ArchiveJune 2004

The humble little silvery dappled Mackerel

Of all the wondrous fish in the sea, it may come as a surprise that if I had to choose one sea fish, it would have to be the humble little mackerel – fresh from the sea – eaten within hours of being caught, it’s a feast.
The humble little silvery dappled mackerel are full of Omega -3 – in fact they have the highest content of all fish. Omega-3 essential fatty acids have been shown to have a lowering effect on blood fats and may also help inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. However, because of the oils mackerel deteriorate faster than any other fish.
The fishermen always say that “the sun should never set on a mackerel” so best to enjoy them when you are actually by the sea.
We poach them whole and serve them with a herby Bretonne Sauce, pan-grilled, they are delicious served with everything from a simple parsley butter melting over the crisp skin to a green gooseberry sauce which acts as a counterbalance to the rich mackerel. They roast beautifully in a hot oven and are particularly irresistible when you pop them on your barbecue. We simply sandwich them between two wire cake racks to make it easy to turn them over.
Very fresh mackerel make delicious sashimi and can of course be used in sushi. We pickle them in various ways, sometimes with mustard seeds, sliced tomatoes and wine vinegar, and maybe a sprinkle of turmeric. I also love old-fashioned soused mackerel with thinly sliced onion, a scattering of black peppercorns and a few bay leaves, tucked in between the ‘rollmops’ for extra pzazz.
They keep for at least a week in the fridge so if you have a glut, fillet them off and cook them gently. 
Serve soused or pickled mackerel with a piped potato salad and a sweet mustard and dill mayo and a beetroot or tomato salad.
When the mackerel are ‘in’ anyone even fair-weather ‘fishermen’ like me can manage to catch a fish. Just buy a line with a few feathers , drop it over the side of the pier or a boat and wait for the fish to bite. Its so exciting to catch your own supper, makes the fish taste even more divine.

Warm Poached Mackerel with Bretonne Sauce

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a starter 

Fresh mackerel gently poached and served warm with this simple sauce is an absolute feast - without question one of my favourite foods. . 

4 fresh mackerel 
1.2 litres (40 fl ozs) water 
1 teaspoon salt 
Bretonne Sauce 
55g (2ozs) butter, melted
2 eggs yolks, preferably free range 
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (We use Maille Verte Aux Herbes)
2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped or a mixture of chervil, chives, tarragon and fennel, chopped 

Cut the heads off very fresh mackerel. Gut and clean them but keep whole. Bring the water to the boil, add the salt and the mackerel. Bring back to boiling point, and remove from the heat. After about 5-8 minutes, check to see whether the fish are cooked. The flesh should lift off the bone. It will be tender and melting. 
Meanwhile make the sauce. Melt the butter and allow to boil. Put the egg yolks into a pyrex bowl, add the mustard, wine vinegar and the herbs, mix well. Whisk the hot melted butter into the egg yolk mixture little by little so that the sauce emulsifies. Keep warm, by placing the pyrex bowl in a saucepan of hot but not boiling water. 
When the mackerel is cool enough to handle, remove to a plate. Skin, lift the flesh carefully from the bones and arrange on a serving dish. Coat with the sauce and serve while still warm with a good green salad and new potatoes.

Soused Mackerel and Sweet Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

Serves 8 as a main course, 16 as a starter 
Keeps for a week to 10 days in the fridge.

8 mackerel
1 thinly sliced onion 
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf 
300ml (10 fl ozs) white wine vinegar

Sweet Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

(see recipe)
Gut, wash and fillet the herrings, making sure there are no bones, a tall order with herring - but do your best. Roll up the fillets skin side out and pack tightly into a cast iron casserole. Sprinkle over thinly sliced onion, peppercorns, cloves, salt, sugar, vinegar and a bay leaf. Bring to the boil on top of the cooker and then pop into a very low oven, 140ºC/275ºF/regulo 1, for 30-45 minutes. 
Allow to get quite cold. Soused mackerel will keep for 7-10 days in the fridge. 
To Serve
Put one or two fillets of soused mackerel on a plate, zig zag with sweet mustard and dill mayonnaise. 
Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range
2 tablesp. French mustard
1 tablesp. white sugar
3 pint (150ml) ground nut or sunflower oil
1 tablesp. white wine vinegar
1 tablesp. dill, finely chopped
Salt and white pepper

Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.

Mackerel with Chermoula

Serves 4
Surprisingly mackerel can be found in Tangiers fish market alongside the more exotic Mediterranean fish. Being a strongly flavoured fish, mackerel takes easily to the spicing of this chermoula, and becomes an altogether more exciting fish.

3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
150ml (¼pint) Extra Virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
4 medium mackerel, cleaned

lemon wedges

Put the crushed garlic into a small bowl with the cumin, paprika, chilli flakes, parsley and coriander. Slowly add the oil, mixing it thoroughly. Stir in the lemon juice. Cut 3 or 4 slanting slashes on both sides of each fish. Spread the chermoula mixture over the fish, rubbing it well into the slashes. Leave to marinade in a cool place for 1 hour.
Cook the fish under a preheated grill, or on a hot barbecue, turning once or twice, until the flesh just flakes when tested with a fork.
Serve with lemon wedges.

Mackerel with Tomatoes and Tapenade

Serves 4
4 fresh mackerel fillets
4 large ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
l teasp.thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Tapenade Dressing
30g (1 oz) Kalamata olives, stones removed
2 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
1 ½ teaspoon capers in brine, drained and rinsed
1 small garlic clove, crushed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Flat parsley sprigs.

