp Mustard seed

1 ½ tbsp Salt

1tsp Cumin Seeds

1 tsp Turmeric Powder

1 tbsp Sugar

3 tbsp Oil

3 tsp Fresh green coriander

Seeds of 1 large pomegranate

110g (4oz) finely chopped onion

110g (4oz) water chestnuts

3 Green Chilies Chopped

5 or 6 curry leaves (murraya koenigii)

Wash poha two to three times in cold water and strain, press out much of the water as possible.

Heat the oil in a wok or kadhai until hot. Add the mustard, cumin and fennel seeds,  turmeric powder, curry leaves and chopped green chilies and immediately add the chopped onions. Stir until the onions are tender and slightly golden, add the diced water chestnuts and continue to stir for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the poha with the green peas and fresh coriander, stir for about 5 Minutes. The dish is served warm, add the pomegranate seeds and garnish it with sev and lots of fresh coriander.

 

Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Tumeric

Serves 4 – 6

50mls (2floz) of olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

225g (8oz) onion

1 (2 inch) piece ginger, finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric, plus more for serving

1 tsp chilli flakes, plus more for serving

2 400g tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 400g tins of full fat coconut milk

500mls (18floz) vegetable or chicken stock

350g (12ozs) of Swiss chard, kale or collard greens torn into bite-size pieces, stalks chopped and added

handful of fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Yoghurt (for serving, optional)

Toasted pitta bread, lavash or other flatbread for serving (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add garlic and onion. Season with salt and black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent and starts to brown a little around the edges, 3 – 5 minutes. Add ginger and cook for a further 2 – 3 minutes.

Add turmeric, chilli flakes and chickpeas, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, so the chickpeas sizzle and fry a bit in the spices and oil, until they’ve started to break down and get a little browned and crisp, 8 – 10 minutes,.

Using a potato masher or spatula, further crush the remaining chickpeas slightly to release the starchy insides (this will help to thicken the stew).

Add coconut milk and stock to the pot, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any bits that have formed on the bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until stew has thickened and flavours have started to come together, 30 – 35 minutes. (Taste a chickpea or two, not just the liquid, to make sure they have simmered long enough to taste as delicious as possible).

If after 30 – 35 minutes you want the stew a bit thicker, keep simmering until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Determining perfect stew thickness is a personal journey!

Add green stalks and cook until nearly tender, then add the leaves and stir, making sure they’re submerged in the liquid. Cook a few minutes so they wilt and soften, 3 – 7 minutes, depending on what you’re using. (Swiss chard and spinach will wilt and soften much faster than kale or collard greens). Season again with salt and pepper.

To serve divide among bowls and top with mint, a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a good drizzle of olive oil. Serve alongside yoghurt and toasted pitta if using; dust the yoghurt with turmeric if you wish.

 

Indian Spiced Vegetable Pakoras with Mango Relish

 

Mangoes are a great source of betacarotene and Vitamin C. They aid digestion, reduce acidity in the system and help cleanse the blood.

Serves 4-6

Vegetables

1 thin aubergine cut into 1/4 inch (5mm) slices

1 teaspoon salt

2 medium courgettes, cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) slices, if they are very large cut into quarters

12 cauliflower florets

6 large mushrooms, cut in half

 

Batter

6oz (175g) chick pea or all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander

1 scant teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 tablespoon  olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

6-8fl oz (175-250m) iced water

vegetable oil for deep frying

Garnish

lemon wedges and coriander or parsley.

Put the aubergine slices into a colander, sprinkle with the salt, and let drain while preparing the other vegetables.

Blanch the courgettes and cauliflower florets separately in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, and dry well. Rinse the aubergine slices and pat dry.

Put the flour, coriander, salt and curry powder into a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil, lemon juice and water until the batter is the consistency of thick cream.

Heat good quality oil to 180°C/350°F in a deep fry. Lightly whisk the batter and dip the vegetables in batches of 5 or 6, slip them carefully into the hot oil.  Fry the pakoras for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning them with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a moderate oven (uncovered) while you cook the remainder. Allow the oil to come back to 180°C/350°F between batches. When all the vegetable fritters are ready, garnish with lemon wedges and fresh or deep fried coriander or parsley. Serve at once with mango relish.

Mango Relish

2fl oz (50ml) medium sherry

2fl oz (50ml) water

2fl oz (50ml) white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

1/2 teaspoon salt

pinch of ground mace

1 mango, peeled and diced

1 small red pepper, seeded and diced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Put the sherry, water, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, star anise, salt and mace into a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the mango, pepper, and lemon juice, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Spoon into a screw top jar and refrigerate until required.

 .

Chai

Everyone needs a recipe for this spiced tea – beware it becomes addictive.

250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) full fat milk

2-3 cardamom pods

2.5cm (1inch) piece of cinnamon

3 peppercorns

3 teaspoons loose tea leaves

500ml (18fl oz/2 1/4 cups) boiling water

sugar

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

Tumeric Latte

One serving

350mls (12floz) whole milk or almond milk

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

sugar or honey to taste

a grind of black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and whisk constantly over a gentle heat until it comes to the boil. When hot, pour the frothy latte into a heavy glass and enjoy.

St Patrick’s Day

Happy St Patricks Day! While you read this column I’ll be in New York celebrating….How fortunate are we in Ireland that our National Feast Day is celebrated all over the world, often even more flamboyantly than we do in Ireland.

I’ve been promoting my latest book, Darina Allen’s Simply Delicious The Classic Collection which has so many nostalgic memories for lots of people and the recipes have really stood the test of time. I’ve also been promoting Ireland, enthusiastically spreading the news of the food revolution and boasting about the Cork food scene and the award winning restaurants and artisan and speciality food producers. I’m also happy to remind everyone I meet that we have a brilliantly friendly and super efficient airport right here in Cork with flights direct from Boston with Norwegian Air and a warm Irish welcome on arrival.

On Thursday, Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt and their team at King in Manhattan cooked a lunch with dishes from my Simply Delicious Classic Collection, they incorporated Lydia’s Traditional Irish Salad, Dingle Pie, Irish Bacon and Cabbage with Parsley Sauce and Country Rhubarb Cake, all went down a storm…

For the past few weeks I have taken lots of calls from food writers and journalists from all over the world who are honing their own copy for their St Patricks Day columns. The word is out about the exciting contemporary Irish food that so many of our Michelin starred restaurants are serving their guests…They are all loving that but also want some simple recipes for home cooked dishes that their readers can reproduce easily in their own kitchen to share a taste of Ireland on St Patricks Day.

