ArchiveSeptember 2006

The Lebanese Cookbook by Hussien Dekmak

  1. Spicy Potatoes – Batata Harra Serves 4
  2. Chick Pea Dip with Lamb and Pine Nuts – Hummus Awarma Serves 4
  3. Chick Pea Dip – Hummus bil tahina This recipe makes a large batch of hummus, which will keep for one week in the fridge. The bicarbonate of soda helps the chick peas to cook quickly and also helps loosen their skins so they can be easily removed. Just make sure you rinse the chick peas well after cooking to get rid of any traces of the bicarb. Once refrigerated, the hummus thickens, so make it quite thin to start with. The ice is used to keep the food processor cool.
  4. Fatthoush – Toasted Bread Salad Fatthoush is a classic Lebanese dish. It is often eaten by itself as a starter or light lunch. Sumac is an essential ingredient. It is a spice that is made from the dried, powdered berries of the sumac tree.
  5. Smoky Aubergine Dip – Moutabal Also known as baba ganoush in Syria and Egypt. Charring the aubergines on a gas flame or charcoal grill gives the dip a distinctive smoky flavour. Be careful not overdo the tahini; you only need a little to bring out the flavour of the aubergines.
  6. Fried Jumbo Prawns with Garlic and Coriander Serves 4
  7. Chicken Shawarma – Shawarma Dajaj
  8. serve with mixed pickles and toum (garlic sauce) and pitta bread
  9. Pickled Caulfiflower – Kabis Karnabett When Hussien makes pickles he usually does five or six jars at a time as they last for a long time. You need to store different kinds of pickles in different jars. Beetroot is used to turn the vegetables pink. The book also includes recipes for pickled cabbage, pickled turnip and pickled cucumber.
  10. Garlic Sauce – Toum This recipe makes quite a large quantity, but it will keep in the fridge for a week. Hussien uses it as the base for a marinade for grilled chicken and a sauce for fried chicken livers. If you have any left over, it is also good with chips he says!
  11. Baked Potato with Meat and Breadcrumbs – Sanieh Batata wa Lahma bil ka’ak
  12. This is like a Lebanese shepherd’s pie.
  13. Rice Pudding – Riz bil halib Not so different to the western-style rice pudding, but this one has rose water and orange blossom water for flavour and is finished with pistachios.
Around the corner from my publishers in Camden Town, there’s a little neighbourhood restaurant that I love. I discovered it some years ago when my editor almost chained me to the desk in an effort to extract the final manuscript for one my books. We took a break to grab a bite of lunch at the local Lebanese restaurant – what a little gem. Le Mignon is in Delancey Street NW1, well away from the Lebanese epicentre that is Edgeware Road. I ordered much more than I could eat, ate much more than I should and brought the rest away in little boxes to have a picnic on the plane.

I begged chef/patron Hussien Dekmak for the recipes for his classic Lebanese dishes – he was unmoved by my pleading but did say that one day he planned to write a cookbook and sure enough it arrived on my desk today, about 10 years later. 

Lebanese cuisine is the fastest growing trend in the UK at present and Hussien Dekmak’s delectable home-style cooking is a stunning example of the inspirational health-giving food of this beautiful troubled country. 

Hussien sources many of his ingredients - chickpeas, bulgur wheat, lentils and spices from the Lebanon when he goes home every Summer.

A Lebanese table is always full, brimming over with delicious dishes. Soups, salads, starters and mains are all served at the same time and shared, mezze style, with an accent on quality rather than quantity that is reflected in serving sizes. Hussien’s honest approach to food is beautifully simple, focusing on the integrity of the ingredients, their freshness and the aromatic strength of their flavours.

At last I can discover the secret of how to produce authentic tabbouleh (parsley salad) and ardishawki bil lahma (artichoke hearts topped with minced lamb, tomatoes and pine nuts), or traditional creamy hummus and falafel as well as less well known delicacies such as creamy Lebanese ashtalieh (milk pudding) and how to brew the perfect Lebanese coffee.