Preheat the grill to high. 
Arrange the tomato slices in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking tray. Season lightly with some salt and pepper and sprinkle with the thyme leaves.
Slash the skin of each mackerel fillet two or three times and place, skin side up, on top of the tomatoes.
Meanwhile make the tapenade dressing. Chop the olives, anchovy and capers, add the crushed garlic, it should have a coarsish texture. Add the oil and vinegar and season to taste.
Grill the mackerel until the skin is crisp and the fish is cooked through and the tomatoes are warm. 
Transfer to warm plates and spoon over a little of the tapenade. Serve immediately with little sprigs of flat parsley.

Mackerel Sandwich with Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs

Serves 4
This delicious ‘sandwich’ transforms the humble little mackerel into something quite trendy and utterly delicious.

4 very fresh mackerel
15g (½ oz) butter
4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh herbs - thyme, parsley, chives, fennel and lemon balm
110g (4oz) mushrooms, finely chopped
Seasoned flour
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Fresh herbs 
Chive flowers if available

Fillet the mackerel, wash, dry and dip in flour which has been well seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread a little soft butter evenly over the flesh side of each fillet. Heat a frying pan or cast-iron pangrill large enough to take the fish in a single layer. Sauté until golden on both sides. 
Remove the fish to a hot serving dish or four individual plates. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, add the fresh herbs and season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper if necessary. Divide the mixture in four. Spoon a quarter over four of the fillets and top each with another fillet, crispy side upwards. Garnish with a sprig of fresh herbs and perhaps a few chive flowers. Serve immediately.

Note: This mushroom, garlic and herb mixture is also delicious served with sautéed chicken livers on toast, as a first course.

Foolproof Food

Potato and Spring Onion Salad

The secret of delectable potato salad is simple, use good quality potatoes, peel and toss in French Dressing while still warm. Mayonnaise may be omitted if a less rich potato salad is your choice.
Serves 4-6

2 lbs (900g) freshly cooked potatoes - diced, allow about 23 lbs (1.1kg) raw potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions or 2 teaspoons chopped onion
4 fl ozs (120ml) French dressing
4 fl oz (120 ml) Mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Keeps well for about 2 days.
Note: This potato salad is also delicious without Mayonnaise. Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, eg. add cubes of garlic salami, cooked Kabanossi sausages or cooked mussels.

Piped Potato Salad

The first time we made this salad it was out of necessity because we overcooked the potatoes. It was a great success and now we make it regularly by choice!

4½ cups freshly mashed potato

Add Ballymaloe French dressing, finely chopped parsley, chives, mayonnaise and seasoning to the stiff potato to taste. Pipe onto individual leaves of lettuce or use to garnish an appetiser salad or hors d'oeuvres.

Hot Tips

Mackerel are cheap so grasp the opportunity to practice your filleting technique – if the knife slips it won’t break the bank!

Mackerel are unquestionably best eaten on the day they are caught, if you catch, buy or get a present of more than you can eat, be sure to gut them, wash and chill in the fridge overnight. They deteriorate much faster if the insides are not removed.

July events foodie events
Friday 2nd July – Slow Food Market on Bantry’s Main Street from 9-4 in aid of Co-Action – the West Cork organisation which provides services for adults with physical and mental handicaps. Denis Cotter of Cork’s Café Paradiso will be cooking and selling Café Paradiso produce on the day plus many, many more attractions. This coincides with the weekend of the Bantry Chamber Music Festival. If you would like a stall contact Clodagh on 023-52977 or  

Sunday 4th July – Euro-Toques Ireland 3rd National Food Forum and Food Fair at Brooklodge, Macreddin Village, Co Wicklow –  Tel 01-6779995 

Wed 7th – Friday 9th July - Antony Worrall -Thompson – well known TV chef will be guest chef at Ballymaloe Cookery School – Tel 021-4646785

The Well-dressed Salad by Jennifer Joyce

Summer at last, we’ve just had the first new potatoes, radishes, baby beetroot, spinach and beans. Its either a feast or a famine, we’ve just been through the hungry gap in the garden and now suddenly there’s an abundance of produce, everything is leaping out of the ground. Tomatoes and cucumbers are not ripe yet but there’s lots to be going on with. This week with the sun beaming down we’ve been eating lots of yummy salad – I’ve just got a particularly exciting new book called ‘The Well-dressed Salad , recently published by Pavilion Books.
The author Jennifer Joyce looks glowing, as though she has been eating gorgeous healthy salad all her life. Jennifer was born in the US but her passion for food came from her Italian heritage. She travelled extensively and has developed a very eclectic lifestyle. Look out for her articles on food in Elle Deco and Weekend Telegraph. If you’d like to catch one of her cooking classes contact Books for Cooks or Divertimenti in London. She has also presented two TV series on the Food Network.
If you love salads and have a little room on your kitchen shelf this might just be the book to add to your collection. Its written with wit and enthusiasm and Joyce’s passion for salad shines through and will inspire everyone to experiment. She’s put a fresh spin on the basics including the classic Caesar Salad. She brought together an unusual and delectable collection of salad dishes from around the world, from the Mediterranean, North Africa, Asia and South America. The photos by Sian Irvine are mouth-watering. We’ve been having a really exciting week trying out recipes. Here are some of the many I want to try out that we’ve enjoyed so far.

