ArchiveDecember 2005

Lets Think Local for 2006

It’s that time again when I am full of resolve – another opportunity to make lots of New Year resolutions. I love making New Year resolutions, what’s more I am always completely convinced that I will stick to them despite my long track record of sliding back into old habits. 

For 2006 lets
Think Season  Think Local  Think Animal welfare
Think Food Miles Think Organic  Think Sustainability

The coolest words in food as we slide into 2006 are local, artisan and slow. Those with passion for real quality are seeking out fresh naturally produced local foods from artisan producers. Foods that are grown, reared and produced more slowly in the time honoured way so they have more flavour, better texture and frequently more nutrients.

Problem is, now that virtually everything is available year round it becomes more and more difficult, particularly for younger people, to know when particular foods are in season. Here is a list to guide you-

In season in January – 

Root vegetables – carrots, parsnips, celeriac, Jersualem artichokes, turnips.
Brussels Sprouts, Kales, Sprouting broccoli, cabbage, chicory


Fish – herrings, sprats, Pollock, cod, oysters

Citrus fruit

Food is at its freshest and most flavourful when it is in season. It makes no kind of sense to buy expensive ‘jet-lagged’ food that has traveled half way round the globe when we could be eating delicious local food in season. The foods that are in season contain the nutrients, minerals and trace elements our bodies need at that time of the year, eg citrus fruit in winter provides us vitamin C.

Kale and brassicas are a powerful source of antioxidants and help to boost our resistance during the cold Winter months when colds and flu are at their most prevalent. 

Now that there is an increasing network of Farmers Markets around the country – 130 at the last count, it becomes easier to source local food in season. It’s a whole other shopping experience, convivial, relaxed and in many cases less expensive. Fresh local food can sometimes be found in small independent local shops. Many of these shops are struggling to survive in the face of ever increasing competition from the ‘multiples’, as ‘cheap’ food continues to be the primary objective of most shoppers. However, we fool ourselves if we imagine that food will continue to be cheap after these shops have been closed down. We will be left with no choice and our towns and villages will have lost the charm and diversity that these family owned businesses bring.

We are out of our minds to risk this situation becoming a reality in Ireland, particularly as we can see clearly what has happened in Britain as a result of huge supermarkets being built on green field sites. These multi-faceted businesses sell everything from newspapers to insurance, hoover up all the business and as a result over 60% of villages in the UK have no village shop and no post office. Consequently there is no heart in the village and the community is fragmented. Think how this would change the face of Ireland.

The choice is ours, if we don’t support our local shops – the family butchers, the bakers, the hardware shops, we will lose them and watch as the prices rise and we will have lost our alternatives. 

The reality is that food shopping is an ‘agricultural act’, we can make a difference by the way we choose to spend our ‘food euro’.

When we shop in supermarkets, lets support the Irish enterprises, we can heighten awareness by asking questions about provenance. Ask how much local food do they stock? Think about animal welfare, food miles, sustainability and organic.

Local shops can help themselves by highlighting local food in season in their establishments, Johnny Dunne’s carrots, Peggy Hegarty’s barm brack, Anne Keating’s Baylough Cheese, Sally Barnes’ smoked fish………..

This enables those of us who are searching for local food in season to find it easily and helps to remind those of us who haven’t been thinking that way.

Conclusion – You may also want to think about adopting the Slow Food Philosophy for 2006 – visit  or 

Here is a seasonal menu-
Oysters with Murphys or Beamish
Turnip and Bacon Soup
George Gossip’s Pheasant and Chorizo
Leek Champ

Foolproof Roast Jerusalem Artichokes (available at Midleton Farmers Market)
Citrus Fruit Salad

Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup

Serves 6-8
340g (12oz) swede turnips, diced
1 tablespoons sunflower or arachide oil
140g (5oz) rindless streaky bacon cut in ½ inch (1cm) dice
110g (4oz) onions, chopped
140g (5oz) potatoes, diced
salt and freshly ground pepper
900ml (1½ pint) Homemade Chicken Stock
cream or creamy milk to taste

fried diced bacon
tiny croutons
chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the bacon fat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked. Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary. Serve with a mixture of crispy bacon, tiny croutons and chopped parsley.

Deep Fried Sprats with Aoili

In general January has a few highlights, apart from the arrival of the marmalade oranges in the shops - but when the Sprats arrive into Ballycotton the excitement is tangible. We feast on them for a few short weeks - deep fried, soused, pickled and smoked. Don’t even think of gutting them you may be shocked but we eat them insides and all - completely delicious!
Serves 6-8 

450g (1 lb) Sprats
Well seasoned flour
Lemon Segments


2 egg yolks, preferably free range
1-4 cloves of garlic, depending on size
3 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
Pinch of English mustard or 3 teaspoon French mustard
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
230ml (8 fl oz) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) - we use 180ml (6 fl oz) arachide oil and 50ml (2 fl oz) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Oyster Shells (optional) 

First make the Aoili. 

Using a mortar and pestle, work the garlic with a little salt and pepper until smooth; then work in the egg yolks, add the wine vinegar and the olive oil drop by drop, stirring constantly with the pestle. Once the sauce has started to thicken, the oil may be added more quickly. 

