ArchiveMarch 2004

Mother’s Day

I’m here in Valvona & Crolla, the legendary Italian deli in Elm Row in Edinburgh, a quick visit to do a cookery demonstration for their customers. The shop is piled high, when I say high I mean from floor to ceiling with delectable products, the counter is bulging with delicious cheeses, salads and cured meats, Valvona & Crolla has won the IWC (International Wine Challenge) Scottish Wine Merchant of the Year Award, five times. As you make your way, you pass their bread shelves – unbearably tempting, crammed with crusty loaves, panini, croissants, rolls, focaccia, ciabatta. The fruit and vegetable section is stacked with really ripe flavourful produce – wow how can they get sweet and juicy tomatoes in March, owner and food writer Mary Contini explained that in Sardinia they have developed a variety for Winter called Camone, an almost green tomato with a red blush which has a sweet taste and delicious almost crunchy texture. Pachino from Sicily, is another variety to ask for – these are cherry tomatoes on the vine,and the ones I tasted were ripe, sweet and gorgeous, so now we know what to ask for in our shops instead of the pale, bitter, tasteless tennis balls that pass for tomatoes during the winter months. Apart from all these temptations for a wandering cook, there were lots of enticing presents for Mothers’ Day – choccies, mugs, bowls, egg cups and foodie presents, to show our appreciation to our long-suffering Mums on their special day.
Last year I wrote a piece aimed at younger readers to encourage them to lay a pretty tray and bring breakfast in bed to Mum on Mothers’ Day. I suggested a simple meal for teenagers to cook to show their appreciation and have fun cooking. Presents are all very fine, a bunch of flowers and some yummy choccies are always welcome, but what really says ‘I love you’ is putting in some real time and effort. Particularly for those of us with older parents, time is the greatest gift we can give – nowadays so many of us have got into the habit, and a habit it can be, of always being busy – always something more important than taking an afternoon or a weekend off to spend some special uninterrupted time with our parents who have given us so much. As the years speed by we take it for granted that they will always be there, failing to realise that at any moment things can change utterly – an accident, sudden ill-health and we are left with a feeling of regret that we didn’t spend more time together.
So lets make this a very special Mothers’ Day and even if cooking a special meal is not your scene, we can give the gift of time. 

Carpaccio of Smoked Salmon with Avocado, Red Onion , Dill and Horseradish Cream
Serves 8

6-8 ozs (170g-225g) Irish smoked salmon very thinly sliced
1 avocado depending on size
1 small red onion finely diced
1 tablesp. chives
1 tablesp. dill
1 tablesp. chervil or flat parsley

Horseradish Cream
12-3 tablesp. grated horseradish
2 teaspoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 teaspoon mustard
3 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
8 fl ozs (250 ml) barely whipped cream

First make the Horseradish Cream

Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate on a ‘slivery grater’. Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the barely whipped cream but do not overmix or the sauce will curdle. There will be more than enough for this recipe, but save the rest for another dish. It keeps for 2-3 days: cover so that it doesn=t pick up flavours in the fridge.
To serve:
Arrange the thinly sliced smoked salmon in a single layer over the base of four large plates. Peel and cut the avocado into a ¼ inch (5mm)dice. Drizzle some Horseradish Cream over the salmon then a sprinkle of avocado and red onion dice.
Garnish with snipped chives, chopped dill and chervil or flat parsley sprigs.
Finally a little freshly cracked pepper.
Serve with crusty brown yeast bread.

Carbonnade of Pork or chicken with mushrooms

A quick and delicious recipe, the same formula can be used for fillet steak or chicken breast but be careful not to overcook the meat. If you haven't got any wine to hand just add a little more stock.
2 lbs (900g) pork fillet or chicken, naturally reared if available
1-2 tablesp. olive or sunflower oil or a little butter
4 ozs (110g) onion, finely chopped
2½ fl ozs (63ml) dry white wine
¼ pint (150ml) home made chicken stock
8 ozs (225g) mushrooms, sliced
½ pint (300ml) sour cream or light cream
fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablesp. chopped parsley

Serves 6-8

Garnish: 6-8 heart-shaped croutons of white bread fried in clarified butter or olive oil.