Serving suggestions and combination tips that only come from years of experience are included; salatit malfof abiad (white cabbage salad) superbly partners a serving of moujadara hamra (lentils with bulgur wheat), and makloubeh batinjan (aubergine with lamb and rice) are best accompanied by mahamara (freshly deep-fried golden peanuts, almonds, cashews) and your favourite salad.

The recipes are simple, but as ever one needs to seek out really good ingredients and a few speciality items like sumac and zahtar.

The Lebanese Cookbook by Hussien Dekmak, published by Kyle Cathie, £16.99stg    Buy this Book from Amazon

Spicy Potatoes – Batata Harra
Serves 4

Vegetable oil, for deep frying
1kg (2¼ lb) potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1cm (½ in)cubes
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 red pepper, finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
Salt and black pepper
½ teaspoon ground coriander

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer or deep, heavy-based saucepan. Deep-fry the potatoes until crisp. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onion, garlic, pepper, chillies and fresh coriander until softened. Add the potatoes along with salt, pepper and ground coriander to taste. Stir to combine and serve.

Chick Pea Dip with Lamb and Pine Nuts – Hummus Awarma
Serves 4

1 quantity hummus bil tahina – see recipe
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
100g (3½ oz) lamb shoulder, cut into 1cm (½ in) pieces
1 teaspoon pine nuts
Salt and black pepper

Place the hummus in a serving dish and use a tablespoon to make a well in the centre.
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the lamb and pine nuts for 5-7 minutes. Stir well, then add salt and pepper and cook until the meat is tender.
Arrange the meat and pine nuts in the well of the hummus and sprinkle with more black pepper.
Hummus snouber is also popular – follow the same recipe but omit the lamb.

Chick Pea Dip – Hummus bil tahina
This recipe makes a large batch of hummus, which will keep for one week in the fridge. The bicarbonate of soda helps the chick peas to cook quickly and also helps loosen their skins so they can be easily removed. Just make sure you rinse the chick peas well after cooking to get rid of any traces of the bicarb. Once refrigerated, the hummus thickens, so make it quite thin to start with. The ice is used to keep the food processor cool.

Buy good-quality tahini. Good tahini shouldn’t taste too bitter. The cheaper brands us peanuts and don’t taste good.

Serves 4

500g (18pz) dried chick peas, soaked overnight and rinsed thoroughly
2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda
100g (3½ oz) ice
200g (7oz) tahini
4 tablespoons lemon juice

Place the chick peas in a large pan with plenty of fresh cold water and the bicarbonate of soda. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 45 minutes until soft to the touch. Remove the pan from the heat and stir well to loosen the skins from the chick peas. Drain away the water and skins so you are just left with the chick peas. Rinse thoroughly.

Place the chick peas in a food processor and whizz with a little salt to a smooth puree.

Add the ice, tahini and some of the lemon juice. Whizz again, adding about 500ml of water in a steady stream, until the mixture is smooth and the consistency of a creamy paste. Pour in the remaining lemon juice and add more salt to taste.

Fatthoush – Toasted Bread Salad
Fatthoush is a classic Lebanese dish. It is often eaten by itself as a starter or light lunch. Sumac is an essential ingredient. It is a spice that is made from the dried, powdered berries of the sumac tree.

Serves 4

1 carrot, chopped
½ Cos lettuce, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
5 radishes, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped spring onion
1 red pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped flat parsley
2 teaspoons sumac
1 large flatbread, toasted and broken into pieces
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl and mix well. Add the garlic, parsley, sumac, bread, olive oil and salt to taste. Toss everything together and serve immediately.

Smoky Aubergine Dip – Moutabal
Also known as baba ganoush in Syria and Egypt. Charring the aubergines on a gas flame or charcoal grill gives the dip a distinctive smoky flavour. Be careful not overdo the tahini; you only need a little to bring out the flavour of the aubergines.