When half the oil has been added, one can add the oil a little faster. Stir in the chopped parsley.

Taste the Aioli and add a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice and some salt and pepper if necessary. 

Just before serving: Heat the oil in a deep fry to 200C/400F. Toss the sprats in well seasoned flour, cook until crisp and golden. Put an oyster shell on each plate to hold a generous spoonful of Aoili or Tartare Sauce. Serve immediately with segments of lemon.

Pheasant with Chorizo, Bacon and Tomatoes

– George Gossip
George Gossip who teaches the Game Coookery Course here at the school says that this recipe is an amalgamation of Elizabeth David’s Pheasant with Spiced Rice, a chicken dish of Penelope Casas’ and his own ideas – anyway its delicious.
Serves 6

1 Pheasant – cut into serving portions
1 or 2 chorizos sausages, sliced
6-8 oz good quality streaky bacon diced into ½ inch cubes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic,
two large onions, sliced
1 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled & chopped (or one 14oz tin of chopped tomatoes)
salt and pepper
thyme and parsley
two teaspoons good-quality paprika – preferably sweet Hungarian

Pilaff Rice
Pheasant stock
Wash the rice in cold water and leave to soak. Bring game stock to the boil.

Fry the bacon in olive oil, add the pheasant pieces and cook lightly. Remove and keep warm. 

Add two-thirds of the sliced onion and all the garlic to the pan: cover and sweat gently. When these are cooked, remove the lid, add the chopped tomatoes and increase the heat. Add the chorizo slices and seasonings and cook rapidly to form a thick sauce.

Meanwhile, fry the remaining onion gently in oil, in a deep saucepan. Drain the rice, add it and fry at a slightly increased heat. Then add the stock - a ladle at a time - to make a rich pilaff.

Return the pheasant pieces to the tomato sauce and cook though. Add the wings and thigh pieces first, and the breast sections (which will require less cooking) at the end. Check the seasoning. If the stock has become too thick, add water. 

To serve
Serve the pheasant, surrounded by pieces of chorizo and bacon, on a bed of rice - accompanied by a green salad. This pheasant and tomato mixture reheats well.

Potato and Leek Champ

Serves 4-6
6-8 unpeeled 'old' potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
Cold water
4 medium sized leeks
40g (1½ozs) butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon water if necessary
300-350ml (10-12 fl ozs) milk
1 tablespoon chopped chives
55g (2ozs) approx. butter

Scrub the potatoes, cover with cold water and boil them in their jackets. Half way through cooking, pour off half the water, cover and steam until fully cooked. 

Cut off the dark green leaves from the top of the leeks (wash and add to the stock pot or use for making green leek soup). Slit the leeks about half way down the centre and wash well under cold running water. Slice into ¼ inch (5mm) rounds. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan; when it foams add the sliced leeks and toss gently to coat with butter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add 1 tablespoon water if necessary. Cover with a paper lid and a close fitting saucepan lid. Reduce the heat and cook very gently for 10-15 minutes approx., or until soft, tender and juicy. Check and stir every now and then during cooking. 

Bring the milk with the chives 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 chives, add the drained leeks and beat in the butter. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. It should be soft and melting. 

Leek champ may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4. Cover with tin foil while it reheats so that it doesn't get a skin over the top.

Pangrilled Herrings with Grainy Mustard Butter

Serves 6 as a starter
6 fresh herrings, gutted, scaled and washed
Seasoned flour

Grainy Mustard Butter
1 teaspoon grainy mustard eg. Moutarde de Meaux
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
3 ozs (85g) melted butter
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

First make the Mustard Butter. Cream the butter in a bowl, add the mustards and the finely chopped parsley, a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and freshly ground pepper. Form into a roll in pure clingfilm or greaseproof paper and allow to harden or make into pats. Refrigerate until needed. 

Preheat a cast iron pangrill over a medium heat until quite hot. Slash the herrings at an angle in three places on each side. Coat with well seasoned flour, spread a little soft butter over one side of each herring. Lay the herrings butter side down, not touching on the hot pan, they should sizzle. Reduce the heat immediately and cook for approximately 3 minutes on that side before turning over. Continue to cook until golden on both sides. Serve immediately on hot plates with two slices of Grainy Mustard Butter per fish. Garnish with a sprig of flat parsley and a segment of freshly cut lemon.

Citrus fruit Salad

In the winter when many fruits have abysmal flavour the citrus fruit are at their best, this delicious fresh tasting salad uses a wide variety of that ever expanding family. Its particularly good with blood oranges which appear in the shops for only a few weeks, so make the most of them. Ugli fruit, Pomelo, Tangelos, Sweeties or any other members of the citrus family may be used in season.
Serves 6 approx.