Slice the pork into slices about one-third inch thick. Pour a little oil into a very hot frying pan, saute the pieces of pork a few at a time until brown on both sides.
Remove to a plate and keep warm, add a little more oil or butter and cook onions gently until soft and golden. Deglaze the pan with wine and bring to the boil, add the stock and boil again to reduce by a quarter. Meanwhile saute the sliced mushrooms in batches in a little butter and oil in a very hot frying pan, add to the pork, add the cream to the sauce, bring back to the boil, thicken with a little roux, add the cooked pork and mushrooms to the sauce and all the juices. Taste, add a little lemon juice and simmer gently for a couple of minutes. Dip the tip of the heart shaped croutons in the sauce and then into the chopped parsley, add the remainder of the parsley to the sauce, taste again and correct seasoning if necessary. Pour into a hot serving dish and garnish with the crisp croutons. 

Serve with fluffy herbed potatoes, orzo, rice or home-made noodles

Foolproof Food

Fluffy Herbed Potatoes

Serves 4
2 lbs (900g) unpeeled potatoes, preferably Golden Wonders or Kerr's Pinks
½ pint (300ml) creamy milk
1-2 egg whites or 1 whole egg and 1 egg white
1-2 ozs (30-55g) butter
2 tablesp. freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, chives, thyme, lemon balm

Scrub the potatoes well. Put them into a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for 'old' potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put on to a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked. Peel immediately by just pulling off the skins, so you have as little waste as possible, mash while hot (see below). (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes into the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade).
While the potatoes are being peeled, bring about ½ pint (300ml) of milk to the boil. Beat the egg whites into the hot mashed potatoes, and add enough boiling creamy milk to mix to a soft light consistency suitable for piping, add the herbs and then beat in the butter, the amount depending on how rich you like your potatoes. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Note: If the potatoes are not peeled and mashed while hot and if the boiling milk is not added immediately, the potato will be lumpy and gluey. 
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Winter Green Salad with Cider Vinaigrette Dressing 

For this salad, use a selection of winter lettuces and salad leaves, e.g. Butterhead, Iceberg, Raddichio, Endive, Chicory, Watercress, Buckler leaf, Sorrel, Rocket leaves and Winter Purslane Mysticana. Tips of purple sprouting broccoli are also delicious and if you feel like something more robust, use some finely-shredded Savoy cabbage and maybe a few shreds of red cabbage also. 

Cider Vinaigrette Dressing

Makes about ¾ pint

350g (12ozs) ozs virgin olive oil
90ml/3fl ozs cider vinegar
1 tablespoon moutarde de Meaux or Lakeshore Mustard with honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 crushed clove garlic
1 teaspoon pure honey

Wash and dry very carefully the lettuces, salad leaves and flowers. Tear into bite sized pieces and put into a deep salad bowl. Cover with cling-film and refrigerate, if not to be served immediately.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Mix all the ingredients together, shake and whisk well before use. Just before serving, toss the leaves with a little dressing – just enough to make the leaves glisten. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Meringue with Chocolate and Rum Cream and Chocolate Wafers

Serves 6

2 egg whites 
4½ ozs (125 g) icing sugar
2 rounded teaspoons cocoa powder

½ pt of softly whipped cream or Chocolate and Rum Cream 

Chocolate and Rum Cream
1 oz (30 g) best quality dark chocolate
½ oz (15 g) unsweetened chocolate
½ pint (300 ml) softly whipped cream
1 tablespoon Jamaican rum
1 tablespoon cream

Chocolate Wafers
2 ozs (55g) best-quality dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/regulo 2

Mark two 7½ inches (19 cm) circles on silicone paper on a prepared baking sheet.

Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease. Put the egg whites into the bowl and add 4 ozs (110 g) icing sugar all at once; whisk until the mixture forms stiff, dry peaks, 10 minutes approx. Sieve together the cocoa and the remaining ½ oz (15 g) icing sugar and fold in very gently. Spread and bake immediately in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until just crisp. Allow to get completely cold then peel off the paper. 
Next make the chocolate wafers
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water. Stir until quite smooth. Spread on a flat piece of heavy, white notepaper or light card. Put into a cold place until stiff enough to cut in square or diamond shapes.