Serves 4

2 large aubergines
50g (2oz) tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Olive oil, to drizzle
1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds (optional)

Char the aubergines directly over a gas flame or over charcoal, using tongs, until the flesh is tender. Peel under a cold tap and discard the skins. Allow the aubergines to cool to room temperature.

Finely chop the aubergines and place in a bowl. Add the tahini, lemon juice and salt to taste, and mix well.
Drizzle a little olive oil on top and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, if using.

Fried Jumbo Prawns with Garlic and Coriander
Serves 4

500g (18oz) fresh jumbo prawns, or frozen, thawed (about 12 prawns)
100g (3½ oz) plain flour
Salt and black pepper
125ml (4fl.oz) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons chopped coriander

Peel the prawns, remove the black vein that runs along the back, then wash well. Place the flour in a bowl with salt and pepper. Add the prawns, coating them in the flour.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the prawns, stirring occasionally, until cooked through – this will take about 10 minutes. Drain the prawns and toss with the lemon juice, garlic and coriander. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Chicken Shawarma – Shawarma Dajaj

serve with mixed pickles and toum (garlic sauce) and pitta bread

Serves 4

1kg (2¼ lb) of chicken breasts
Juice of 3 lemons
4 cardamom pods
Salt and white pepper
150ml (5 fl.oz) white malt vinegar

Cut the chicken pieces into long, thin slices. Put them in a deep dish with the lemon juice, cardamom pods, salt, pepper, vinegar and enough water to cover and leave in the fridge overnight to marinate.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4
Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on a baking tray. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, turning from time to time. Serve.

Pickled Caulfiflower – Kabis Karnabett
When Hussien makes pickles he usually does five or six jars at a time as they last for a long time. You need to store different kinds of pickles in different jars. Beetroot is used to turn the vegetables pink. The book also includes recipes for pickled cabbage, pickled turnip and pickled cucumber.

Makes 2 litres

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
250ml (9fl.oz) malt vinegar
2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 small beetroot, sliced 

Place the cauliflower florets in a 2-litre jar with an airtight lid.
ix together the vinegar, salt and 1 litre of water. Pour into the jar and add the beetroot, if using. Close the jar tightly. The pickles will be ready to serve in 3-4 weeks.

Garlic Sauce – Toum
This recipe makes quite a large quantity, but it will keep in the fridge for a week. Hussien uses it as the base for a marinade for grilled chicken and a sauce for fried chicken livers. If you have any left over, it is also good with chips he says!

2 garlic heads, cloves peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
500ml (18 fl.oz) vegetable oil
Juice of 2 lemons, or more to taste

Put the garlic cloves and salt in a blender or food-processor and whizz to a smooth purée. Add the egg white and whizz again until smooth. With the motor running, very slowly pour in the vegetable oil in a constant, steady stream until all the oil is used up and the sauce is the consistency and colour of mayonnaise. Add the lemon juice and keep whizzing until smooth. Taste and add more if necessary. Serve.

Foolproof Food

Baked Potato with Meat and Breadcrumbs – Sanieh Batata wa Lahma bil ka’ak

This is like a Lebanese shepherd’s pie.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
200g (7oz) minced lamb
1 tablespoon pine nuts
Salt and black pepper
4-5 large potatoes, boiled and mashed
3 tablespoons butter
100g (3½oz) dried breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4
Heat the vegetable oil in a pan, add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender. Add the meat, pine nuts, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the meat is browned.

Place the warm mashed potato in a bowl, add 2 tablespoons of butter and some salt and mix well.

Grease a deep baking tray with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Spread half of the mashed potato in the tray. Spread the meat mixture over in one layer, then spread the rest of the mashed potato on top.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden.
Cut into squares and serve hot or cold with salad or sautéed vegetables.

Rice Pudding – Riz bil halib
Not so different to the western-style rice pudding, but this one has rose water and orange blossom water for flavour and is finished with pistachios.

