ArchiveMay 2004

Healthy Gluten Free Eating

For several years I have had repeated requests to write a cookbook with delicious recipes for coeliacs – so at last Healthy Gluten-free Eating is in the shops. My co-author Rosemary Kearney, originally a student and later a teacher at the Ballymaloe Cookery School has been a coeliac all her life. She and I spent over a year collaborating and researching, egged on by the students on the annual coeliacs’ courses at the school. The long-awaited cookbook, published by Kyle Cathie, has been endorsed both by the Coeliac Society of Ireland and the UK.
The number of coeliacs and people with wheat intolerance is growing at an alarming rate. At present 7 per 1,000 of the population have been diagnosed as coeliacs.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune genetic disease which results in a permanent intolerance to gluten. Gluten is the name given to a number of different proteins (gliadin is the protein found in wheat, hordein is the protein in barley, secalin is the protein in rye and avenin is the protein in oats) which cause the immune reaction in coeliacs. It is gluten that gives bread is elasticity and cakes their spring. Unfortunately, even the tiniest amount of gluten can cause problems for coeliacs, despite the fact that individuals may not always be aware of the symptoms.

The gluten damages an area in the small intestine, causing inflammation and subsequent malabsorption of food and nutrients. The only treatment required though, to enable the person to return to normal and the painful effects of gluten intolerance to cease is to follow a completely gluten-free diet.

However if you suddenly discover that you are a coeliac don’t panic.

First reaction is what am I going to eat? No more bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits – the list seems endless. It doesn’t have to be like this – take a step back and look at the wider picture. You have been diagnosed with a disease whereby you don’t need to take tablets or receive injections because it is treatable – or rather controllable – by the food you eat. If anything, being diagnosed with coeliac disease can be a wake up call - as it can make us realise how much processed food we may have been consuming! Therefore, it is time to go right back to basics. We need to use natural ingredients and be responsible for the food we are eating in order to sustain our bodies.

Healthy eating for coeliacs need not mean tasteless, boring meals – no one has to compromise on flavour just because gluten has to be excluded from the diet and it need not lessen the pleasure in cooking and eating. Rather, see it as a fresh beginning, an opportunity to try new ingredients and a wide and more exciting range of recipes.

TYPICAL SYMPTOMS OF COELIAC DISEASE would include – chronic tiredness, lethargy, headache, nausea, vomiting, bloating and cramps, diarrhoea, anaemia, mouth ulcers, thyroid problems, Type 1 diabetes, osteopenia and osteoporosis, delayed or stunted growth in children, poor weight gain, weight loss, problems with fertility and pregnancy.

WHAT TO BUY – you will need to stock up your store cupboard with coeliac products and become familiar with their use, so you can whip up some yummy meals in minutes. We have put together a list of products to keep in stock. However, in a household where just one person is coeliac, remember, if it’s practical, to reserve a cupboard for their use alone see. 

STORE CUPBOARD INGREDIENTS – rice flour, tapioca flour, potato flour, corn flour, cornmeal, Soya flour, gram flour, buckwheat flour. Xantham gum, bicarbonate of soda, gluten-free baking powder, bextartar. Milk powder, Lecithin (this comes from Soya beans and is available from chemists or health food shops. It is rich in phosphatidl choline, an important nutrient in the control of dietary fat which helps the body to convert fats into energy rather than storing them as body fat. Check that it is GM free). Dried active yeast, Nuts, including ground almonds and pine nuts, Millet flakes, Rice bran, Rice flakes, Dried fruit, Pure vanilla extract, Rice, Rice paper wrappers, Rice noodles – fine and flat. Gluten-free pasta – penne, lasagne, macaroni. Dried pulses – beans/lentils, eg haricot beans/chickpeas. Gluten-free icing sugar, Best quality dark chocolate – minimum 70% cocoa solids, Oils and vinegars, including sesame oil, Dijon mustard. Whole spices including black peppercorns/white peppercorns (ensure that you use pure white pepper as some brands are bulked with flour), Japanese tamari soy sauce, Nam pla (fish sauce), Gluten-free poppadums.


