ArchiveMay 2005

I loved Dallas

I never imagined for one moment that I would love Dallas, in fact everything I ever heard about Dallas reinforced my gut feeling that I didn’t ever need to go there. Well, as luck would have it I was invited to speak on the influence of the Irish Diaspora at the IACP Conference on Culture and Cuisine in downtown Dallas just a few weeks ago.

IACP which stands for International Association of Culinary Professionals, is a not for profit professional association which provides ongoing education for its members, all of whom are engaged in the food business. The membership encompasses 35 countries and is literally a ‘Who’s who’ of the gastronomic world.

It was originally started as an Association of Cookery Schools in 1978 but less than ten years later its membership had broadened to include food writers, cookbook authors, food stylists and chefs. 

In 1987 the name was changed to IACP and in the past 15 years the membership has risen from 1,100 to over 4,000 – the IACP is now poised to become the pre-eminent professional culinary group in the world.

The four day conference included tours and day trips exploring the distinctive cuisine and culture of Texas, over 60 educational sessions on topics ranging from sustainable aquaculture and obesity to traditional and indigenous foods.

The conference culminated in a huge IACP Awards ceremony and a Denim to Diamonds Texas barbecue.

I had neither denim nor diamonds so I wore my ‘posh frock’ because I was shortlisted for the Cookery Teacher of the Year Award and guess what, I won – what an honour. I was up against Rick Bayless and Andrew Schloss, two of the most highly respected cooking school teachers in America, so it was a huge surprise but nonetheless a real thrill to win what is certainly the equivalent of an Oscar in the culinary world complete with breathtaking suspense and musical crescendos.

I have much to be grateful to the IACP for, I’ve been a member of almost 20 years and have learned an enormous amount at conferences throughout the years as well as making many lifelong friends and business contacts.

In Dallas I learned all about Texas barbecue, something I was blissfully ignorant about before this trip. Well, a Texas barbecue is nothing like our barbecue which they refer to as grilling, it’s a whole different thing, its all about ribs, succulent juicy smoked ribs, brisket and smoked sausage. Brisket is big in Dallas, it pops up all over the place. We had delicious brisket tacos in Mattito’s Tex Mex Restaurant, having waited ‘in line’ for over 30 minutes.

The best barbecue we had was at Sammy’s Barbeque, a legendary neighbourhood spot in downtown Leonard Street, grey cement floors, old brick walls, heavy timber counters, lots of neon and no nonsense. It was full of locals who were there for their regular fix and knew exactly what they wanted. We dithered at the counter while the Mexican cooks waited to know if we wanted Sliced Beef and barbecue sauce, or Sausage and barbecue sauce, or Ribs and barbecue sauce, all those came with ‘two sides’ of your choice, coleslaw, potato salad, Mexican beans, Caesar salad, Spinach and carrot salad, or a delicious Baked potato casserole, oozing with sour cream, scallions, crispy bacon and grated red cheddar.

There was also pulled pork or brisket in soft squishy buns. The old wooden tables were covered with a fancy green check oil cloth and lots of bottles of hot sauce, mustard and ketchup. We ate outside at wire tables, amongst the hay bales and geraniums and relished every morsel – it was a serious calorie fest but every morsel was delicious, the owner showed me his smoker which he himself designed 13 years ago. He marinates the brisket overnight and then cooks and smokes 20 at a time. He wraps them while they are still warm to keep them ‘real tender’ and they really were succulent and lip-smackingly good.

Dessert was Apple pie, Pecan pie, Lemon bars, Brownies or whole pies. The menu clearly stated ‘prices subject to change without notice’ but it was very reasonable.

The other big discovery on this trip was the new Whole Foods in Austin. According to Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times, everyone in Austin is talking about Whole Foods – it’s the new hot topic of conversation, like real estate in LA, Whole Foods is a chain of ‘organic’ supermarkets which originated in Austin. However, the new venture which has everyone buzzing, is being hailed as the yardstick by which supermarkets will be measured in the future. Whole Foods have wisely capitalized on changing attitudes to food – they’ve managed to commodify authenticity, and they’ve connected into the fun thing. The cool crowd are riding their bikes to Whole Foods on a Saturday, it’s the place to see and been seen ‘not the way I remember the rock and roll crowd’ quipped Russ Parsons. People are now using a trip to Whole Foods as a social connection. There are little groceries within the shop, back to the old values, cheese and cured meats are cut to order, all labels are hand written. Its all about food with a story, the name of the farmer where it was grown – Alleluia! – hope it catches on here as we all gallop headlong in the other direction despite my best efforts to encourage everyone to buy local food and serve it proudly.

Acme Chophouse Beef Short Ribs

Peggy Knickerbocker, a journalist and cookbook author from San Francisco who visited the school recently, shared this delicious recipe with us.
These short ribs are meltingly tender and packed with flavour, their meat falling off the bone. 

Here, each person gets two ribs bones. Start the dish a day or two in advance as the flavors improve as a result of overnight marinating and slow cooking. At Acme Chophouse in San Francisco the short ribs are accompanied by roasted cippolini onions and baby heirloom carrots. You could serve the meat and their luscious juices over a slice of crisp garlic rubbed toast, to sop up the juices.

Since the meat is a fatty cut, it benefits from being placed in the refrigerator after cooking, so the fat can rise to the surface and be removed. This is a great party dish as it can be made ahead of time and gently reheated.

Serves 6 plus

5 pounds beef short ribs cut into pieces, 2 - to 3 inches long

For marinating: 

1 bottle full-bodied red wine
1 - 2 yellow onions, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
6 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme

For braising:

2fl. ozs (50ml), extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 quarts chicken or beef stock

For serving

4 slices toasted country bread
1 clove garlic
5 chives, finely chopped, or a handful of chopped parsley

Put the meat in a large bowl that will not react with wine. Lay the vegetables and aromatics over the top and cover with the wine. If you need a little more wine to cover, add it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the meat from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F/160C/ gas3. Lift the meat out of the marinade and pat dry with paper towels, put on a large platter. Mix the flour together with a little salt and pepper. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the meat, on all sides.

Heat two large shallow heavy casseroles over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to each. Shaking any excess flour off of the short ribs, add them, one by one, to the pans, do not crowd. Season each side of the short ribs with salt and pepper again. Turning them with tongs, brown them on all sides to a deep mahogany, about 10 minutes all together. Transfer to a deep heavy baking dish or roasting pan with a lid.

Strain off the wine and the vegetables into a bowl. Return one of the pans to the top of the stove over medium heat. Pour in the retained wine/vegetables and stir up the crispy bits from having browned the meat. Allow the wine to reduce and the vegetables to become tender at the edges, about 15 minutes. Pour the vegetables, aromatics, and wine on top of the browned ribs. Pour on the stock. Cut a piece of parchment to fit on top of the ribs; then cover with the lid of the pan.

