On Sunday last, the East Cork Slow Food Convivium was launched with a Harvest Festival here at the Cookery School. We had lots of fun. It was a beautiful September day, warm enough to sit out all afternoon. Readers of this column will be familiar with Slow Food, an international organisation founded in Italy in 1986. Its aims are to promote conviviality in an increasingly frenetic world and to protect and safeguard the traditional food cultures and artisanal producers around the world. It creates presidia around special products and brings those endangered ones into the Arc of Taste. Thus Slow Food have already saved many fine traditional products from extinction and highlighted their importance to the EU and national governments. At present they are involved in a crusade to protect Raw Milk Cheese and to safeguard the right of consumers to have access to their cheeses. Slow Food is now a strong and reasoned voice lobbying on these issues in Europe. You can help this cause by logging on and sending the following message ‘I too eat raw milk cheese’ to this email address firstname.lastname@example.org . For our Slow Food Harvest Festival – Meredith Benke, co-ordinator of the East Cork Convivium and Clodagh McKenna who co-ordinates the West Cork Convivium cooked a buffet of seasonal local food with lots of enthusiastic help from our students – Deirdre Hilliard’s Thai Chicken Soup, Crostini of Ardsallagh Goat Cheese, Bill Casey’s Smoked Salmon, Chicken Pie made with Dan Aherne’s organic chickens, Frittata with our own free range eggs and roast pumpkin and red onion, Kinoith Roast Pork, a selection of delicious salads, crusty apple pie with apples from the orchard, crushed Derryvilla Farm Blueberries, Shanagarry Autumn Raspberries from Walsh’s farm with Kingston’s clotted cream, a selection of farmhouse cheeses from Ardsallagh, Durrus, Clonmore and Gubbeen. More than twice the anticipated number of people came to share the afternoon but somehow the food lasted to the end with Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen cooking up a delectable Paella for the finale. We had invited food producers to bring the fruit of their labours for people to taste and enjoy, Nuala O’Donoghue drove all the way from Derryvilla Farm near Portarlington with the last of the season’s blueberries and their delicious preserves and relishes. Dan and Anne Aherne brought their organic free range chickens from their farm near Midleton, Elizabeth Moore, Wendy England and Mary O’Connell brought cakes and biscuits, Derry Tyner made mouth-watering crepes and Cork chocolate maker Eve St Leger brought a huge display of her irresistible chocolates which she spread out under her umbrella in the shade of the beech hedges. Our local farmers Patrick and Mary Walsh brought their superb Kerrs Pink potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips and turnips. Also from Shanagarry village were Bill Casey and his daughter Sinead with their organic smoked salmon. Frank Krycwzk and Fingal Ferguson travelled from near Schull in West Cork to bring us their salami, bacon, sausages and of course Gubbeen cheese. Local cheesemaker Jane Murphy brought her fresh and mature Ardsallagh goat cheese, we also had Clonmore goat cheese a new discovery for me, Tom Biggane had journeyed from Charleville to give us a taste of his excellent hard cheese. Marc O’Mahony brought organic fruit and vegetables from Kilbrittain. The children played happily in the sandheap in the midst of it all and Rory Allen with David Kearns from Nashville and Kate one of our students, provided some terrific music. Susan Turner gave an inspirational talk on heirloom tomatoes and seedsaving, This year we grew more than 35 varieties of tomato in the greenhouse so Susan had a terrific selection for people to taste and compare – a truly convivial afternoon – if you would like to become a Slow Food Member or to have more information on Slow Food, log onto www.slowfoodireland.ie or contact Meredith Benke at email@example.com
Meredith’s Apple and Blackberry Crisp