Baking powder, Communion wafers, ‘Corn Tortillas’ may also contain regular flour.

Frozen chips – flour may be present to keep them white. Stock cubes/powder. Vegetable soup may contain pearl barley. White pepper may be ‘bulked’ with flour. Inferior brands of ground almonds may contain breadcrumbs. Seasoning mixes, Mustard Powder.

Packet suet may have flour in it to stop it sticking together. Packets of ready-grated cheese may contain flour. Cheese spreads. Commercial salad dressings and mayonnaise.

Soy Sauce (there are gluten-free brands available, eg. Japanese tamari. Dry-roasted nuts, Pretzels, Bombay mix. Scotch Eggs. Food that has been deep-fried with other gluten-containing food, eg battered fish and chips. 

Processed meats, e.g. ham, may be injected with a cereal ‘filler’ to increase their protein content or thinly sliced meats may also have ‘fillers’.

Flavoured crisps. Some fizzy drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) may contain barley flour to give a cloudy appearance. Always check the source.

Coffee from vending machines. Malted milk drinks. Barley water or flavoured barley water. Beer, lager, stout and ale are all made from grain. Some tablets contain flour as a binder or filler. Children’s ‘pick & mix’ sweets may be coated in flour to stop them sticking together. 

Brightly coloured modelling dough used by children is not a food, but strangely enough it can sometimes get into their little mouths and you should be aware that it is made from wheat flour.

Check all brands and processed foods as they may contain added ingredients that are not gluten-free.

Much of this hidden gluten is contained in processed foods – which is another good reason for coeliacs and non-coeliacs alike to cook with fresh, natural ingredients.

Healthy Gluten-free Eating, by Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney ,published by Kyle Cathie. €17.99

Darina Allen runs the Ballymaloe Cookery School at Shanagarry, Co Cork Tel 021-4646785 

Tomato, Feta and Pesto Tart

Serves 6-8
1 x recipe for gluten-free savoury pastry (see recipe)

2 red peppers
8 tbsp tomato fondue (see recipe)
175g (6 oz) feta cheese
Approximately 10 basil leaves
4 tsp basil pesto 
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp Olive oil

1 x 7” (18cm) quiche tin / flan ring

Preheat the oven to 2500C / 4750F / regulo 9

First, roast the red peppers. Rub with a little olive oil and put them on a baking tray.
Bake in a hot oven for 20 – 30 minutes, until they are soft and the skin blisters. Put them in a sealed plastic bag to cool. Peel the peppers and remove the stalk and seeds. Don’t wash away the lovely juices. 

Reduce the oven temperature to 1800C / 3500F / regulo 4.

Now, make the gluten free savoury pastry in the usual way. Line the tin with the pastry and bake blind for 20 minutes in a moderate oven. Remove the beans, egg wash the base and return to the oven for a further 2 minutes. This seals the pastry and helps to avoid a soggy bottom!

Using your finger-tips, crumble half of the feta cheese over the base of the pastry. Arrange a layer of roasted red pepper and basil leaves on top. Season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper (take care when seasoning as feta is quite salty). Now cover with a layer of tomato fondue and crumble over the remaining feta cheese. Return the tart to the oven for 10-15 minutes until it is hot and bubbly. Drizzle the tart generously with Pesto and serve immediately with a salad of rocket leaves or a good green salad.

Tomato Fondue

Serves 6 approximately 

115g (4ozs) sliced onions
1 clove of garlic, crushed 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
900g (2lbs) very ripe tomatoes in Summer, or 2½ tins (x 14oz) of tomatoes in Winter, but peel before using
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste
1 tablespoon of any of the following;
freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil

Heat the oil in a non reactive saucepan. Add the sliced onions and garlic toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added. Slice the fresh tomatoes or tinned and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity). Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cook uncovered for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens. Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. Tinned tomatoes need to be cooked for longer depending on whether one wants to use the fondue as a vegetable, sauce or filling. Note: A few drops of Balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhances the flavour.