Meanwhile make the whipped cream or the Chocolate and Rum Cream.
Very gently melt the chocolate with the rum, and 1 tablespoon of cream in a pyrex bowl over barely simmering water. Cool and then fold the mixture into the softly whipped cream; don’t stir too much or it may curdle.
Sandwich the two meringue discs together with whipped cream or Chocolate and Rum Cream and decorate with chocolate wafers.

Alternatively just drizzle melted chocolate over the top.

Top Tips

Congratulations to Denis Cotter of Cork’s Café Paradiso on winning the Best Vegetarian Book in the World award for ‘Paradiso Seasons’, at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for books published in 2003. Denis was in Barcelona to accept the award last month, the book (published by Atrium Press Cork) fought off stiff competition from publishing houses around the world. 

The Irish Hotel and Catering Institute (IHCI) are currently running Regional Seminars around the country on the topic of Waste Management, for details e-mail  or Tel. 01-298 8850

The Slow Food Ireland Weekend 04 in Kenmare 26-28 March will offer great opportunities for producers to sell and promote their foods through tastings and markets – The market will be held at Market St, Kenmare on Sunday 28th March, if you would like to participate contact Fiona Corbett at 086-8188988 or  
Tastings will be held in the Slow Food Marquee, The Park, Kenmare on Friday & Saturday 26 & 27th – for details on this and any other aspects of the weekend, contact Clodagh McKenna at 023-52977 or

St Patrick’s Day Menu

In a myriad of venues all over the world ordinary life comes to a complete standstill on March 17th, St Patrick’s Day. People rummage through their cupboards and wardrobes for items of emerald green. From New York to Bangkok and Boston to Tokyo, the Irish and their friends of every hue want to celebrate their Irishness.

Shops and street traders have a field day selling fancy hats, scarves, music, balloons, flats, T-shirts and badges with all kinds of witty, naughty or nutty slogans to get us into the spirit. Badges with VIP – very Irish person, RIP – real Irish person, HIP – happy Irish person…..

Mountains of beef are corned for the big day and thousands of loaves of soda bread and spotted dog are baked. The streets are painted, rivers run green, even the beer in some pubs is dyed a lurid shade to empathise with the Irish. Not that there’s any reluctance – everyone wants to be Irish on St Patrick’s day. The Irish stores do a roaring trade, Irish pubs have a jamboree, everyone is good humoured, high spirited and determined to have fun, Irish music fills the air and everyone’s toes are tapping.

The day starts with the parade – I’ve been to New York on many occasions over this period.. My days are filled with interviews and other events to promote Ireland and dispel the widely held image that in Ireland we live on corned beef and cabbage and over cooked vegetables.
I take every opportunity to tell people about our vibrant economy and the renaissance on the Irish food scene. Interviewers always want to know how St Patrick’s Day is celebrated back on the old sod – what do people eat? They are always surprised to hear that in Ireland most people just get on with their day, many are scarcely aware that its St Patrick’s Day and rarely eat even a piece of spotted dog, not to speak of corned beef and cabbage.

However, in recent years Bord Failte and County Enterprise Boards have really encouraged Irish people to emulate the Irish emigrants and ex-pats whose thoughts turn to home, in a nostalgic and poignant way. We love to serve some traditional Irish dishes for St Patrick’s Day. In my book on Traditional Irish Cooking just recently re-published by Kyle Cathie there are over recipes to choose from.

For me the real meaning of St Patrick’s Day is embodied in the dear little shamrock which St. Patrick is reputed to have used to illustrate the Trinity, so I search in the grass until I find some shamrock, and then tuck into a bowl of Irish Stew or Bacon and Cabbage.

Irish Colcannon Soup
Serves 6

Colcannon is one of Irelands best loved traditional potato dishes. Fluffy mashed potato flecked with cooked cabbage or kale. This soup uses identical ingredients to make a delicious soup

55g (2oz) butter
425g (15oz) peeled diced potatoes
110g (4oz) diced onions
salt and freshly ground pepper
1.1 litre (2pint) home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock
450g (1lb) Savoy cabbage
25g (1oz) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
130ml (4 fl oz) creamy milk

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them in the butter until well coated. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 6-10 minutes. Add the stock, increase the heat, and cook until the vegetables are soft but not coloured.
Meanwhile make the buttered cabbage
Remove the tough outer leaves from the cabbage. Divide into four, cut out the stalks and then cut into fine shreds across the grain. Put 2-3 tablespoons of water into a wide saucepan with the butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, add the cabbage and toss constantly over a high heat, then cover for a few minutes. Toss again and add some more salt, freshly ground pepper and a knob of butter.
Puree in a blender or food processor, add the cabbage to the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk to the required consistency.
Note: Cabbage may be pureed with the soup if a smoother texture is your preference.