Serves 6-8

250g (9oz) pudding rice
1 litre (1¾ pint) milk
400g (14oz) caster sugar
1 tablespoon rose water
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
5 tablespoons pistachios, soaked overnight in water and peeled, to serve

Put the rice and 600ml (1 pint) of water in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes until the rice is half cooked. Drain the rice.

Put the milk and sugar in a separate saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring all the time with a balloon whisk. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the rice and cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat and stir in the rose water and orange blossom water.

Pour into serving glasses and leave until cold. Scatter with the pistachios and serve.

Hot Tips

Four Rivers Slow Food Convivium in the South East will hold their first seminar on Saturday 7th October – Harvesting and Cooking with Seaweeds with Dr Prannie Rhatigan.
Seashore visit at 10am followed by lunch and cookery demonstrations in the afternoon at the Copper Coast Bistro at Annestown, Co Waterford. The local Slow Food Convivium is cooperating with the local community group on the Copper Coast in Co Waterford to develop their local sustainable resources for the benefit of all. Information from Margaret or Sophie, Tel 051-396686/051-396179 . Cost €60 incl. lunch, deposit €30. Seafood banquet that night €30.  

Leitrim Organic Farmers Coop 
Will be opening a new ‘static butchers shop’ on 6th October as part of the Ballinasloe Fair – their mobile butchers shop will meanwhile continue to travel to markets around the country selling their organic meat.

SIAL 2006 PARIS 22-26 October – The Global Food Marketplace at Paris-Nord Exhibition Centre
This international event showcases the largest ever array of products and services in the food industry – over 5200 exhibitors from 99 countries.  

GMO Free Zones - Letterkenny Town Council has passed a motion declaring that the town become a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) free zone. Similar pledges had been made by local authorities on both sides of the border. GMO foods are now prohibited by councils in Cavan, Clare, Meath, Fermanagh, Kerry, Monaghan, Westmeath, Bantry, Bray, Kerry, Galway Navan, Newry Mourne and Clonakilty.

Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home

By now I hope you have had time to tune in to my lovely daughter-in-law Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home on Wednesdays at 7.30 on RTE 1. 
This is Rachel’s third television series and her programmes are now also shown on BBC.
Rachel’s recipes are easy and delicious and the book that accompanies the series has a great mix of international and ethnic recipes, classic regional fare and good old-fashioned family favourites like Macaroni Cheese, Homemade Sausages and Banana Butterscotch Pudding. The ten chapters are enticingly named Easy Family Food, Sweet Celebrations, Picnics and Days Out, Food for Children, Extended Family, Dining Alfresco, Home Cinema, Big Celebrations, Edible Gifts, Just like Mum used to Make. 
Each section has a selection of yummy recipes beautifully illustrated by Peter Cassidy’s food photos and the equally enticing location shots were taken by Cristian Barnett.
Rachel is a busy Mum with two boisterous boys. She encourages her contemporaries to bring the kids into the kitchen and let them help with the peeling, chopping and cooking, to hell with the mess. Its all about having fun and whetting their appetite, not only for food but also for cooking and the simple pleasure of sitting down around the kitchen table with family and friends.
Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home, is published by Collins and is available in hardback at €22.95  Buy this Book from Amazon

South American Beef Steak with Chimichurri Salsa
Serves 6

The flavours in the salsa marry beautifully with the steak, which can be cooked on a barbecue, in a frying pan or grill pan on the hob. It is delicious served with the Avocado, Orange and Watercress salad.

6 sirloin steaks, about 1cm (½ in) thick

For the marinade:
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
100ml (3½ fl.oz) olive oil

For the chimichurri salsa:
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped spring onion
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Juice of ½ lime
100ml (3½ fl.oz) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using a sharp knife score the steaks 1mm (1/16in) deep in a criss-cross pattern.
Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a shallow glass or china dish or strong plastic bag, add the beef and toss in the marinade. Then place in the fridge for at least 1 hour (or up to about 8 hours).
To make the salsa, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat a grill pan, frying pan or your barbecue until very hot. Remove the beef from the marinade and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or longer, depending on your taste. Reserve the marinade and use it to brush over the steaks during the cooking. Transfer to serving plates, spoon over the chimichurri salsa, with more in a bowl on the side, and serve.