Place in the oven and cook until the meat falls off the bone, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. When done, allow the meat to cool in its juices. Transfer the ribs to another fairly deep baking dish. Strain the vegetables and aromatics and discard, retaining the cooking juices. Place the juices in a bowl in the refrigerator, allowing the fat to rise to the surface, for at least an hour. Scoop off and discard the fat. Return the cooking liquid to a pot and reduce again for about 15 minutes. Pour it over the ribs. The dish can be cooled and refrigerated at this point for a day or two. To serve, bring the meat to room temperature and warm it over medium low heat. Serve in a shallow bowl with a slice of toasted country bread, rubbed with a clove of garlic. Scatter chopped chives over the top.

Whole Rib Eye

From Texas Hot Chefs, Bill Cauble and Cliff Teinert’s new cookbook ‘Barbecue, Biscuits and Beans.
Serves 15-20

1 whole rib eye with lip on (14-15lbs/6.00- 6.6 kg
4 tablesp. freshly ground black pepper
2 quantities brisket rub (see below)

Brisket Rub:

2 tablesp. Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablesp. sea salt
1 teasp. garlic powder
1 teasp. onion powder
1 teasp. dried parsley
1 tablesp. chilli powder
1 teasp. oregano
1 teasp. sugar

In a pan large enough to hold the rib eye, place it fat side down. Coat generously with brisket rub and freshly ground black pepper. Roll meat and coat fat side. Pat rub and pepper onto the ends.

Preheat oven to 350F/ 180C/regulo 4. Roast for 3 ½ - 4 hours.

Cut lip off before serving. Slice into ¾ inch slices and serve.

You could also cook on the barbecue – place over medium-hot coals, 30-32 inches above the coals. Using clean gloves or thick cloth, turn rib eye once or twice, never cooking it very long with the fat side down. When cooking Whole Rib Eyes, you may use a large fork, but only pierce the fatty lip with the fork – never the meat. Allow 4 hours for medium rare (140F) and 4½ hours for medium (160F)

When meat has reached desired temperature, take off coals and let rest 10 minutes. Slice as above.

Chicken –Fried steak with Gravy – from ‘Barbecues, Biscuits and Beans.’

Serves 12-14

7-8 lb (3.2-3.6kg) cubed steak or lean round steak, cut into hand-sized pieces
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 cups milk
1 teasp. salt
2 tablesp. pepper
4 cups vegetable oil
¼ cup flour
4 cups milk
1 teasp. fresh ground pepper

Beat eggs, mix with milk in 3 inch deep round pan. Place flour in similar pan.

Season meat with salt and pepper; place 4 to 5 pieces in milk mixture and allow to stand while heating 1½ - 2 inches of oil in large iron casserole. Heat oil to 350F. Dredge meat in flour one piece at a time, back in milk, and again in flour. Place in hot oil and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side, turning once. Drain on paper towels.

While first batch is cooking, prepare next batch of steaks to be dipped just as previous batch is removed from frying pan.
Save browned bits in oil for making Steak Gravy.

Steak Gravy

Leave about ¼ cup oil and browned bits in skillet. Add enough flour to absorb oil, approximately ¼ cup.
Stirring constantly, add milk, about 4 cups, and continue stirring until gravy reaches a smooth consistency. Thicker is usually preferred.

Add 1 teasp. freshly ground pepper. Remove from heat and serve, or keep warm and stir again before serving.

These recipes are written in American cup measurements – 1 cup = 8 fl.ozs/ 225ml

Luscious Lemon Bars

Makes 24
Biscuit base

180gm (6½ oz) plain white flour
50gm (2 oz ) icing sugar
225gm (8 oz ) unsalted butter


4 free range eggs
450gms (1lb ) castor sugar
200mls (7 fl oz) of freshly squeezed lemon juice (5-6 lemons)
and rind of 3 lemons
4 level tablesp. of plain white flour
½ teaspoon. baking powder

Icing sugar

1 Swissroll tin 32cm.x 22cm. (13"x9") 
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4

Mix the flour and icing sugar together in a bowl, rub in the butter. Scatter onto the tin, cover with cling film, roll flat with a rolling pin. Remove the cling film and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes approx. or until pale golden.

Meanwhile make the topping. 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl; add the sugar and lemon rind and juice, then whisk in the flour and baking powder. Pour over the hot base. Continue to bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the surface is golden and set. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares or fingers. Dredge with icing sugar and serve.

Texas Pecan Pie

Serves 8-10
4 ozs (110g) butter
8 ozs (225g) golden syrup 
7 ozs (200g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, preferably free-range, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
72 ozs (215g) fresh Pecan halves
Pinch of salt

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

6 ozs (170g) plain white flour
3 ozs (85g) butter
12 ozs (45g) castor sugar
1 large egg, beaten and a little water if necessary
9 inch (23 cm) unbaked pie shell made with sweet short-crust pastry (see recipe)

Make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way. Cover and leave to rest for 15 minutes in the refrigerator. Line the flan ring. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/regulo 7.

Brown the butter until golden, be careful not to burn it, allow to cool. In a bowl add the other ingredients in the order listed. Stir, blend in the nuts and browned butter. Pour into the tart shell and bake at 220C/425F/regulo 7 for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 160C/325F/regulo 3 for 50 minutes more, until set in the centre.

Serve warm or cold with softly whipped cream.

Foolproof Food

Broadway Coleslaw

Serves 10
12 ozs (340 g) red cabbage, diced into ¼ inch dice
12 ozs (340 g) green cabbage, diced into ¼ inch dice
2½ ozs (70 g) red onion, diced into ¼ inch dice, rinsed under cold water
½-2 cucumber diced into ¼ inch dice
1-2 apples, diced
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint
4 fl ozs (110 g) Ballymaloe Cookery School Dressing (see recipe)
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss in dressing. Taste and correct seasoning. This salad often needs a good pinch of sugar.

Ballymaloe Cookery School Dressing

This dressing may also be used to toss green salad.
4fl ozs (125ml/½ cup) extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ tsp English mustard powder OR
½ tsp Dijon mustard
freshly ground pepper and Maldon sea salt

Put all the ingredients into a small bowl or jam jar. Whisk with a fork until the dressing has emulsified.
Whisk well before use.

Hot Tips

Dallas - If you do manage to get to Dallas, spare some time to visit the Nasher Sculpture Centre on 2001 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201. Tel 214 242 5100 

If you make it before the end of May, don’t miss the Splendors of China’s Forbidden City at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Garryvoe Hotel have recently opened their very stylish new extension – reception area, bar and restaurant – wishing them continued success.
353 (0) 21 464 6718  
Garryvoe Hotel

Ballymaloe House has just won the Restaurant of the Year Award, sponsored by Bushmills – congratulations to all concerned.

Fabulous Food Fair in Co Tipperary Sunday 3rd July 12-6– Tipp FM is delighted to offer all quality food providers a unique forum in which to display and sell their quality food. To book a stand contact Noreen Condon 087-2795900 or Geraldine Henchion 087-2523215.

Cooking is actually fun!

Hope you’ve been enjoying the feature on healthy food in the Examiner this week – lots of thought provoking articles which make us further realise the crisis that’s looming as a result of the deterioration of our national diet.
The statistics on obesity, diabetes and other diet related diseases are there for all of us to see – now its time for action. Time for all of us to rattle the pots and pans and make a difference in our own homes. A growing body of research is linking an impoverished diet with behavioural problems, unruly children, uncontrollable and aggressive teenagers, and indeed adults. It sounds simplistic to suggest that changing one’s diet can have such a dramatic effect – well why not try it.