My Irish Traditional Cooking first published in 1995 and republished in 2012 with 100 extra recipes from the hand written manuscripts and cookbooks of many of Ireland’s great houses, is packed with traditional recipes.

High on the list of requests from food writers are our Irish soda breads, spotted dog, porter cakes and scones, as are comforting potato dishes like, champ, colcannon, boxty, and Fleurrie Knox’s potato cakes dripping in good Irish butter.

Irish apple or rhubarb cake, served with a good dollop of cream is also irresistible and of course the classic Ballymaloe Irish Stew, the quintessential ‘one pot feeds all’ dish that everyone around the table will not only enjoy but also want second or third helpings.

Meanwhile, embrace the spirit, dress up in your green ‘glad rags’, have a competition in the office for the best St Patricks Day rigout, illuminate your building in green. Both Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School participated in the ‘greening’ in 2018, joining an illustrious list of buildings worldwide – the Colosseum, the Empire State Building, the Chicago River, the Great Wall of China….

 

Traditional White Soda Bread

 Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 30 – 40 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.

1lb (450g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon breadsoda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-14fl oz (350-400ml) approx.

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.

 

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. 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 1 1/2 inches (4cm) 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/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 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.

 

Lydia’s Traditional Irish Salad

We serve this delightful traditional salad as a starter at Ballymaloe House, with this delicious time-honoured dressing, popular before the days of mayonnaise. The original recipe for salad dressing, came from Lydia Strangman, the last occupant of our house.

Serves 4

 

2 organic free-range eggs

1 butterhead lettuce (the ordinary lettuce that one can buy everywhere)

4 tiny scallions or spring onions

watercress sprigs

2–4 ripe tomatoes, quartered

16 slices of crisp cucumber

4 tablespoons  Pickled Beetroot and Onion

4 sliced radishes

Coarsely chopped parsley

 

Lydia Strangman’s Cream Dressing

2 eggs, free-range if possible

1 tablespoon dark soft brown sugar

pinch of salt

1 level teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon brown malt vinegar

50–125ml (2–4fl oz) cream

 

Hard-boil the eggs for the salad and the dressing (4 in total). Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs and boil for 10 minutes (12 if they are very fresh). Strain off the hot water and cover with cold water. Peel when cold.

 

Wash and dry the lettuce, scallions and watercress.

 

Next make the cream dressing. Cut 2 of the eggs in half and sieve the yolks into a bowl. Add the sugar, a pinch of salt and the mustard. Blend in the vinegar and cream. Chop the egg whites and add some to the sauce. Keep the rest to scatter over the salad. Cover the dressing until needed.

 

To assemble the salads, first arrange a few lettuce leaves on each of 4 plates. Scatter with a few tomato quarters and 2 hard-boiled egg quarters, a few slices of cucumber and a radish on each plate, and (preferably just before serving) add a slice of beetroot to each. Garnish with scallions and watercress. Scatter the remaining egg white (from the dressing) and some chopped parsley over the salad.

 

Put a tiny bowl of cream dressing in the centre of each plate and serve immediately, while the salad is crisp and before the beetroot starts to run.

 

Alternatively, serve the dressing from one large bowl.

 

 Dingle Pie

Mutton and lamb pies were and still are traditional in many parts of Co Kerry, including Dingle and Listowel.  Cumin was not part of the original recipe but was an addition by Myrtle Allen, which Ballymaloe House guests loved. The original pastry was made with lamb suet but Myrtle substituted butter with delicious results.

 

Serves 6

 

450g (1lb) boneless lamb or mutton (from the shoulder or leg; keep bones for stock)

250g (9oz) chopped onions

250g (9oz) chopped carrots

2 good teaspoons cumin seed

300ml (10fl oz) mutton or lamb stock

2 tablespoons  flour

salt and freshly ground pepper

 

Stock

lamb bones from the meat

1 carrot

1 onion

outside stalk of celery

a bouquet garni made up of a sprig of thyme, parsley stalks

a small bay leaf

 

Pastry

350g (12oz) plain white flour

175g (6oz) butter

110ml (4fl oz) water

a pinch of salt

 

Egg Wash

1 egg

a pinch of salt

 

2 tins x 15cm (6 inch) in diameter, 4cm (1 1/2 inch) high or 1 x 17.5cm (7 inch) tart tin.

If no stock is available, put the bones, carrots, onions, celery and bouquet garni into a saucepan.  Cover with cold water and simmer for 3-4 hours to make a stock.  Trim all the surplus fat from the meat, dice the meat into small, neat pieces about the size of a small sugar lump.  Render down the scraps of fat in a hot, wide saucepan until the fat runs.  Discard the pieces.  Cut the vegetables into slightly smaller dice and toss them in the fat, leaving them to cook for 3-4 minutes.  Remove the vegetables and toss the meat in the remaining fat over a high heat until the colour changes.

Dry roast the cumin seed in a hot frying pan for a few minutes and crush lightly.  Stir the flour and cumin seed into the meat.  Cook gently for 2 minutes and blend the stock in gradually.  Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.  Add back the vegetables, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and leave to simmer in a covered pot.  If using young lamb, 30 minutes will be sufficient; an older animal may take up to 1 hour.

 

Meanwhile, make the pastry.  Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.  Dice the butter, put it into a saucepan with water and bring to the boil.  Pour the liquid all at once into the flour and mix together quickly; beat until smooth.  At first the pastry will be too soft to handle but as soon as it cools it may be rolled out 2 1/2 – 5mm (1/3 – 1/4 inch) thick, to fit the two tins.  The pastry may be made into individual pies or one large pie.  Keep back one-third of the pastry for lids.

Fill the pastry- lined tins with the meat mixture which should be just cooked and cooled a little.  Brush the edges of the pastry with the water and put on the pastry lids, pinching them tightly together.  Roll out the trimmings to make pastry leaves or twirls to decorate the top of the pies; make a hole in the centre. Egg-wash the lid and then egg-wash the decoration also.

Bake the pies for 40 minutes approx. at 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.  Serve with a salad of seasonal leaves.

Variation

Puff Pastry (see recipe) can be substituted for the hot water crust pastry, proceed as is in master recipe.

 

 Traditional Irish Bacon, Cabbage and Parsley Sauce

Ireland’s national dish of bacon and cabbage can be a sorry disappointment nowadays, partly because it is so difficult to get good-quality bacon with a decent bit of fat on it. Traditionally, the cabbage was always cooked in the bacon water. People could only hang one pot over the fire at a time, so when the bacon was almost cooked, they added the cabbage for the last half hour or 45 minutes of cooking. The bacon water gives a salty, unforgettable flavour, which many people, including me, still hanker for. You will need to order the loin well in advance, especially with rind on.