The Well-dressed Salad by Jennifer Joyce, published by Pavillion Press.

Green Bean, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Anchovy, Caper and Garlic Dressing
Serves 6 (Appetizer) or 4 (Main Course)

11oz/300g fine green beans, trimmed
11oz/300g mixed yellow and red cherry tomatoes, halved
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
8oz/250g bocconcini (mini mozzarella) or 2 buffalo mozzarella balls, cut into 2cm/1inch pieces and drained on kitchen paper
3 tbsp shredded fresh basil
1 quantity Anchovy, Caper and Garlic Dressing (see recipe)
fresh basil leaves, to garnish

Cook the beans in a large pan of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain and immediately immerse in iced water for 5 minutes or until chilled. Drain on kitchen paper.

This salad looks most beautiful composed rather than tossed, so place the ingredients on a large platter, arranging the beans, tomatoes, onion and mozzarella in separate piles. Sprinkle shredded basil over the top and drizzle with the dressing just before serving. Garnish with whole basil leaves.

Anchovy, Caper and Garlic Dressing

1 anchovy packed in oil, rinsed and chopped
10 small capers, rinsed and chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
4fl oz/125ml good quality red wine vinegar (Cabernet Sauvignon)
7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Avocado, Orange and Red Onion Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette

Serves 6 (Appetizer) and 4 (Main Course)

large handful of rocket leaves (optional)
2 avocados, peeled and stoned (pitted)
2 oranges (preferably navel or blood varieties)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½oz (15g) fresh basil leaves or flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Black Olive Vinaigrette

2 tbsp chopped pitted black olives
2 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ shallot, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper

Place a little rocket on each serving plate or on a large platter. Thinly slice the avocados and arrange the slices on top. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel and pith off the oranges, remove any pips (seeds) and then cut the flesh into 1cm/½ inch slices. Cut each slice into quarters and arrange on top of the avocado. Sprinkle the red onion slices and basil or parsley over the salad.

Put all the vinaigrette ingredients into a screw-top jar and shake well. Pour the dressing over the salad and serve immediately.

* The salad should be eaten fairly soon after it has been prepared. If you want to make it 1 hour before, squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice over the avocados and do not add the onion until just before serving. The vinaigrette can be made the day before and refrigerated.

Vietnamese Prawn Salad with Lime, Lemon Grass & Ginger Dressing

Serves 6 (Appetizer) or 4 (Main Course)

24 large, raw prawns
2 large carrots, cut into julienne
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into julienne
2 medium cucumbers, de-seeded and thinly sliced
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large red chilli, de-seeded and cut into julienne
15 fresh mint leaves
¾oz/20g fresh coriander leaves


3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large red chillies, de-seeded and chopped
3 lemon grass stalks, lower third only thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped fresh root ginger
3 tbsp Thai fish sauce
4 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp fresh lime juice
½ tsp ground black pepper


3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
3 spring onions, white part only cut into julienne and soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
1 large red chilli, de-seeded, cut into julienne and soaked in cold water for 30 minutes

For the dressing: put the garlic, chillies, lemon grass, shallot and ginger into a food processor and process a paste. Scrape the paste into a bowl and stir in the Thai fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, coriander and pepper and set aside.

Peel the prawns, remove their heads and de-vein with a small paring knife. Bring a medium pan of water to the boil, add the prawns and remove with a slotted spoon when they turn pink. Rinse prawns under cold water and pat dry on kitchen paper.

Combine the carrots, pepper, cucumbers, red onion, red chilli, mint and the prawns in a large bowl. Just before serving, pour over the dressing and mix well. Serve the salad on a large platter with the coriander leaves, spring onions and chilli strips sprinkled over it.


This salad is delicious with chicken, seared beef fillet (tenderloin) or fresh seared tuna in place of prawns. Thin glass (cellophane) or vermicelli noodles could be used for vegetarians. Add crushed peanuts, cashews and/or fried shallots and Fried Ginger Sticks.

Asian Savoy Cabbage Salad

Serves 6 (Appetizer) or 8 (Side Dish)

½ Savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
½ red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 carrots cut into julienne
1 red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
8 spring onions , thinly sliced
3 shallots, finely chopped
1oz/25g fresh coriander leaves
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp regular soy sauce
1½ tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp sesame oil
4fl oz/125ml groundnut (peanut oil)

Put all the vegetables, the coriander and salt and pepper into a large bowl. Place all the dressing ingredients into a screw-top jar and shake well. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.


White cabbage could replace Savoy with great results. Grilled prawns or thinly sliced seared beef could be added for a more substantial salad. Crispy Shallots or crushed peanuts would be delicious added.

Claire McSweeney’s Wakame Seaweed Salad

I tasted this delicious salad at a recent meeting of the Cork Free Choice Consumer’s Group and Claire McSweeney generously shared her recipe with us.

Serves 8

1 bag of Wakame Seaweed
1 large cucumber

6 tablesp. rice wine vinegar
3 tablesp. Shoyu soy Sauce
2 tablesp. sugar

1 handful pickled ginger

Pour lots of cold water over the seaweed and leave re-hydrate for about 15 minutes.

Peel the cucumber in strips along the length, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and slice thinly.
Put about 8 fl.ozs (250ml) of water into a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of salt and the sliced cucumber. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a saucepan, warm gently until the sugar has dissolved. 