Let’s throw out all the junk - packets, cans, processed food and sugary breakfast cereals and start from scratch.

Porridge is unquestionably the best and most nutritious breakfast cereal, I regularly tuck into a large bowl with dark brown sugar and Jersey milk, it’s a brilliant Glycaemic Index food which keeps you buzzing along until lunch time. If porridge seems a little heavy in May, why not start the day with a bowl of nut and grain muesli or crunchy granola topped with slices of organic banana – there’s even a better feel good factor if its also ‘fair trade’. 

How about getting a discussion going at home about the whole obesity issue and how much depends on the food we eat, get the whole family involved, let’s have some suggestions – do we need to review our eating habits, do we even want to bother? Is it worth the effort, are we piling on the pounds, feeling ratty, constipated, suffering from indigestion, low sex drive, low energy. Do we have unexplained lumps, bumps or rashes, regular headaches, heartburn…. Could it be that we need to review that diet after all. Problem is – we’re all too busy. Rush out to work, grab a breakfast at the nearest petrol station, maybe a Danish and a can of diet soda to give us our sugar fix. Several snacks and cups coffee between there and lunch, which will often be a sandwich made with sliced bread, heavily processed meat and cheese, maybe some coleslaw where the cabbage and carrots have been sterilised in Milton before being combined in the salad.

In the evening, we’re whacked after a hard day’s work with the minimum of nutrients to sustain the body, so we plump for the easy option – grab a burger, pizza, or tuck into a feed of steak and chips. Maybe stick a TV dinner into the microwave. A few glasses of wine or a beer to help us to relax – no energy to go for a walk, not to speak of a run, so we flop into bed and the vicious circle continues. If this sounds a teensy bit familiar, its definitely time for reappraisal but hang on, who is going to do all the work?. Many mums have full time jobs as well as their other full time job as mum, so despite the talent of keeping a million balls in the air, help is needed and corny as it may sound, cooking is actually fun. In fact it can be terrifically relaxing and rewarding if everyone, children included, gets involved in planning the menus, sharing the shopping and peeling, chopping, mixing, baking and then most importantly of all, sitting down together around the kitchen table to enjoy the fruits of your labour – that’s what memories are made of. Most importantly, if you have been able to get involved in the shopping and preparation, and you are fortunate enough to come home to a delicious meal, don’t forget to hug the cook and offer help with the washing-up. For far too many it’s a thankless task – so no wonder they opt for a ready meal. Remember, cooking yummy food is fun, try it, you’ll be blown away!

Vegetable Stir-Fry with Cashew Nuts

Olive Oil
Garlic crushed or chopped
Ginger, shredded
Spring Onions, cut at an angle
Chillies, sliced
A selection of 5 or 6 of the following:

Bean sprouts
Tomatoes, cut into quarters
Mange Tout, whole or cut in two at an angle
Spring Cabbage, shredded
French Beans, cut in ½ or sliced at an angle
Celery, sliced at an angle
Red/Green/Yellow Peppers, cut into strips at an angle
Shitake Mushrooms, sliced
Celeriac, cut into julienne strips
Broccoli, small florets
Leeks, cut at an angle
Carrots, cut in ½ inch and sliced at an angle
Cauliflower, florets
Sugar Peas or Snaps, whole or cut in half at an angle
Asparagus, cut at an angle
Baby Sprouts, quartered
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Toasted sesame oil or oyster sauce
Freshly chopped herbs
Cashew nuts

Heat the wok, add a few tablespoons of olive oil, when almost smoking add in the crushed or chopped garlic, spring onion, chilli and ginger, toss for a few seconds, then add the vegetables, salt and freshly ground pepper and continue to toss for a minute or two. Sprinkle with sesame oil or oyster sauce. Taste and correct seasoning. Scatter with lots of freshly chopped herbs.
Turn into a hot dish and serve immediately.

Basic Frittata

Serves 2-4
In season: all year 

A frittata is an Italian omelette. Unlike its soft and creamy French cousin, a frittata is cooked slowly over a very low heat during which time you can be whipping up a delicious salad to accompany it! It is cooked on both sides and cut into wedges like a piece of cake. This basic recipe, flavoured with grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of herbs. Like the omelette, though, you may add almost anything that takes your fancy.

8 large eggs, preferably free range organic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
85g (3oz) Gruyére cheese, grated
30g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
30g (1oz) butter
1 dessertspoon basil or marjoram

Non stick pan - 19cm (72inch) bottom, 23cm (9inch) top rim

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, grated cheese into the eggs. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs. Turn down the heat, as low as it will go. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 12 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.
Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set but not brown the surface. 
Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate. 
Serve cut in wedges with a good green salad and perhaps a Tomato salad.

Mushroom Frittata

Serves 6-8
In season: all year 

Frittata is an Italian omelette. Kuku and Tortilla all sound much more exciting than a flat omelette although that’s basically what they are. Unlike their soft and creamy French cousin, these omelettes are cooked slowly over a very low heat during which time you can be whipping up a delicious salad to accompany it! A frittata is cooked gently on both sides and cut into wedges like a piece of cake. Omit the tomato and you have a basic recipe, flavoured with grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of herbs. Like the omelette, though, you’ll occasionally want to add some tasty morsels, to ring the changes perhaps some Spinach, Ruby Chard, Calabreze, Asparagus, Smoked Mackerel etc... the list is endless but be careful don’t use it as a dust bin - think about the combination of flavours before you empty your fridge.

450g (1lb) flat mushrooms - washed and sliced
8 large eggs, preferably free range organic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
125g (4½oz) Gruyére cheese, freshly grated
40g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
25g (1oz) butter
1 tablespoon basil or marjoram

non stick pan - 19cm (7½ inch) bottom, 23cm (9 inch) top rim
a heat diffuser mat, optional

Heat some olive oil in a hot pan, add the sliced mushrooms. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook over a high heat until just wilted, cool.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, chopped herbs, mushrooms and grated cheese into the egg mixture. 
Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the egg mixture. Turn down the heat as low as it will go, use a heat diffuser mat if necessary. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 15 minutes, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny. Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set and barely brown the surface.
Alternatively after an initial 4 or 5 minutes on the stove one can transfer the pan to a preheated oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 until just set 15-20 minutes.
Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate. 
Serve cut in wedges with a good green salad and perhaps a vine-ripened Tomato Salad (see page 00) and a few olives. 

Tip: Slice the mushroom stalk into thin rounds up to the cap, then lay the 
mushroom-gills down on the chopping board and slice. Use both stalk and caps for extra flavour and less waste. Alternatively put the stalks into a vegetable stock.

Gratin of Haddock with Imokilly Cheddar and Mustard with Piquant Beetroot

This is one of the simplest and most delicious fish dishes we know. If haddock is unavailable, cod, hake or grey sea mullet are also great. We use Imokilly mature Cheddar from our local creamery at Mogeely.
Serves 6 as a main course

175g (6 x 6oz) pieces of haddock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
225g (8ozs/2 cups) Irish mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Dijon mustard
4 tablespoon (5 American tablespoon approx.) cream

Piquant Beetroot

1½ lbs/675 g beetroot cooked
½ oz15 g/¼-½ stick butter 
Salt and freshly ground pepper 
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
A sprinkling of sugar (if necessary)
5-6 fl ozs/140-175ml/generous : cup cream 
1-2 tsp finely chopped chives.