Bacon and Cabbage and Parsley Sauce

Serves 12-15
Without question Ireland's national dish - less widely known abroad but much more widely eaten, particularly in rural Ireland, than the legendary Irish Stew. Choose a piece of bacon with a nice covering of fat.

1.8-2.25kg (4-5lb) loin or shoulder of bacon with a nice covering of fat.
1 head cabbage, savoy, greyhound or spring cabbage, depending on the time of year.
salt and freshly ground pepper, careful with salt, the bacon water may be salty enough
50-85g (2-3oz) butter

Parsley Sauce

Cover the bacon in cold water and bring slowly to the boil. If the bacon is very salty there will be white froth on top of the water, so it is preferable to discard this water, it may be necessary to change the water several times depending on how salty the bacon is, finally cover with hot water and continue to simmer, allow 45 minutes to the kg (20 minutes to the lb).
Meanwhile, remove the outside leaves from the cabbage, cut into quarters and remove the centre core. Cut into thin strips across the grain, about 30 minutes before the bacon is cooked add the cabbage and continue to cook until the cabbage is soft and tender and the bacon fully cooked through.
Meanwhile make the parsley sauce. Remove the bacon to a hot plate, strain the water off the cabbage. Return the well-drained cabbage to the saucepan, add a good lump of butter and season well with freshly ground pepper. Taste. Remove the rind from the bacon and serve with the cabbage. The traditional accompaniment would be lots of boiled floury potatoes.

Parsley sauce

600ml (1 pint) milk
55g (2oz) roux
salt and freshly ground pepper
a few slices of carrot, optional
a few slices of onion, optional
bouquet garni
chopped parsley

If using herbs and vegetables, put them in the cold milk and bring to simmering point, season and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Strain out the herbs and vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil, whisk in the roux until the sauce is a light coating consistency. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add chopped parsley and simmer on a very low heat for 4-5 minutes.
An alternative way of cooking the cabbage is Buttered Cabbage (see Colcannon Soup recipe)

Scallion Champ

Serves 4-6
A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions and a blob of butter melting in the centre is ‘comfort’ food at its best.

1.5kg (3lb) 6-8 unpeeled 'old' potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g
chopped chives
350ml (10-12fl oz) milk
55-110g (2-4oz) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.
Chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chopped chives. Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse. Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions, beat in the butter. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butte melting in the centre. Scallion mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4. Cover with tin foil while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin. 
Scallion and Potato Cakes
Shape leftover scallion mash into potato cakes, cook until golden on both sides in clarified butter or butter and oil. Serve piping hot.

Irish Country Rhubarb Cake
Serves 8

This delicious juicy Rhubarb Cake based on an enriched bread dough was made all over the country. Originally it would have been baked in the bastible or baker beside an open fire. My mother, who taught me this recipe varied the filling with the seasons. First there was rhubarb, followed by green gooseberries in May. Eventually we had the first of the cooking apples in Grandad's garden, then if we were lucky some Victoria plums from a neighbour's walled garden and finally blackberries and apple in the autumn.

12 ozs (340g) flour
2 ozs (55g) castor sguar
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoon breadsoda
3 ozs (85g) butter
1 egg (preferably-free range) 
egg wash
52 fl ozs (165ml) milk, buttermilk or sour milk
12 lbs (675g) rhubarb, finely chopped
6-8 ozs (170-225g) granulated sugar
castor sugar for sprinkling

1 x 10 inch (25.5cm) enamel or Pyrex plate

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4

Sieve the flour, salt, bread soda and castor sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter. Whisk the egg and mix with the buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in most of the liquid and mix to soft dough; add the remainder of the liquid if necessary.
Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface, turn out the dough and pat gently into a round. Divide into two pieces: one should be slightly larger than the other; keep the larger one for the lid. Meanwhile dip your fingers in flour. Spread the smaller piece onto the plate. Scatter the finely chopped rhubarb all over the base, egg-wash the edges and sprinkle the rhubarb with sugar. Roll out the other piece of dough until it is exactly the size to cover the plate, lift it on and press gently to seal the edges. Make a hole in the centre for the steam to escape, egg-wash and sprinkle with a very small amount of sugar.
Bake in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the rhubarb is soft and the crust is golden. Leave it to sit for 15-20 minutes so that the juice can soak into the crust. Sprinkle with castor sugar. Serve still warm with a bowl of softly whipped cream and some moist, brown sugar.