½lb (225g) Kumquats
12 fl ozs (350ml) water
7 ozs (200g) sugar
1 lime
½ lb (225g) Clementines
¼-½ lb (110g-225g) Tangerines or Mandarins
2 blood oranges
1 pink grapefruit
lemon juice to taste if necessary

Slice the kumquats into ¼ inch (5mm) rounds, remove pips. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat, add the sliced kumquats. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool. Remove the zest from the lime with a zester and add with the juice to the kumquats. Meanwhile peel the tangerines and clementines and remove as much of the white pith and strings as possible. Slice into rounds of ¼ inch (5mm) thickness, add to the syrup. Segment the pink grapefruit and blood oranges and add to the syrup also. Leave to macerate for at least an hour. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary. Serve chilled.
Foolproof Food

Roast Jerusalem Artichokes

The winter vegetable is particularly good with goose, duck or pheasant.
Serves 4 to 6

1lb (450g) Jerusalem artichokes, well scrubbed.
2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A few rosemary or thyme sprigs, optional

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/ gas mark 6. Leave the artichokes whole or cut in half lengthways, if large. Toss the Jerusalem artichokes with the oil. Season well with salt. Bake in a shallow gratin dish or roasting tin for 20 to 30 minutes. Test with the tip of a knife – they should be mostly tender but offer some resistance. Sprinkle with thyme or rosemary. Season with pepper and serve.

Hot Tips

Check out the Irish Food Market Traders Association website
Check this farmers and country market site to find new farmers, town and country food markets both old and new in Ireland. Use it to discover the vast array of organic and fresh local foods available directly from small food producers in a town near you!
Check out the farmers and produce markets of Ireland
Find out too about local country markets in a town near you, the smaller locally run markets

Oxfam Ireland has opened its 5th Fair Trade shop in Ireland on 18A Frenchchurch Street, Cork. Oxfam shops have the biggest selection of Fairtrade food products in Ireland - Food range includes coffee, tea, chocolate, honey, rice, sugar, biscuits, snack bars, dried fruits and much more. They are all excellent quality and taste great. Nice range of crafts and gifts also which changes regularly – so worth a visit.

Organic Beef – Available from Gortnamucklagh Organic Farm, Skibbereen, Co Cork, Tel 028-23742 – can be ordered in large or small quantities for the freezer, also available at Skibbereen Farmers Market every Saturday 10-1  

Foodwise Conference, at Drumalis Retreat Centre, 47 Glenarm Road, Larne,Co Antrim ,27-29 January 2006

Presentations on Food and Health, Food Poverty, Food Waste, Food Distribution and Fair Trade, Genetic Engineering and Biodiversity, Look to the future, Food Memory and many other food issues. For details  Tel 048 2827 2196 , Fax 048 2827 7999

A formal dinner party is the ultimate challenge

A formal dinner party is the ultimate challenge. It is by far the most stressful way of entertaining but with careful planning it can appear almost effortless! Salvation lies in learning the secrets of virtually effortless entertaining. Your guests will be dazzled and you will still be able to relax and enjoy your own party. 

Start with pen and paper and make lots of lists – the guest list, shopping list, wine list. Consider drawing up a schedule of work – this may sound a bit like a military operation, but it’s so worth it and will avoid any last minute panic attacks before your guests arrive – its all in the planning.

If you are entertaining single-handedly, I reckon six to eight people is the optimum number for a dinner party. Once the numbers go to twelve or fourteen, it is almost essential to have help with the serving and cleaning, otherwise the food will be cold and service too slow. Doesn’t necessarily have to be professional help – a local teenager may be thrilled to earn some pocket money and learn some extra skills. The size of your dining room and table will dictate the numbers you invite. If the numbers go above your seating capacity, decide to do a buffet or fork supper.

If you are entertaining with your partner or a friend, agree responsibilities ahead of time. Decide who will light the fire, take coats, offer drinks…. Knowing who is supposed to serve the coffee avoids glaring across the table or kicking under it! If you are entertaining single-handedly, ask a good friend if they would mind arriving early to help with the drinks. 

Choose the menu carefully so that as much as possible can be prepared ahead and gently reheated. If you shop carefully you can buy lots of delicious charcuterie, smoked fish, farmhouse cheese, crusty bread and crackers. A selection of these can provide the bulk of the meal. Don’t forget Pannetone, Panforte de Siena, Medjool dates, figgy pudding, membrillo…. All delectable storecupboard standbys for Christmas.

Once you have decided on the menu, its time to think about creating ambience. 

Flickery candles create a magical atmosphere in a way that no other lighting can. A tall candleabra on a long table looks elegant, but even cheap and cheerful tea lights arranged in a line, circle or diamond draw gasps of admiration. Resist the temptation to have scented candles – most are overpoweringly fragrant.

Strings of fairy lights now come in a range of shapes and colours – flowers, chillies, stars, bulbs – and you can drape them around tables, chairs, walls, trees and plants.

To me, flowers are the simplest way to add colour, scent and glamour to an evening. There is so much to choose from, and the right flower can instantly change the mood of a room. Be creative about what you use as vases. For a formal dinner party, silver, brass or even tin candelabra set the scene. Wind around fronds of ivy and tinsel and maybe some chillies or glittery baubles.

Do a table plan, you know your guests and can judge best who will enjoy each other.

Place names can be formal or fun and funky, depending on the mood of the evening.