 

Serves 12–15

 

about 2.25kg (5lb) loin, collar or streaky bacon, either smoked or unsmoked with the rind on and a nice covering of fat

1 Savoy or 2 spring cabbages

50g (2oz) butter

freshly ground pepper

Parsley Sauce (see recipe)

 

Cover the bacon in cold water in a large pot and bring slowly to the boil. If the bacon is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water, in which case it is preferable to discard the water and start again. Cover with hot water and the lid of the pot and simmer until almost cooked, allowing 20 minutes for every 2.2kg (1lb).

Meanwhile, trim the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut it into quarters, removing the core. Discard the core and outer leaves. Slice the cabbage across the grain into thin shreds. If necessary, wash it quickly in cold water. About 20 minutes before the end of cooking the bacon, add the shredded cabbage to the water in which the bacon is boiling. Stir, cover and continue to boil gently until both the cabbage and bacon are cooked – about 13⁄4 hours.

          Lift the bacon onto a plate and remove the rind if you like. When the bacon is fully cooked it will peel off easily. Strain the cabbage and discard the water (or, if it’s not too salty, save it for soup). Add a generous lump of butter to the cabbage. Season with lots of ground pepper; it’s unlikely to need more salt, but add some if necessary. Serve the bacon with the cabbage, parsley sauce and floury potatoes.

 

Parsley Sauce

You may want to double this recipe if you love parsley sauce as much as I do.

600ml (1 pint) full-cream milk

a few parsley stalks

sprig of thyme

a few slices of carrot (optional)

a few slices of onion (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

50g (2oz) roux

about 50g (2oz) curly parsley, freshly chopped

 

Put the cold milk into a saucepan and add the herbs and vegetables (if using). Bring the mixture to simmering point, season and simmer for 4–5 minutes. Strain the milk, bring it back to the boil and whisk in the roux until the sauce is a light coating consistency. Season again with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the chopped parsley and simmer on a very low heat for 4–5 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning.

 

Country Rhubarb Cake 

 

This traditional rhubarb cake, based on an enriched bread dough, was made all over Ireland and is a treasured memory from my childhood. It would have originally been baked in the bastible or ‘baker’ over the open fire. My mother, who taught me this recipe, varied the filling with the seasons – first rhubarb, then gooseberries, later in the autumn, apples and plums.

 

Serves 8

 

340g (12oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

55g (2oz) caster sugar

85g (3oz) butter

1 egg, free-range if possible

165ml (5½fl oz) milk, buttermilk or sour milk

680g (1½lb) rhubarb, finely chopped

170–225g (6–8oz) granulated sugar

beaten egg, to glaze

caster sugar, for sprinkling

 

TO SERVE

softly whipped cream

soft brown sugar

 

25cm (10in) enamel or Pyrex pie plate

 

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4

Sieve the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and caster sugar into a bowl and rub in the butter. Whisk the egg and mix with the milk, buttermilk or sour milk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in most of the liquid and mix to a soft dough; add the remainder of the liquid if necessary.

Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface. Turn out the soft dough and pat gently into a round. Divide into two pieces: one should be slightly larger than the other; keep the larger one for the lid.

Dip your fingers in flour. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry to fit the pie plate. Scatter the finely chopped rhubarb all over the base and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg. Roll out the other piece of dough until it is exactly the size to cover the plate, lift it on and press the edges gently to seal them. Make a hole in the centre for the steam to escape. Brush again with beaten egg and sprinkle with a very small amount of caster sugar.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the rhubarb is soft and the crust is golden. Leave it to sit for 15–20 minutes before serving so that the juice can soak into the crust. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Serve still warm, with a bowl of softly whipped cream and some moist, brown sugar.

World Restaurant Awards 2019

The original idea was simple: Try to do something different, something that celebrates the restaurant world in a new, more relevant and entertaining way…  Awards from the ground up but it took a whole decade to become a reality. These ground breaking awards celebrate the excellence, integrity and rich culture of the restaurant world.

So with much pomp and ceremony, the inaugural World Restaurant Awards were held at the Palais Brongniart in Paris on 18th February 2019. – 10 countries and 4 continents were represented. A glitzy, super chic event that celebrated not just the chefs that work their magic with foams, gels, skid marks on plates and liquid nitrogen, instead these awards celebrated many other aspects of the restaurant experience.

Over 100 judges from 37 countries made up a cosmopolitan, multicultural, globetrotting, gender balanced, panel of experts … chefs, restauranteurs, influential figures in old and new media, film makers, book publishers, food scientists, activists, campaigners. They chose from 18 different categories including ……

No reservations required – for places where it is possible to turn up without a booking. This award went to Mocoto,  Sao Paulo Brazil

House special , restaurants defined by one particular dish was won by Lido 84 on the edge of Lake Garda in Italy for their simple but iconic pasta dish, Cacio e Pepe en Vessie (cooked in a pigs bladder).

Multi starred Alain Ducasse won the Tattoo-free chef of the Year.

The Tweezer- free kitchen went to Bo.Lan in Bangkok.

The Pop Up Event of the Year was awarded to the Refugee Food Festivals.

New arrival of the Year went to Inua – in Tokyo.

Ethical Thinking, rewarding environmental and social responsibility to Refettorio – various locations. Food for Soul, an Italian not-for-profit organisation that addresses food waste, loneliness, and social isolation through community meals.

Instagram Account of the Year was won by another 3 star Michelin chef, Alain Passard of Arpege in Paris.

Off map destination was won by Wolfgart, a 20 seat restaurant in a 130 year old white washed fisherman’s cottage on the edge of the ocean in Paternoster on the Western Cape.

Wolfgart also won Restaurant of the Year. Chef owner Kobus Van der Merve said ‘by keeping it small, we keep it sustainable’.

Red-Wine serving Restaurant – for those who shun current fashion by championing the red grape. This category was won by a cult London wine bar called Noble Rot.

Ireland was nominated in two categories and won both….

Collaboration of the Year went to Cork’s own Denis Cotter of Café Paradiso and farmer Ultan Walsh from Gortnanain Farm in Nohoval who has been growing beautiful produce for Café Paradiso for over 18 years. Denis accepted his award in beautiful, fluent gaelic.

Much to our excitement, The Trolley of the Year Award went to Ballymaloe House.  JR Ryle, who is the passionate young pastry chef and I proudly accepted the award on behalf of Ballymaloe and dedicated it to the memory of Myrtle Allen whose idea it was to have a trolley groaning with delicious desserts for her guests to choose from. She and her husband Ivan opened their home as a restaurant in 1964.