Foolproof Food

Brown Soda Bread and Scones
Makes 1 large or 2 smaller loaves

560g/1lb 4oz brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)
560g/ 1lb 4oz plain white flour
2 teaspoons (10g) dairy salt
2 teaspoons (10g) bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda) sieved
1 ½ - 1 ¾ pints/scant litre 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 20-30 minutes reduce the heat to 200C/400F/regulo 6 for approx. 30-50 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.
1. One could add 25g/1 oz fine oatmeal, 1 egg and 25g/1 oz butter to the above to make a richer soda bread dough.
2. Two smaller loaves will take less time to cook

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) white flour and 450g (1lb) brown wholemeal flour.

Top Tips
Where to get good bacon –

Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen bacon – from the Gubbeen Smokehouse in Schull, Co Cork, Tel/Fax 028 27824 e-mail:  

Caherbeg Free-Range Pork and dry-cured bacon, Rosscarbery, Co Cork, Tel 023-48474, Fax 023-48966  

O’Donovans in Princes Streeet, Cork Tel 021- 4270763 and O’Flynns in Marlboro Street, 021-4275685
Jack McCarthy, Main St. Kanturk, Co Cork. Tel 029-50178
John David Powers Butchers, Main St. Dungarvan, Co Waterford, Tel. 058-42339
Rudds Bacon from Birr, Co Offaly – widely available Tel 0509 22508  

Hicks of Sallynoggin in Dublin, Tel. 01-2842700  – also at Temple Bar and other markets.

Pat Doherty from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh has a great reputation and is noted for his Fermanagh Black bacon – Tel 00 44 2866 322 152  
Rick Stein mentioned many of the fine Irish butchers in his book ‘Food Heroes’.

Tofu a true food

Doctors, nutritionists, and food experts around the globe are telling us to eat more tofu. Its an excellent source of high-quality protein and calcium. The extra bonus is that it contains no cholesterol and is very low in calories and saturated fat. So why don’t we eat more tofu? Partly, because for too long tofu has been used as a substitute for other ingredients and partly because we don’t quite know what to do with it. Why turn tofu into a beef substitute in a burger or pass it off as ‘cheese’ in lasagne, when its delicious on its own?

The Soyabean is a truly wonderful food, it could well be described as the cow of Asia. It provides a wide variety of high-protein foods. When it’s ground with water, cooked and strained, it produces soy milk. When coagulants are added and heat is applied it can be transformed into many types of tofu.

Soy milk is a huge boon to the growing number of people who are allergic to dairy products. Many find it alleviates some of the symptoms during menopausal years.

Tofu is an important source of protein. Vegetarians and tofu enthusiasts use it to replace meat in all kinds of dishes but it is also good on it’s own.
Tofu is made from soy milk which is heated and stirred with coagulants. It solidifies into curds which are pressed to make blocks of tofu. It can be soft and silky or very firm, depending on the coagulant and the screening method.

In Asian shops and markets there are many types of tofu to be found, but the 2 main types available in Ireland are:-

Chinese-style firm Tofu – this type of tofu is firmer in texture. It looks coarse but becomes smoother when cooked. It can be marinated for a longer period and is also good fried or grilled, or used for kebabs or brochettes. It comes packed in water in sealed plastic container either in slabs or in slices. It can be frozen

Silken Tofu – both soft and firm, is more delicate and fragile than Chinese-style tofu. It’s best for miso soups, tofu salads, mock mayonnaise…. It comes in sealed boxes and keeps for months at room temperature. However, once opened it should be refrigerated and used within a few days.

Marinated Baked Tofu - there are several flavours available, some are seasoned with five-spice powder, barbecue sauce or sesame seeds. All have a chewy meaty texture and their flavour is improved if sautéed first in a little olive or sesame oil. Great to add to stir fries, Asian pasta dishes, spring rolls …

A little bit of advice when buying Tofu
A high proportion of the soya bean crop is genetically modified so check the label carefully to ensure that you are buying a non GM product.

