ArchiveJuly 2004

Euro-Toques, the European Association of Chefs

Euro-Toques, the European Association of Chefs was founded in Brussels in 1987 as a guardian of European culinary heritage and as a lobby group to voice the concerns of Europe’s top chefs.

The founder, Pierre Romeyer, owner of the 3 Michelin star La Maison de Bouche in Brussels, invited leading chefs in countries across Europe to join him in his ‘quest to protect the quality, diversity and flavour of our foods, indigenous food methods and the traditional cuisines that had been established over hundreds of years’.

Among the illustrious chefs who joined Pierre Romeyer and founded national Euro-toques branches were Paul Bocuse from France, Cas Spijkers from Holland and our own Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House. The organisation spread quickly and captured the imagination of creative chefs throughout the EU. Today Euro-Toques has a membership of almost 4,000 chefs, including 200 in Ireland, and has a permanent European Office in Brussels from which it coordinates its lobbying campaigns on issues affecting food quality and the culinary profession.

At the 3rd Euro-toques National Food Forum & Fair which took place recently in The Brooklodge Hotel, Co. Wicklow, the topic for discussion was ‘The Future of our Food’. The forum, which was chaired by Mr. John Hume, featured high-profile speakers from policy-making, culinary, environmental and scientific backgrounds and discussed topics including the future of the agri-food sector in Ireland and Europe, globalisation versus localisation of food production, changing consumer trends in food purchasing and the effects of technical and genetic manipulation of food.

Speaking at the event, Ross Lewis, the current Commissioner-General of Euro-toques Ireland, explained why chefs are more hopeful for the future of Irish food, “As chefs we are seeing increasing demand from consumers for locally produced foods, the organic market is growing, the number of farmers markets around the country has increased rapidly, and here in Ireland we are seeing a great resurgence in small-scale, artisan food production as evidenced by the number of high quality products available here today”.

“Euro-toques chefs believe that agriculture should be respectful of natural rhythms and oppose all measures which take away from the quality of food’’, he continued.

At the forum, panellist Alan Dukes discussed the latest European Common Agricultural Policy reforms which go some way towards putting more emphasis on quality rather than quantity in food production, by ending the association between production quotas and direct payments. 

Robert Cook of the International Society for Ecology and Culture also addressed the forum. He stressed that localisation of food production is not only a matter of food quality, but also an environmental necessity. UK figures estimate that the distance food is transported by road increased by 50% between 1978 and 1999, and the food system now accounts for between a third and 40% of all UK road freight. “The ingredients of a single supermarket meal may easily have travelled a total of over 24,000 miles”, said Mr. Cook. 

Chefs are in a unique position to encourage this type of production and Euro-toques chefs try to support local producers by promoting them on their menus. “By using local foods, and by advertising and promoting their use, chefs have it in their power to not only entertain our palates, but also to educate the minds of the public about the importance and the opportunities provided by choosing local produce”. Mr. Cook reminded us that “In the process, not only can local specialities be identified and promoted but also regional dishes can be revived or even invented”.

One of the major developments in globalised food production in recent years, the biotechnological and the genetic manipulation of food, was discussed by UK-based Scientist Dr. Mae-Won Ho, Director of the Institute of Science in Society, she underlined the inherent dangers involved in interfering with nature. The panel also featured US author Jeffrey Smith whose book, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Biotech Lies, discusses evidence of the dangers of GM and experiences in countries where GM crops have already been grown.

Chef Ross Lewis commented; “GM is obviously a very big concern for us as chefs. We believe that consumers should have the right to choose healthy, natural food that they can trust and we believe that the growing of GM crops will threaten that choice. We are privileged in Ireland to have some of the purest and most natural ingredients available in Europe and we would like to keep it that way”.

The panel also featured Michelin star chef Shaun Hill who flew in that morning from Ludlow. Shaun and his wife Anja cook and serve respectively in The Merchant House. Shaun works in a tiny domestic-sized kitchen and feeds 24 diners for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. The Merchant House has won numerous awards down through the years and earlier this year was ranked 21 in the Best Restaurants of the World by The Restaurant Magazine.

The fixed-price menu gives a small choice of over 3 courses, an eclectic mix, based on personal taste and sound cooking techniques, rather than any particular country’s cuisine. Sean is passionate about the quality of ingredients, organic where feasible and carefully chosen. The restaurant is booked out 3 months in advance for lunch and dinner …. So think ahead before going over.

A simple example of what you might find on Shaun’s menu is ‘grilled bass with saffron and pepper sauce’, ‘saddle of venison with foie gras’, ‘roast squab pigeon with parsley risotto, ‘muscat crème caramel with prunes in armagnac’, ‘apricot tart with amaretto ice cream’.

The restrained style of Shaun Hill’s restaurant complements the understated style of cooking. Both are a tribute to his impeccable taste and a chef that has the confidence to keep it simple.
The title of Shaun’s presentation was “Our responsibilities as chef” which highlighted 

The important relationship between the chef, his/her suppliers and the customer, the constant battle with bureaucracy, how food and catering have changed down through the years and our responsibility to educate the consumer. 
The event also incorporated a major food fair open to the public which brought together 60 Irish small food producers from around the country. 

Here are some recipes from Shaun Hill’s recently published book ‘How to Cook Better’, published by Mitchell Beazley. 

John Dory with Coriander

This is a Lebanese dish , with flavours that typify eastern Mediterranean and North African cooking. The fish is braised and served in its own sauce like stew.
Serves 4

1.5kg John Dory, filleted
salt and pepper
sunflower oil , for frying
150ml olive oil
4 shallots, finely chopped
8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teasp ground coriander
½ a small chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 teasp ground cumin
juice of 3 lemons
1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves only, washed and dried on kitchen paper.

Salt the fillets, then heat enough sunflower oil to deep-fry them. When the oil is hot, fry the fillets for a minute to seal them and then lift out from the pan.
In a separate pan, heat the olive oil. Fry the shallots in the oil until they start to colour, then add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Add the ground coriander, chilli and cumin, then pour in the lemon juice and bring to the boil. 

Add the fish fillets and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the fish is cooked and the sauce thickened. Add the coriander leaves and serve.

Note: John Dory is about 50 per cent bone and head, so you can expect around 350-400g of fillet per person from each fish. They are awkward to fillet so have the fishmonger do the job for you if possible.

Spiced Aubergine Fritters

Serves 4
1 large aubergine
salt and pepper
a good pinch each of ground cinnamon, ground cumin and ground cardamom
1 tbsp grated orange zest
sunflower oil, for frying
lemon wedges, to serve

For the batter:
4 tabsp self raising flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
2 medium egg whites

Slice the aubergine into 5mm rounds and season with salt, pepper, spices and orange zest.
For the batter, whisk together the flour, oil and water – you want the thickness of porridge. Separately, and with a clean whisk, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold the whites into the batter.
Heat the sunflower oil until smoking. Coat each slice of aubergine in batter in hot oil until crisp and brown; this only takes a minute.

Serve with lemon wedges or as warm component of salad.

Modern varieties of aubergine don’t need pre-salting to extract the bitterness. 10 minutes contact with the salt and spices will help soften the aubergine, however, and this does no harm.

The batter will keep for an hour or two and still be usable, but loses volume during this time. Its best made as near the time as is practicable.