Everything about the ‘Oscars of Food Awards’ was super exciting. Chefs from all over the world flew in to give us a taste of their special little dish. The finest pata negra was carved off the bone into paper thin wisps, hundreds of oysters were shucked, tender abalone, black pepper soft shelled crabs, tantilizing tacos, chilli crab beignets and delicious coconut madelines, warm from the oven made by Cheryl Koh from Singapore, who promised me the recipe.

But perhaps what impressed me most was the short film by perennialfarm.org shown at the beginning of the evening which reminded us cooks and chefs, what restaurants can do to combat climate change.

Chefs can help by sourcing from climate friendly farms and ranches.

Going carbon neutral with zero ‘foot print’.

Composting

By conserving energy and reducing consumption and waste.

Spreading the message that food can be a solution…. www.perennialfarm.com

It’s sooo worth thinking about how we can all do our bit….

Meanwhile here are some perennial favourites from the world famous Ballymaloe House sweet trolley.

Orange Mousse with Dark Chocolate Wafers

This mousse sounds slightly ‘retro’ now, but everyone loves it when we serve it on the sweet trolley at Ballymaloe.

Serves 6-8

2 organic oranges (1 1/2 if very large)

4 eggs (preferably free-range)

21/2 ozs (70g) castor sugar

2 teaspoons gelatine

2 tablespoons water

1 organic lemon

8 fl ozs (225ml) whipped cream

 

Chocolate Wafers

2 ozs (50g) best quality dark chocolate

 

Decoration

2 oranges

8 fl ozs (225ml) whipped cream

a pinch of castor sugar

 

Wash and dry the oranges; grate the rind on the finest part of a stainless steel grater.  Put into a bowl with 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks and the castor sugar.  Whisk to a thick mousse, preferably with an electric mixer.  Put 3 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons + 3 teaspoons) of water in a little bowl, measure the gelatine carefully and sprinkle over the water.  Leave to “sponge” for a few minutes until the gelatine has soaked up the water and feels spongy to the touch.  Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water and allow the gelatine to dissolve completely.  All the granules should be dissolved and it should look perfectly clear.

Meanwhile, squeeze the juice from the 2 oranges and 1 lemon, measure and if necessary bring up to 1/2 pint (300ml/1 cups) with water.  Stir a little of the juice into the gelatine and then mix well the remainder of the juice.  Gently stir this into the mousse; cool in the fridge, stirring regularly.  When the mousse is just beginning to set around the edges, fold in the softly whipped cream.  Whisk the 2 egg whites stiffly and fold in gently.   Pour into a glass bowl or into individual bowls.  Cover and allow to set for 3-4 hours in the fridge, or better still overnight.

Meanwhile make the chocolate wafers.  Melt the chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water.  Stir until quite smooth.  Spread on a Silpat mat or a heavy baking tray.  Put into a cold place until stiff enough to cut in square or diamond shapes.

 

While the chocolate is setting, make the orange-flavoured cream.  Grate the rind from half an orange, add into the whipped cream and add a pinch of castor sugar to taste.  Peel and segment the oranges.  Decorate the top of the mousse with orange segments and pope on some rosettes of orange-flavoured cream.  Peel the chocolate wafers off the card and use them to decorate the edges of the mousse.

 

Toasted Almond Meringue with Chocolate and Rum Cream

This mixture can of course be halved but you’ll need to use a hand held electric whisk rather than a food mixer to create the volume.

Serves 12

 

75g (3oz) almonds

4 egg whites

225g (8oz) icing sugar

 

Filling

50g (2oz) good quality dark chocolate (62%)

25g (1oz) unsweetened chocolate (85%)

2 tablespoons rum

2 tablespoons single cream

600ml (1 pint) softly whipped cream

Decoration

5 toasted almonds or chocolate curls

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

Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease. Blanch and skin the almonds. Grind or chop them coarsely – they should not be ground to a fine powder but should be left slightly coarse and gritty. Toast in the preheated oven for 4-5 minutes until golden.

Reduce the temperature to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.

Mark four 7 1/2 inch (19cm) circles or heart shapes on silicone paper or a prepared baking sheet. Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks, 5 – 8 minutes. Fold in the almonds. Divide the mixture between the 2 circles or heart shapes and spread evenly with a palette knife. Bake immediately in the preheat oven for 45 minutes or until crisp, they should peel off the paper easily.  Turn off the oven and allow to cool.

To make the filling

Melt the chocolate with the rum and single cream very gently in a very cool oven, or over hot water. Cool and then fold the mixture into the softly whipped cream.

To Assemble

Sandwich the meringues together with most of the filling. Decorate with rosettes of the remaining chocolate and rum cream stuck with halved toasted almonds or chocolate curls.

 

Toasted Almond Meringue with Raspberries

Substitute 10fl oz (300ml) softly whipped cream and 12oz (350g) fresh Autumn raspberries for chocolate and rum cream in the recipe above and use to fill the meringue as above.

 

Ballymaloe Praline Ice-Cream with Praline Brittle

The praline can be made from almonds, hazelnuts, pecans or even salted peanuts. If this is too expensive in these credit-crunch times, make the brown bread ice cream below, which gives a similar texture for a much lower price.

Serves 6 – 8

 

110g (4oz) sugar

225ml (8fl oz) water

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream

 

Praline

110g (4oz) unskinned almonds

110g (4oz) sugar

 

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues).  Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy bottomed saucepan, stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, 106-113°C (223-236°F). It will look thick and syrupy; when a metal spoon is dipped in, the last drops of syrup will form thin threads.  Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time. Add vanilla extract and continue to whisk until it becomes a thick creamy white mousse. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze. Meanwhile make the praline.  Put the unskinned almonds with the sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, DO NOT STIR, when this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel.  When the nuts go ‘pop’, pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold, when the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.

 

After about 1 1/2 hours when the ice cream is just beginning to set, fold in the 4 tablespoons of praline powder and freeze again. If you fold in the praline too early it will sink to the bottom of the ice cream. To serve, scoop out into balls with an ice cream scoop. Serve in an ice bowl, sprinkle with the remainder of the praline powder.

 

Hazelnut Praline Ice-Cream

Substitute skinned hazelnuts for almonds in the above recipe and proceed as above.

 

Ballymaloe Ice Bowl

The ice bowl was Myrtle Allen’s brilliant solution to keeping the ice-cream cold during the evening  on the sweet trolley in the restaurant.   I quote from “The Ballymaloe Cookbook”.