Coconut and Raspberry Slice

125g (4 ½ oz) butter, softened
60g (2 ½ oz) castor sugar
1 egg, preferably free – range, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
100g (3 ½ oz) rice flour
75g (3oz) tapioca flour
1 teaspoon gluten – free baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
50 ml (2 floz) milk

175g (6oz) homemade raspberry jam
250g (9oz) raspberries

100g (3 ½ oz) butter, softened
150g (5oz) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free-range , beaten
225g (8oz) dessicated coconut
60g (2 ½ oz) rice flour

Preheat the oven to 180oC / 350oF/regulo 4
1 swiss roll tin 30cm x 20cm (12 inch x 8 inch) – lined with bakewell paper

Cream the butter and gradually add the castor sugar. Beat until it is soft and light and quite pale in colour. Add the beaten egg and the vanilla extract gradually and beat well after each addition.

Sieve together the dry ingredients – the rice flour, tapioca flour, gluten – free baking powder and xanthan gum and stir in gradually. Mix all together lightly and add the milk to moisten. Pour the mixture into the prepared swiss roll tin, smoothing it out to the edges. Spread the home – made raspberry jam gently over the cake mixture and sprinkle with the raspberries. It may be necessary to press them down gently into the cake mixture.

Make the topping: Cream the butter and the sugar together as before so that it is pale, soft and light. Add the beaten eggs gradually, beating well after each addition. Mix together the dessicated coconut and the rice flour and fold into the mixture. Spread gently but evenly over the raspberries and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. 

Allow to cool and cut into 24 biscuits.

Chocolate Brownies

Makes 18 chocolate brownie fingers

7 oz (200g) whole almonds with skins left on
10½ oz (300g) Lesme, Callebaut or Valrhona chocolate
7 oz (200g) unsalted butter
12 oz (340g) castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 eggs, free-range preferably

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

Line a swiss roll tin 9" x 12" (22½ cm x 30 cm) with bakewell paper leaving a rim around the circumference at least 2" high. Staple the sides so that they don’t fall over!

Place the whole almonds on a baking sheet and roast in a moderate oven for approximately 10 minutes. Allow to cool and coarsely chop or whizz in a food processor for a few seconds. Melt the chocolate and the unsalted butter in a pyrex bowl over a pan of simmering water. Separate the eggs and mix the egg yolks with the castor sugar until pale, thick and creamy. Add the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Now, fold in the roasted chopped almonds.

In a large pyrex or stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, being careful not to overwhip. Fold the stiffly beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture using a large spatula and pour into the prepared swiss roll tin.

Bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes until firm to touch on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle. Allow to cool in the tin before cutting into 18 fingers.

Foolproof Food

Gluten-free Savoury Pastry

3 oz (85g) rice flour
3 oz (85g) fine ground cornmeal
3 oz (85g) potato flour
1 heaped teaspoon xanthan gum* see Hot Tips
pinch salt
5 oz (140g) butter
1 egg (free range preferably) mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water

To make the pastry
Sieve the rice flour, fine ground cornmeal, potato flour, salt and xanthan gum into a pyrex bowl and mix well. Cut the butter into cubes and gently rub into the flour mixture. Make a well in the centre on the pyrex bowl and carefully add in some of the egg/water mixture, using a fork to bring the pastry together. It is tempting to add more liquid at this stage but try not to, as it is very easy to make the pastry too wet! On a very lightly rice floured board, gently knead the dough with the heel of your hand for a few minutes to form a silky smooth ball of dough. Flatten slightly, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for a least 1 hour. When it has chilled enough, roll out the pastry, (I find putting it between 2 sheets of bakewell paper stops it sticking) and line the tart tin.

Hot Tips

Xanthan gum
This is a relatively new product which is an invaluable aid for gluten free baking, as gluten-free flours are less elastic in texture. Adding a small amount of xanthan gum will to some extent replace these elastic qualities. It is now available in the special dietary section of some of the major supermarkets, and health food shops that stock a good range of gluten-free products. 