This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook, my mother’s faithful kitchen companion during the years of my childhood in Alabama. The recipe is written in American cup measurements. 4 cups eating apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ¼" thick; about 6 medium apples ¾ cup (3oz/75g) fresh and well rinsed blackberries ¾ cup (5oz/150g) packed soft light brown sugar (if not available try ½ cup soft dark brown and make up the rest with castor sugar) ½ cup (2½ oz/60g) cream flour ½ cup (1½ oz/35g)rolled oats ¾ teaspoon cinnamon ¾ teaspoon nutmeg ½ cup (generous 2½ oz/60g) soft butter Heat oven to just above moderate, about 190 C. Blend all ingredients except apples and blackberries until mixture is crumbly. Toss apples in a tablespoon or so of additional castor sugar and a squeeze of lemon. Add berries and toss only to distribute through the apples. Place in a baking dish. A terracotta ‘cazuela’ or casserole results in a dessert with a very rustic and homey feel. Spread crisp mixture over apples, and bake 30-35 minutes until apples are tender and topping is golden brown. Serve with cream or ice cream. Peter Luke’s Paella Valenciana Giana Ferguson gave us her Dad’s recipe for his favourite Sunday lunch dish. 1 chicken, preferably free range and organic, jointed, deboned and chopped 2 dozen mussels in their shells 1lb (450g) prawns in their shells 1lb (450g) squid 4-6 soft Spanish Chorizo 1 cup per 2 people of round Spanish rice green and red peppers garlic tomatoes bay leaves saffron white wine onions stock Brown the chicken pieces and put aside. Clean, chop and lightly fry the squid, put aside with chicken. Sweat onions and garlic with pepper, add the bay leaves and reserve. Take one box of saffron and add to warm water and leave to infuse. Fry the rice in the paella dish in olive oil until the oil is hot and the rice translucent and not quite browning. In a proportion of approx. ? cup of good stock to one cup of rice, flood the rice in the paella dish and add the saffron liquid – it is a bad idea to stir as the rice becomes glutinous so shake the paella to keep it from sticking and to help it absorb the stock. Meanwhile sweat the mussels in white wine and shelling some, leave a few in their half shells as garnish. The chorizo can be lightly fried at this time too (or done much earlier – keep some for tapas.) Add the prawns (again leaving some with their coats and whiskers on for garnish) Add the prawns, first, then the mussels which mustn’t overcook then as the rice swells with the absorbed stock, tomatoes in quarters, the chicken, chorizo and squid. Allow to heat thoroughly through while the rice absorbs the rest of the stock without becoming tight. Season with generous amounts of pepper and salt (unless your stock is already salted) and garnish with the half mussels, the whiskery prawns, some loosely chopped flat parsley and a few nasturtium flowers – add a good few quartered lemons and serve hot in the paella – Salut.
Carrot and Pumpkin Soup
Serves 6 approx. This soup may be served either hot or cold, don't hesitate to put in a good pinch of sugar, it brings up the flavour. 1½ ozs (45g) butter three-quarter lb (340g) pumpkin flesh three-quarter lb (340g) Irish carrots, chopped 4 ozs (110g) onion, chopped 5 ozs (140g) potatoes, chopped salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar 2 pints (1.1L) homemade light chicken stock 2½ fl ozs (62ml) creamy milk, (optional) Garnish a little whipped cream sprigs of savoury, optional croutons Melt the butter and when it foams add the chopped vegetables, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a sprig of savoury, cover with a butter paper (to retain the steam) and a tight fitting lid. Leave to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes approx. Remove the lid, add the stock and boil until the vegetables are soft. Pour into the liquidiser and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little creamy milk if necessary. Garnish with whipped cream and a sprig of savoury. Serve with crispy croutons.
Wild Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Salad with Rocket leaves and Parmesan
Shavings Serves 4 2 large onions, sliced 12 ozs (340g) mixed wild mushrooms 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil Salt and freshly ground pepper 1 large clove garlic, crushed Freshly squeezed lemon juice Rocket leaves Shavings of Parmesan Heat a little olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook the onion gently over a low heat. Stir every few minutes so that they brown evenly. This operation may take 20-30 minutes, the onions should be slightly caramelized in oil. Meanwhile, thinly slice the mushrooms and saute on a hot pan. Season each batch with salt and freshly ground pepper, a very little crushed garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the onion to the mushrooms as soon as they are cooked and taste. Correct seasoning if necessary. To serve : Put a few rocket leaves on each plate, sprinkle a few mushrooms over the top, decorate with shavings of Parmesan