Spend money on the aperitifs. Something bubbly always gets the evening going – Champagne, sparkling wine or Prosecco are divine. For a really special occasion, you might want to splash out and hire a portable bar, complete with bar tenders, to create a range of cocktails especially for you. Prepare a few delicious nibbles, passing around some finger food helps guests to relax and feel comfortable. If the nibbles are reasonably substantial they can double up as a first course.

For a New Year’s Eve Party you may want to wrap a tiny present for each guest, could be something silly and fun and don’t forget the crackers and sparklers and party hats, no its not too late and is a surefire way to create party atmosphere to ring in the New Year.

Happy Christmas and New Year to all our readers.

Celeriac and Hazelnut Soup

Celeriac, relatively new in our shops; is in fact a root celery which looks a bit like a muddy turnip. Peel it thickly and use for soups or in salads, or just as a vegetable.
A deliciously light soup for a dinner party. Serve in expresso cups for a drinks party.
Serves 6

15 ozs (425 g) celeriac, cut into ¼ inch (5 mm) dice
4 ozs (110 g) onions, cut into ¼ inch (5 mm) dice
5 ozs (140 g) potatoes, cut into ¼ inch (5 mm) dice
1½-2 ozs (45-55 g) butter
2 pints (1.1L) home made chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4-8 fl ozs (100-225 ml) creamy milk (optional)

2 tablespoons hazelnuts, skinned, toasted and chopped
A few tablespoons whipped cream
Sprigs of chervil or flat parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan; when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them in the butter until evenly coated. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid, and sweat over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Discard the paper lid. Add the celeriac and chicken stock and cook until the celeriac is soft, about 8-10 minutes. Liquidise the soup; add a little more stock or creamy milk to thin to the required consistency. Taste and correct seasoning.

To prepare the hazelnuts: Put the hazelnuts into an oven, 200C/400F/regulo 6, on a baking sheet for about 10-15 minutes or until the skins loosen. Remove the skins by rubbing the nuts in the corner of a tea towel. If they are not sufficiently toasted, return them to the oven until they become golden brown. Chop and keep aside to garnish.

Serve the soup piping hot with a little blob of whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts and a sprig of chervil or flat parsley.

Roast Rack of Lamb with Rosemary and Membrillo Aoili and Rustic Roast Potatoes

I love this recipe, my good friend the Australian cook, Maggie Beer from the Barossa Valley, made this Membrillo Aoili when she stayed at the Cookery School a few years ago.
Serves 8

4 racks lamb or 1 leg of spring lamb
3 sprigs rosemary and 1-2 cloves garlic – optional
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Rosemary and Membrillo Aoili
2 egg yolks, preferably free range and organic
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) - We use 175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil and 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil, alternatively use 7:1 sunflower oil to olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped
40-50g (1 1/2-2oz) Membrillo (quince paste) (available from delis and many good cheese shops)

Sprigs of rosemary

Rustic Roast Potatoes 

First make the Aoili, save 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

Put the freshly chopped rosemary into a little saucepan with 3 tablespoons of oil, warm gently for 2 or 3 minutes, careful not to burn. Keep aside.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, salt and the white wine vinegar (save the egg whites to make meringues) add the crushed garlic. Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don't get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

If the Mayonnaise curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled Mayonnaise, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

Chop the membrillo and warm gently in a little saucepan until it melts, cool and add to the mayonnaise with the rosemary and oil. Taste and correct seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Score the skin of the lamb, you may like to insert a few tiny sprigs of rosemary and slivers of garlic here and there on the skin side. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Roast for 25-30 minutes, depending on the age of the lamb and the degree of doneness required.

Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. Carve, allow 2-3 cutlets per person, depending on size. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and serve with Rosemary and Membrillo Aioli and Rustic Roast Potatoes.

Guard of Honour

A Guard of Honour looks mightily impressive for a dinner party. It is made up simply of two enlinked racks of lamb. Tie in one or two places to secure while cooking. Add 5-10 minutes extra cooking time.
Ardsallagh Goat Cheese Salad with Rocket, Figs and Pomegranates

Serves 8

1 fresh pomegranate
4 small fresh Ardsallagh cheese or a similar fresh goat cheese
8-12 fresh figs or plump dried figs (try to find the Turkish ones on a raffia string)
Enough rocket leaves for eight helpings and perhaps a few leaves of raddichio
32 fresh walnut halves

4 fl ozs (125ml) extra virgin olive oil
3 tablesp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ -1 teasp. honey
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the pomegranate in half around the equator, break each side open, flick out the glistening jewel-like seeds into a bowl, avoiding the bitter yellowy pith. Alternatively, if you are in a hurry, put the cut side down on the palm of your hand over a bowl and bash the skin side firmly with the back of a wooden spoon – this works really well but it tends to be a bit messy, so be sure to protect your clothes with an apron as pomegranate juice really stains.

Next make the dressing – just whisk the oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey together in a bowl. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Toast the walnut halves in a dry pan over a medium heat until they smell sweet and nutty. 

Just before serving, toss the rocket leaves and radicchio in a deep bowl with a little dressing. Divide between eight large white plates. Cut each cheese into 3 pieces. 