Scallops with lentil and coriander sauce

– Shaun Hill
Serves 4
50g brown lentils
16 large scallops
a little groundnut or sunflower oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped red pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 large clove garlic, chopped
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
300ml chicken stock or water
25g unsalted butter
1 tsp crème fraiche
1 tbsp. fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. snipped fresh chives
1 tbsp. lemon juice, plus a little extra to go on the scallops
salt and pepper
a little light sesame or groundnut oil

Put the lentils in tepid water and soak for 2 hours. Simmer for around 10 minutes, or until cooked through. 
Remove the corals from the scallops.

Heat a little sunflower or groundnut oil to a high temperature. Fry the onion, red pepper, ginger and garlic until they start to caramelize, then add the spices and half the cooked lentils.
Heat the scallop corals in the stock (this is to add a little more flavour to the stock, not to cook the corals, which I do not use), then strain the stock on to the spiced lentils. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Puree the lentil mixture in a liquidizer, then reheat with the butter, crème fraiche, coriander leaves, chives and lemon juice.
Season with salt and pepper, then add the remaining cooked lentils. Spoon this sauce onto warmed plates.

Slice the scallops into two or three discs depending on their size, and brush lightly with light sesame or groundnut oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a dry pan until very hot and then fry the oiled scallop slices very quickly on both sides. Squeeze a few drops of lemon on top of the shellfish then place in a heap on top of the sauce.

Chocolate Cake

Can be served with coffee – cream or crème fraiche optional. Or serve as a pudding with a fresh cherry compote.
Also suitable for coeliacs.

225g plain chocolate, grated or broken into pieces
100g unsalted butter
4 eggs
225g icing sugar
a few drops of vanilla essence (must be vanilla extract or a natural essence)
2 tbsp cornflour
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5

Melt the chocolate and butter together. The best way to do this is to put the chocolate and butter in a bowl and stand the bowl in warm water, stirring occasionally.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Be sure to use a clean bowl and whisk.
Separately, whisk the yolks, icing sugar and vanilla essence together, then add the cornflour. Whisk until the colour of the mixture lightens perceptibly.
Add the melted chocolate and butter to the egg yolks.
Next add the whisked egg white, folding it in a third at a time. 
Line an 18cm cake tin with parchment paper and pour in the cake batter.
Bake in the preheated oven until done – for around 30-40 minutes.

The chocolate must be melted gently and slowly, it may be grated so that it melts faster if time is important.
There may be a tendency for the cake to sag in the middle if not completely cooked through, as there is very little flour – no wheat flour at all. In fact it is better under-cooked than over-cooked.

Rhubarb Meringue Tart

Serves 4
300g sweet shortcrust pastry
1 kg rhubarb, cut into 3cm lengths
3 egg yolks
120g Demerara sugar
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp. plain flour 
3 egg whites
3 tbsp. caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6

Line a 26cm pastry case – preferably with a detachable base – with sweet pastry and bake blind.
The rhubarb goes in next. Then mix together the egg yolks, Demerara sugar, salt and flour and spread this over the rhubarb.
Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes; this will start the rhubarb cooking.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until stiff. As they stiffen, trickle in the caster sugar.
Take the tart from the oven and spread the meringue on top. 

Reduce the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and return the tart to the oven. Bake for a further 25 minutes. 

Note: The egg whites must be completely free of imperfections – including yolk – if they are to be successfully whisked. The bowl used must be dry and clean also. Don’t add sugar too early; the whites should already form peaks before you start.

Foolproof Food

Summer Fruit Salad with Sweet Geranium Leaves

I discovered this recipe which has now become a perennial favourite quite by accident a few Summers ago as I raced to make a pudding in a hurry with the ingredients I had at that moment.
Serves 8-10 

4 oz (110 g) Raspberries 
4 oz (110g ) Loganberries
4 oz (110g ) Red currants
4 oz (110g ) Black currants
4 oz (110g) small Strawberries
4 oz (110g) Blueberries 
4 oz (110g) Fraises du bois or wild strawberries 

14 oz (400g) sugar
16 fl oz (450ml) water
6-8 large sweet geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)

Put all the freshly picked berries into a white china or glass bowl. Put the sugar, water and sweet geranium leaves into a stainless steel saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil for just 2 minutes. Cool for 4-5 minutes then pour the hot syrup over the fruit and allow to macerate for several hours. Remove the geranium leaves. Serve chilled, with softly-whipped cream or Vanilla Ice-cream or alone. Garnish with a few fresh sweet geranium leaves.
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Hot Tips

Fresh Sweetcorn now available from Catherine and Vincent O’Donovan’s roadside stall on the main Cork to Innishannon road about a mile and a half from the Halfway Roundabout. Tel 087-2486031 to order some for the freezer.

To cook – pull off the husks and silks, just pop into boiling well-salted water and cook for no more than 3 minutes. Serve slathered with butter and sprinkled with Maldon Sea Salt. Divine!

Corry Lane Home Smoked Fish
New to me – I tasted it at the Euro-Toques Conference – particularly delicious eel, warm smoked salmon and mackerel. Tel. John Rogan – 043-76264 087-9904707
Rathowen, Co Westmeath.

Ross Lewis at Chapter One Restaurant
Has recently introduced the new concept of a Charcuterie Trolley, customers can enjoy a starter plate of seven items primarily made from Irish charcuterie – some made in the restaurant and others supplied by specialist artisan producers like Frank Krycwzk and Fingal Ferguson. A few hot items come from the kitchen – eg pigs trotters, pickled lambs tongues, Westcorkian Ham with Celery Remoulade. A selection of salamis and terrines are served from a beautiful custom made cherrywood trolley with inlaid shelves to pull out and serve on – as Ross says to bring back a bit of drama to the restaurant! Chapter One, 18/19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Tel 01-8732266

Exciting Things have been Happening at Glebe House

Down Baltimore way exciting things have been happening at Glebe House. Jean and Peter Perry have had their gardens open to the public for 5 years now. Pay €4 into the honesty box by the stone pier and one can wander gently through the herb garden and potager bursting with organic vegetables, a variety of lettuces, kale and all manner of brassicas. Scarlet runner beans are eagerly romping up jute string, plump pea pods, chard, summer leeks ……

For those garden lovers who are more impressed by voluptuous herbaceous borders there’s also lots to impress in Jean’s cut flower garden. It was a riot of colour and texture last week when I visited. This garden was planted about 3 years ago to provide Jean with cut flowers for the bouquets she sold at the Skibbereen Farmers Market – not just roses and carnations but a glorious mixture of campanulas, salvias, daisies, eryngiums, delphiniums, astilbe, lady’s mantle, sweet William, love lies bleeding….

Last year with the aid of a grant from the Harold Barry Trust, Peter and Jean have created and planted a woodland walk, culminating in a small amphitheatre overlooking Church Strand Bay.

This year for the first time visitors and locals alike can enjoy the new café which opened its doors just a few weeks ago. Peter has built a conservatory off the dining room but visitors can also breakfast or lunch or do the crossword under the tree beside the herbaceous border, while the children explore the garden or peer into the hen run.

Brunch is served all day, full Irish, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, Crispy Pancakes with bacon and maple syrup or Eggs Benedict – two plump poached eggs on a bed of creamy spinach. This is not the spot to dash in for a quick breckie. Settle down with a pot of fine strong Fairtrade tea or coffee and the newspaper while Tessa or Flavie cooks to order.