The Coeliac Society of Ireland (CSI) may be contacted for help and advice – The Coeliac Society of Ireland, Carmichael Centre, 4 North Brunswick St. Dublin 7. Tel 01-872 
For over 30 years CSI has provided aid to its members. Through its network of branches the CSI organises public meetings and cookery demonstrations. The Head Office in Dublin circulates information leaflets, provides a Telephone Help Line and twice yearly, a Newsletter.

The Manufacturers List (gluten-free food list), is the mainstay of the Society’s support for its members. This booklet, produced annually, contains details of all brands of food and drink available in retail outlets that do not contain gluten. In order to produce this list the CSI has to contact Food Technologists in all the manufacturing companies and supermarket chains to obtain documentation regarding the constituents of all products. The Society’s dietitian checks the material before products are accepted into the Manufacturers List. In the case of foods which can contain hidden gluten, the manufacturer/retailer has to provide laboratory test results confirming that the products comply with the appropriate International Standards.

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group

Next Meeting on Thursday 27th May at 7.30pm in the Crawford Art Gallery Café, Emmet Place – ‘Seaweed- our own free, healthy, versatile and plentiful food’-

Speakers Christine Thery from Heir Island and Olivier Beaujouan from Castlegregory. Launch of new revised edition of ‘Good Food in Cork’. Admission €5 including tea, coffee and tasting.

New Season’s Irish Asparagus is now available, treat yourself to a little bundle and taste what asparagus should really taste like.

Foraging for wild foods

Foraging for wild foods is one of my favourite pastimes, relaxing, rewarding and yummy – this primeval activity somehow touches very basic cords in our psyche - links us to our hunter gatherer instinct. Doesn’t have to be confined to Autumn – the season of full and plenty. It can be a year round exercise.
The Wild Garlic blooming all over the countryside at present is a true harbinger of Spring. There are two varieties Allium Triquetrum, three-cornered garlic and Allium Ursinum also called Ransomes. We use them both, but I’m particularly fond of Allium Triquetrum, with its umbellliferous heads and pretty star-like flowers. We scatter both the leaves and flowers into salads and use them for garnishing. They make a delicious addition to a potato soup. If you have wild garlic in abundance the leaves made a delicious wild garlic pesto. We’ve also been enjoying wild garlic in champ in addition to the usual spring onion.
A walk through the woods at present is such a joy not only because the bluebells, wood anemones and primroses are in bloom, but I’ve been enjoying the fresh green leaves of the wood sorrel. These cute little shamrock-like sharp fresh tasting leaves are also delicious sprinkled into salads or as a garnish.
Buckler leaf sorrel and lamb’s tongue sorrel are also worth seeking out, as is the common field sorrel Rumex Acetosa.
The little leaves are easy to spot with little ‘pointy ears’ at the base of the leaf. 
For those of us who live close to the coast, sea spinach is at its best at present, easy to identify, it resembles slightly coarse perpetual spinach and can be eaten and cooked in exactly the same way. This is also the very best time of the year for nettles. They are young and tender. Remember our ancestors swore by four feeds of nettles in the month of May to clear the blood and keep the rheumatics at bay.
The darling little primrose and violet flowers can also be eaten and are particularly irresistible when crystallised. We use them to decorate cakes and buns, my daughter-in- law Penny makes adorable little cup cakes and decorates them with crystallised flowers, which have now become known affectionately as Penny’s buns.
So how about a walk on the wild side this weekend to discover the gastronomic delights of the hedgerow and seashore. 

Lydia’s Almond Cake with Crystallized Violets and Angelica

In Lydia Strangman’s time they used to pick the violets at Kinoith and send them off to Covent Garden in London. When I started gardening at Kinoith I gathered up all the remnants of the violets I could find and made a violet bed. We do not know of a better way to remember Lydia than to crystallize the little flowers to use as precious decoration. We often make this delicious, rich little cake that keeps well in a tin for ages. A tiny slice is just perfect to nibble slowly with a demi-tasse of espresso or a cup of China tea. Violets appear early in spring and are over by May. The art of crystallizing flowers simply takes patience and a meticulous nature - the sort of job that drives some people around the bend but others adore. If it appeals to you, the work will be rewarded - the violets look and taste divine. If properly done they will last for months. We store them in a pottery jar or in a tin box interleaved with kitchen paper.

