Weâ€™ve just had a wonderful party at the Ballymaloe Cookery School â€“ a Slow Food celebration for the special people who produce our food all year round â€“ the gardeners, farmers, cheesemakers, fish smokers, bread bakers, organic producersâ€¦ This was our way of saying thank you to at least some of the dedicated people who provide us with fine quality, fresh natural produce, which enables us to serve the kind of food for which Ballymaloe has become famous. Much is local and whenever possible organic.
This food is produced by a variety of passionate people, many artisanal producers, others with larger concerns, all with one thing in common, each and every one is committed to producing top quality, safe, wholesome, health-giving food.
We had a lively gathering, there was music and fun and a wonderful conviviality. People came laden with gifts of their lovely produce, wonderful smoked fish â€“ warm and cold smoked tuna, real kippers and wild salmon from Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery near Castletownshend, haunting juicy smoked chicken and wild salmon from Anthony Cresswell of Ummera in Timoleague, smoked sprats and more gorgeous smoked salmon, and a fresh organic salmon from Frank Hederman which we promptly cooked and served warm with a homemade mayonnaise. Fingal Ferguson of Gubbeen cooked some of his maple smoked bacon and Willie and Avril Howe from Rosscarbery who produce free range pork, cooked pan after pan of their juicy sausages.
Our son Isaac fired up the wood-burning oven and turned out the most delicious thin crust pizzas topped with oven roasted tomato sauce, melting cheese, chorizo sausage and marjoram. Others had Gubbeen bacon and buttery cabbage, others were topped with garlic butter, all were gobbled up appreciatively.
Nora Aherne who rears us the most delicious free range ducks, geese and turkeys was there, Michael Cuddigan our local butcher couldnâ€™t make it, he was busy looking after his Saturday afternoon customers.
There was a wonderful gathering of cheesemakers, Mary Burns of Ardrahan arrived first bearing a box of the most exquisite mature baby Ardrahan cheeses, rich and pungent. Next came a bus load of wonderful people from West Cork led by cheesemakers Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen andÂ Jeffa Gill of DurrusÂ â€“ all the way from Tipperary came Breda Maher who makes the much loved Cooleeney Cheese and Jane and Louis Grubb with a gorgeous Cashel Blue Cheese and one of their sheepâ€™s milk cheeses, and Dick and Anne Keating who make the delicious Baylough cheese near Clogheen. Dicky and Sinead Willems whose superb Coolea Cheese won the Supreme Award at the British Cheese Show last year also came along and Veronica Steele journeyed all the way from the Beara Peninsula. New to me was Maja Binder from Castlegregory in Co Kerry who makes raw milk washed rind cheeses, she sells it to the lucky people of West Cork at the Bantry Fair on Fridays. Fiona Corbett, cheese guru from Sheridans Cheese Shop in Dublin drove all the way from the capital to be with us all, she brought a gorgeous hunk of Giorgio Cavero 2 year old Parmigiano Reggiano and some delicious Membrillo Spanish Quince Paste.
Last time I met Fiona, she and Seamus Sheridan and Marianne Kraus were manning the Irish Farmhouse Cheese stall at the Slow Food Salone del Gusto in Turin last October â€“ always a joy to meet these passionate foodies with such an uncompromising commitment to quality food â€“ their enthusiasm, even for the uninitiated is infectious, it is thanks to them that Ireland has a presence we can be proud of at the largest artisanal food fair in the world.
Can you imagine the feast we had. We had a huge salad bowl of organic salad leaves from the greenhouses, cucumber pickle, a chunky mushroom soup, and some gorgeous breads â€“ at a guess about 14 or 15 different types. Many of the Slow Food members brought home made breads and other goodies. Patsy Ryan of Arbutus arrived with a huge basket of Declanâ€™s freshly baked breads. Caroline Dare brought a selection of her organic breads from Organico in Bantry, Cornelia Oâ€™Keeffe contributed several varieties of multi-grain bread Olivier Baugouan from Tralee drove over to Shanagarry after he had packed up in Limerick Farmersâ€™ Market and brought a seaweed tapenade and some gorgeous pickled herrings.