The menu is simple, well chosen, a celebration of food from the garden and local area. Temptations like Borsch, Pea and Coriander Soup, Glebe Salad, West Cork Cheese Plate, a couple of gorgeous tarts – maybe Three cheese and Cherry Tomato Tart, or Blue Cheese and Onion Marmalade Tart. The challenge is to leave room for pud or a yummy slice – how about Flavie’s Chocolate Cake, or Plum Flan with Clonakilty Ice-cream. You might also want to polish off some Tunisian Orange Cake, or nibble a piece of Rosemary shortcake, or a bowl of fresh strawberries and local cream.

Just the sort of place one longs to find in one’s travels around the countryside but seldom does. Walkers and sailors can order a scrummy picnic, prices are very fair and reasonable. 

Glebe Gardens and Café open daily Easter till end of September 10am -6pm

Admission €4 (children under 16 free). 

Location - Skibbereen to Baltimore road, as you enter village ‘Baltimore’ sign is on left entrance directly opposite. Tel 028-20232. 

Here are some suggestions for a nice Summer menu

Courgette and Parsley Soup

Choose small courgettes for maximum flavour. If you are fortunate enough to grow your own you'll have lots of bright yellow blossoms. Include some in the soup and scatter a few petals over each bowl of soup to make a stunning garnish.
Serves 6-8
1 lb (450g) courgettes
1 oz (30g) butter
6 ozs (170g) onion, diced
6 ozs (170g) potato, diced
salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg
12 pints (900ml) light home-made chicken stock
2 tablespoons approx. chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon approx. chopped fresh basil or annual marjoram
a dash of creamy milk (optional)

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onion and potato, toss until well coated. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg, cover and sweat until soft but not coloured -5-6 minutes.

Meanwhile grate the courgettes on the coarse part of a grater and add to the soup base, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Bring the stock to the boil and add to the base, bring back to the boil and continue to cook for a further 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the parsley and purée the soup in a liquidiser for just a few seconds - there should be flecks of green clearly visible.

Taste and correct the seasoning. Add a little creamy milk if necessary.

Smoked Salmon and Dill Quiches

Also delicious for a picnic.
Makes 24

6 ozs (170g) Shortcrust pastry 
Smoked Salmon Filling
6 eggs, preferably free-range 
12 fl ozs (350ml) double cream 
3 teasp. ground nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 - 6 ozs (110g-170g) smoked salmon, chopped into 3 inch dices
2 teasp. chopped fresh dill

Preheat the oven to moderate 180C/350F/regulo 4. Roll out pastry to 3 mm/c inch thick and stamp out twenty-four pastry rounds using a 6 cm/22 inch pastry cutter. Press pastry rounds into shallow, greased patty pans (tartlet tins). Line with kitchen paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind while you make the filling. 

To make the custard, whisk the eggs with the cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Add the chopped salmon and dill. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

A Summer Green Salad with Ballymaloe French Dressing

Ballymaloe French Dressing
2 fl ozs (55ml) Wine vinegar
6 fl ozs (150ml) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils. eg. sunflower and arachide
1 level teaspoon mustard (Dijon or English)
1 large clove of garlic
1 scallion or small spring onion
Sprig of parsley
Sprig of watercress
1 level teaspoon salt
Few grinds of pepper

Put all the ingredients into a blender and run at medium speed for 1 minute approx. or mix oil and vinegar in a bowl, add mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and mashed garlic. Chop the parsley, spring onion and watercress finely and add in. Whisk before serving.

Green Salad

You will need a mild lettuce (eg. the common butterhead) as the basis of the salad and as many of the following as you care to or can put in:

finely chopped parsley, mint or any herbs of your fancy, spring onions, dice of cucumber, mustard and cress, watercress, the white tips of cauliflower, tips of purple sprouting broccoli, iceberg lettuce, cos, raddichio, oakleaf, Chinese leaves, rocket, salad burnet, and any other interesting lettuces available.

Wash and dry the lettuces and other leaves very carefully. Tear into bite sized pieces and put into a deep salad bowl. Cover with cling film and refrigerate, if not to be served immediately. Just before serving toss with a little French Dressing - just enough to make the leaves glisten. Serve immediately.

Note: Green Salad must not be dressed until just before serving, other wise it will be tired and unappetising.

Green Salad with Edible Flowers

Prepare a selection of salad leaves (see above) and add some edible flowers, eg. marigold petals, nasturtium flowers, borage flowers, chive flowers, rocket blossoms etc. one or all of these or some other herb flowers could be added. Toss with a well flavoured dressing just before serving.

This salad could be served as a basis for a starter salad or as an accompanying salad to be main course. Remember to use a little restraint with the flowers!

Rustic Peach Tart with Summer Berries

Serves 6-8

8 oz/225 g plain white flour
1 tablespoon castor sugar
4 oz/110 g cut into ½ inch dice
Cold water or beaten egg to mix


3-4 oz/85-110 g sugar
2 generous tablespoons cornflour
1½-2 lbs/675-900 g ripe peaches, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick 
4 oz/110 g blueberries, picked over
4 oz/110 g raspberries, picked over

Castor sugar for sprinkling, about 1 tablespoon 
1 x 9 inch pie plate or tart tin.

First make the pastry, put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the cold butter. When the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, add just enough water or beaten egg to bind. Knead lightly to get the mixture to come together. Cover with wax or silicone paper and rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. 

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 14 inch round approx. Line a 9 inch pie plate with it. Put the plate over a bowl to allow the edge to hang down, chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. 

To make the filling, mix the sugar with the cornflour. Toss in the peaches. Allow to sit for 5 minutes not more, tossing occasionally. 

Stir the blueberries and raspberries gently into the peaches. Pour the fruit and the juices into the chilled pie shell and distribute it evenly. Fold the overhanging edge to cover the outer portion of the filling, leaving a 5 inch opening of exposed fruit in the centre of the pie. Brush the pastry with water, sprinkle with a little sugar. 

Bake the pie in a preheated oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 20 minutes, lower the temperature to 180C/350F/regulo 4 and bake for 30 to35 minutes longer. Serve warm or cold with softly whipped cream.

Alternatively, sprinkle with castor sugar when cooked

Eggs Benedict

This is our version.

Rich and gorgeous, often eaten for breakfast but best for brunch - again the quality of all the components can lift this from the mundane to the extraordinary.

4 free range eggs, preferably organic
4 English muffins or 4 rounds of toast made from good bread preferably not sliced pan
4 slices cooked ham or 4-8 slices of bacon

Hollandaise sauce
First make the Hollandaise sauce

If using bacon heat a very little sunflower oil in a hot frying pan. Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Meanwhile poach the eggs and make the toast or split the muffins. Spread the hot toast or toasted muffins with butter. Top with a slice of ham or 2 slices of crispy bacon. Gently place the poached egg on top and coat with Hollandaise sauce. Serve extra hot toast and sauce separately.

Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 4-6, depending on what it is to be served with

Hollandaise is the mother of all the warm emulsion sauces . The version we use here is easy to make and quite delicious with fish. Like Mayonnaise it takes less than 5 minutes to make and transforms any fish into a feast. Once the sauce is made it must be kept warm: the temperature should not go above 70-80C/180F or the sauce will curdle. A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale, otherwise put the Hollandaise Sauce into a delph or plastic bowl in a saucepan of hot but not simmering water. Hollandaise Sauce cannot be reheated absolutely successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need. If however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or mashed potato.