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

Serves 10

110g (4 oz) ground Almonds
110g (4oz) icing sugar
75g (3oz) white flour
3 egg yolks
125ml (4 fl oz) melted butter

175g (6oz) icing
1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or boiling water

Crystallized Violets (see below)
7" round tin with shallow sides - A pop up base is handy but is not essential. 

Grease the tin well with melted butter and dust out with a little flour. 
Put the ground almonds, icing and flour into a bowl and mix well. Make a well in the centre and add the egg yolks and the cooled melted butter, stir well until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Spread the cake evenly in the prepared tin, make a little hollow in the centre and tap on the work top to release any large air bubbles. 
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. It should still be moist but cooked through. Allow to sit in the tin for 5 or 6 minutes before unmoulding onto a close wire rack.
Allow to cool.
Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, mix to a thickish smooth icing with the lemon juice or boiling water. Use a palette knife dipped in the boiling water and dried to spread it gently the top and sides of the cake.
Decorate with the crystallized violets and little diamonds of angelica.
Back to Top
Crystallized Flowers – 
Use fairly strong textured leaves. Smaller flowers are more attractive when crystallized eg. primroses, violets, apple blossom, violas….
The castor sugar must be absolutely dry. Allow to dry in a very low oven for about 2 hour approx.
Break up the egg white slightly with a fork. Using a child's paint, brush the egg white very carefully over each petal and into every crevice. Pour the castor sugar over the flower or leaf with a teaspoon. Arrange carefully on bakewell paper to ensure a good shape. 
Allow to dry overnight in a warm dry place, e.g. close to an Aga or over a radiator. If properly crystallized these flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a covered pottery jar or a tin box.
Remember to do lots of leaves as well as flowers so one can make attractive arrangements - e.g. mint, lemon balm, wild strawberry, salad burnet or marguerite daisy leaves etc. 

Sea Spinach Soup

If you live near a rocky strand, look out for sea spinach - it's shiny green leaves are unmistakable. It can be cooked exactly like garden spinach and it also makes a delicious soup. Not surprisingly because sea spinach is washed by the tides it is full of iodine, minerals, and other trace elements and it has an addictive salty tang. As with all marine plants it should be gathered from an area where the water is clean and unpolluted.
Serves 6-8

2 ozs (50g) butter
4 ozs (110g) chopped onion
5 ozs (140g) chopped potatoes
8-12 ozs (225-350g) chopped spinach
1 pint (600ml) home made chicken stock
:-1 pint (450-600ml/22 cups) creamy milk (3 cream and : milk)
salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons whipped cream (optional)
freshly chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it foams add the potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the boiling stock and milk, bring back to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are soft. Add the spinach and boil with the lid off for about 3-5 minutes, until the spinach is cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Liquidise, taste and add some freshly grated nutmeg. Serve in warm bowls garnished with a blob of whipped cream and some chopped parsley.

Wild Mushroom and Garlic Frittata

Frittata is an Italian omelette. Kuku and Tortilla all sound much more exciting than a flat omelette although that’s basically what they are. Unlike their soft and creamy French cousin, these omelettes are cooked slowly over a very low heat during which time you can be whipping up a delicious salad to accompany it! A frittata is cooked gently on both sides and cut into wedges like a piece of cake. Omit the tomato and you have a basic recipe, flavoured with grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of herbs. Like the omelette, though, you’ll occasionally want to add some tasty morsels, to ring the changes perhaps some Spinach, Wild Garlic, Ruby Chard, Calabreze, Asparagus, Smoked Mackerel etc... the list is endless but be careful don’t use it as a dust bin - think about the combination of flavours before you empty your fridge!
450g (1lb) mushrooms - flat, oysters, shittake, washed and sliced. 
8 large eggs, preferably free range
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
110g (4ozs) Gruyére cheese, freshly grated
25g (1 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
4 tablespoons wild garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
25g (1oz) butter
1 tablespoon basil or marjoram

non stick pan - 7 inch (19cm) bottom, 9 inch (23cm) top rim

Serves 2-4

Preheat the oven to 180/350/regulo 4. 
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 and wild garlic, 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 eggs. Turn down the heat as low as it will go. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 15 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 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 few olives. 

