ArchiveNovember 2000


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


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