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range
125 g/4 ozs butter cut into dice
1 dessertspoon cold water
1 teaspoon lemon juice, approx.

Put the egg yolks in a heavy stainless saucepan on a low heat, or in a bowl over hot water. Add water and whisk thoroughly. Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water if necessary. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add the lemon juice to taste. If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency. 

It is important to remember that if you are making Hollandaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce.

Another good tip if you are making Hollandaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.

Keep the sauce warm until service either in a bowl over warm water, or in a thermos flask. Hollandaise Sauce should not be reheated. Leftover sauce may be used as an enrichment for cream sauces, or mashed potatoes, or to perk up a fish pie etc.

Light Hollandaise Sauce
Whisk in 2 tablespoons of water to lighten the sauce. 

Foolproof Food

Perfect Poached Eggs on Toast

No fancy egg poachers or moulds are needed to produce a perfect result - simply a really fresh egg laid by a happy lazy hen.
Serves 1

2 eggs, free-range if possible 
toast, freshly made from a slice of pan loaf

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, reduce the heat, swirl the water, crack the egg and slip gently into the whirlpool in the centre. For perfection the water should not boil again but bubble very gently just below boiling point. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes until the white is set and the yolk still soft and runny.

Meanwhile make a slice of toast, cut off the crusts, butter and pop onto a hot plate. Drain the poached egg or eggs and place on top. Serve immediately.

Hot Tips

Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 4-5 September 2004 at Oxford Brookes University, UK. – theme ‘Wild Food:Hunters and Gatherers’  Enquiries to 

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

Indian Summer Festival 2004 - 29th June to 22 September at Vermilion Indian Fusion Cuisine in Dublin – 94/96 Terenure Rd North, Dublin 6W Tel 01-499 1400

Our food should be our medicine

Regular readers of this column will be aware that over the years I have become increasingly concerned about the quality of much of the food we eat, and the deterioration in the diet overall. Many people just look at food as fodder and do not connect it in any way with their health and well-being. They shovel any kind of rubbish into themselves and then wonder why they are feeling sluggish or lacking in energy.

Despite my best efforts the reality is - people are spending less time cooking . 

The average time it takes to prepare the main meal of the day nowadays is 20 minutes, compared to 60 minutes twenty years ago and the average preparation time for all meals at home (including breakfast, evening meals, children’s tea etc.) is a mere 13 minutes per meal and one third of meals are prepared in 5 minutes or less.  

More people are ‘cash rich’ and ‘time poor’. Is it not ironic that we are convinced that we don’t have time to cook, yet at no time in history have we had so many ‘modern conveniences’, gizmos and gadgets to speed up preparation. Could it be that wholesome food is no longer considered a priority – the reality is we always make time for what we consider to be important.

I have long suspected that the food we eat affects not only our physical but also our mental well-being and new research appears to validate this ‘gut feeling’.

At the Conference for the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids in Brighton recently, scientists warned that changes in our diet will lead to an epidemic of mental health problems in the future.

According to keynote speaker, Professor Michael Crawford of London Metropolitan University “We are facing a health crisis more serious and more dangerous than that posed by obesity in the West”. Two key forms of fatty acids are involved in human diet. One set are the omega-3s, which are found in the meat of animals and fowl, such as cattle and chicken, which graze on grass, and in vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage. The second version are known as omega -6’s, found in cereals and in the meat of animals fed on cereals.

In the past, diets contained balanced amounts of these chemicals. However, omega-6’s have increasingly come to dominate the shelves of food shops, as farmers have fed more and more cattle on grain, and food manufacturers have turned to the use of sunflower and other similar oils. As a result, Western nations now have serious – and worrying – dietary imbalances. 

New studies have shown that modern diets are deficient in omega-3’s. Intensive farming methods, increased use of sugary breakfast cereals and the widespread use of sunflower oils have led to a dangerous change in our diets.

Deficiences in omega-3, a vital substance, critical to brain development, are linked to behavioural and attention disorders in children, and depression among adults.

In the brain, omega - 3’s and omega -6’s act as building blocks for the membrane that surround our neurones, However, omega-3 lipids are considered particularly vital for this task.

‘Individuals that are omega-3 rich end up with neurones that run very fast – like Pentium 3 microprocessors,’ said Professor Tom Sanders, of the Nutrition, Foods and Health Centre at King’s College London. ‘Those that have too much omega-6 are slow and sluggish, like a 20 year old silicon chip.’

Omega-3 rich cells also make more complex links with other neurones, scientists have found, and this lattice of nerve connections forms the basis of our intelligence. The last 3 months of pregnancy and the first six weeks after birth are particularly critical for laying down these brain cell lattices.

‘Omega-3 fats are therefore essential in the diets of pregnant women for the healthy development of brain, retina and nervous tissue in the unborn child’, according to Dr. Ray Rice, of the ISSL.

This point is underlined by a newly completed analysis of the replies of 14,500 families who took part in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. This study has found that pregnant women who had diets low in omega-3’s which are also found in high levels in fish – and high in omega 6’s had an increased risk of depression. Their children were more likely to suffer problems with coordination and behaviour and come in the bottom quarter of their class n verbal IQ tests.

Other studies have produced similar results, Dr Christine Albert of Harvard Medical school found the risk of heart attack is greatest in individuals whose omega -3 drops below 4% of the fatty acids found in the red blood cells. Omega 3 is found in fish, particularly oily fish and ‘green’ foods such as cabbage, due to the photosynthesis process.

Professor Crawford explained that omega -3 levels were higher because of traditional farming practices where cows and lambs were fed on grass.

Consumption of fish has decreased and intensive farming has meant that fewer cows and poultry are allowed to graze on grass and are instead fed on cereals high in omega -6’s. These fatty acids are also essential but an imbalance has now been created – studies suggest that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be between equality and four to one, a pattern typified by those who live on Mediterranean diets rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, olive oil and garlic, and low in meat. By contrast, normal Western diets with their high cereal content, now have ratios of between 11to one and 40 to one.

So this research is yet another good reason to seek out good grass fed Irish beef and lamb, free-range chickens and eggs, delicious fresh fish (feast on the mackerel now in season) and lots of green vegetables and fruit.

Scientists are pressing for omega-3 additives to be introduced into many staple foods, although this will no doubt pose ethical and practical problems for vegetarians, if fish extracts are added to foods.

In the end, we need to constantly remind ourselves that ultimately ‘our food should be our medicine’. So the reality is that we need to expend a bit more time and energy sourcing good quality fresh naturally produced seasonal food for ourselves, our family and our friends, it will be time and money very well spent.

Carpaccio of Zucchini with slivers of Parmesan

A simple dish which depends totally on the quality of your ingredients, use the very best Extra Virgin olive oil you can afford, small crisp zucchini, and a sweet nutty parmesan.
Serves 6

675g (1-1½lbs) freshly picked yellow and green zucchini, not more than 5 inches in length
225g (8oz) rocket leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6oz (100-175g) Parmesan, (Parmigiano Reggiano) in the piece, sliced into slivers
Zucchini flowers (optional)

Trim the ends off the zucchini and slice at an angle into thin rounds. Place in a bowl. Wash and dry the rocket leaves thoroughly. Mix, then leave to marinate for 5 minutes. Taste and season. Divide the rocket leaves and a few zucchini petals between the serving plates. Put the zucchini on top, and then the Parmesan slivers. Sprinkle with a little freshly ground black pepper, and serve.