Drain the cucumber and press out any excess water.
Drain the seaweed well and rinse with cold water. Drain very well again.

Mix all the ingredients together with the pickled ginger.
Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving, so it becomes cool and crisp.

Great with fried fish or tempura.

Foolproof Food

Fresh Strawberry Shortcake

Serves 6 - 8

6 ozs (170g) flour
4 ozs (110g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar

½ lb (225g) strawberries
8 fl ozs (250ml) chantilly cream - whipped sweetened cream
1 teasp. icing sugar
Garnish: 6 - 8 whole strawberries and fresh mint leaves

Rub the butter into the flour and castor sugar as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Rest dough for a few minutes if you have time. Roll out into 2 circles 7 inches (17.5cm) in diameter, ¼ inch (7mm) thick. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, 15 minutes approx or until pale golden . Remove and cool on a rack. One circle may be marked with a knife into wedges while still warm, to facilitate cutting later.
Shortly before serving, sandwich with chantilly cream and halved sugared strawberries. Sieve icing sugar over the top and decorate with rosettes of cream, whole strawberries and fresh mint leaves.
Note: Individual strawberry shortcakes may be made with 3 inch (7.5cm) discs of shortbread. Cut the strawberries lengthways and brush with red currant jelly if available.

Hot Tips 

West Cork Food and Drink Fair at Mannings Emporium, Ballylickey on 19th & 20th June – today there will be a Food & Drink Quiz and on Sunday cooking demonstrations with Carmel from Good Things Café, Durrus and Ivan of Grapefruit Moon in Ballycotton. Special Guests John & Sally McKenna.

Waterford City Market at Jenkins Lane
Opened for business on Saturday 5th June – colourful range of quality local food produce, hand crafts and bustling atmosphere – supported by Waterford City Council. Open every Saturday 10-4 situated at Beach Tower off Georges St.

Other thriving new Markets springing up around the country – Dungarvan, Naas, Fermoy, Blackrock Park, Co Dublin ……..

If you plan a trip to London during the summer and would like to take in a cookery demonstration – check out
Books for Cooks – 4 Blenheim Crescent, London W11 INN (Notting Hill)
Tel 00 44 207 221 1992
Divertimenti – 34 Marylebone High St. London W1U 4PT Tel. 00 44 207 935 0689

Fresh Irish Strawberries – look out for your nearest grower or pick your own and enjoy the real taste of summer.

Obesity a Health Epidemic

Just last week the House of Commons Health Committee warned that children were in the grip of an obesity epidemic and lambasted the UK Government’s lamentable lack of action. In the past 20 years the prevalence of obesity has risen by 400%, and the number of overweight or obese children increased by 25% between 1995 and 2002. Researchers in the University of Southampton confirmed that food additives are causing behavioural problems in the same generation. In the UK it is estimated that a quarter of all women and one in five men are classified as obese, and that as many as 30,000 people die prematurely every year from obesity-related conditions. 

However, it is worth noting that the body mass index (BMI) has been revised downwards in the past six years, due to lobbying by groups who are determined to turn obesity into a disease which can be treated by pharmaceutical, diet and medical industries. Overnight 36 million people in the US woke up to find they were classified as obese. In ‘Dispensing with the Truth’, Alicia Mundy points out that in the US medicine is an industry. Think of it, Mundy says as Obesity Inc.!

Whatever the measurement, there’s no denying we’re getting fatter. It seems perfectly acceptable nowadays for youngsters to reveal layers of pudgy fat over the top of their tight-fitting jeans. Hitherto we would have done our best to camouflage the extra pounds with loose-fitting gear. Here in Ireland we have no reason to be smug or complacent, we are also facing a growing problem in every sense of the word, 13% of the population are classified as obese and almost half are overweight – (42% of males and 27% of females). If you personally are sylph like and feel this issue is irrelevant to you – think again. As taxpayers it effects each and every one of us. It is estimated that obesity accounts for up to 6% of Ireland's total health care costs. In the UK its costing the NHS at least £500m per year.

Over 50% of Americans are now classed as obese, 1 million are classified as super-obese which means they can barely walk and in many cases are completely immobile. A friend from Berkeley in California who is deeply concerned about these issues told me recently that there are 40 people who weigh over 400 lbs in just one of the several hospitals in Berkeley. The annual cost to the US economy of obesity-related problems such as cardio-vascular disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, just some of the ‘health’ problems linked to obesity is now in excess of $100 billion dollars a year. Ironically that figure exactly mirrors the amount that Americans spend on fast food annually.

The Obesity Report has generated enormous debate in the UK and has forced the government to explain its strategy. Food manufacturers, particularly those who make sweets, confectionery and soft drinks are having to rethink their marketing. The sort of promotions which encourage school children to collect wrappers to buy sports equipment or computers, are being hastily withdrawn and rightly so. 

Parents are exhausted from trying to resist the pleas of children seduced by carefully crafted ads for everything from sugar-laden cereals full of empty calories to chicken nuggets and soft drinks laced with aspartame. From watching children’s television or cartoons for even a short time, you will understand why our government recently published a code of practice. Under Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland code of Advertising and Children - An advertisement addressed to children ‘should not encourage an unhealthy lifestyle or unhealthy eating or drinking habits; advertisements representing mealtime should clearly and adequately depict the role of the product within the framework of a balanced diet; snack foods should be clearly represented as such, and not as substitutes for meals.’