Cut the figs into quarters from the top, keeping each one still attached at the base. Press gently to open out. Divide the cheese between the plates, three pieces on each, place a fig in the centre. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and freshly roasted walnuts. Drizzle with a little extra dressing and serve immediately with crusty bread.
Note: plump dried figs are best cut into slices and scattered over the salad.

A dozen Oysters and a pint of Murphys or Guinness

If you come from Cork Murphys is the sacred drop – Guinness is not quite the same but we have to admit it makes a good substitute.
What could be easier or more delicious than a dozen freshly shucked oysters with Irish wheaten bread and a pint of gorgeous creamy stout.

Serves 1 but also great for numbers.

1 dozen native Irish oysters
600ml (1 pint) of Murphy or Guinness
seaweed or sea salt
Wheaten bread

It’s wise to protect your hand with a folded tea towel when opening oysters. Wrap the tea towel round your hand, then set the deep shell on it with the wide end on the inside. Grip the oyster firmly in your protected hand while you insert the tip of the knife into the hinge and twist to lever the two shells apart; you’ll need to exert quite a lot of pressure, so it’s foolhardy not to protect your hand well. Then slide the blade of the knife under the top shell to detach the oyster from the shell. Discard the top shell, then loosen the oyster from the deep shell, flip over to reveal the plump side, don’t lose the precious briny juice. 

Arrange on a plate on a bed of seaweed or sea salt. 

Serve with a segment of lemon, some wheaten bread and a pint of the black stuff!

Haddock with Dijon Mustard Sauce

Virtually any round fish may be used in this recipe eg. hake, ling, grey sea mullet, pollock etc.
Serves 6

55g (2oz)butter
225g (8oz) onions, chopped
900g (2lb) fresh haddock fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper
600ml (1 pint) milk
50ml (2fl oz) cream
25g (1oz) flour
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
800g (1 3/4lb) mashed potato 

Melt the butter and sweat the onions in a covered saucepan until golden brown. Skin the haddock and cut into portions. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put into a wide sauté pan, cover with milk and cream, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 4-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove the fish carefully to a serving dish. Add the flour to the onions, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the hot milk and bring back to the boil, then simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the mustard and chopped parsley, taste and correct the seasoning, then pour over the fish and serve.

For a retro version mashed potato may be piped around the dish. Allow to cool, refrigerate and reheat later in a moderate oven, 180ºC/350F/gas mark 4, for 20 minutes approximately. 

Bumbles Ginger Roulade

I spent a fun-filled weekend at Strathgarry House in Scotland doing a cooking class with Bumble and her sisters. Bumble demonstrated this recipe which we’ve been delighting our guests with ever since.
Serves: 8-10

75g (3oz) butter
225g (8oz) golden syrup or treacle
50g (2oz) castor sugar (soft dark if you like)
Less 150ml (1/4 pint) hot water
110g (4oz) plain white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg, preferably free-range and organic
300ml (1/2) pint softly whipped cream
50g (2oz) chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

Icing sugar

Large Swiss roll 25.5cm (10inch) x 38cm (15inch) tin lined with silicone paper

Preheat the oven to180C/350F/gas mark 4. Barely melt the butter, golden syrup or treacle and sugar with the water. Mix flour and baking powder and spice together in a bowl. When the liquids have melted and cooled, add the flour, spice and egg yolk. Lastly whisk the egg white until they reach a stiff peak and fold gently into the other ingredients. Pour into the lined Swiss roll tin and bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes (12 minutes works in our ovens). Remove from the oven, cover with a damp cloth and leave to cool. Turn out onto a sheet of silicone paper which has been dredged with icing sugar. Fill with softly whipped cream and crystallized ginger and roll up. Transfer to a serving plate, decorate with a few rosettes of whipped cream and crystallized ginger.

Bumbles Top Tip: Bumble discovered quite by accident that the ginger roulade freezes really well. You can pull it out when required and cut into thick slices and put into a gratin dish, sprinkle with Demerara sugar and heat through in a very hot oven for 8-10 minutes – apparently it’s delicious.
Foolproof Food

Ballycotton Prawns whole in their shells with Watercress and Dill Mayo

Not cheap, but always a wow. If you can buy them already cooked from your fishmonger – great, they are very simple to cook – homemade mayo is a must to embellish beautiful fresh prawns.
Serves 8

40-48 large very fresh prawns
3.6 litres (6 pints) water
3 tablespoons salt

4-8 tablespoons homemade Dill Mayo 
Large white plates

Wild watercress leaves
4 segments lemon

First cook the prawns
Bring the water to the boil and add the salt (may sound a lot, but this is the secret of real flavour when cooking prawns or shrimps). Put the prawns into the boiling salted water and as soon as the water returns to a rolling boil, test a prawn to see if it is cooked. It should be firm and white, not opaque or mushy. If cooked, remove prawns immediately. Very large ones may take 1/2 to 1 minute more. Allow to cool in a single layer on a tray. Uncurl the tails. 
Note: Do not be tempted to cook too many prawns together, otherwise they may overcook before the water even comes back to the boil, cook them in 2 or 3 batches.
Put 5 or 6 cooked whole prawns on each plate. Spoon a tablespoon or two of homemade Mayonnaise into a little bowl or oyster shell on the side of the plate. Pop a segment of lemon on the plate. Garnish with some fresh wild watercress. Serve with fresh crusty brown soda bread and Irish butter.