Fettucini with Salmon, Roast Peppers and Scallions

We have just another couple of weeks left to enjoy delicious wild Irish salmon, so seek it out immediately.
Serves 4-6

12 ozs (340 g) fettucini 
8 ozs (225 g) wild Irish salmon, skinned
3 shallots, chopped
2 tablesp. freshly chopped parsley
5 tablesp. olive oil
1 lemon
4 red peppers, roasted, seeded and peeled
12 fresh basil leaves
4-6 scallions
2 ozs (50 g) fresh white breadcrumbs toasted until dry
3 tablesp. Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of water to the boil – 6 pints (3.4L) water to 1 tablespoon 
salt. Add fettucini and stir well. Cook the fettucini until ‘al dente’ and strain well. 
Cut the salmon into ½ inch dice. Combine the chopped shallots, parsley and olive oil in a bowl. Add the freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon and then stir in the salmon. Allow to marinate.

Meanwhile roast, peel and seed the peppers. Cut the flesh into thin strips, season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and a few torn basil leaves. 

Cut the scallions into 1½ inch julienne. Heat the olive oil and cook the scallions for 2-3 minutes or until softened slightly, add the pepper and salmon and toss once or twice just to heat through. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and another squeeze of lemon juice. 

Drain the fettucini, put into the hot pasta bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Pour the salmon mixture on top, toss gently. Sprinkle with crunchy crumbs and a few more torn basil leaves and snipped parsley. Serve immediately on hot plates.

Penne with Wild Salmon and Garden Peas

Serves 4
Sanford Allen, a charismatic American violinist and friend gave me this fresh tasting pasta recipe.

8 ozs (225g) Penne
8 ozs (225g) wild salmon
1 tablesp. Extra Virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ozs (225g) peas, preferably fresh from the garden, but good quality frozen peas also work quite well.
1-2 tablesp. parsley or dill, chopped
2 tablesp. Extra Virgin olive oil 
2 oz (15g) butter
Freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons approx. chopped parsley

Extra chopped parsley

Cook the penne in boiling salted water, using 2 tablespoons of salt to 4 pints (2.3L) water, for about 15-20 minutes. Blanch the peas.

Skin the salmon and cut into 2 inch (1cm) cubes. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add in the garlic, cook on a medium heat for a minute or so, then add the salmon and toss gently until it changes colour. Add the blanched peas. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.

Drain the penne and toss in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and melted butter, add the salmon mixture, the parsley and freshly squeezed lemon juice, toss gently, taste and correct the seasoning. Put into a hot serving dish, sprinkle with a little extra chopped parsley and eat immediately.

Sugared Peaches or Nectarines with fresh raspberry sauce

Serves 6
A truly delicious combination even more irresistible with a scoop of home-made vanilla icecream. 

6 perfect ripe peaches or nectarines
castor sugar
freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh Raspberry Sauce
: lb (340g) raspberries
freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon
22-3 ozs (70-85g) castor sugar
sprigs of mint or lemon balm

First make the Raspberry sauce - purée the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice. Push through a nylon sieve to remove the pips. Taste and chill.

Put the peaches into a deep bowl, cover them with boiling water, pour off the water and drop into iced water. Peel immediately and slice into 3 inch (5mm) slices removing the stone. Nectarines do not need to be peeled. Put into a bowl, sprinkle with castor sugar and lemon juice to taste. Serve chilled with Raspberry sauce and perhaps a blob of home-made vanilla ice-cream. Garnish with a sprig of mint or lemon balm if you have it to hand.
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Foolproof Food

Char-grilled Summer Vegetables

In July we feast on these char-grilled vegetables as a starter. We use many different combinations. You could serve with Tapenade Toasts or bruschetta or a few whole roast garlic. They are also marvellous with goat’s cheese, with pasta and variously with Pesto.

Serves 8 as a starter or 4 as a main course 

4 medium sized green courgettes (zucchini) sliced lengthways, (one-eight inch (3mm) thick
2-3 aubergines, sliced ¼ inch (5mm) thick
Sea salt
2-3 fleshy red peppers, Italian or Spanish if possible
2-3 fleshy yellow peppers, Italian or Spanish if possible 
4-6 pieces of green asparagus 
1 head of fennel, sliced one-eight inch (3mm) lengthways 
Salt and freshly ground pepper

80ml (3 fl oz)very best Italian extra virgin olive oil 
Freshly squeezed juice of ¼ lemon approx. or 2 tablesps. Balsamic vinegar 
10-12 whole basil leaves (annual marjoram is also very good)
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepperSlice the aubergines and courgettes (zucchini) sprinkle with pure salt, leave to drain in a colander to get rid of excess liquid - half an hour at least. If the zucchini are small home grown and very fresh this step is scarcely necessary. 

Chargrill the peppers, turning them so they become completely charred on all sides. We do this in various ways, on a chargrill, over the gas jet, under the grill or in the oven. Remove and place in a bowl. Cover and leave for 5 or 10 minutes. They will be easier to peel. 

Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for no more than 30 seconds, then plunge into iced water to refresh. Drain. 

Lay out the aubergines and courgettes on clean cloths or kitchen paper to dry off all the excess liquid. Brush each piece sparingly with olive oil. Grill the aubergines first using a chargrill or hot grill pan - they should be soft when pressed and scorched by the grill but not blackened. Put each vegetable into a large bowl as you grill. Next chargrill or pangrill the courgettes and fennel slices just give them a few seconds sufficient time to brown the places where they touch the grill. Finally season the blanched asparagus with salt and pepper. Grill for about ½ minute on each side.

The peppers should now be cool. Peel off the charred skin, remove the stalk and seeds with your hands, divide the peppers into four (they will divide naturally) and add to the other chargrilled vegetables. Don't wash them or you'll loose some of their sweet flavour. Mix the extra virgin olive oil with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Toss the vegetables in the dressing, taste and season with sea salt and freshly crushed black pepper (we crush ours in a pestle and mortar for this recipe). Arrange on a large white platter drizzle olive oil, scatter with basil or marjoram leaves and a few black olives.

Hot Tips

Green Cuisine Ltd, Penrhos Court, Kington, Herefordshire in UK – upcoming courses – Daphne Lambert, nutritionist and chef, shows you which foods to avoid and which to eat to help create balance and vibrant health in Seeds of Change Course –

5-8 September and other dates in October and November. Beating Candida with diet and lifestyle, 18-20 November, Women’s Health Course – 22-24th November. Details from Daphne 00 44 1544 230720,  

The Apple Farm, Moorstown, Cahir, Co Tipperary. 
Now in their farm shop they have strawberries and raspberries and by August they will also have plums. They will still have raspberries right through August with new autumn-fruiting variety. They also have apple juice, apple jelly, strawberry and plum jam and farm-made cider vinegar and Baylough cheese from Clogheen.

Raspberries now in season – The first written mention of raspberries in English is in a book on herbal medicine dating back to 1548 and this delicious little fruit was attributed with many qualities. Modern science has highlighted the range and potency of antioxidants in the raspberry, they help prevent cell damage and the anti-biotic properties of the fruit aid against irritable bowel syndrome and other infections. Loganberries, Tayberries and Boysenberries also in season, are not so easy to source. Try Sunnyside Fruit Farm, Rathcormac, Co. Cork. Tel. 025-36253, Walsh’s Farm in Shanagarry, Tel 021- 4646836, or your nearest fruit farm. 