It is unlikely to be a coincidence that childhood obesity rates are highest in countries where junk food advertising is least regulated – the US, the fattest nation on earth, UK second and Australia.

Why can’t we put the same resources into an advertising campaign to educate the public about the connection between the food we eat and how we feel. Our food should be our medicine. It is a damning reflection on the current situation that futurologists are now saying that mass-produced food is fast becoming the ‘new tobacco’.

In a crisis the natural reaction seems to be to find someone to blame. Fast food outlets are being targeted and demonised but I fear it is wishful thinking to imagine that this sector is the sole cause of the problem. This type of food would certainly seem to be a contributory factor, but I believe the problem is much more fundamental. The food we eat has changed dramatically in the past 40 or 50 years. The fixation with cheap food has forced farmers and food producers to intensify their production methods to the detriment of the texture, flavour and nutritional content. Study after study is showing that much of our food contains dramatically less vitamins, minerals and trace elements than it did even in the 1970’s. Consequently much of the food we eat is neither nourishing nor satisfying, effecting both our mental and physical health, as we eat more empty calories.

We urgently need to readjust our priorities, people who regularly protest that they cannot afford to buy organic food may want to look at how much they spend in the pub, on magazines, sport, clothes, videos….

In 1979 we spent 26% of our income on food, in 1999 it was down to 12.9%. 

So much depends on the food we eat. Cheap mass-produced food may well prove to be the most expensive thing you can feed your family in health terms. An investment of a little more time in sourcing really fresh naturally-produced local food in season will pay handsome dividends.

Delicious early Summer foods now in season – Mackerel, Green Gooseberries, Broad Beans, Courgettes – enjoy!

Pangrilled Mackerel with Green Gooseberry Sauce

Mackerel are now in season so look out for some lovely shiny fresh fish to pan grill and serve with tart Green Gooseberry Sauce.
Serves 4

8 fillets of very fresh mackerel (allow 6 ozs (170g) fish for main course, 3 ozs (85g) for a starter)
Seasoned flour
Small knob of butter

Green gooseberry sauce – see below
Heat the grill pan. Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on that side before you turn them over. Continue to cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate accompanied by green gooseberry sauce.

Note: Fillets of any small fish are delicious pan grilled in this way. Fish under 2 lbs (900g) such as mackerel, herring and brown trout can also be grilled whole on the pan. Fish over 2 lbs (900g) can be filleted first and then cut across into portions. Large fish 4-6 lbs (1.8-2.7kg) can also be grilled whole. Cook them for 10-15 minutes approx. on each side and then put in a hot oven for another 15 minutes or so to finish cooking.

Green Gooseberry Sauce

Use the tart hard green gooseberries on the bushes at the moment, they make a delicious sauce.
10 ozs (285g) fresh green gooseberries
stock syrup to cover (see below) - 6 fl.ozs (175 ml) approx.
a knob of butter (optional)

Top and tail the gooseberries, put into a stainless steel saucepan, barely cover with stock syrup, bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit bursts. Taste. Stir in a small knob of butter if you like but it is very good without it.
Stock Syrup

4 fl ozs (120ml) water
4 ozs (110g) sugar

Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil together for 2 minutes. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator until needed. Stock syrup can also be used for sorbets, fruit salads or as a sweetener in homemade lemonades.

Carrigeen Moss Pudding

Serves 4-6
Carrigeen moss is bursting with goodness. I ate it as a child but never liked it as it was always too stiff and unpalatable. Myrtle Allen changed my opinion! Hers was always so light and fluffy. This is her recipe, it’s the best and most delicious. We find that visitors to the country are fascinated by the idea of a dessert made with seaweed and they just love it. The name comes from little rock.

8g (¼oz) cleaned, well dried carrigeen moss (1 semi-closed fistful)
850ml (12pint) milk 
1 tablespoon castor sugar
1 egg, preferably free range
2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence or a vanilla pod

Soak the carrigeen in tepid water for 10 minutes. Strain off the water and put the carrigeen into a saucepan with milk and vanilla pod if used. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently with the lid on for 20 minutes. At that point and not before, separate the egg, put the yolk into a bowl, add the sugar and vanilla essence and whisk together for a few seconds, then pour the milk and carrigeen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture whisking all the time. The carrigeen will now be swollen and exuding jelly. Rub all this jelly through the strainer and beat it into the milk with the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla essence if used. Test for a set in a saucer as one would with gelatine. Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold or fluff it in gently. It will rise to make a fluffy top. Serve chilled with soft brown sugar and cream and or with a fruit compote eg. Green gooseberry compote.

Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote

Serves 6-8
Elderflowers have an extraordinary affinity with green gooseberries and by a happy arrangement of nature they are both in season at the same time.
900g (2 lb) green gooseberries
3-4 elderflower heads
600ml (1pint) cold water
450g (1 lb) sugar

First top and tail the gooseberries. Tie the elderflower heads in a little square of muslin. Put into a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts. Allow to get cold. Serve in a pretty bowl and decorate with fresh elderflowers.

Watchpoint: It is essential to cook the fruit until it actually bursts, otherwise the compote will be too bitter.