 

“It took me twelve years to find the solution to keeping ice cream cold on the sweet trolley in my restaurant.   At first we used to unmould and decorate our ices on to a plate.  This was alright on a busy night when they got eaten before melting.  On quieter occasions the waitresses performed relay races from the dining-room to the deep freeze.  I dreamed about 19th Century ice boxes filled from ice houses, to my husband’s increasing scorn, and then I thought I had a solution.   A young Irish glass blower produced beautiful hand-blown glass cylinders which I filled with ice-cream and fitted into beautiful tulip shaped glass bowls.  These I filled with ice cubes.  Six months later, however, due to either the stress of the ice or the stress of the waitresses, my bowls were gone and so was my money.

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

 

To make a Ballymaloe Ice Bowl

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

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

At Ballymaloe, Myrtle Allen surrounds the ice bowl with vine leaves in Summer, scarlet Virginia creeper in Autumn and red-berried holly at Christmas.  However, as you can see I’m a bit less restrained and I can’t resist surrounding it with flowers!

However you present it, ice-cream served in a bowl of ice like this usually draws gasps of admiration when you bring it to the table.

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

Note

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

 

Alison’s Chocolate Tart

This tart is best made the night before if possible.

 

Sweet Pastry (line 1 x 9 1/2 tin)

175g (6ozs) plain flour

75g (3ozs) butter, cold and cubed

25g (1oz) castor sugar

15g (1/2 oz) icing sugar

2 – 3 tablespoons egg, beaten

 

In a food processor, pulse together the butter, sugar and flour to give coarse, ‘flat’ breadcrumb texture.   Add egg and pulse again until the pastry comes together.  Tip onto a sheet of cling film, form into a roll and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

 

To line tin

Roll the pastry between 2 sheets of clingfilm.  Invert into the tin and mould into ring.  Cover with cling film and let rest in fridge for 30 minutes or freeze until needed.

 

To blind bake, preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, remove cling film, line the pastry case with baking parchment and beans and bake for 20-25 mins approx. Remove from the oven and brush with egg wash. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes further to dry off. The tart base should be fully cooked.  Let case cool, patch any cracks.

 

Filling

200g (7ozs) dark chocolate (we use Callebaut, 52%)

150g (5ozs) butter

3 organic, free-range egg yolks

2 organic, free-range eggs

40g (1 1/2 ozs) castor sugar

 

Melt chocolate and butter together – either over a bain marie or carefully in a heat proof bowl in the oven.  With electric beaters, beat the eggs, yolks and sugar until pale and thick – about 5 minutes.  Fold in chocolate and beat briefly to amalgamate.  Pour into blind baked case and bake at 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5 for 6 minutes. It should still be slightly molten.  Cool completely and serve.

 

Rhubarb Fool

Serves 6 approximately

 

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

175g (6oz) sugar

2 tablespoons water

225 – 300ml softly whipped cream

 

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

 

 Jane’s Biscuits – Shortbread Biscuits

Makes 25

 

6oz (175g) white flour or Spelt

4oz (110g) butter

1 1/2oz (40g) castor sugar

 

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 1/4 inch (7mm) thick.  Cut into rounds with a 2 1/2 inch (6cm) cutter or into heart shapes.  Bake in a moderate oven 180°C/350ºF/Gas Mark 4 to pale brown, 8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the biscuits. Remove and cool on a rack.

 

Serve with fruit fools, compotes and ice creams.

Note: Watch these biscuits really carefully in the oven. Because of the high sugar content they burn easily. They should be a pale golden – darker will be more bitter.

However if they are too pale they will be undercooked and doughy.  Cool on a wire rack.

 

 

 

Ballymaloe Alumni

The Ballymaloe Cookery School was founded in September 1983 and since then thousands of students from all over the world have ‘kick started’ their careers by doing a 12 Week Certificate Course, a full-on immersive experience, of hands-on cooking classes, breadmaking, preserving, pickling, butchery, sausage and charcuterie making,  fermenting, foraging, cheese making, sowing and growing..…

By now they are scattered all over the world, using the skills they learned in a myriad of ways….in restaurants, catering businesses, cooking schools, private cooking classes, food writers, magazine editors, food businesses, personal chefs, grand prix catering, TV cooking shows, ski chalets, on yachts and liners, in multinational food companies, upmarket supermarkets, independent delis, artisan bakeries, gastro pubs, on and on it goes.

I’m always intrigued by the extraordinary variety of ways they use their knowledge and cooking skills around the globe. So when I’m travelling I often shoot off an email to past students with my itinerary and invite them to contact me for a convivial catch up if they are in the area, could be London, Amsterdam, Shanghai, Paris, Romania, Mumbai or any one of the 78 countries our students have come from.

It’s so fun to catch up and hear about their adventures…On a recent trip to London, we heard from several students, ate a delicious lunch at Clipstone where Daniel Morganthau and his partner Will Lander and their team do some of the best food in London.

Thomasina Miers started Wahaca serving Mexican street food in 2007 and now there are over 25 all over the UK, plus she writes a weekly column for the Saturday Guardian magazine and to cap it all off was recently honoured with an OBE for services to business – now there you are!

Stevie Parle’s first restaurant, Dock Kitchen was launched in 2009 now he’s added Rotorino, Craft London, Palatino and Pastaio to his list.

James Ramsden was awarded a Michelin Star at Pidgin in 2017.

Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt’s restaurant King in Manhattan is the toast of the town and recently praised by the New York Times. In Delhi, Rachel Goenka’s restaurant The Sassy Spoon has kept the flag flying in India as has Zhang Li at the Flying Fox in Shanghai.

In Dublin and Cork, readers will be familiar with Bunsen, Tom Gleeson’s much loved burger joints, Garrett Fitzgerald and James Boland who run Brother Hubbard North and South both did a 12 Week Course here at the school.

Reg White at PI on South Great George’s Street in Dublin is turning out pizzas that have punters queuing around the corner while Eoin Cluskey at Bread 41 on Pearse Street has caused a sensation for his artisan breads.

Down in Tramore, Co Waterford, Sarah Richardson has changed people’s perceptions of bread at her Seagull Bakery. Carol-Anne Rushe’s Sweet Beet in Sligo is well ahead of the curve with vegetarian and vegan food and David Dunne’s Knox is doing brilliantly on the main street.

Food Game in Dublin, run by Ross Staunton, is turning out breakfast and brunch to die for and on and on it goes…..

We are super proud of our Ballymaloe Cookery School cooks and chefs who continue to spread their wings. If you can cook you can get a job anywhere in the world, so the way to everyone’s heart is still through their tummy. The next 12 Week Course starts on April 29th and runs until July 20th 2019.