Peel the beetroot, use rubber gloves for this operation if you are vain!. Chop the beetroot flesh into cubes. Melt the butter in a saute pan, add the beetroot toss, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and cream, allow to bubble for a few minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Taste and add a little more lemon juice if necessary. Serve immediately. 

Ovenproof dish 8½ x 10 inches (21.5 x 25.5cm)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Season the fish with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer in an ovenproof dish (it should be posh enough to bring to the table.) Mix the grated cheese with the mustard and cream and spread carefully over the fish. It can be prepared ahead and refrigerated at this point. Cook in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the top is golden and bubbly. Flash under the grill if necessary. Serve with hot Piquant Beetroot. 

Pangrilled Fish with Flavoured Butters

Pangrilling is one of my favourite ways to cook fish, meat and vegetables. Square or oblong cast-iron pangrills can be bought in virtually all good kitchen shops and are a ‘must have’ as far as I am concerned. In this recipe you can use almost any fish - mackerel, grey sea mullet, cod, sea bass, haddock - provided it is very fresh.
8 x 6 ozs (170 g) of very fresh fish fillets
Seasoned flour
Small knob of butter

Segment of lemon
Sprigs of Parsley

Flavoured butter (see below) or Tomato Fondue (see recipe) 

Heat the pan grill. Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been well 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 (time depends on the thickness of the fish). Turn over and cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with a segment of lemon and some slices of flavoured butter or a Salsa. 

Some good things to serve with pan-grilled fish

Parsley or Herb Butter 
4ozs (110 g/1 stick) butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or a mixture of chopped fresh herbs - parsley, chives, thyme, fennel, lemon balm
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

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

Watercress Butter
Substitute fresh watercress leaves for parsley in the recipe above. Delicious served with salmon or john dory.

Dill or Fennel Butter
Substitute dill or fennel for parsley in the recipe above. Also delicious served with pan-grilled fish.

Mint or Rosemary Butter
Substitute 2 tablespoons of finely chopped mint or 1-2 tablespoons of rosemary for the parsley in the recipe above.

Wild Garlic Butter
Substitute wild garlic leaves for parsley in the recipe above. Garnish the fish with wild garlic leaves and flowers.

Nasturtium Butter
Substitute 3 tablespoons of chopped nasturtium flowers (red, yellow and orange) for the parsley in the recipe above.

Garlic Butter
Add 3-5 crushed garlic cloves to the parsley butter.

Grainy Mustard Butter 
This is particularly good with mackerel or herring

4ozs (110g/1 stick) butter
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons approx. grainy mustard
Cream the butter, add the mustards, put into a bowl and cover or form into a roll and refrigerate until needed.

Olive and Anchovy butter 
4 ozs (110g/1 stick) butter
1-2 anchovies
4 black olives, stoned
2 teaspoons approx. freshly chopped parsley

Whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor or chop ingredients finely and mix with the butter. Put in a bowl and cover or form into a roll and refrigerate until needed.

Chilli and Coriander Butter 
4 ozs (110 g/1 stick) butter
1 chilli, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) chopped fresh coriander or marjoram
Freshly ground pepper
A few drops of lime or lemon juice

Cream the butter, then add the chilli and fresh herbs. Season with freshly ground pepper and lime or lemon juice. Put in a bowl and cover or form into a roll and refrigerate until needed.

Poached Whole Salmon or Sea Trout to be served Cold

1 whole salmon or sea trout

Crisp lettuce leaves
Sprigs of watercress, lemon balm, fennel and fennel flowers if available 
A segment of lemon for each person 
Home-made Mayonnaise 

Special Equipment 
Fish Kettle 

Clean and gut the salmon carefully; do not remove the head, tail or scales. Carefully measure the water and half fill the fish kettle, adding 1 rounded tablespoon of salt to every 40 fl ozs/2 imperial pints. Cover the fish kettle and bring the water to the boil. Add the salmon or sea trout and allow the water to come back to the boil. Simmer for just 2 minutes and then turn off the heat. Keep the lid on and allow the fish to cool completely in the water (the fish should be just barely covered in the water). 
To serve: When the fish is barely cold, remove from the fish kettle and drain for a few minutes. Line a large board or serving dish with fresh crisp lettuce leaves, top with sprigs of watercress, lemon balm and fennel and fennel flowers if available. Carefully slide the salmon onto the board. Just before serving, peel off the top skin, leave the tail and head intact. (We don’t scrape off the brown flesh in the centre because it tastes good.) Pipe a line of home-make Mayonnaise along the centre of the salmon lengthways, garnish with tiny sprigs of fennel and fennel flowers or very thin twists of cucumber. Put some segments of lemons around the dish between the lettuces and herbs. Resist the temptation to use any tomato or - horror of horrors - to put a slice of stuffed olive over the eye! The pale pink of the salmon flesh with the crisp lettuces and fresh herbs seems just perfect. Serve with a bowl of good home-make Mayonnaise. 

Whole Salmon or Sea Trout cooked in Foil

1 salmon or sea trout, 3.4-4kg/8-9lbs approx.
Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
110g/4ozs/1 stick butter approx. 
Sprig of fennel 
Segments of lemon and sprigs of parsley or fennel 
A large sheet of good quality tin foil 

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

Clean and gut the fish if necessary, dry carefully. Put the sheet of tin foil on a large baking sheet, preferably with edges. Place the salmon in the centre of the sheet of tin foil. Smear butter on both sides and put a few lumps in the centre. Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper and put a sprig of fennel in the centre if you have it. Be generous with the butter, it will mix with the juices to make a delicious sauce to spoon over your cooked fish. Bring the tin foil together loosely and seal the edges well. 
Bake for 90 minutes approx. (allow 10 minutes per 450g/1lb). Open the package, be careful of the steam. Test by lifting the flesh off the backbone just at the thickest point where the flesh meets the head. The fish should lift off the bone easily and there should be no trace of blood; if there is, seal again and pop back in the oven for 5 or 10 minutes, but be careful not to overcook it. 
Serve hot or cold. If you are serving it hot, spoon the juices over each helping, or use the butter and juice to make a Hollandaise-type sauce by whisking the hot melted butter and salmon juice gradually into 2 cold, serve with some freshly-made salads and a bowl of home-made mayonnaise. Garnish with parsley and fennel.