New Season Baby Broad Beans with Olive Oil and Sheep’s Milk Cheese

My ‘garden angels’ know broad beans, considered dull by many are my favourite vegetable. I insist on planting the first seeds in November. So that with luck we’ll have the first tender beans in June. With careful successive planting we still manage to have them until the end October.
Serves 6
450g (1 lb) new season broad beans - about 1.8kg (4 lb) in the pods
Extra virgin olive oil 
Sea salt 
A Sheep’s Cheese eg Knockalara or organic St Tola Goat Cheese
Crusty white bread – Ciabbatta would be good

Bring the broad beans to the table, have a bottle of your best extra virgin olive oil, a bowl of sea salt and a piece of sharpish sheep’s milk cheese or a lovely fresh goat cheese, Pecorino would of course be delicious or also a good Feta.

Let each person have the pleasure of removing the beans from the furry pods. When you’ve accumulated a little pile on your plate, dip one by one, first into olive oil then into sea salt. Enjoy with the tangy cheese and warm crusty Ciabatta. 

Thin slices of Parma ham (prosciutto) or very good Italian Salami would make a more substantial feast. 

Courgettes or Zucchini with Marjoram

Serves 4
I’m completely hooked on annual marjoram. The seed is sometimes difficult to track down because it can be called Sweet marjoram or Knotty marjoram, but if you have any little patch at all it’s worth growing because it transforms so many dishes into a feast.

1 lb (450 g) green or golden courgettes or a mixture no more than 6 inches (15 cm) in length
1-2 tablespoons approx. olive oil
1-2 teaspoon chopped annual marjoram or basil

Top and tail the courgettes and cut them into scant ¼ inch (5 mm) slices. Heat the oil, toss in the courgettes and coat in the olive oil. Cook on a medium heat until just tender –4-5 minutes approx. Add the marjoram or basil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Turn into a hot dish and serve immediately.

Courgettes are one of the trickier vegetables to cook. Like mangetout peas they seem to continue cooking at an alarming rate after you’ve taken them out of the pot, so whip them out while they are slightly al dente.

Foolproof Food
This muesli recipe may be varied with the seasons, adding, raspberries, blackberries, apple, chopped hazelnuts.

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

Serves 8
4 ozs (110g) fresh strawberries
3 heaped tablesp. rolled oatmeal 
6 tablespoons water
1 teasp. honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 10 or 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the strawberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a scant teaspoon is usually enough but it depends on how sweet the strawberries are.
Serve with cream and soft brown sugar.

Hot Tips 

Join an Organic Box Scheme and have a selection of fresh seasonal produce delivered to your home every week. Contact Organic Trust Ltd., Tel. 01 8530271, IOFGA, Tel. 0506-32563, or Demeter 056 - 54214.

Local Producers of Good Food in Cork – the revised edition of this great booklet has just been published by Cork Free Choice Consumer Group – compiled by Myrtle Allen and Fawn Allen – For more information about the group contact Caroline Robinson 021-7330178 , 

Check out the local Farmers’ Market – buy directly from the food producers, often cheaper and fresher, plus you have the bonus of knowing that your ‘food euro’ is encouraging sustainable agriculture and supporting your local community. Extra bonus of an interactive shopping experience (no trolley rage and no sweeties to tempt the kids).

Lobby your TD’s and MEP’s to provide cycle lanes and footpaths on all roads to facilitate people who would like to have the option to take a little exercise. We take our life in our hands, everything militates against the pedestrian and cyclist. Consider the idea of walking to school with your children in the summer. Parents could take turns doing the school walk – bonus of added time to chat, observe nature and get in some exercise all in one – just a thought!

Notice how often we eat between meals. Remember how this was discouraged when we were children. Is it my imagination, or are people eating and drinking non-stop nowadays – try having just three moderately-sized meals a day!

Organise a rota with your pals so you don’t have to bring your children into the supermarket. According to James McNeal, a professor of marketing at Texas A&M University, who wrote the influential sales handbook ‘Kids as Customers’, child pester power is responsible for 75% of spontaneous and un-intentioned food purchases, as tormented parents cave into advertising-fuelled pleas. 

Remember if you don’t have junk in the house, kids can’t eat junk.

Oatmeal has long been regarded as a healthy addition to the diet – and not just in porridge – Oat Millers of Ireland which incorporates Flahavans, Odlums and Whites Speedicook, have got together to produce a Summer Recipe Collection – which is available online at  or contact  or Tel. 01-6789762, The Oat Millers of Ireland, Huband House, 16 Upper Mount St. Dublin 2.