Avocado, Orange and Watercress Salad
Serves 6

This salad has wonderful fresh flavours. It’s great with spicy food, like the South American Beef steak. If you want to make it in advance, leave out the avocado and watercress until you are almost ready to serve.

50ml (2fl.oz) olive oil
Juice of ½ lime
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 orange, peeled and chopped
2 avocados, halved, peeled, stoned and chopped roughly
125g (4½oz) watercress sprigs (about 6 handfuls)

In a bowl mix the olive oil and lime juice and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the chopped orange and avocado. Then gently toss in the watercress sprigs and serve.

Lamb Samosas
Makes 20

Samosas are the ultimate finger food, which makes them the ultimate telly food! Use filo pastry as a faster alternative to the traditional samosa pastry. For a vegetarian version, replace the lamb with an equal quantity of boiled, skinned and chopped potato.

2 tbsp sunflower or olive oil
300g (11oz) finely chopped or minced lamb
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g (4oz) peas (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
5 sheets of filo pastry, measuring 25x50cm (10x20in)
1 egg, beaten

Heat a frying pan, add the sunflower or olive oil, then toss in the lamb, onion and ground spices. Season and cook for about 10 minutes without a lid until the lamb is just cooked and the juices have evaporated. Add the peas and toss. Take off the heat and add the chopped coriander and season again to taste. Set aside for a minute to let the lamb cool.
Meanwhile, lay the filo pastry out on a board and cut into half lengthways, then into half widthways, so you have four rectangles from each whole sheet. Cover all the pieces of filo with a barely damp tea towel (to prevent them from drying out). Place one sheet lengthways in front of you and pile a dessertspoon of the lamb mixture at the end closest to you. Roll the pastry from the end closest to you, once, then fold in both the long sides and roll over and over, away from you, into a little parcel. Brush the finishing edge with a little of the beaten egg to seal and then place on a baking tray. Brush the finished samosa with beaten egg and repeat with all the remaining pastry and meat.
These can be prepared earlier in the day up to this point and chilled in the fridge. To cook, place the baking tray into an oven preheated to 220C (425F), gas mark 7 for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Cardamom Sour Cream Cake
Serves 6-8

This is one of the most delicious cakes. It stays wonderfully moist and the flavour of the sour cream or crème fraîche with the cardamom is sublime. This makes a gorgeous birthday cake, or a special gift for Mother’s Day.

For the cake:
1 egg
200ml tub sour cream or crème fraîche (reserve 1 tbsp. for icing)
175g (6oz) caster sugar
225g (8oz) plain flour, sifted
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cardamom seeds

For the icing:
125g (4½ oz) icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp sour cream or crème fraîche

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), gas mark 4. Grease the sides of a 20cm (8in) round cake tin and dust with flour; line the base of the tin with a disc of greaseproof paper.
Whisk the egg in a large bowl. Add all but 1 generous tablespoon of the sour cream or crème fraîche and the sugar and whisk to combine. Add the sifted flour and bicarbonate of soda, then the salt and the ground cardamom. Fold the mixture to combine, do not over-mix. Transfer into the tin and place in the oven. Cook for about 35 minutes until the top of the cake just feels firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and cooling on a wire rack.
When the cake has just cooled, make the icing by mixing the reserved tablespoon of sour cream or crème fraîche with the icing sugar. If it is too stiff add just a drop of water. Spread the icing over the top of the cake, allowing any extra icing to drip down the sides.
Cardamom Sour-Cream Buns
This recipe works perfectly well when cooked in bun cases. They look so sweet with birthday candles in each one. Just divide the mixture between 12 paper cases in a bun or muffin tray (or use a non-stick 12-bun tray) and cook at the same temperature for 18-20 minutes. Ice as above.