Poached Whole Salmon or Sea Trout to be served Hot or Cold 

A whole poached salmon served hot or cold is always a dish for a very special occasion. Long gone are the days when the servants in great houses complained bitterly if they had to eat salmon more than twice a week! 
If you want to poach a salmon or sea trout whole with the head and tail on, then you really need to have access to a ‘fish kettle’. This is a long narrow saucepan which will hold a fish of 3.9-4kg/8½-9lbs weight. Most people would not have a fish kettle 

in their houses, so if you want to keep the fish whole then the best solution would be to bake it in the oven wrapped in tin-foil.
Alternatively, you could cut the salmon into three pieces, and cook them separately in the way I describe for cooking a piece of salmon. Later, you could arrange the salmon on a board or serving dish, skin it and do a cosmetic job with rosettes of mayonnaise and lots of fresh herbs. 
A 3.4kg/8lbs salmon will feed 16 people very generously and it could quite easily be enough for 20. 125-140g/4½-5ozs cooked salmon is generally plenty to allow per person as salmon is very rich. Use any left-over bits for salmon Mousse or Salmon Rillettes. 

Ballymaloe Poached Whole Salmon or Sea Trout to be served Hot

1 whole salmon or sea trout
Sprigs of fresh parsley, lemon balm and fennel 
Hollandaise Sauce
A segment of lemon for each person 
Special Equipment 
Fish kettle 

Clean and gut the salmon carefully; do not remove the head, tail or scales. Carefully measure the water and half fill the fish kettle, add 1 rounded tablespoon of salt to every 40 fl ozs/2 imperial pints. Cover the fish kettle and bring the water to the boil. Add the salmon or sea trout and allow the water to come back to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave the salmon in the water for a few minutes (4-5) to settle. Then remove from water. It will keep hot for 20-30 minutes. 
To serve: Carefully lift the whole fish out of the fish kettle and leave to drain on the rack for a few minutes. Then slide onto a large hot serving dish, preferably a beautiful long white china dish, but failing that, whatever it will fit on! Garnish with lots of parsley, lemon balm and fennel and 10-12 segments of lemon. I don’t remove the skin until I am serving it at the table, then I peel it back gradually as I serve; however, if you prefer, remove the skin just at the last second before bringing it to the table. When you have served all the fish from the top, remove the bone as delicately as possible, put it aside and continue as before. Serve with Hollandaise Sauce. 

Hot Tips

Garryvoe Hotel have recently opened their very stylish new extension – reception area, bar and restaurant – wishing them continued success.

Farming, food and health – an indivisible chain – Soil Association Scotland Conference, Battleby, Perthshire, Scotland – Wednesday 25th May.

A 1-day Conference presented by the Soil Association Scotland, Scottish Agricultural College and Scottish Natural Heritage. For further information tel 0044 117 314 5000  

Ballymaloe House has just won the Restaurant of the Year Award, sponsored by Bushmills – congratulations to all concerned.

Fabulous Food Fair in Co Tipperary Sunday 3rd July 12-6– Tipp FM is delighted to offer all quality food providers a unique forum in which to display and sell their quality food. To book a stand contact Noreen Condon 087-2795900 or Geraldine Henchion 087-2523215.

Watercress the new Rocket

Watercress is the ‘new rocket’. After decades of being pushed to the edge of the plate as nothing more than a decorative garnish, watercress is suddenly the hippest ‘new’ ingredient, enjoying a huge renaissance as diners discover its not ‘just a bit on the side’. Chefs can’t get enough of it and they are using their creativity to use the peppery little salad leaf in a myriad of ways.

Watercress is bursting with goodness, its health benefits have been known since ancient times. Greek general Xenophon insisted that his soldiers ate it as a tonic and Hippocrates, the father of medicine, chose the location of his first hospital because of its proximity to a stream so he could use only the freshest watercress to treat his patients.

Gram for gram, watercress is a better source of vitamins C, B1, B6, K and E, iron, calcium magnesium manganese and zinc than apples, tomatoes and cooked broccoli. Its got more iron than spinach and more Vitamin C than oranges and more calcium than whole milk.

Its also a brilliant detox ingredient, the peppery mustard oils boost and regulate the activity of the liver’s enzymes. Watercress is packed with beta-carotene and Vitamin A equivalents, which are great for healthy skin and eyes. It provides iodine and most B vitamins, including folic acid which is important for a healthy pregnancy. 

Watercress is naturally low in calories and fat. Apparently, Liz Hurley drinks up to six cups of watercress soup a day when she’s on one of her famous diets, so how about that for a recommendation!.

The reality is I don’t need any convincing, ever since I was a child I’ve loved the delicious peppery flavour of watercress. Every Spring we used to pick it from the stream in the chapel meadows on the outskirts of the little village of Cullohill in Co Laois.

We ate it in sandwiches and salads with tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, scallions and lots of Chef salad cream.

Old people always spoke about watercress in the same reverential tone that they used for nettles, the other wild green which ‘purifies the blood and keeps away the rheumatics for a year’ according to ancient lore. What makes watercress unique is its high levels of a compound called phenylethl isothiocyanate, or PEITC. This gives the plant its unique peppery flavour and in scientific studies has been shown to increase the body’s potential to resist certain carcinogenic (cancer causing agents.)

The UK National Watercress week runs from 15-21 May with a myriad of events.

The week kicks off on Sunday 15 May with a Watercress Festival in the beautiful Georgian town of Alresford in Hampshire, the UK’s capital of watercress farming. Cookery demos from celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson, street theatre, music, children’s cookery classes, a watercress healthy quiz and a watercress food market selling a delicious range of watercress fare from smoked Hampshire trout, watercress and horseradish soup, watercress crêpes, watercress sausages, watercress scones, watercress ice cream, watercress chocolates and even watercress beer. Alresford has some great pubs and restaurants and their chefs plan to offer on an amazing range of watercress dishes to compete for the prize of Best Watercress Restaurant and Pub menu. For those who have a budding Nigella or Jamie in the family, there will be kids’ watercress Cookery workshops.

The watercress farmers will be out in force so people can find out the fascinating story behind watercress production . Seventy eight year old Bill Jesty, whose family has grown watercress in Hampshire and Dorset for six generations, has built a model watercress farm to show how gravity and a series of valves are used to channel spring water through the watercress beds, handling up to an incredible 5,000 gallons of water per acre per hour.

The Watercress Line heritage railway, so named because of the vast quantities of watercress it used to transport up to Covent Garden Market, will also be in operation.

Watercress is a classic ingredient in salads and sandwiches and of course it makes a delicious soup, but here are 12 suggestions for terrific ways to use this classic little salad leaf.

1. Make a delicious watercress pesto.

2. Stir chopped watercress into hot pasta with plenty of grated parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

3. Use it to fill a classic omelette with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese or stir into softly scrambled eggs just before serving.

4. To make a delicious simple salad, drain a can of cannellini beans and tuna, chop up half a cucumber and three tomatoes and mix together. Drizzle over some good vinaigrette and then toss with a bag of watercress.

5. If you are fed up with plain old mashed potato, for an extra injection of flavour, add a few peeled cloves of garlic to the potatoes whilst they boil. Drain and mash with a knob of butter and a tablespoonful or two of wholegrain mustard, then stir through a bag of roughly chopped watercress. Season with plenty of ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Great with sausages or most meat dishes.

6. Fold chopped watercress into cottage cheese or ricotta and use as a filling for baked potatoes.

7. For a tasty lunch, cut a small ciabatta loaf lengthways. Pile with creamy Cashel Blue, Crozier Blue or Gorgonzola and slices of pear and grill until just bubbling. Scatter with a large handful of watercress and sprinkle with black pepper.