Eating outdoors throughout the seasons

Eating outdoors throughout the seasons is one of my greatest delights – Spring, Summer of course, as well as Autumn and even Winter. I always have several picnic baskets packed and ready to go. Old rugs folded, some are slightly tattered and moth-eaten, each with a story – a tartan rug from my boarding school days, a truly beautiful hand-woven rug, a present from Alice Roden, several treasured relics from the old Country Shop in Dublin’s Stephens Green, (a favourite childhood haunt, now long since gone), and finally several posh new rugs with waterproof lining and handles for ease of carrying.
One picnic basket has several cheap frying pans, tongs, egg slice, a large bottle of sunflower oil, a bag of kindling, firelighters, newspapers (mostly the sports sections) and matches. This is my kit for breakfast picnics - delicious in the Comeraghs or Knockmealdowns, or on the cliffs overlooking the little sandy coves on the coast. We bake a few loaves of soda bread and spotted dog, grab the basket of assorted jam and honey, squeeze some citrus fruit for fresh juice. Pack the hurricane kettle, also fill some flasks of boiling water in case the wind is blowing in the wrong direction.
When we reach our chosen site, preferably overlooking the sea, a shimmering lake or a babbling brook, we make several stone circles to enclose our fires, the children gather extra driftwood or ‘cipins’ and we get to work.
Nothing smells or tastes so tantalisingly irresistible as rashers and freshly laid eggs, sizzling sausages and fine flat mushrooms when they are cooked outdoors.
Our picnics are usually very simple, I rarely make fancy terrines or quiches. A frittata is certainly worth considering, but more often its just a piece of freshly boiled bacon, a simple roast chicken, a plump free-range organic one from Dan Aherne at Midleton Market, or one of Nora Aherne’s ducks. A few relishes and pickles, a bowl of freshly boiled shrimps and some homemade mayonnaise. A crisp cucumber and some ripe tomatoes are a must. If one is fortunate enough to have a Farmers Market locally, a visit will usually yield a variety of salami, chorizo, smoked fish, farmhouse cheese and if you are lucky enough to visit Midleton Farmers Market – crusty loaves of Declan Ryan’s Arbutus Breads.
Cool boxes are an ace invention, such a pity they usually look so ghastly. I’m ludicrously fussy about the aesthetics of a picnic, lots of napkins, a mixture of favourite mismatched cutlery bound with raffia or a rubber band to stop them rattling about. Speckled enamel plates and our local Shanagarry Pottery, glasses and pretty Bridgewater mugs, as well as brightly coloured plastic. For seaside picnics particularly, its fun to pop a chilled melon – Charentais, Gallia or Ogen, or a Water Melon, into the cold box with some home-made lemonade or elderflower cordial, and masses of ice.
For cold frosty Winter days which we can scarcely visualise by the end of May – flasks of hot soup and a hay box containing a pot of bubbling stew, unfailingly produce gasps of delight.
Basically, I virtually never travel without a picnic, as those who sit beside me on trains, buses and planes will no doubt be aware. Occasionally I bring it home untouched, but more often than not, I am so glad to have it.
Hugo Arnold, author of the indispensable Avoca Cookbooks, is also passionate about outdoor eating. In his new book ‘Barbecues and other Outdoor Feasts’, he writes, ‘Fresh air, the warmth of the sun on my back and the gentle rustle of trees, all help to sharpen the senses. How well the wine tastes, how more delicious is the bread, the fleshy sun-rich olives and the moist, golden-yellow, mayonnaise-laden salmon sandwiches. If there is a lake or babbling brook nearby, so much the better. It is time to relax. There is no better way to eat.
This beautifully illustrated book published by Kyle Cathie, includes Chapters on Eating in the open, Soups and hearty sandwiches; Pates, terrines and purees; Tarts, pies and pizzas; Picnic dishes for feasts and parties; Barbecues and fires; Vegetables both in and out of salads, Desserts. You may want to seek it out before you launch into the Summer outdoor feasting season – its worth the €19.99 for Hugo’s mouth-watering prose alone.

‘Barbecues and other Outdoor Feasts’ by Hugo Arnold, published by Kyle Cathie.

Seafood Salad, Lime and Chilli Dressing

From Barbecues and other Outdoor Feasts by Hugo Arnold
Serves 6-8 as a starter

250g/9oz shell-on prawns
200g/7oz shelled scallops, patted dry with kitchen paper
500g/1lb squid, cleaned and cut into 2cm/¾ inch pieces
salt and pepper
500g/1lb shell-on clams, cleaned
1kg/2lb 4oz shell-on mussels, cleaned
bunch of parsley, picked over
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
zest of 2 limes and the juice of 1

Preheat a grill or ridged griddle pan.
Season the prawns, scallops and squid with salt and pepper and grill until just done, about 2 minutes each side, transferring to a shallow bowl.
Put the clams and mussels in a saucepan, cover and cook over a medium heat until they open, about 5 minutes. Discard any shells that have not opened in that time.
Remove some of the excess half shells, they will only be discarded anyway, and add to the prawns, scallops and squid.
When all the fish is cooked, add the parsley to the bowl along with the chilli, lots of olive oil and the lime zest and juice.
Season, toss gently and serve.

Char-grilled Squid with Chilli Oil, Houmous and Rocket Salad

Serves 4
125g/4oz dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
2 garlic cloves, crushed to a pulp with a little salt
2 tablepsoons tahini*
1 bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
juice of 2-3 lemons
2 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
olive oil
1kg/2lb 4oz squid, prepared as described below
4 handfuls of rocket
1 lemon, quartered

Cook the chickpeas in fresh boiling water until tender – 45 mins to 1 hour. They should be nutty, but certainly not al dente.
Strain, reserving the cooking water, and puree the peas along with the garlic and tahini, adding the reserved cooking water until you have a puree the consistency of whipping cream.
Stir in the coriander and lemon juice to taste and set aside.
Combine the chilli with 125ml/4fl.oz of olive oil, gently heat until just warm and set aside.
Barbecue the squid for 2 minutes each side and serve with the houmous, rocket dressed with the chilli oil.
*It makes the task of extracting the tahini from the jar much easier if you sit it in a jug of boiling water 5 minutes before you need it.

To prepare squid:
Slide your finger down the cartilage and pull away from the body sac along with the head.
Slice off just behind the eyes and discard everything but the tubular body sac, head, tentacles and ink sack.
Run a knife down the body sac, open out and with your fingers take off the wings. With a knife scrape off the darker-coloured skin and cut into 5cm/2 in squares and rectangles. Wash thoroughly and drain.
With a sharp knife score the outside of the squid in a criss-cross pattern, making sure you don’t cut through the flesh.
This helps to stop it curling.