Nettle or Wild Garlic Champ
Nettles have been valued in Ireland since ancient times, not only as a food, but also as a purifier of the blood. The belief is still strong particularly among older people in the country that one should have at least three dinners of nettles in April and May to clear the blood and keep away the 'rheumatics' for the coming year.
Serves 3-4

12 lbs (700g) old potatoes, eg. Golden Wonders
1 tea cup chopped nettles or wild garlic
2 pint (300ml) milk
1-2 ozs (25-50g) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until tender. Meanwhile, chop the young nettle tops and cook in the milk for approx. 20 minutes. As soon as the potatoes are cooked, drain and peel immediately while they are still hot. Mash until soft and free of lumps. Pour in the boiling milk add the nettles and a good lump of butter, beat until soft and creamy. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve hot with a lump of butter melting into the centre.
Back to Top
Wild Garlic Pesto

2oz (50g) wild garlic leaves
1oz (25g) pinenuts 
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed 
6-8 fl ozs(170-225ml) olive oil
1½ oz (40g) freshly grated Parmesan, (Parmigiano Peggiano )
salt and sugar to taste

Whizz the wild garlic, pine kernels, garlic and olive oil in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar. Remove to a bowl and fold in the finely grated Parmesan cheese. Taste and season. Store in a sterilized, covered jar in the fridge. 

Pennys Buns

Makes 12

150g (5oz) butter (at room temperature)
150g (5oz) caster Sugar
150g (5oz) self raising flour
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
½ tsp pure vanilla extract.

Icing sugar
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 muffin tray lined with 12 muffin cases.

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5.

Put all ingredients except milk into a Magimix, whizz until smooth. Scrape down sides of Magimix, then add milk and whizz again.
Divide mixture between cases in muffin tin.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 –20 mins or until risen and golden.


Scented Geranium Cupcakes.

8 Medium sized Geranium Leaves.

Follow the master recipe but put the geranium leaves in to the milk and bring up to simmer. Allow to cool before adding to Magimix.

Put a crystallized rose petal on top for decoration.

Foolproof Food

Flavoured Butters

Flavoured Butters are delicious served with pan-grilled fish

Parsley or Herb Butter 
4ozs (110 g) butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or a mixture of chopped fresh herbs - parsley, chives, thyme, fennel, lemon balm
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cream the butter and add in the parsley or mixed herbs and a few drops of lemon juice. Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tinfoil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.

Wild Garlic Butter

Substitute wild garlic leaves for parsley in the recipe above. Garnish the fish with wild garlic leaves and flowers.
Hot Tips

Growing Awareness is a Skibbereen based food and farming group established in 1998 with the aim of ensuring that everyone has access to food grown and produced in a way that restores respect for the earth, respect for food and respect for farmers and growers. They run Garden and Farm Walks, Sustainable Food and Farming Workshops including Forest Foods and Edible Seaweed.  Tel Madeline McKeever 028-38184

Foraging – A Walk on the Wild Side with Darina Allen – 18th September 2004 at Ballymaloe Cookery School –  Tel 021-4646785

Megabytes by John & Sally McKenna – An up to the minute selection of news and reviews which will tell you everything you need to know about who and what is happening in contemporary Irish food –  

L’Apéritif a la Francaise is a celebration of French gastronomy and its going to take place every year on the first Thursday in June. This year 16 cities are taking part on 3rd June , next year the number is set to rise to 33. In Dublin the party will happen from 4-7pm in the Round Room of the Mansion House. Tickets for the event at €15 each will be on sale from 10th May in selected Dublin off-licences and directly from The Dubliner magazine, supporters of the event –