CLIPSTONE’S GRILLED CABBAGES, APPLE & CHESTNUTS

Serves 4 people

2 heads of hispi, pointed or sweetheart cabbage

4 Cox apples

1 tabelspoon of demerera sugar

Freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

5 fresh chestnuts

250ml good quality apple juice

1 tablespoon of double cream

180g cold, cubed unsalted butter

Fresh horseradish

 

Cut the cabbages in half. Lightly cover the base of a frying pan with vegetable oil and heat until the oil has just started smoking. Sear the cut side of each cabbage in the oil one after another until they are nice and golden brown, veering on burnt. Set the cabbages aside.
Peel and core the apples. Pop them in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water, the sugar and cinnamon. Cook them down until the apples are soft and then blitz them in a food processor with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Take a knife and pierce the brown skin of the raw chestnuts all the way the around their circumference. Either blow torch or put them under the grill or in a very hot oven until the shells crack and they are easy to peel. Peel the shells and the underlying skin off the chestnuts and then set aside.
Then reduce the apple juice in a saucepan to 1/5 of its original volume. Add the double cream and then whisk in the cubed butter, keeping it over a low heat, not letting the liquid bubble or boil. Then add a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
Line your serving dish with the warm, spiced apple puree. Finely chop the grilled cabbage, warm it in the oven and then dress it with olive oil, a pinch of salt and some lemon juice and arrange it on top of the apple puree. Dress the cabbage with the apple and butter sauce and then grate the chestnuts and some fresh horseradish over the top.

 

CLIPSTONE’S BAKEWELL TART RECIPE

For the sweet pastry

250g plain flour

138g butter, softened

120g caster sugar

1 egg

Pinch of salt

For the frangipan

250g butter, softened

250g caster sugar

3 eggs

25g plain flour

250g ground almonds

A splash of Disaronno almond liqueur (optional)

1 jar raspberry jam (we make our own, but a good shop bought jam will work perfectly)

25g (1oz) flaked almonds for sprinkling

 

To make the sweet pastry

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Fold in the flour and salt, and mix gently to form a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

To make the frangipan

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour, ground almonds and the Disaronno (if using) and mix gently to combine. Refrigerate until needed.

To make the tart

Set the oven to 170 degrees C

You will need to lightly grease a loose bottomed 28 cm tart case.

Roll the sweet pastry to the thickness of a €1 coin, and then ease it into the tin, making sure to push it into all the sides. Trim off any excess with a knife, then prick the base of the case all over with a fork ‘blind bake’ the tart case until it is uniformly golden brown

Remove from the oven and spread a generous layer of raspberry jam around the base of the tart shell.  Cover this with a thick layer of frangipan.  It should come almost to the top of the tin, but leave a little room as it will expand when you cook it, sprinkle evenly with flaked almonds.

Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, until the frangipan has lost its wobble, cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, sprinkle lightly with icing sugar before serving and serve with good ice cream, cream or crème fraiche.

 

Pidgin’s ‘Brown Butter Butter’
125g unsalted butter, room temperature

125g unsalted butter

2.5g milk powder

pinch of salt

handful of fresh yeast

 

Put the room temperature butter in a bowl and bring to room temperature.

Heat the remaining butter over a medium heat until it browns – you’re aiming for 170°C.

Meanwhile, once the butter is melted, add the milk powder

Cook to 170°C, whisking regularly.

When it has reached 170°C remove from heat.

ALLOW TO COOL TO 45°C

Pass through muslin and hold in a warm place.

Place the room temperature butter in the kitchen aid with the salt and the paddle and splatter guard.

Paddle at low-medium speed and slowly emulsify in the brown butter. Wrap and store in a cool place.
For the yeast crumble, put a small handful of fresh yeast onto a baking tray and bake in a hot oven until the kitchen smells like a bakery. Pulse in a blender until it forms a rough powder.
Serve the brown butter with the crumbled roasted yeast on top. Slather on warm sourdough. Repeat.

 

Sweet Beat’s Smoky Beans

A staple on the Sweet Beat menu, in the beginning this was only a breakfast option but it became so popular that we had to start serving it all day. I love to make it at home at the weekends for a big family brunch. So delicious with crusty sourdough and avocado. Double it and make a big batch to freeze.

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tins of cannellini beans

1 tin of crushed tomatoes

Heat a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat, add in the sunflower oil, once the oil is hot, add in the onion and garlic and sweat until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Add in the tomato paste, smoked paprika, thyme and cook for 3 minutes.

Once the spices have cooked out, add in the maple syrup and vinegar, cook for 5 minutes. Add in 100ml water and the crushed tomatoes.

Cook until rich and the sauce has thickened, about 15-20 minutes and blend until smooth.

Taste and check for seasoning, add the 2 tins of cannellini beans.

Cook for 5 minutes until beans are coated in sauce.

Serve over toasted and buttered sourdough with lashings of kale pesto, toasted seeds and organic greens.

Marmalade Season

The last few weeks have been a frenzy of marmalade making, Julia, and her team in the Farmers Market kitchen here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, have been slicing and juicing surrounded by preserving pans of bubbling citrus peel.

The Seville and Malaga orange season is a short one – running from mid-December to the end of February so there’s still time to whizz off to the shops or Farmers Market to stock up with the bitter sweet, vitamin packed citrus before they disappear off the shelves until next year.

If your budget will stretch to it, buy more than you can – they will freeze perfectly. All you need to do is throw them into the freezer in a bag or box in the quantity you need for a batch of your favourite marmalade.

Seville Orange Marmalade is the real deal, bitter sweet, the ‘classic’, made famous by Paddington Bear. It’s stronger, sourer and tangier than preserves made from other citrus. Having said that, grapefruit, both ruby and tart, lemons, limes, clementines, tangerines, mandarins, bergamots, kumquats, alone or in combination make delicious marmalades.

How do you like yours? Marmalade is an intensely personal taste. Some, like me, enjoy it dark and bitter, others prefer it fresh and fruity, some love lots of peel, others prefer less chewy bits and more wobbly jelly.

Seville and Malaga oranges are so called, because they are indigenous to Southern Spain and grow in towns and villages along the roadside. On my first trip to Spain I was intrigued by how law-abiding the Spaniards appeared to be. They didn’t seem to pull the ripe oranges off the trees…but I soon realised that these were bitter oranges so were less appealing to eat fresh and you may be surprised to learn that Spaniards consider our passion for marmalade a bit bizarre!