Meat & Chicken Satay

Serves 4
1 walnut sized piece of tamarind pulp
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3cm/1in piece of fresh root ginger, roughly grated
500g/1lb shoulder of lamb, cubed
500g/1lb boneless chicken thighs, cut into 3cm/1in cubes

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons plain un roasted peanuts, roughly crushed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
juice and zest of 1 lime
125ml/4fl oz coconut milk.

Place the tamarind in a small cup of warm water and as the pulp becomes malleable squeeze out as much as you can. Drain through a sieve, squeezing out as much liquid from the solids as possible. Discard the pulp.
Combine the tamarind liquor with the garlic, shallots, lime juice and zest, soy sauce and ginger.
Thread the meat on to soaked skewers* and brush over the marinade.
To make the sauce, fry the peanuts in the oil until browned.
Place the chillies, garlic and shallots in a processor and blitz.
Add to the peanuts and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring all the time to prevent sticking. Add the lime juice and zest and the coconut milk and stir well so everything is amalgamated.
Cook the skewers over a moderate heat for 20 minutes, turning frequently and basting with any remaining marinade. Serve with the sauce.

* You need to soak the skewers in cold water for about 1 hour to prevent them burning. If you can’t wait for that long, wrap the exposed ends in a bit of foil, fiddly, but it does the trick.

Grilled Entrecote with Field Mushroom and Béarnaise Sauce

Barbecued steaks are great, but it is also worth buying a cut like entrecote in a large piece. That way you get the smoky charred outside and a pink, delicate inside. It is much easier to carve along the short side.
Serves 6-8

For the reduction:
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
few sprigs fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon peppercorns

To make the Béarnaise Sauce:
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon reduction
250g/9oz butter
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, eg tarragon, chervil, chopped
salt and pepper

12cm/4in-piece of entrecote weighing about 1.5kg/3lb
olive oil
8 medium sized field mushrooms

Combine all the reduction ingredients in a saucepan and add 4 tablespoons of water.
Bring to the boil and reduce until you have about 1 tablespoon of liquid left.
Push through a sieve and set aside.
For the Béarnaise sauce, combine the egg yolks with the reduction in a bain-marie or in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently boiling water. Add the butter, a lump at a time stirring constantly until it thickens. Remove from the heat, stir in the herbs and check seasoning. It will sit, quite happily, for half an hour or so provided it is warm.
Rub the entrecote all over with the garlic and then a few tablespoons of olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and barbecue for 1015 minutes, turning frequently (10 minutes will give rare, 15 minutes medium and 20 minutes almost, though not quite, well done).
Brush the mushrooms with olive oil and cook/barbecue, gill side up, at the same time. Serve the entrecote with the mushrooms and Béarnaise sauce. 

Foolproof Food

Barbecue Sauce

Makes 225ml (8fl oz) approx. can be used to marinade lamb chicken or pork or even sausages
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
110g (4oz) finely chopped onion
1 x 400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes
7 tablespoons tomato puree
7 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons pure Irish honey
4 tablespoons Worcester sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic, onion and sweat gently for 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and juice, cook for a further 4 or 5 minutes, season with salt, freshly ground pepper. Puree in a liquidiser or food processor, add the remainder of the ingredients and bring to the boil, simmer for 4 or 5 minutes. Use as a sauce or marinade.
Note: Don’t marinade for longer than 15-20 minutes or the meat will be inclined to burn easily.

Top Tips

For picnics - Bring a damp J-cloth or two in a plastic bag to deal with sticky or charcoal covered fingers.
Several old recycled carrier bags are terrific for food scraps or refuse.
A packet of good sausages are a must for any picnic. You may want to bring some honey wholegrain mustard and rosemary mixed in a pot.

1-day Barbecue Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School – Friday 25th June – 021-4646785  

AGA – Chef Seamus O’Connell will perform an AGA cookery demonstration at the National Country Fair on Sunday June 6th and Monday June 7th at Emo Court, Emo, Co Laois. Seamus of Cork’s Ivory Tower Restaurant and presenter of Soul Food series on RTE, recently won the title of Best Chef of the Year from the National Restaurant Association of Ireland. 

Schull Farmers Market is worth a detour - every Sunday 11-3 – on a recent visit the stalls were laden with local food, farmhouse cheese, charcuterie, vegetables, plants and crafts.

Gudrun and Frank Shinnick have been making cheese in Fermoy for several years. Recently I came across some of their wonderful cheese, a delicious hard St Gall and a sublime gooey melting St Brigid Rua. They can scarcely keep up with demand at the moment but try some of the selected outlets they supply – On the Pig’s Back in Cork’s English Market, Sheridan's in Dublin, Country Choice in Nenagh, the Quay Food Company in Kinsale or Mark Hosford at the Coal Quay Market in Cork on Saturdays. You may also like to look out for their 3rd cheese called Cáis Rua. Contact Gudrun or Frank at the Fermoy Natural Cheese Company 025-31310 to find the outlet nearest you.
CHASE Gala Summer Ball – Friday 11th June at Rochestown Park Hotel – Champagne Reception, dinner, dancing plus lots more – all proceeds to CHASE
Contact Katie Cullinane 4863467, Debra Hurley 4843932, Hillary O’Malley 4841361


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