Yom Colbert and Gar Granville who were gardeners here last summer, played terrific music with their friends oyster farmer Rupert Hugh Jones and masseur Pete Thompson.
Many of our friends from the Farmers Market in Midleton came too and brought lots of goodies
Melted Gubbeen Cheese with Winter Herbs
Giana Ferguson tells me that this is also irresistible with Cooleeney Cheese
1 baby Gubbeen
freshly chopped thyme
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Regulo 4. Cut a square of tin foil approximately 12 inches.
Split the cheese in half around the equator. Put the base on to the centre of the tin foil, sprinkle the cut surface generously with freshly chopped herbs, choped garlic and some freshly ground black pepper.
Top with the other part of the cheese. Gather up the edges but allow a little vent for the steam to escape. Bake in a moderate oven for 20-30 minutes or until soft and melting. Cooleeney would be perfect in about 10 minutes.
Open the parcel. Lift off the rind and eat the soft herby, melting cheese with lots of crusty bread, boiled potatoes and a green salad. Exquisite!
Baked Eggs with Smoked Salmon or Smoked Mackerel
These may be served as a starter or snack and there are infinite variations on the theme. A delicious treat using some locally smoked fish and free range eggs.
4 fresh eggs, preferably free-range
Â½ oz (15 g/1/8 stick) butter
6-8 tablespoons cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 small ramekins
Lightly butter the 4 ramekins. Put 1 tablespoon of chopped smoked salmon or flaked smoked mackerel in the base of each ramekin. Add 1 â€“2 tablespoons (Â¼oz – Â¼ cup) of chopped parsley to the cream and proceed as in the basic recipe.
Heat the cream; when it is hot, spoon about 1 tablespoon into each ramekin and break an egg into the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spoon the remainder of the cream over the top of the eggs. Place the ramekins in a bain-marie of hot water, cover with tin foil or a lid and bring to simmering point on top of the stove. Continue to cook either gently on top of the stove, or in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, 12 minutes approx. for a soft egg, 15 minutes for a medium egg and 18-20 minutes for a hard egg. Serve immediately.
Frank Oâ€™Neill brought some of the delicious carrot and chocolate cakes that people beat a path to his stall for at the Midleton Farmers Market every Saturday. I donâ€™t feel it would be quite fair to ask Frank for his secret recipe, so here is another one given to me by Iris Sheane. We make it with local carrots from Patrick Walsh here in Shanagarry.
7 oz (200g) brown sugar
6 fl.oz (170ml) vegetable oil
4 oz (110g) wholemeal flour
5 oz (140g) grated carrot
2 oz (50g) chopped walnuts
1 teasp. cinnamon
1 teasp. bread soda
Using mixer, slowly add oil to sugar, beat well. Add eggs and beat again. Fold in all the other ingredients. Put into a lined 8 inch (20.5cm) high sided round tin.
Bake in preheated oven 350F/180C/regulo 4) for 1-1Â½ hours.
When cool top with this cream cheese topping.
Topping (this makes enough to ice 2 cakes)
4Â½ oz (125g) cream cheese
3 oz (85g) icing sugar
3 oz (85g) butter
grated rind of 1 orange.
Cream all the ingredients together.
Simply Nutritious Wholemeal Bread
This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldnâ€™t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well greased tin.
This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.
Makes 1 loaf
400g (14 oz/scant 3 cups) stone ground wholemeal flour
55g (2oz) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) bran
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) wheatgerm
1 level teaspoon (2 American teaspoon) bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
1 teaspoon (1 American teaspoon) salt
1 teaspoon (1 American teaspoon) soft dark brown sugar
1 egg, preferably free range
1-2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) arachide or sunflower oil, unscented
450ml (15fl oz/12 cups) buttermilkÂ orÂ sour milk approx. (put all the milk in)
Sunflower or sesame seeds optional
Loaf tin – 9 inches (23cm) x 5 inches (12.5cm) x 2 inches (5cm)
Preheat oven to 2001C/4001F/regulo 6.
Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and most of the buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin and bake for 60 minutes approx, or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.