Glebe Gardens and Café, on Skibbereen to Baltimore Road near entrance to Baltimore Village 
Open daily from Easter till end September 10-6, Tel 028-20232

God Bless the Cheese makers

God Bless the Cheesemakers – Ardrahan, Baylough, Coolea, Durrus, Fermoy, Gabriel, Hegarty’s, Lavistown, Milleens, Oisin, St Tola ….. Nowadays there is almost an Irish Farmhouse Cheese for every letter of the alphabet, over 60 in all and probably a few others that I don’t know about. 

The lovely Veronica Steele with her husband Norman, who makes the now legendary Milleens Cheese on their farm near Allihies on the Beara Peninsula, is considered to be the matriarch of the farmhouse cheese industry. She started to experiment in her kitchen in 1976 when she was faced with the dilemma of surplus milk from her three cows, a Kerry and two Friesians. The end result was the feisty Milleens we now know and love. The cheesemaking has long since moved out of her kitchen into her Palais de Fromage – the original cheese – a unique cheese type was about 9 inches in diameter with a gorgeous washed rind. About eight years later Veronica started to make some smaller 4 inch cheeses, which in her inimitable way she called her little dotes – they are now known as Milleens dotes.

Veronica shared her understanding of the potential of Irish Farmhouse cheese as an industry, with many of the other cheese-making icons, Giana Ferguson, Jeffa Gill, Mary Burns, Olivia Goodwillie, Louis and Jane Grubb, Paddy Berridge, Anne Brodie…..She recognised the need for education and organisation, and was instrumental in setting up CáIS, the Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers Association.

Since those pioneering days a whole generation of spirited cheesemakers have learned their craft and accumulated a wealth of knowledge on artisan cheese production. Their cheeses are enjoyed by lovers of good food both at home and abroad. Visiting travel and food writers seek out the cheeses and visit the farms, charmed by the passionate producers they encounter. 

Many of the cheesemakers have become expert on the science of their product and have to contend with ever more stringent regulations, frequently out of proportion to the risk involved.

Many of the Irish cheeses have won top prizes at the British Cheese Awards, Eurotoque Awards of Excellence and Slow Food.

The Irish Farmhouse Cheese Recipes book, edited by Jane Russell and supported by Bord Bia, was officially launched by Bord Bia at the Eurotoques Conference 2004, on Sunday 4th July at the Brooklodge Hotel, McReddin Village, Wicklow and is on sale nationwide price €1. The pocket size recipe book contains recipes from farmhouse cheesemakers all over Ireland and includes tips for cooking and storing cheese, as well as a list of stockists of Irish Farmhouse cheese in the United Kingdom for those who would like to seek it out.

For further information, consult the Bord Bia website:  

The whole artisan food sector is gathering momentum, there are currently 320 speciality food and small business companies in Ireland with a combined turnover of €296 million. The Irish farmhouse cheesemakers have a turnover of approx. €7.5 million and have had an impact far out of proportion to their size on the image of Irish food both at home and abroad.

Buying Cheese
For perfection just buy the quantity of cheese you need for immediate consumption, or what can be consumed within one or two days. Most cheese shops, though certainly not all will be better equipped to store cheese properly than an average household. Few houses nowadays have a cool larder or pantry not to speak of a cheese cellar with high humidity. Fridges basically 'hold' cheese but they don't improve it in any way.

Storing Cheese
For perfection cheese should be stored in a cool larder or cupboard, but very fresh soft cheese should always be stored in the fridge.
Hard or semi-hard cheese need high humidity or they will dry out. Wrap them individually in clean damp tea towels and keep an eye on them if they are to be stored for more than a few days.
All other cheese should also be wrapped individually in its own wrapping or in greaseproof paper or tin foil. Cooleeney or Carrigbyrne Camembert or large Brie type cheeses, should be stored in their wooden boxes. Cling film is not good for wrapping cheese.

Blue cheese particularly those without a thin rind, eg. Cashel Blue, Bellingham Blue, Crozier Blue and Roquefort should be wrapped closely in silver or gold foil. Otherwise the blue mould (Penicillium Roquefortii) which is very prolific will travel into other cheeses and make them blue also.

Do not keep any cheese in a warm kitchen for long - soft cheese tends to liquefy and harder cheese sweat and become oily. Despite the fact that some cheese manufacturers recommend freezing, it is better not to freeze cheese unless it is a stop gap measure.

Accompaniments to cheese
Celery, grapes, lettuce, tomato roses, and various other garnishes are often served with cheese. All one really needs to serve with cheese in perfect condition is fresh crusty home made white bread or simple cheese biscuits.

A recent trend particularly in Australia and United States where there is in a new evolving farmstead cheese industry is to serve a cheese course.

A cheese plate with complementary nuts, dried fruit, relishes, perhaps a little salad and some crackers or flavoured breads.

Nuts……fresh walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia or brazil nuts…...
Dried Fruit…… plump dried Turkish figs, dried peaches or pears……. 
Relishes…… beetroot, ginger, tomato relish jalapeno, pimento ……..
Membrillo…… or Quince cheese – delicious with Manchego or soft goat cheese.
Honey…… particularly good with blue cheese

Here are some recipes from Jane Russell’s book

Baylough Cheese and Spring Onion Soup

Serves 4
25g/1oz butter
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
25g/1oz flour
600ml/1pint milk
300ml/½ pint chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
11g/4oz Baylough farmhouse cheese or other semi-hard cheese, grated
2 tablesp. chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and lightly fry the spring onions, without browning. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the milk, stock and seasonings. Heat, whisking continuously, until soup comes to the boil and thickens. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove soup from the heat and stir in the cheese. Pour into warmed soup bowls and garnish with parsley and pepper.

Coolea and Leek Fritters

Serves 8
400g/14oz leek, very thinly sliced
25g/1oz butter
200g/7oz flour
2 free range eggs
250ml/9fl.oz milk
200g/7oz mature Coolea farmhouse cheese, freshly grated or other semi-hard cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 fresh red chilli pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
freshly grated nutmeg

Tomato dip:

8 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
4 tablesp.fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 30ml/2 tablesp. pesto sauce
150ml/3 pint extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter, add the thinly sliced leeks, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft, but not coloured (approx. 5 minutes.) Cool for 40 minutes. Meanwhile make the tomato dip by putting the tomatoes, basil or pesto and oil in a bowl and mixing thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre, add in the eggs and break up with a whisk. Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time in a circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl. Add the leeks, when cool, and the grated cheese and red chilli pepper. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg to taste. Heat a frying pan, preferably non-stick, on a medium heat. Drop a tablespoon of the batter onto the pan, allow to cook until golden on one side, flip over onto the other and cook for a moment or two more. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Serve hot with the tomato dip.

Durrus and Potato Melt

Serves 4
900g/2lb waxy potatoes, cubed
1 small Durrus or 400g/14oz portion, rind removed, cubed
2 onions, finely chopped
200g/7oz bacon rashers, cut into small pieces
250g/9oz tub crème fraiche
black pepper and salt

Steam or parboil the potatoes until just soft. Gently cook the onions and bacon in a covered pan. Put the potatoes, onions, bacon and cheese in a buttered shallow oven dish. Add salt and pepper and pour on the crème fraiche, mixing gently. Bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. Stir gently after 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad and a glass of red wine.