Dill Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range
2 tablespoons French mustard
1 tablespoon. white sugar
1/4 pint (150ml) ground nut or sunflower oil
1 tablespoon. white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon. dill, finely chopped
Salt and white pepper

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

Hot Tips 

Showcasing Quality Irish Seafood in the UK Market

The Irish seafood sector received strong recognition at the 2005 Great Taste Awards, the UK’s most prestigious gourmet food awards, thirteen companies scored a total of 23 gold, silver and bronze awards. Under the BIM banner a group of Irish Seafood companies showcased a range of speciality products including mussels, smoked salmon, mackerel and other value added product, under their Quality Seafood (QS) symbol which was introduced to the UK market. . 

Irish Seedsavers Association Ltd.
Starting in February the association will be running courses and workshops right through the year on a wonderful variety of topics, from Creating an Orchard, Dry Stone Walling, Organic Gardening and much more – at Capparoe, Scarriff, Co Clare, for details tel. 061-921866, fax 061-921327    local accommodation available.

The Green Box is Ireland’s first ecotourism destination.
It is based in Leitrim and includes all of that country and Fermangh plus adjoining parts of Sligo, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan, but does not include the large urban centres in the area. The Green Box has a network of members many of who are in the food industry – specialist food producers, restaurants, country markets, cookery schools, some of whom will benefit from a capital development programme supported by the EU’s Interreg IIIA Ireland/Northern Ireland Programme. Ecotourism can be defined as ‘travel that is small in scale, low impact, culturally sensitive, community and conservation orientated, primarily nature based, educational and capable of broadening peoples minds and enlivening their souls while providing a unique experience, firmly grounded in sustainable principles 

Slow Food Cork Festival 2005

Slow Food Ireland ran an Art Competition recently with the Cork schools to raise awareness of the Cork Edible School Gardens Project.

The children were asked to design menu covers featuring seasonal vegetables which were then used to decorate the tables at the Cork Slow Food dinner in the City Hall during the Slow Food Cork Festival 2005. Clodagh McKenna, leader of the Cork City Convivium and presenter of Winter Food on RTE 1Radio, dreamed up the idea and Norah Porter liaised with the schools. The response was phenomenal, over 1200 children responded from various schools around Cork City. Supervalu sponsored the competition with great enthusiasm and the teachers were thrilled to have an excuse to highlight the importance of the seasons to the students. The competition coincided with the Healthy Eating week so it helped to reinforce the message. The winners, their teachers and parents all came to Café Paradiso recently for the presentation of prizes by Cathal Deevy of Supervalu.

They tucked into Sandy Hyland’s biscuits, blackberry cordial and home-made vanilla icecream.

Emily Conway from Sunday’s Well Girls National School, Blarney Road, won in the 4-8 age group category. Her picture was the sweetest thing –a happy little girl carrying two baskets of seasonal fruit surrounded by a border of carrots and apples. Her teacher Marcella O’Sullivan and the principal Nori O’Sullivan both came along to celebrate with her. They can’t wait until Spring to get started on a vegetable garden at the school. They also have plans to re-establish a strawberry patch on Strawberry Hill, where strawberries were always traditionally grown.

Recently they bought pumpkins in the English Market and made roasted pumpkin soup with the students. They are totally into raising awareness of the importance of eating healthy food , and have already banned crisps, juices and chewing gum from school lunch boxes. The children can however, have a sweet treat once a week, usually on Friday. They have introduced a ‘Water is cool in school’ scheme and have already won the LM Prize two years ago.

Eight year old Suzanne O’Keeffe from St. Columba’s Girls National School in Douglas was also a winner. This was an outstanding class project. Her teacher Aideen Phipps brought in a huge variety of vegetables and asked her class to categorise them and use them for printing, with spectacular results. This school also has a healthy school lunch policy and has already developed a sensory garden. Plans are now underway to develop an edible school garden with the children to teach them growing skills, the principal Michelle Cashman told me.

Lorna McCarthy from Our Lady of Lourdes National School, Ballinlough won in the 9-12 category, her teacher Margot Murphy and principal Mary Twomey were delighted. Craig O’Shea from St.Anthony’s National School, Ballinlough won in the 9-12 year category. Craig’s picture included some broccoli trees and a banana moon.

These schools explored the food pyramid and Craig’s teacher Fiona McCarthy and principal Flor O’Sullivan are enthusiastic about the Green Schools project.

Finally, Andrew de Juan from St Peter’s Community College in Passage West showed me his winning entry, it was a lovely colourful drawing of fruit. His teacher Alison Burns and principal Denis Aherne were justifiably proud.

It was music to my ears to hear that so many schools are putting enormous efforts into creating an awareness of the importance of eating healthy food and having lots of fun in the process.

This week I’ve decided to include lots of fun recipes for children to cook for Christmas.

Sandy Hyland’s Slow Food Snails
Makes 24
1¾ lb (795g) unsalted butter
455g (1lb) castor sugar
1 tablesp. (15ml ) vanilla extract
5g salt (pinch)
1¾ lb (795g) plain flour
12oz (340g) walnuts, chopped

White Chocolate to decorate.