8. Watercress perks up any sandwich, adding flavour and crunch. A favourite combination with marmite, or try smoked salmon topped with a mixture of crème fraiche and horseradish.

9. Watercress is a staple food among the Chinese, who believe it brings the body back into balance, both nutritionally and holistically. It’s a particular favourite in stir fries, thrown in at the last minute and cooked until just wilted.

10. Watercress mayonnaise is delicious served cold with poached salmon., asparagus or simply as a dip.

11. For a variation on salsa verde, blitz a bag of watercress, a handful of basil leaves, 1 clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a food processor until just smooth. Season and serve – tastes great with chargrilled tuna.

12. Finally, one of my favourite ways to eat watercress and so simple. Serve a roast on a bed of watercress on the serving dish. It is completely delicious combined with the meat juices and some crusty roast potatoes.

Pickled Beetroot

Leave 2 inch (5cm) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don't damage the skin; otherwise the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 1-2 hours depending on size. Beetroot are usually cooked easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger. If in doubt test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.

Watercress Soup

There are references to watercress in many early Irish manuscripts. It formed part of the diet of hermits and holy men who valued its special properties. Legend has it that it was watercress that enabled St. Brendan to live to the ripe old age of 180! In Birr Castle in Co. Offaly, Lord and Lady Rosse still serve soup of watercress gathered from around St. Brendan's well, just below the castle walls.
Serves 6-8

12 ozs (45g) butter
5 ozs (140g) peeled and chopped potatoes
4 ozs (110g) peeled and chopped onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pint (600ml) water or home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 pint (600ml) creamy milk
8 ozs (225g) chopped watercress (remove the coarse stalks first)

Melt the butter in heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the watercress. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the stock and milk, bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the watercress and boil with the lid off for 4-5 minutes approx. until the watercress is cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or food processor. Taste and correct seasoning.

Watercress Pesto

Serves 4
Bag of watercress
Handful of basil leaves
1 clove of garlic
handful of toasted pine nuts
5 tablesp olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice
generous shavings of Parmesan
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Put all the ingredients into a blender, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Whizz everything together, then stir into a bowl of pasta.

Here are some of the recipes prepared specially by Antony Worrall Thompson for Watercress Week.


Prep: 25mins
Cook: 10 mins
Serves 6

For the pancakes:

15ml/1tbsp olive oil
1 small shallot, finely chopped
25g/1oz mushrooms, sliced
1 egg
100ml/4 fl oz milk
25g/1oz watercress leaves
25g/1oz plain flour
pinch of salt and a little freshly ground black pepper
pinch of ground allspice

For the filling:

225g/8 oz soured cream, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon lemon juice
85g/3 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 roasted peppers, peeled and diced * 
55g/2 oz watercress leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the pancake batter: Heat the oil in a small pan, add the shallot and mushrooms and sauté for 2 mins until golden. Cool slightly. Place the egg, milk, watercress, flour, salt and pepper and allspice in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour into a jug and leave to stand for 10 minutes. 
To cook the pancakes, line a plate with two sheets of kitchen paper and set it aside. Lightly brush a small frying pan with a little of the oil. Then place the pan on a medium heat until hot. Remove the pan from the heat and pour about 45ml/3 tbsp of the batter into the centre of the pan. Quickly tilt the pan in all directions to evenly coat the base of the pan. Cook over a medium heat for 1-2 mins or until the base is golden. Flip onto the other side and continue to cook until golden. Flip out onto kitchen paper. Cover with another kitchen paper. Repeat to make about 6 pancakes in total. 
To make the filling, beat the sour cream with the lemon juice until light. Add the mushrooms, peppers and watercress and lightly mix. Season to taste. Lay the cooked pancakes out on the work surface. Divide the filling between the pancakes, spooning it down the centre of each. Roll up and place in a lightly buttered shallow dish. 
Before serving bake the crepes in preheated oven 190C/Gas mark 5 for about 10 minutes. Serve hot with watercress salad. 

* Roasted peppers are available in cans or jars from supermarkets. They have all the skin and seeds removed, ready for us


Prep: 10mins
Cook: 30-35mins
Serves 4 

675g/11/2 lb old potatoes, peeled
2 (85g) bags watercress, roughly chopped
90ml/6tbsp 0% fat Greek Yoghurt or milk
25g/1 oz unsalted butter, diced
pinch of grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
75g/3oz watercress butter (see recipe below)
4 x 175g/6oz chicken breast fillets
15ml/1tbsp olive oil

For the watercress butter* : - 

1 (85g) bag watercress, finely chopped 
75g/ 3oz unsalted butter, softened 
1 shallot, very finely chopped
5ml/1tsp English mustard

To prepare the watercress butter: in a bowl, mix the watercress, butter, shallot and mustard together with a fork, season well with freshly ground black pepper. Keep in the fridge. 
Cut the potatoes into large chunks, place in a large pan, cover with cold water and season with salt. Cover and bring to the boil, simmer for 10-15 mins or until tender. Drain, return to the pan, tip in the chopped watercress and re-cover. Leave to stand for 1-2 mins or until the watercress has wilted. 
Mash the potatoes and watercress then add the yoghurt or milk and butter. Fluff up with a fork, add the nutmeg and season to taste with ground black pepper. Keep warm. 
Meanwhile, gently push a little of the watercress butter under the skin of the chicken breast fillets. Preheat a non-stick frying pan. When hot, add the oil, then place the chicken breasts skin-side down and cook for 10-15 mins, turning once until the chicken is golden brown on both sides and cooked through. 
To serve, heap the watercress mash in the centre of four warmed plates and top with the chicken. Spoon the pan juices around the chicken and serve, garnished with a sprig of watercress and a wedge of lemon. 

* Watercress butter – you do not need to use all of this – you could dab a little on fish or a steak or baked potatoes. It will keep in the fridge


Prep: 5 mins
Cook: none
Serves 2

2 x 23cm/9in soft flour tortillas

For the watercress butter* : - 

See previous recipe
For the filling: 
4 hardboiled free-range eggs, roughly chopped 
1 gherkin, chopped 
100g/2oz ready-made potato salad
2 rashers of crispy bacon, crumbled 
50g/2 oz watercress
freshly ground black pepper

1. To prepare the watercress butter: in a bowl, mix the watercress, butter, shallot and mustard together with a fork, season well with freshly ground black pepper. Keep at room temperature.

2. To make the filling: in a bowl mix the eggs together with the potato salad, gherkin and bacon.

3. Lay the two tortillas out on the work surface and dab with a little watercress butter. Top with the filling, leaving 2.5 cm/1 inch border at the two side. Top the mix with watercress.

4. Roll up the tortillas, folding over the borders as you do so; either cut in half or leave whole. Wrap tightly in cling-film ready for the lunchbox.