The Tourist Season

The tourist season has started with an optimistic bang. The fabulous weather over Easter helped us all to shake off the Winter lethargy. Hotels, restaurants and B & B’s, lifted the dust sheets, did their annual spring clean and cranked themselves into action for the season. For those in the hospitality industry, particularly in seasonal resorts, Easter is always a shock to the system, many places go from being either closed or very quiet to being packed to capacity overnight. New staff are learning the ropes and are often of necessity thrown in at the deep end. For just a few days, everyone works from dawn to dusk and then suddenly its quiet again with a gradual trickle of guests until the season gathers momentum again in May or June.
Overall, the predictions for this season are more promising than last year but the industry must carefully consider the statistic reported on last year that Ireland is the second most expensive country in the Eurozone to live in, after Finland. When I was in the US earlier this year it was clearly evident that word to his effect has already reached many would-be travellers. Obviously the weak dollar doesn’t help.
In the end, all anyone is asking for is what they perceive to be value for money. They are not interested in hearing about increased insurance costs, labour costs, waste disposal charges… They just want to feel that they haven’t been ripped off. Those who avail of the tempting offers on the internet compare prices all over the Eurozone and return with concrete examples of value for money. So, given our fixed charges, what can we do to surprise and delight our guests – well, often its little simple touches that can make the difference, in the end the way to most people’s hearts is through their tummies, so start by dumping the squishy sliced bread, bake some crusty bread for breakfast. It takes no length to make and if you are really pushed for time brown or white scones can be out of the oven in 10-15 minutes depending on size. Good home-made jam and marmalade always delight – three fruit marmalade can be made year round and there are jams that can be made in any season – we’ve just made our first batch of rhubarb and ginger (see recipe on my page of April 17th). It won’t be long before the elderflowers start to flower in the hedges, so then look out for some green gooseberries to make green gooseberry and elderflower jam. Both of these jams can make a welcome change from the endless raspberry and strawberry jams, no matter how delicious.
The jam tastes even more delicious when you pick your own and don’t underestimate how thrilled your guests will be to discover the jams are not only home-made but home grown. Lemon curd is also a gem of a recipe made in minutes.
Local honey is an even easier option, make inquiries in your area, serve it proudly, encourage your guests to taste, perhaps have two different types to compare.
Really good free range country eggs from hens that run freely around a farm are jewels – now a forgotten flavour for so many – If you can access eggs like these, highlight them on your menu and serve. Don’t forget to offer a freshly boiled egg with soldiers, the mere mention brings childhood memories tumbling back.
I’m running out of space so finally a non-foodie suggestion to enhance your guests’ experience in your establishment. When we’re on holidays we all like to chat, learn about the area. Very often the owners and staff are too busy to stop for any length of time, but this element of a holiday is enormously important. All over the country there are retired people who have some time on their hands and who really enjoy meeting people. Why not think about inviting someone who lives close by, or several people on a rota basis to drop by for a few hours to chat to your guests and help them with their travel plans, you may well be doing everyone a favour and the arrangement could well be made on a barter system – just a suggestion.

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) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level 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 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) 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 of chopped rosemary, 2 tablespoons 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.

Lemon Curd
Tangy delicious lemon curd can be made in a twinkling, smear it over a sponge or onto fresh bread, buttery scones or meringues
2 ozs (55g) butter
4 ozs (110g) castor sugar
grated rind and juice of 2 good lemons
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk (keep white aside for meringue)

Makes 1 pot

On a very low heat melt the butter, add castor sugar, grated rind and lemon juice and then stir in the well beaten eggs. Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spoon until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Draw off the heat and pour into a bowl or sterilized jar (it will thicken further as it cools.)
Cover when cold and store in the refrigerator. Best eaten within a week or fortnight.

Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit Marmalade

Home-made marmalade is always a welcome present, particularly at Christmas, because quite often people have just run out of the previous year’s marmalade. Seville oranges don’t arrive into the shops until the end of January, so make this tangy 3-fruit marmalade in the meantime. It is made from orange, lemon and grapefruit, so may be made at any time of year.