Cream butter, salt and sugar, add the flour and chopped walnuts.
Chill the mixture in the bowl.
To shape – roll the dough into a sausage shape, break off lengths and roll into snail shapes.
Bake for 20 minutes at 180C/350F/gas 4 for 20 minutes.
Cool on the tray.
You can make cute snail faces and horns with melted white chocolate.

Teeny Weeny Sticky Toffee Puds

Makes 12 approx.
8 ozs (225g) chopped dates
½ pint (300ml) tea
4 ozs (110g) butter
6 ozs (170g) castor sugar
3 free range eggs
8 ozs (225g) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bread soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee, preferably Expresso

Hot Toffee Sauce
4 ozs (100g) butter
6 ozs (170g) dark soft brown, Barbados sugar
4 ozs (110g) granulated sugar
10 ozs (285g) golden syrup
8 fl ozs (225ml) cream
½ teaspoon pure Vanilla essence
12 x 3inch (7.5cm) 5 fl oz moulds or large muffin tins or 

1x 8 inch (20.5cm) spring form tin with removable base *

Set the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4.

Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes. Brush the muffin tins or cake tin with oil and place oiled greaseproof paper on the base.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour. Add the sieved breadsoda, Vanilla essence and coffee to the date and tea and stir this into the mixture. Divide between the ramekins and cook for 30 mins approx or until a skewer comes out clean.
*(an 8 inch tin (20.5cm) will take 1-1½ hrs to cook) 

To make the sauce: 
Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla essence. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.

To Serve
Pour some hot sauce on to a serving plate. Put a warm sticky toffee pudding on a hot plate, pour some more sauce over the top. Repeat with all the others. Put the remainder of the sauce into a bowl, serve with the pudding as well as softly whipped cream.

Chocolate Christmas Tree

We had the greatest fun testing this recipe; it was Fionnuala’s pride and joy and she was so proud of the result that she wouldn’t let us sample it for several weeks. It still tasted delicious then, so it could be make well in advance of Christmas. Children could make it with a little adult supervision.
9ozs (250g) of best quality chocolate 
4oz (110g) Rice Krispies.
3-4 ozs (85-110g) dark chocolate for assembling the tree 
3 teaspoons icing sugar


Christmas cake decorations, e.g. 
Santa, robin, holly etc. 

Prepare the trays to make the branches of the tree. Cover 3 baking trays or large Swiss roll tins with tin foil. Draw out crosses on the foil. Leave 2 or 3 inches (5 or 7.5 cm) between each cross. The measurements of the crosses are: 2 ¾ inches (7 cm), 3½ inches (9 cm), 4 ¼ inches (11 cm), 5 ¼ inches (13 cm), 5 ¾ inches (14 cm), 6 inches (15 cm), 62 inches (16 cm), 6 ¾ inches (17 cm), 7 inches (18cm).

Prepare a serving plate for the tree: it must be rigid, absolutely flat and strong enough to support the tree. Cover with tin foil. Mark one of the 7 inches (18 cm) crosses on this base. 

When all the preparation is done, melt the chocolate very carefully in a very low oven or in a pyrex bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir in the Rice Krispies, mix well. Using a teaspoon, drop small teaspoons of the chocolate mixture along the marked crosses (do the base board first and put in the fridge to set while you do the others, in order of size from the biggest to the smallest). When all the crosses have set absolutely firmly (30 minutes approx.), melt the remaining chocolate over a low heat. Put a teaspoon of melted chocolate onto the centre of the cross on the base board, and stick the next largest cross on top so that the points are in between the points of the previous cross. 

While that is setting (supported with a matchbox if necessary), drop another teaspoon of chocolate on top of the second cross to form a basis for the next layer. Refrigerate for a few minutes. Meanwhile stick the remaining 8 crosses together in pairs in the same way and allow to set. Add another teaspoon of melted chocolate and put the next largest pair of crosses on top, angling them so the branches are arranged alternately. Continue to assemble until the tree is finished, however do it gradually: it is essential that each section is completely set before topping with another layer. 

To serve: Decorate the board with Christmas decorations and dust the tree lightly with sieved icing sugar. 

Potato Wedges with Sweet Chilli Sauce and Sour Cream
Serves 4-6
6 large 'old' potatoes eg. Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pinks
Olive oil or beef dripping (unless for Vegetarians)-duck or goose fat are also delicious
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8. Scrub the potatoes well, cut into quarters lengthways or cut into thick rounds ¾ inch (2cm) approx. Put into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and toss so they are barely coated with olive oil. Roast in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes depending on size. 

Drain on absorbent kitchen paper.
Serve immediately in a deep bowl with a little bowl of sweet chilli sauce and sour cream on each plate.
You could also use deep fried potatoes.

Home-Made Lemonades

We always keep some chilled 'stock syrup' in the fridge so its simplicity itself to make a variety of lemonades. They contain no preservatives so they should be served within a few hours of being made. Many different types of citrus fruit and flavoured syrups may be used.
Oranges and Lemons
Makes 2.7l (4 1/2 pints)

4 lemons
2 orange
500ml (16fl oz) approx. stock syrup 
1.5l (2 1/2 pint) approx. water

Sprigs of fresh mint or lemon balm
Juice the fruit and mix with the stock syrup, add water to taste. Add ice, garnish with sprigs of fresh mint or lemon balm and serve.