Foolproof Food

Traditional salad with watercress and Shanagarry Cream Dressing

This simple old fashioned salad can be quite delicious when it's made with a crisp lettuce, good home-grown tomatoes and cucumbers, free-range eggs and home preserved beetroot. If on the other hand you make it with pale battery eggs, watery tomatoes, tired lettuce and cucumber - and worst of all- vinegary beetroot from a jar, you'll wonder why you bothered.
We serve this traditional salad in Ballymaloe as a starter, with an old-fashioned salad dressing which would have been popular before the days of mayonnaise. Our recipe came from Lydia Strangman, the last occupant of our house.

Serves 4

Fresh watercress or butterhead lettuce
2 hard-boiled eggs, preferably free-range, quartered
2-4 tomatoes, quartered
16 slices of cucumber
4 slices of home-made pickled beetroot (see below)
4 tiny scallions or spring onions
2-4 sliced radishes
Chopped parsley

Shanagarry Cream Dressing

2 hard-boiled eggs
1 level teasp. dry mustard
Pinch of salt
1 tablesp.(15g) dark soft brown sugar
1 tablesp. (15ml) brown malt vinegar
2-4 fl.ozs. (56-130ml) cream
Spring Onion
Chopped parsley

Hard-boil the eggs for the salad and the dressing: bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, boil for 10 minutes (12 if they are very fresh), strain off the hot water and cover with cold water. Peel when cold.

Wash and dry the lettuce and scallions.

Next make the Dressing. Cut 2 eggs in half, sieve the yolks into a bowl, add the sugar, a pinch of salt and the mustard. Blend in the vinegar and cream. Chop the egg whites and add some to the sauce. Keep the rest to scatter over the salad. Cover the dressing until needed.

To assemble the salads: Arrange a few lettuce leaves on each of 4 plates. Scatter a few quartered tomatoes and 2 hard-boiled egg quarters, a few slices of cucumber and 1 radish or 2 slices of beetroot on each plate. Garnish with spring onion and watercress, scatter the remaining egg white (from the dressing) over the salad and some chopped parsley.

Put a tiny bowl of Shanagarry Cream Dressing in the centre of each plate and serve immediately while the salad is crisp and before the beetroot starts to run. Alternatively, the dressing may be served from one large bowl.

Hot Tips 

Food Active Summer Camp – attention all 11-17 year olds
Food active summer camp returns this June for the third year to run one and two week camps at St Conleth’s College, Ballsbridge, Dublin. With healthy eating for children now gaining increased recognition as an issue, FoodActive Summer Camp offers a practical and fun environment in which to discover food and be active.  Tel Eve Rowan 086 806 6111

Growing Awareness - the Skibbereen based food and farming group
Sunday 5th June, visit Andy Ra’s beautiful example of living using local resources: local timber frame eco-house, organic vegetables, chickens, milking goats – by living as close as possible to the eco-system and using local resources, Andy has minimal impact on the earth. Contact Andy Ra 027-66436 Latest details and news     email:  

Pig Party at Otto’s Restaurant, Dunworley, Butlerstown, Bandon, Co Cork
On 26th June – Buffet and Barbecue from 14.00- 18.00
Laoise O’Brien and friends will entertain with Renaissance music,
€50 per person, children half price, Slow Food Members €40. Book before 16th June with cheque made out to OCC, name and phone number. Tel 023-40461, 

Just back from another trip to New York

Just back from another trip to New York – I don’t usually whizz in and out of the Big Apple twice within a month but I was on my way to Dallas to the IACP Conference so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to take up Arlene Feltman’s invitation to teach a class at her cooking school – De Gustibus in Macys.
I brought some of Bill Casey’s Shanagarry smoked salmon which fortunately the terrifying sniffer dogs at Newark Airport didn’t seem at all interested in. Arlene’s classes are very civilized, guests arrive a 5pm and are greeted and treated to a glass of cool sparkling wine to soothe their frazzled nerves having battled through rush hour in Manhattan.
I made a few loaves of Ballymaloe Brown Bread, spread them proudly with Kerrygold butter and topped the slices with juicy salmon – everyone loved it. We were off to a good start. Arlene invites chefs from all over the world to teach at her school as well as hot New York and other US chefs.
I chose a simple menu, perfect for an early Spring dinner to showcase fresh seasonal ingredients and a few simple techniques. I really wanted people to be able to cook all the dishes after the class. The Potato, chorizo and flat parsley soup demonstrated the basic soup technique. US potatoes in general aren’t a patch on good Irish potatoes, but a variety called Yukon Gold works well. When I’m teaching I try to encourage people to really think about the provenance of their food when they shop and no matter how busy to try to source really top quality, fresh local food in season, organic if at all possible.
Local is not always easy in New York, but nonetheless superb produce can be bought at the green market in Union Square, right down in Greenwich Village,- one can get free range eggs, delicious organic chickens, gorgeous organic salad leaves and micro greens for a green salad. ….. I used some verjuice in the dressing -verjuice, made from unripe grapes or apples, is having a revival. This product was widely used in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance but its popularity waned when lemons began to be more widely used.
The lamb came from Jamison farm in Pennsylvania, John and Sukey Jamison raise sheep and allow them to range freely on their organic pasture. The resulting lamb is much sweeter and more succulent than most US lamb, but scarcely as good as the lamb you’d get from Irish family butchers who know the farmers who rear the animals - how fortunate we are to still have so many local butchers, a source of real envy to many of my US foodie friends. 
This time of the year is referred to as ‘the hungry gap’ for fresh vegetables, most of the winter greens are finished or the crop is running to seed – the new season’s vegetables really don’t come on stream until Whit, hence the spiced aubergine recipe. However, we do have lots of rhubarb, how gorgeous does that taste after a long Winter – you just know its doing you good, clearing the blood and providing us with lots of calcium, potassium, manganese and some vitamins A & C. Arthritis sufferers however, should desist as rhubarb is reported to aggravate that condition. I made a Roscommon rhubarb pie (see article of 12th March) from my Irish Traditional Food book with the first of the new season’s rhubarb in New York. This was originally baked in a bastible over the open fire but it also works very well and tastes delicious when its baked in an ordinary oven. 
This, and champ with a lump of butter melting in the centre is real comfort food which brought nostalgic whimpers from the Irish in the audience. 
I rounded off the meal with some superb Irish farmhouse cheeses from Murray’s Cheese Shop. Rob Kaufelt selected Cashel Blue, Crozier Blue and a gorgeous pungent Ardrahan.
Rob has now got a cult following and recently moved into much larger premises across the road from his original shop in Bleecker Street and his cheese shop in Grand Central Station is also bursting at the seams. Farmhouse or farmstead cheese as they are called in the US, are the hottest food items on restaurant menus and delis, in a country where the majority of people would hardly let a bit of cheese pass their lips up to a few years ago.
I told the class all about the Irish farmhouse cheese industry and the close bond between many of our cheesemakers and their counterparts in the US, who have invited their Irish heroes to come and help them with their cheesemaking techniques.
By the time the class was over, Arlene had poured two other wines to complement the meal and I’d managed to dispel the myth of Ireland as the land of corned beef and cabbage, and whip everyone into a frenzy of excitement about Ireland and Irish food and they couldn’t wait to rush out to the nearest Fairways food shop to buy some rich Irish butter to slather on their bread.