Seville oranges tend to be unwaxed, so the skin will be softer and not as smooth as other citrus. Discard any that show signs of decay and seek out organic fruit. Make your marmalade in small batches – say 2- 3 kilos of fruit at a time. Make yourself a cup of coffee, find a high stool, grab a sharp knife, turn on the radio and hand slice the peel. It will be altogether better than the sludgy result one gets from the food processor or mincer, I find it therapeutic, but not everyone does. A batch a day is certainly manageable – even better if you can entice someone else to get involved in the slicing – Maybe for a ‘bit of gas’ organise a Marmalade Party with a few friends and give them a present of a pot for their input.

There’s magic in Marmalade making, not sure what it is but there’s a terrific ‘feel good’ factor when you can admire a line of glistening jars like ‘good deeds’ on your kitchen shelf. A stocked pantry to see you  through the year….

Apart from marmalade recipes there’s many good things that benefit from a few spoons of marmalade or a little bitter orange zest e.g. panna cotta, muffins or scones. Slather it over a loin of boiled bacon (remove the rind first) and pop it under the grill to make a super quick and delicious glaze.

Massage it over a chicken breast or wings with some grated ginger and a little orange juice and then there’s Marmalade steamed pudding, my father-in-law, Ivan’s favourite steamed pudding.

 

 

Old Fashioned Seville Orange Marmalade

 

Seville and Malaga oranges come into the shops after Christmas and are around for 4-5 weeks.

Makes approx. 7 lbs (3.2kg)

2lbs (900g) of Seville oranges, organic if possible

4 pints (2.3L/10 cups) water

1 organic lemon

3 1/4lbs (1.45kg/6 1/2 cups) granulated sugar (warmed)

(Note on warming sugar: The faster jam/marmalade is made the better. If you add cold sugar it will take longer to return to the boil and will taste less fresh. Heat your sugar in a stainless steel bowl in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes. Do not leave it in too long or it will start to melt).

Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a spoon, put with the pips and tie them in a piece of muslin. Slice the peel finely or coarsely, depending on how you like your marmalade. Put the peel, orange and lemon juice, bag of pips and water into a non-reactive bowl or saucepan overnight.

Next day, bring everything to the boil and simmer gently for about 2 hours until the peel is really soft and the liquid is reduced by half. Squeeze all the liquid from the bag of pips and remove it.

Add the warmed sugar and stir until all the sugar has been dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to a full rolling boil rapidly until setting point is reached 5-10 minutes approx. Test for a set, either with a sugar thermometer (it should register 220F), or with a saucer. Put a little marmalade on a cold saucer and cool for a few minutes. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s done.

 

Allow marmalade to sit in the saucepan for 15 minutes before bottling to prevent the peel from floating.  Pot into hot sterilized jars. Cover immediately and store in a cool dry dark place.

N.B. The peel must be absolutely soft before the sugar is added, otherwise when the sugar is added it will become very hard and no amount of boiling will soften it.

 

 Kumquat Marmalade

Kumquats are expensive and fiddly to slice, but this is so worth making. I was given this recipe by an Australian friend called Kate Engel.

Kumquats can vary in sweetness so you may want to increase the sugar slightly depending on the tartness of the fruit.

 

Makes 3 x 370g (13oz) pots

 

1kg (2 1⁄4lb) kumquats

1.3kg (3lbs) sugar, warmed

Water

 

Slice the kumquats thinly crossways. Put the seeds into a small bowl with 225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) of water and leave overnight. Put the kumquats in a larger bowl with 1.5 litres (2.5 pints/6 1/4 cups) of water, cover and also leave overnight. Next day, strain the seeds and reserve the liquid (this now contains the precious pectin, which contributes to the setting of the jam). Discard the seeds. Put the kumquat mixture into a large saucepan with the reserved liquid from the seeds. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until the kumquats are very tender.  Remove the lid and reduce to between a 1/3 and 1/2 of the original volume.

Add the warmed sugar and stir until it is fully dissolved. Bring the mixture back to the boil and cook rapidly with the lid off for about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat while testing for a set by putting a teaspoon of the mixture on a cold saucer (it should barely wrinkle when pressed with a finger).

Pour into sterilized jars. Cover, seal and store in a cool, dry place.

 

Ruby Grapefruit Marmalade

Yield 10-10 1/2 lbs (4.5 kg)

 

3 – 4 ruby grapefruit, weighing 3 lbs (1.35 kg) altogether

4 lemons

6 pints (3.4 L) water

3 1/2lbs (1.6kg) sugar, warmed

 

Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice.  Remove the membrane with a sharp spoon, keep aside. Cut the peel in quarters and slice the rind across rather than lengthways.  Put the juice, sliced rind and water in a bowl.

Put the pips and membrane in a muslin bag and add to the bowl.  Leave overnight.  The following day, simmer in a stainless steel saucepan with the bag of pips for 1 1/2-2 hours until the peel is really soft.  (Cover for the first hour).  The liquid should be reduced to about 1/3 of the original volume.

Then remove the muslin bag and discard. Add the warmed sugar to the soft peel, stir until the sugar has dissolved: boil until it reaches setting point, about 8-10 minutes.  Pour into sterilized jars and cover while hot.

Note: If the sugar is added before the rind is really soft, the rind will harden and no amount of boiling will soften it.

 

Rory O’Connell’s Marmalade Tart

Serves 10-12

 Pastry

 

6oz (175g) flour

4oz (110g) unsalted butter

1oz (25g/) castor sugar

2 egg yolks

 

Almond Filling

9oz (250g) soft butter, unsalted

8oz (225g) castor sugar

9oz (250g) whole almonds (If you are feeling lazy use ground almonds but it won’t taste so good.)

3 eggs

1 dessertspoon Grand Marnier

1/2 – 3/4 pot (8-12fl ozs) of homemade Seville Orange Marmalade (see recipe)

Plus 3 – 4 tablespoons marmalade

1 x 12 inch (30.5cm) tart tin with ‘pop up’ base.

Crème fraiche

 

First make the pastry.

Put the flour and butter into the food processor.  Whizz for a few seconds then add sugar and egg yolks, turn off the machine just as the pastry starts to form a ball.    Chill for 1/2-1 hour.  Line the flan ring with pastry, fill with paper and baking beans, chill for 15 minutes in a refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Bake blind for 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the almond filling.   Blanch the almonds in boiling water, remove the skins and grind in a liquidiser or food processor.

Whisk the butter with the sugar until soft and fluffy, add the ground almonds, eggs and Grand Marnier if available.   Spread the marmalade over the base of the tart.  Spread the almond filling over the top.

Reduce the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3, and bake for approx. 40 minutes.   Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Glaze the top of the tart with 3 or 4 tablespoons of Seville orange marmalade.

Serve with a blob of crème fraiche.