Always check the sell-by dates and keep refrigerated. Tofu should smell mild, sweet and vaguely nutty. Once it begins to smell sour discard it because it is not good to eat.
Draining the tofu gets rid of the excess water so it can absorb marinades or fry without spluttering too much. Blot the tofu all over with paper towels. This will absorb quite a bit of the moisture but you may want to apply some weight and drain it if you plan to cook it later.
Firm Chinese-style tofu is fairly robust but you will need to be a little more gentle with silken tofu.

In many recipes, tofu is shallow or deep fried first in oil to give it a chewy texture and a most appetizing colour. It can then be marinated and used in stir fries or added to stews. Tofu can also be firmed up by simmering cubes in a pot of water or vegetable stock for about 5 minutes. Both methods make the protein firm so that the cubes of tofu will keep their shape when cooked further.
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Other Soybean products include:-

Tempeh is a high protein Indonesian soy product with a dense meaty quality, sometimes called – fakin’ bacon!
Miso is created when soy beans are fermented – this is a flavour paste that forms the basis of many soups and soy sauce.
T.V.P. – textured vegetable protein is used to replace meat with varying degrees of success.
To freeze tofu
Just cut into 1 inch cubes, drain briefly and freeze in a plastic bag. Allow to defrost and drain again before using.

If you are a loss for ideas or don’t know where to start, Deborah Madison’s book – This can’t be Tofu! Published by Broadway Books, New York.

Tofu & Vegetable Stir Fry

Serves 6

2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 fresh chilli (chopped) or
1 tsp of chilli flakes
2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
350g/12ozs FIRM TOFU
200g/7ozs mushrooms (sliced)
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 large red pepper (sliced)
1 large yellow pepper (sliced)
200g/7ozs broccoli florets or cauliflower
2 spring onions
1 tbsp sesame oil
Thai fragrant rice (steamed)
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Mix the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, chilli flakes and five-spice powder together. Cut the tofu into fingers Transfer to a small pie dish, cover with the marinade and allow to soak up the flavours for 1-2 hours if possible.

Just before stir-frying, put on the rice to cook (see recipe). While the rice is resting, drain the tofu, reserve the marinade. Heat the wok, add the sunflower oil. Cook the tofu in batches until golden, transfer to a plate. Increase the heat. Add a little more oil, toss the mushrooms with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss until fully cooked through. Add the peppers, stir and fry for a minute or two, add the broccoli florets. 

Drizzle with sesame oil, stir fry for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the tofu, chopped spring onions and the marinade. Bubble up, taste, correct the seasoning. Scatter with sesame seeds and serve immediately with Thai fragrant rice.

Foolproof Food
Thai Fragrant Rice
Serves 4-6

Thai fragrant rice is perfect for South East Asian meals. When cooked it is shiny with just a slight hint of stickiness.

340g (12floz) Thai fragrant rice, measured in a measuring jug
340ml (12floz) water

Put the rice and water into a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring to the boil, stir once cover with a tight fitting lid*, and lower the heat to the absolute minimum - use a heat diffuser mat if possible. Continue to cook on the lowest heat for 15 minutes. Do not uncover during cooking. Take off the heat, keep covered and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. The rice will stay warm for several hours if necessary.

*It may be necessary to cover with tin foil if the lid is really not tight fitting

Aki Ishibashi’s Miso Soup

One of our Japanese students showed us how to make this delicious soup. Ingredients are available from Mr. Bell’s stall in the Cork Market or good health food and Asian shops.

Serves 4

600ml (1 pint) Dashi (see recipe)
3-4 generous tablespoons miso paste
175g (6oz) tofu, cut into 1cm ( ½ inch) cubes
1 dessertspoon wakame (dried seaweed)

1 spring onion, thinly sliced

Heat the dashi, and dissolve the miso paste by stirring it into the dashi. When it has dissolved completely, add the tofu cubes and wakame. Bring it to the boil. As soon as it starts to boil, turn off the heat. Ladle miso soup into warmed individual soup bowls and garnish with spring onion.
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Dashi (bonito fish stock)

is essential in many Japanese dishes. It provides a savoury flavour which cannot be attained by using seasoning only and it is much easier to make than meat or fish stock.
425ml ( ¾ pint) water
10cm (4 inch) piece konbu (dried kelp) 
5-7g ( ⅛ - ¼ ) dried bonito flakes