O’Connell’s Warm Salad of Gubbeen Cheese and Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen Bacon

(courtesy of Rory o’Connell of Ballymaloe House)
Serves 6
15ml/1 tablesp. olive oil
350g/12oz streaky Gubbeen bacon or other streaky bacon
6 handfuls of mixed green leaves
55g/2oz Gubbeen or similar cheese, diced


45ml/3 tablesp. sunflower oil
45ml/3 tablesp. olive oil
5ml/1 teasp. Lakeshore Whole Grain Mustard or other whole grain mustard
30ml/2 tablesp. Fruit of the Vine Cider Vinegar or other cider vinegar
salt, pepper and sugar 

Heat a frying pan and add a little olive oil. When it is smoking, add the lardoons of bacon and fry until crisp. While the bacon is cooking, put all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and whisk with a fork. Toss the leaves in the dressing and divide between six hot plates. The leaves should be just glistening with the dressing. Sprinkle the cubes of cheese around the leaves and finally the bacon straight from the pan. Serve immediately. 

Homemade Crackers

Makes 20-25 biscuits
225g (8oz) plain white flour
½ teasp. baking powder
½ teasp salt
25g (1oz) butter
1 tablesp. cream
about 5 tablesp.water

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas 2.

Put the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the butter and moisten with the cream and enough water to make a firm dough.

Roll out very thinly to 2mm (1/16 in). Prick with a fork. Cut into squares with a pastry wheel or sharp knife. Bake for 30 minutes until lightly browned and quite crisp. Cool on a wire rack. Serve with cheese.

Foolproof Food

Milleens with Pasta

Serves 4
225g/8oz grated Milleens or other rind-washed cheese
300ml/½ pint cream
a handful of fresh sage leaves
350g/12oz tagliatelle

Place the sage leaves in a saucepan and pour in the cream. Warm the cream, but be careful not to overheat. Allow to sit in a warm place until the cream has absorbed the flavour of the sage and then strain. Add the Milleens and, if necessary, warm gently and stir until the cheese has completely melted. Cook the tagliatelle until al dente. Pour the creamy sauce over the tagliatelle, mix and serve.

This dish stands alone, but can be made more substantial by the addition of ham, which has been cut into strips the same width as the pasta or alternatively some white or smoked fish or chopped cooked spinach, or some lightly cooked fennel.

Hot Tips 

CáIS Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers Association is a voluntary association made up of over forty cheesemakers. Independently run and managed by the cheesemakers themselves, CáIS provides essential information, knowledge and networking opportunities for members.  

One of Ireland’s best known cheesemakers Mary Burns who makes Ardrahan, has recently launched a new product called Lullaby. Research in Finland has shown that the early morning milk has a higher level of melatonin which helps us to relax and sleep. This prompted Mary to bottle the milk from the cows that are milked at dawn, and to launch Lullaby which is already being hailed as a boon for those who have difficulty sleeping. Available in Cork at On the Pig’s Back in The English Market and the Quay Co-op, for details of other stockists coming onstream, Tel 029-78099.

Douglas Farmers Market
Started on 3rd July and will be held every Saturday in Douglas Community Centre from 9.30-1.30 – Frank Hederman’s Smoked Fish, Arbutus Bread, Catriona Daunt Organic Vegetables, Clodagh McKenna’s pates, Gubbeen cheese and bacon, Dan Aherne’s organic beef and chickens, Sonia Bower’s pickles, Oli O’Driscoll’s fresh fish and lots, lots more.

New Food Market in Dingle
From 9th July every Friday 9am-6pm – farm and organic produce

Seaweed – Our own free, healthy, versatile and plentiful food

The Japanese who visit Ireland are frequently baffled that we eat so little seaweed. When they walk along the seashore they recognise many of the sea weed and sea vegetables that they seek out and relish in Japan, yet they rarely if ever come across seaweed in any form on mainstream Irish menus.

Granted – an occasional restaurant like the Ivory Tower or the Quay Coop in Cork offers sushi and seaweed salads. Traditional Carrigeen Moss pudding is regularly featured on the Ballymaloe House sweet trolley, but considering the abundance of sea we have access to, its extraordinary that we don’t make better use of this brilliantly healthy food.

I’m as guilty as the rest of overlooking this very important food group, but after an enlightening evening on ‘Seaweed – Our own free, healthy, versatile and plentiful food’ at the Cork Free Choice Consumer Group Meeting in May, I was fired by enthusiasm. The speakers were Olivier Beaujouan, Clair McSweeney and Jill Bell. Olivier comes from France and now lives in Castlegregory, Co Kerry. He became passionate about sea vegetables in Ireland. He spoke eloquently and passionately in his soft French accent about the benefits of sea weed, both from the culinary and medicinal point of view.

He has made a business from seaweed and now sells a range of Irish seaweed based products including his addictive Tapenade of Sea Vegetables, Pickled Kombu, Sea Spaghetti, fish and organic pork products like Lemon and Trout, Seaweed Salmon, Smoked Mckerel, Laver Pork …. at Farmers’ Markets and specialist shops around the country.

Clair McSweeney originally came from Limerick. She has travelled widely and was thrilled to find sushi in San Francisco. Memories of eating dilisk in Kilkee during her childhood flooded back. She linked up with the indomitable Seamus O’Connell at the Yumi Yuki Club on her return to Cork. She made a delicious array of haddock dengaku sushi, agar and sake jelly with a lychee heart and a seaweed salad laced with cucumber, daikon and ginger, which I couldn’t get enough of.

Just this week I spent a few days at a Soil Association meeting at Penrhos in Wales where 

Daphne Lambert cooked truly delicious vegetarian food from her organic garden and from local farms. She explained that the benefits of eating sea vegetables are enormous. 

Jill Bell, owner of Well & Good in Midleton and Chairperson of the Irish Association of the Health Stores, also stressed that the benefits of seaweed for both animals and humans were well recognised. Evidence shows that it was valued by our ancestors - recognised in China since 3000BC. St Columbus’s Monks, the Romans, all valued sea vegetables. In bygone years it was valued as a fertiliser, many a pitched battle was fought over seaweed on the strands around the coast – the Aran Islanders built soil with sand and seaweed and I remember as a child, my Uncle Frank making carrageen for his precious greyhounds because he strongly believed in its value to give them strength and speed.

Types of Seaweed

In Japan there are 20 types of seaweed, but the main types available to us are 

Carrageen – meaning little rock in Gaelic – this frond like seaweed is collected off the rocks after the lowest tides of the year, spread out to dry on the bouncy grass on the cliffs, washed by the rain, bleached by the sun. After 2-3 weeks its ready to use or store. We love carrageen and eat it regularly – in fact all my babies were weaned onto carrageen moss. It is high in Vitamin A and iodine and also contains Vitamin B and many minerals. 

Nori – the seaweed used to wrap sushi - 9 million of these thin crisp sheets are eaten every year. The Welsh call it laver and apparently the name Liverpool is derived from Laverpool. Now widely available in supermarkets and speciality shops.

Kelp – There are over 800 species of kelp, in fact it is the world’s largest plant family, best known as kombu, one of the two ingredients of dashi, the traditional Japanese stock, (Bonita flakes is the other). Clair McSweeney suggested adding a piece into the pot when you are boiling potatoes, instead of salt. A piece of kombu can also be added to beans to tenderise them and speed up the cooking.

