The Flavours of Asia

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

Savoury Meat Pancakes – Martabak

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

Chicken Claypot

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

Bengal Fragrant Fish Curry Maach Bhaja

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

Foodie presents


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


Salt Cod or Ling with White Sauce


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


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


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


Chicken Breasts with cous cous, raisins and pistachio nuts


Serves 8

8 chicken breasts

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


Oven-roasted Winter Root vegetables


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


Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding


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

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


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

Croque Monsieur

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

Gateau Pithivier

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

Clowning around the veranda

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

A Salad of Warm Salmon on Organic Leaves with Tomato Salad

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

Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Rosemary

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

Spiced Pan Roasted Pear Cake

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

A Weekend With Rossisky and Borodinsky

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

Ballymaloe White Yeast Bread

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

The Endlessly Versatile Kuku

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

Gruyere Frittata with Cheese and Fresh Herbs

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

Mushroom Frittata

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

Zucchini and Mint (Basil or Marjoram) Frittata

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

Blue Fin Tuna

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

Seared Tuna with Piperonata and Tapenade

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


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

Grilled Tuna Nicoise

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

Japanese-style Tuna Brochettes

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

The Hidden Cost Of Cheap Food

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

White Soda Bread and Scones

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

White Soda Scones

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

Olive Scones

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

Brown Soda Scones

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

Blueberries are the latest wonder food

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

Autumn Fruit Salad

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

Blueberry Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 6-8
We’ve been having fun ringing the changes with our Bread and Butter Pudding recipe. It is also delicious with apple and cinnamon or even mixed spice.
12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed
55g (2oz/½ stick) butter, preferably unsalted
450g (1 lb) blueberries
450ml (16 fl oz/2 cups) cream
230ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) milk
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
175g (6oz/¾ cup) sugar
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding
Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish
Put the blueberries into a dish and sprinkle with sugar, leave to macerate for an hour.
Butter the bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle the bread with half the blueberries, arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the blueberries. Cover with the remaining bread, buttered side down.
In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence and sugar. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, covered loosely, for at least 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.
Bake in a bain-marie – the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of a preheated oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly-whipped cream.

Blueberry Muffins – recipe courtesy of An Bord Glas

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

The Avoca Café, a legend in its short life time

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

Piperade Tartlets

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

Lakeshore Pork

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

Banana Bread

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

Apple Streusel Biscuits

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


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