Wipe and clean konbu with a dry cloth. Do not wipe off the white powder on the surface, as that is the one element that provides a unique savoury flavour. Put the water in a saucepan and soak the konbu for 30 minutes before turning on the heat. Remove any scum that forms on the surface. When the water begins to bubble, just before boiling, take out the konbu. Do not overcook or it will become slimy and the flavour of the stock too strong. Add the bonito flakes, bring back to the boil, turn off the heat and set aside until the bonito flakes sink to the bottom. Strain through very fine muslin and discard the bonito flakes. Use fresh or freeze immediately.
Instant Dashi
Instant dashi can be found in the form of a liquid extract as well as powder. Just dissolve a liquid dashi or powdered dashi in boiling water. But the flavour is far from that of homemade dashi.

Fried Tofu and Pepper Curry with Cashews
From ‘This can’t be Tofu’ by Deborah Madison

Serves 3

1 carton firm tofu (cartons usually weigh 14-20 ozs/400-600g)
12 fl.oz (350ml) peanut oil, for frying
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 serrano chillies, minced or finely diced
1-2 teasp. Thai red curry paste
8fl.oz (225ml) coconut milk
4fl.oz (125ml) vegetable stock, chicken stock or water
3 tablesp. roasted, chopped cashews
3 tablesp. coarsely chopped coriander leaves

Drain the tofu, then wrap in a towel and press while you prepare the rest of the ingredients – pressing means allowing the excess water to drain off, this will make it easier for the tofu to absorb other liquids and seasonings. It will also help prevent spattering when frying and diluting of the sauces and dressings which are added.

Then cut the tofu into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes. If its still moist blot with paper towels so that it won’t splatter when fried.
Heat the oil in a wok or pan. When hot enough to sizzle a crumb of tofu, add 6 or 7 pieces and fry until golden and crisp. Don’t let them brown, however. You’ll need to separate the pieces, as they tend to cling to one another. Remove when done and set on paper towels to drain. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of oil out of the wok and return the pan to the heat.
Add the onions, bell pepper and chillies and stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir in the curry paste, then add the coconut milk, stock, half teaspoon of salt and the tofu. Simmer for 2 minutes more, or until the tofu is heated through. Serve over rice or noodles, garnished with the roasted cashews and coriander.
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Iced Coffee Frappe

From ‘This Can’t be Tofu’ by Deborah Madison

Deborah says that once you start making smoothies with espresso you’ll plan to have leftover coffee. You can vary them endlessly with the additions suggested.

Serves 2

8 fl.ozs (225ml) cold strong coffee or espresso
4 fl.ozs (125ml) soy milk
2½ fl.ozs (55ml/ one-third cup) silken tofu
3 ice cubes
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Combine everything in the blender and puree until smooth.

Variations: pinch cinnamon or nutmeg, hazelnut or almond syrup, coconut milk, a big scoop of vanilla ice-cream or frozen yogurt, a banana.

Top Tips

Feile Bia was introduced in 2001 in response to growing consumer concern about the quality and origin of ingredients of food offered when eating out. Membership of Feile Bia is on a voluntary basis and at the moment there are over 1290 members across the food sector. The programme is organised in conjunction iwht the Restaurants Association of Ireland and the Irish Hotels Federation – a new Feile Bia plaque will be now be displayed outside all participating establishments.
Winner of 2004 Bord Bia Feile Bia Award – Fiacri House Restaurant , Boulrea Knock, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, an award-winning restaurant on the borders of Tipperary, Laois and Kilkenny, won the 2004 award in the Georgina Campbell Guide. The restaurant, owned and run by Ailish and Enda Hennessy is situated on the family dairy farm and sources fresh local ingredients where possible. Ailish also runs cookery classes.
Bantry Bay Seafoods were awarded the prestigious ‘Seafood Exporter of the Year 2003’ and they also scooped the Irish Exporters Association ‘Overall Exporter of the Year Award 2003’.They were picked for the top award because of ‘their impressive penetration into a number of difficult markets, the high value it adds to Irish seafood and its innovative development of new products’.


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