Wakame – is sold in dry strips, its softer and more delicate than kombu. The taste and texture of the different varieties varies considerably, some are mild, others quite strong, so experiment. Soak the dried wakame for 15 minutes. Drain, squeeze out the excess moisture in salads, soups, champ, pasta ….

Dulse or Dilisk – is widely available around the Irish coast. Use it in salads, mashed potato, rice or polenta, or simply nibble, it’s a brilliant source of natural iron.

Hijiki – is not native to our waters, it is a black, richly flavoured seaweed imported from Japan. It is sold in packets, dried and already shredded. Soak for about 10 minutes, during which time it will swell dramatically. Delicious in salads or used in a similar way to other seaweeds.

Cabbage, Carrot and Hijiki Salad

Serves 4-6
6 ozs (175g) thinly sliced white cabbage
6 ozs (175g) carrot, grated
2ozs (50g) Hijiki
2 tablesp. mint and parsley sprigs
1 tablesp. toasted sesame seeds

2 tablesp. sesame oil
4 tablesp. Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablesp. Tamari (soy sauce)
1 tblesp. freshly squeezed orange juice
1-2 heaped teasp. honey
½ - 1 teasp. freshly grated ginger
salt and freshly ground pepper

Soak the seaweed in a large bowl of warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and cover with fresh warm water and continue to soak for 30 minutes more. Drain very well. It will have increased in volume by 3-5 times. 
Next whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing.
Combine the cabbage, carrot and seaweed in a salad bowl, add the dressing, toss well, taste, correct seasoning.
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Clair McSweeney’s Wakame Seaweed Salad

I tasted this delicious salad at a recent meeting of the Cork Free Choice Consumer’s Group and asked Clair McSweeney to share her recipe with us.
Serves 8

½ pickled daikon (Japanese radish) (available from Mr. Bells in Cork)
1 bag of Wakame Seaweed (Mr Bells, Quay Coop, Natural Foods & other health food shops)
1 large cucumber
1 handful pickled ginger

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

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 tablespoon 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 and diced daikon.
Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving, so it becomes cool and crisp.

Great with fried fish or tempura.

Sushi Rice

2lb (900g) sushi rice " No 1 Extra Fancy"
2 pints (1.2l) of water
Vinegared Rice
4fl oz (125ml) rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
5 teaspoons salt

Drain for 10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.
‘Wake the rice’ up sitting in cold water for 30 to 45 minutes. Then cook in same water for 10 to 15 minutes until water has been absorbed, do not stir, do not even take off the lid. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds before turning the heat off. 

Remove lid, place a tea towel over the rice, replace lid and sit for 20 minutes.
Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together, fold into the rice preferably in a shallow wooden bowl to absorb excess moisture, fanning it, to cool rapidly. 

Kunie’s Sushi Plate

For starter
Serves 4

Occasionally we have one or two Japanese students on the 12 Week course, Kunie Akita taught us how to make this delicious sushi.
Sushi Rice – prepared as in previous recipe 
3 sheets nori seaweed

7-8 slices smoked salmon (half) cut into 5mm strip (half) divide into two 2cm x 4 cm
2 avocado slice 3mm (⅛inch) rectangular ¾-1½inch (2cm x 4cm)
½ cucumber seeded and cut into ¼inch (5mm) strip
25g (1oz) cheddar cheese cut into ¼inch (5mm) strip
3-4 basil leaves

fennel leaves
Sauce and accompaniment
wasabi paste
Kikkoman soy-sauce
pickled ginger

Bamboo sudari mat for rolling
(These mats are available from Japanese or Asian shops, many health food shops and now even some supermarkets. If you can’t find one just use a clean tea towel as though you were making a swiss roll).

Prepare the rice as in the previous recipe for Sushi rice.

Lay a sheet of nori on the bamboo mat and spread a layer or rice over it. Make a shallow indentation and put in the filling. Roll the mat tightly. Press to seal, unroll. You can put whatever you like as the filling for example, smoked salmon and basil, cucumber, cheese.

Nigiri sushi
Make a little long ball with rice. Put a slice of fresh or smoked salmon on top. Garnish with fennel leaves or tie with a strip of nori. 

To serve
Cut the Norimaki into 6-8 pieces. Arrange 6 pieces of sushi in total on a plate. Put a little blob of wasabi mustard about the size of a small pea on the plate, a little dish of Kikkoman Soy sauce and a few slivers of picked ginger. 

To enjoy: Using chop sticks, put a tiny dot of wasabi on a piece of sushi, dip in soy sauce and eat.

Battleship sushi

Gunkan maki
Make this sushi close to the time of eating
Makes 18 pieces

For vinegar water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
250ml (8floz) water

For sushi
3 sheets nori seaweed, each cut into 6 x 1 inch strips
½ quantity prepared sushi rice
wasabi paste
120g (4oz) of flying fish roe (dyed green, red or natural colour),
6 oysters or 60g (2oz) salmon roe

Mix the vinegar and water in a small bowl and set aside. 

Wet your hands in the vinegar water. Shape about a tablespoon of sushi rice into an oblong-shaped ball. Dry your hand and pick up a strip of nori. Wrap it around the rice ball with the smooth side of the nori facing outwards.

Crush a grain of cooked rice at the end of the strip of nori so that it sticks the nori down where it overlaps to form a ring around the rice. 
Dab a little wasabi paste onto the rice and flatten the rice slightly.

Spoon the topping onto the rice, keeping it inside the ring of nori.

Foolproof food

Carrageen Throat Syrup

From The Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen – she says -
“The Carrageen drink is for anyone suffering from an extremely sore throat, tonsillitis or measles. Sips of it provide a velvety healing potion to assuage the pain. Only offer it to severe cases or you will not be thanked for what is in other circumstances an unattractive drink.”

120ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) carrageen
600ml (1 pint/2½ cups) water approx.
2-4 teaspoons honey
½ lemon

Soak carrageen for 10 minutes in cup of water. Remove and put in 300ml/½ pint/1 ¼ cups fresh cold water and bring to boil slowly. Strain and add honey and lemon juice to taste. The drink should be thick and syrupy.

Top Tips 

Look out also for 

Marsh Samphire – it grows in estuaries and marshy areas. You’ll find this little bright green spiky succulent when the tide goes out. Its delicious served with fish, simply boil it briefly in water, toss in a little butter or olive oil – yummy and wildly nutritious.

Rock Samphire – Grows on rocks all round our coasts, like marsh samphire its best eaten young – at present its about to flower so the taste is strong and petroly.

Carrageen Moss – is available in health food shops, it keeps indefinitely, so no house should be without. It makes a brilliant drink to clear chesty colds – see Foolproof food.

Olivier Beaujouan - On the Wild Side, Kilcummin, Castlegregory, Co Kerry. Tel & Fax 066- 7139028.  

The Irish Farmhouse Cheese Recipes book, edited by Jane Russell and supported by Bord Bia, will be officially launched by Bord Bia at the Eurotoques Conference 2004 on Sunday 4th July at the Brooklodge Hotel, MacReddin Village, Co Wicklow. The book contains recipes from Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers and is on sale nationwide €1.

Green Cuisine Food & Health Course at Penrhos Court, Kington, Herefordshire, HR5 3LH Tel 0044 1544 230720 fax 0044 1544 230754  

What you eat can have an enormous effect on your health, Daphne Lambert, nutritionist and chef, shows you which foods to choose and how to prepare them to create diet that keeps you healthy – Courses in October and November.


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