Makes 1.2l (2 pints)

5 limes
700ml (1 1/4 pint) water
300ml (1/2 pint) stock syrup

Sprigs of fresh mint or lemon balm
Make and serve as above. Taste and add more water if necessary.

Ruby Grapefruit Lemonade
Freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons
Freshly squeezed juice of 4 ruby grapefruit
450ml (16floz) stock syrup
Water or sparkling water to taste
Juice the fruit, add the syrup and add water or sparkling water to taste.
Serve chilled with mint ice cubes.

Honey and Wholegrain Mustard Bangers

Makes 32
1lb (450g) good quality cocktail sausages (about 32 sausages)
4 tablesp. Irish honey
1 tablesp. English mustard
3 tablesp. Irish grainy mustard (eg. Lakeshore mustard with honey)
1-2 tablesp. Chopped rosemary

Mix the honey with the mustard and chopped rosemary. Cook the sausages in a wide frying pan over a medium heat . Toss with the honey and mustard mixture.

Provide cocktails sticks and lots of napkins.

Lisa Bowskill’s Mini Muffins

Makes 12 muffins or up to 36 mini muffins
10oz (275g) plain flour
1 level tablespoon baking powder
3oz (75g) caster sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 medium eggs
8floz (225ml) milk
4oz (110g) melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6

Place paper muffin cases in muffin tin. Hand whisk together sugar, eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla. Sieve flour, salt and baking powder. Fold into beaten mixture. It should look like lumpy batter. Add filling of your choice. 

Divide mixture between 12 cases or put just over 1 teaspoon per mini muffin case. Fill almost to the top. Bake at the top of the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

Note: Reduce baking time to 15-20 minutes for mini muffins

Add 4 tablespoons of cocoa with 6 oz (150g) mixed chocolate chips (white, milk and plain) 
Add 4 oz (110g) fresh blueberries, roughly chopped 
Add desired amount of chocolate chips 
Add 2 cooking apples, peeled and chopped with 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
Add 2-3oz (50-75g) dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, dates) with ½ teaspoon mixed spice (optional) 

Ice-Cubes with Mint, Herbs, Lemon Verbena, Flowers and Berries

Fill ice trays with 
1. Sugared Cranberries 
2. Redcurrants and Mint leaves 
3. Lemon Segments 
4. Pomegranate Seeds 
5. Star Anise

Summer Parties 
Fill ice trays with mint, lemon balm, sweet geranium or sweet cicely leaves into each one 
Raspberries and Mint 
Fraises du Bois 
Violas or violets, rose or marigold petals 
Use in drinks or homemade lemonade.
Fool Proof Food

Puffy Toasted Cheese

When my children were small this superior toasted cheese often saved the day if they were ravenously hungry. It is made from ingredients one would nearly always have to hand.
Serves 2

2 slices of white bread
1 egg, preferably free range
4 ozs (110g) grated Irish cheddar cheese
2-1 teaspoon English mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper

Butter the bread and place the buttered side down on a baking sheet. Whisk the egg in a bowl with a fork, add the grated cheese and the mustard and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread this mixture onto the slices of bread and bake in a hot oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 15 minutes approx. or until puffy and golden on top.

Note: a teaspoon of chopped chives or a tiny dice of crispy bacon is also delicious added to the above.

Hot Tips

Midleton Farmers’ Market –
The Market will be open on Friday December 23rd from 9.30-1 this year instead of Saturday 24th. The Market will reopen on Saturday January 14th 2006.
Douglas Farmers’ Market – last market before Christmas also on Friday 23rd December 
9-1.30 - Chickens, Cakes, Bread, Fish, Pickles, Sauces, Cheeses………

Some Cookbooks for Christmas -

Potato by Lyndsay and Patrick Mikanowski 
The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard 
Wagamama Cookbook and DVD – Hugo Arnold
The Delia Collection: Baking by Delia Smith
Eggs by Michel Roux Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver 
Best of Irish Festive Cooking by Biddy White Lennon 
Celebrity Chefs Dish of the Day – Petsavers
Serving a City – the story of Cork’s English Market - by Diarmuid O’Drisceoil and Donal O’Drisceoil
Second Helpings by Paul Flynn 
Kitchen Diary by Nigel Slater – A Year in the Kitchen 
Real Flavours – The Handbook of Gourmet and Deli Ingredients by Glynn Christian
Foodalicious – Second Helpings - from Marie McGuirk -can be ordered for €14 including post and packing from An Grianan, Termonfeckin, Co Louth by cheque or postal order payable to Marie McGuirk. 

Classes at An Grianán – not just cookery but a wide range of lifestyle and craft classes - www.angrianá  - gift vouchers available.

Pig Out Day Courses with Frank Krawczyk – showing how to use every single part of a pig to produce a huge range of pork delicacies - enquiries to Frank at Derreenatra, Schull, Co Cork. Tel 028-28579


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