Yield 10-10½ lbs (4.5 kg)

2 sweet oranges and 2 grapefruit, weighing 3 lbs (1.35 kg) altogether
4 lemons
6 pints (3.4 L’s) water
5 lbs (2.2 kg) sugar

Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a sharp spoon, keep aside. Cut the peel in quarters and slice the rind across rather than lengthways. Put the juice, sliced rind and water in a bowl.
Put the pips and membrane in a muslin bag and add to the bowl. Leave overnight. The following day, simmer in a stainless steel saucepan with the bag of pips for 1½-2 hours until the peel is really soft. (Cover for the first hour). The liquid should be reduced to about ⅓ of the original volume.
Then remove the muslin bag and discard. Add the warmed sugar to the soft peel, stir until the sugar has dissolved: boil until it reaches setting point, about 8-10 minutes. Pour into sterilised jars and cover while hot.
Note: If the sugar is added before the rind is really soft, the rind will harden and no amount of boiling will soften it.

Ginger Marmalade

Add 6-8 ozs (170-225 g) peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger to once the recipe.

You may like to substitute Demerara sugar for a fuller flavour and darker colour.

Elderflower and Green Gooseberry Jam

Makes 6 x 450g (1 lb) pots

In season: late spring

The gooseberries should be tart and green and hard as hail stones - as soon as the elderflowers are in bloom in the hedgerows search for the gooseberries under the prickly bushes or seek them out in your local greengrocer or farmers market.

1.35kg (3 lb) green gooseberries
5-6 elderflower heads
600ml (1pint) water
1.57kg (32 lb) sugar

Wash the gooseberries if necessary. Top and tail them and put into a wide stainless steel preserving pan with the water and elderflowers tied in muslin. Simmer until the gooseberries are soft and the contents of the pan are reduced by one third, approx. 2 hour. Remove the elderflowers and add the warm sugar, stirring until it has completely dissolved. Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until setting point is reached (220F on a jam thermometer). Pour into hot clean jars, cover and store in a dry airy cupboard.
This jam should be a fresh colour, so be careful not to overcook it.

Breakfast Fruit Salad

Serves 8
Breakfast cereals that can be made ahead and kept in the fridge are particularly useful, we love this one and often eat it as a Winter dessert with a few pistachio nuts or toasted almonds added.

6½ ozs (185g) prunes
6 ozs (170g) dried apricots
1 small handful of raisins
3-4 bananas
1-2 tablesp. pure Irish honey
grated rind of ½ lemon
8 fl ozs (250ml) freshly squeezed orange juice

Soak the prunes and apricots overnight. Next day put the prunes, apricots, raisins and lemon rind into a casserole. Mix the honey with ½ cup warm water and enough of the fruit soaking water to cover the prunes and apricots. Bring to the boil and simmer for 35 minutes approx. Allow to cool and keep in the refrigerator. Just before serving, add a little fresh orange juice and some sliced bananas to each bowl. Serve with pouring cream.
Keeps for 1-2 weeks in a kilner jar in the fridge.

Foolproof Food

Beginners Wholemeal Bread

This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldn’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) stone ground wholemeal flour
55g (3oz) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1 egg, preferably free range
1 tablespoon arachide or sunflower oil, unscented
425ml (15fl oz) buttermilk or sourmilk 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 honey most of the buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all 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.

Top Tips
Just about time to plant a few gooseberry, blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes.

Unwaxed Lemons – look out for these for your lemon curd or three-fruit marmalade – available in Marks and Spencers and specialist greengrocers.

2004 Seafood Circle Pub Lunch Awards
The names of Ireland’s leading seafood pub lunch venues were published recently in the 2004 BIM Seafood Circle Pub Lunch Guide – the aim of the Seafood Circle Programme, which was developed by BIM in association with the vintners, is to support and encourage pubs to improve the quality, range and understanding of seafood dishes on their lunchtime menus – ‘to bring the best of Irish seafood and great Irish pub ambiance to both tourists and Irish customers alike’ says Pat Keogh CEO of BIM – copies of the guide are available from BIM Market Development – Tel 01-2144100 or e-mail   

Bord Bia is to sponsor the world’s first University of Gastronomic Sciences -
This will be established in Italy by the Slow Food Movement which has more than 50,000 members in 50 countries.


Past Letters