Clodagh McKenna

Clodagh McKenna and I go back a very long way. In, 2000, Clodagh enrolled in a 12 Week Certificate Course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, she was always bubbling with excitement and threw herself enthusiastically into learning how to cook delicious food. I remember how she was always ready to try out new ideas and delighted to get involved in any new project. After the course she went to Ballymaloe House and loved to work side by side with Mrs Allen, as we all called Myrtle.

The pioneering generation of artisan producers, particularly Giana and Tom Ferguson, Sally Barnes and of course with late Veronica Steele were also sources of inspiration. Clodagh’s enthusiasm was, and still is infectious.

The Midleton Farmers Market, started in June 2000 and was quickly oversubscribed. Even at that stage Clodagh was a budding entrepreneur, so when she couldn’t get a stall of her own I made a space on the side of the Ballymaloe Cookery School stall so she could sell her delicious homemade chicken liver pâté. From those beginnings she went on to do a TV program on The Farmers Markets with RTE and published her first book to accompany the series, The Irish Farmers Market Cookbook in 2009, and ‘the rest they say is history’…

She’s gone on with boundless energy to open several restaurants, do innumerable TV appearances both here and in the US and the UK including Rachel Ray, The Today Show and Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.

Her latest book Clodagh’s Suppers exudes the essence of Clodagh, who loves laying a beautiful table almost as much as cooking delicious food – lots of super tips. Here she concentrates on menus for informal suppers rather than dinner and there is much to whet our appetites. Flowers, lighting and music are all part of the ambience.

Clodagh’s handwritten menus are built primarily around the seasons and there’s a page of supper suggestions for every new season but of course she encourages us to mix and match as we fancy, how about a Spring Gathering Supper, a Wild Garden Forest Supper, a West Cork Foraged Supper, a Summer Garden Supper or maybe an Edible Flower Supper…….?

Clodagh continues to create and test recipes every week for her U Tube channel and for her Evening Standard column.

Clodagh’s Suppers published by Kyle Books has already become a favourite….

 

 

Salmon Fishcakes with Horseradish Cream

 

SERVES 4

 

FOR THE SALMON FISHCAKES

400g floury potatoes, boiled and mashed

400g skinless salmon fillet, poached and flaked

2 spring onions, finely chopped

2 teaspoons capers

1 tablespoon finely chopped dill

grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

50g butter

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

FOR THE FRESH HORSERADISH CREAM

100ml crème fraîche

1 tablespoon peeled and grated

fresh horseradish root

grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 lemon, cut into wedges, plus a

bunch of watercress (optional), to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

 

Place all the ingredients for the fishcakes except the butter in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix until all the ingredients are well combined.

Divide the fishcake mixture into four balls and shape each into a patty.

Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the fishcakes and brown on both sides. Transfer the fishcakes to a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.

 

While the fishcakes are baking, mix all the ingredients for the horseradish cream together in a small bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place each fishcake on a warmed plate with a spoonful of the horseradish cream and a wedge of lemon, plus a handful of watercress, if you wish.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books

 

Chicken Liver Pâté

 

Clodagh started making this pâté about 16 years ago when she first had her stall at the Midleton Farmers Market. It is one of her classic recipes.

 

SERVES 10

 

450g butter, softened

675g chicken livers, cleaned

3 tablespoons brandy

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

sea salt and freshly ground black

pepper

TO SERVE

Cucumber pickle

thinly sliced sourdough

 

Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add a knob of the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the chicken livers and cook for about 15 minutes or until thoroughly cooked with no trace of red remaining, stirring occasionally and breaking up the livers with a wooden spoon. Transfer the cooked livers to a blender or food-processor.

Add the brandy, garlic and thyme to the frying pan and deglaze the pan by scraping up all the tiny pieces of meat and juices from the livers with a whisk – the base of the pan is where the real flavour is! Add the brandy mixture to the blender or food-processor and process until well blended. Leave to cool.

Gradually add the remaining butter to the cooled chicken liver mixture and blend until all the butter has been incorporated and you have a silky, smooth consistency.

Transfer the chicken liver pâté to a large dish, cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours until set.

Serve the pâté with pickles and thinly sliced sourdough toast.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books

 

Butternut Squash & Harissa Hummus

Clodagh has created a delicious twist on the traditional hummus.

 

SERVES 6

400g butternut squash, peeled,

deseeded and cut into chunks

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

100ml water

3 tablespoons tahini paste

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus

extra for drizzling

1 tablespoon harissa, plus extra for drizzling

400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

sea salt and freshly ground black

pepper

TO SERVE

2 wedges of lemon

1 teaspoon pumpkin seeds

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

 

Place the butternut squash chunks and whole garlic cloves in a roasting tray, season well with salt and pepper and add the water. Cover the tray with foil and bake for about 45 minutes until the squash is tender. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Squeeze the roasted garlic from their skins into a blender or food-processor along with the squash and any juices from the roasting tray. Add all the remaining ingredients, season with salt and blend to a paste.

Scrape the hummus into a bowl. Drizzle with extra harissa, olive oil and pumpkin seeds. Serve with a couple of lemon wedges on the side.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books

 

Coconut & Lemon Cloud Cake

MAKES 1 CAKE

 

A beautifully light, fluffy cake scented with the exotic flavour of coconut and fresh, citrusy lemon, this is the perfect finale for a pungent wild garlic supper to cleanse the palate, although it works equally well as an afternoon or celebration cake. You can use coconut butter instead of dairy butter and/or coconut flour in place of the plain wheat flour. And for convenience, you can make and bake the cake layers a couple of days ahead and then prepare the frosting and assemble the cake on the day you are planning to serve it.

 

FOR THE CAKE

300g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

300g caster sugar

300g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

250ml coconut milk

2 eggs

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE FROSTING

200g unsalted butter, softened

250g icing sugar, sifted

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon coconut oil

200g raw coconut flakes, to decorate

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4, and lightly grease two 20cm loose-based sandwich tins.

For the cake, sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix in the sugar. In a separate bowl, combine the melted butter, coconut milk, eggs, lemon juice, coconut oil and vanilla extract and whisk together thoroughly. Then add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and beat together until well combined.

Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared tins and level the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for about 25 minutes or until well risen and golden.

Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for about 15 minutes. Then remove them from the tins and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place all the ingredients in a bowl or the bowl of the stand mixer and use an electric hand mixer or the paddle attachment on the stand mixer to beat on a high speed until light and fluffy.

To assemble, place one of the cakes, top facing downwards, on a cake plate or stand and spread with about one-third of the frosting to cover it. Add the other cake, top facing upwards, and cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle raw coconut flakes all over the cake to decorate.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books

Letters

Past Letters