Potato, Chorizo and Parsley Soup

Most people would have potatoes and onions in the house even if the cupboard was otherwise bare so one could make this simply delicious soup at a moment's notice. While the vegetables are sweating, pop a few white soda scones or cheddar cheese scones into the oven and wow won't they be impressed.
We love Fingal Ferguson's Gubbeen chorizo, so much that we dream up all sorts of ways of using it. The strong hot spicy taste adds lots of oomph to the silky potato soup.
Serves 6

55g (2oz) butter
425g (15oz) peeled diced potatoes, one-third inch dice
110g (4oz) diced onions, one-third inch dice
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
900ml (1½pints) home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock
120ml (4fl oz) creamy milk
18 slices of chorizo

snipped flat parsley sprigs

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes approx. Meanwhile bring the stock to the boil, when the vegetables are soft but not coloured add the stock and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk to the required consistency. 
Just before serving cook the slices of chorizo for a minute or two on each side on a non stick pan, oil will render out of the chorizo.
Serve three slices of chorizo on top of each bowl, sprinkle a few flat parsley sprigs on top, drizzle a little chorizo oil haphazardly over the soup and serve immediately.

Green Salad with Verjuice Dressing

Green Salad has been included in all my books because we serve it with every lunch and dinner, varying the dressing to suit the menu.

A selection of lettuces and salad leaves eg. Butterhead, Iceberg, Cos, Oakleaf, (green or bronze), Chinese leaves, Lollo rosso, Raddichio trevisano, Rocket, Salad burnet, Golden marjoram or edible Chrysanthemum leaves and edible flowers.

Verjuice and Honey Dressing

2fl oz (50ml) verjuice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6fl oz (175ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
salt, freshly ground pepper

Wash and dry very well carefully the lettuces, salad leaves and flowers. Tear into bite-sized pieces and put into a deep salad bowl. Cover with cling-film and refrigerate, if not to be served immediately.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Mix all the ingredients together, whisking well before use. Just before serving, toss the leaves with a little dressing – just enough to make the leaves glisten. Serve immediately.
Note: Green Salad must not be dressed until just before serving, otherwise it will look tired and unappetising.

Lamb Roast with Coriander Seeds and Spiced Aubergine

A shoulder of lamb is much trickier to carve but the flavour is so wonderfully sweet and juicy, its certainly worth the struggle, particularly at home where perfect slices of meat are not obligatory.
Serves 8-10 approx.

1 leg of lamb
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons approx. coriander seeds
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

8-10 medium-sized potatoes
1 tablespoon fresh ground coriander, if available
450ml (¾ pint) Home-made Lamb or Chicken Stock 

Ask your butcher to trim the knuckle end and to remove the aitch bone for ease of carving.
Warm the coriander seeds slightly on a pan, crush them in a pestle and mortar. Cut the peeled cloves of garlic in strips. Make a few incisions with the point of a sharp knife in the leg of lamb and insert a piece of garlic and some crushed coriander into each hole. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil, roast in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 in the usual way. Add some medium sized potatoes to the dish half way through cooking. The coriander seeds give a delicious flavour to the meat. Carve it into thick slices so that everybody gets some coriander. Serve with a light gravy to which a little freshly ground coriander has been added. The meat should be moist and tender.
Lamb Roast with Cumin
Substitute freshly ground cumin for coriander in the recipe above. Alternatively mix cumin and coriander.

Spiced Aubergine

Serves 6
1 inch (2.5cm) cube of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely crushed
50ml (2 fl ozs) water

800g (1¾ lbs) aubergines
250ml (8 fl ozs) approximate vegetable oil (we use Arachide) 
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
350g (¾ lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped or 1 x 400g (14ozs) tin tomatoes + 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander seeds
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric 
a teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like) 
Sea Salt
55g (2ozs) raisins

Cut the aubergine into ¾ inch (2cm) thick slices. Heat 175ml (6 fl ozs) of oil in a deep 10-12 inch (25-30cm) frying pan. When hot, almost smoking, add a few aubergine slices and cook until golden and tender on both sides. Remove and drain on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Repeat with the remainder of the aubergines, adding more oil if necessary. 
Put the ginger, garlic and water into a blender. Blend until fairly smooth. 

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in the frying pan. When hot, add the fennel and cumin seeds, (careful not to let them burn). Stir for just a few seconds then put in the chopped tomato, the ginger-garlic mixture, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the spice mixture thickens slightly, 5-6 minutes. 
Add the fried aubergine slices and raisins, and coat gently with the spicy sauce. Cover the pan, turn the heat to very low and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Serve warm.
The spiced aubergine mixture is also good served cold or at room temperature as an accompaniment to hot or cold lamb or pork. 

Scallion Champ

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

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

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

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

Scallion and Potato Cakes
Shape leftover scallion mash into potato cakes, cook until golden on both sides in clarified butter or butter and oil. Serve piping hot.

Wild Garlic Mash

Wild garlic is now prolific in the hedgerows and woods
Add 50-85g (2-3oz) roughly chopped wild garlic leaves to the milk just as it comes to the boil. Continue as above.

Foolproof Food

Crunchy Apple or Rhubarb Crumble Tart

Serves 8
6 ozs (170g) plain white flour 
3 ozs (85g) butter 
1 dessertspoon castor sugar 
1 beaten egg, approx.

5-6 stalks of red rhubarb or
5-6 well flavoured eating apples, Coxs Orange Pippin or Golden Delicious 
3 ozs (85g) unsalted butter
3 ozs (85g) plain white flour
6 ozs (170g) granulated sugar from the vanilla pod jar
3 ozs (85g) chopped almonds (unpeeled)
3 teasp. cinnamon 

9 - 10 inch (23-25.5cm) tart tin

First make the pastry.
Sieve the flour and sugar into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible, if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.
Whisk the egg. Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. 
The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, 'shorter' crust. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Line the tart tin with pastry. 
Fill with chopped rhubarb or peeled and chopped dessert apples.
Next make the crumble. 
Rub the butter into the flour and sugar to make a coarse crumble. Add the ground cinnamon and chopped almonds. Spread the crumble over the top of the fruit.
Bake in a preheated oven 190C/375F/regulo 5 until fully cooked - 35-40 minutes.
Serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

Hot Tips 

New weekly news series on food traceability on RTE Radio 1
Consumed • Mondays at 8pm from 11 April to 30 May
Expect to hear discussions of GM animal feed and food on the new weekly RTE Radio 1 programme Consumed, which traces everyday food products from retail outlets, not only back to the farm of origin, but to the origin of the commodities used in the production process. Presented by Tommy Standún. 
You can listen to the show later at  
Tommy Standun would love to have a live viewer call-in discussion of GM issues as the final programme in the series. He recommends you ask RTE to provide this service by sending an email request to the show’s producers at 

Farmers Market at Farmleigh in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, this Sunday 1st May from 10am – 6pm and on the First Sunday in June, July and August. 

Relaunch of Docklands Market at The IFSC on Excise Walk every Thursday from May 5th 10.00am – 3.00pm

Cornucopia of Culinary Talent at Tasting Australia 2005.
This major event on the world’s gastronomic calendar takes place in Adelaide, South Australia from 21-30 October 2005. Full details at 


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