Parmesan Chicken Goujons
Serves 6-8

Use good-quality free-range chicken and you’ll have a delicious and nutritious meal the little ones will adore. Rachel’s children love dipping these goujons into homemade Tomato Ketchup or Mayonnaise or sometimes a mixture of the two!

600g (1lb6oz) boneless and skinless chicken
50g (2oz ) plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
100g (4oz) breadcrumbs
50g (2oz) Parmesan cheese, or something similar, such as Grana Padano, finely grated
3 tbsp sunflower oil

These can either be cooked on the hob or in the oven. If using the oven, preheat to 200C (400F), gas mark 6 and place on a baking tray in the oven to preheat.
Cut the chicken into goujons the size of a big finger (1x10cm (½x4in)). Place the flour in a mixing bowl or in a plastic bag with some salt and pepper. Place the beaten eggs in another bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs and finely grated cheese together and place in a bowl or bag as well.
Toss the goujons in the seasoned flour, making sure they do not stick together, then remove. Shake off the excess flour and dip them in the beaten egg. Remove from the egg, letting the excess drip off, and toss into the breadcrumb cheese mix. Shake off the excess and lay the goujons on a plate.
To cook on the hob, heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat. When the oil is hot, add the goujons in a single layer, cook on one side for about 3 minutes until golden, then turn down the heat and flip the pieces over. Cook on the other side for about 4 minutes, until cooked through and golden.
To cook the goujons in the oven, drizzle the base of the preheated tray with the oil and lay the floured and seasoned goujons in a single layer. Bake in the oven for about 12-18 minutes, turning the goujons over halfway through, or when golden on one side. When they are completely cooked remove from the oven and serve.

Upside-down Apple and Cinnamon Cake
Serves 8

50g (2oz) butter
250g (9oz) brown sugar
3 eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced 5mm (¼ in) thick
200g (7oz) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 generous tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
200ml (7fl.oz) buttermilk or sour milk
75ml (2¾ fl.oz) vegetable or sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), gas mark 4. Melt the butter in a medium-sized ovenproof frying pan (measuring 25cm (10in) in diameter). Stir in half the sugar and cook over a gentle heat for about 2 minutes. Add the apple –there’s no need to stir – and remove from the heat and set aside.
Sieve the flour, baking powder, salt, bicarbonate of soda and ground cinnamon in a bowl. Whisk the eggs in a measuring jug or small bowl and add the remaining sugar, buttermilk and oil. Mix together, then pour into the dry ingredients and whisk to combine into a liquid batter. Pour this over the apple in the pan. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the cake feels firm in the centre.
Cool for 5 minutes before turning out by placing an inverted plate over the top of the pan and turning pan and plate over together in one quick movement. Serve warm or at room temperature with softly whipped cream.

Bill Granger’s Banana Butterscotch Pudding
Serves 4-6

This recipe originally came from Bill’s book Simply Bill and he cooked it when Rachel appeared with him on Great Food Live. She adapted it slightly to fit her pie dish, to make it for 12 people double the recipe and cook in a 25cm (10in) square gratin dish for 55 minutes.

For the pudding:
125g (4½oz) plain flour
3 level tsp baking powder
125g (4¼oz) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 banana, mashed
250ml (8fl.oz) milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
85g (3¼oz) butter, melted

For the topping:
100g (4oz) soft brown sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
150ml (5fl.oz) boiling water

To serve:
Softly whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), Gas mark 4. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the caster sugar. Mix together the beaten egg, the mashed banana, milk, vanilla extract and melted butter. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir to mix until combined. Pour this wet dough into a 1.25 litre (2¼ pint) pie dish and place the dish on a baking tray.
To make the topping, put the brown sugar, golden syrup and boiling water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and then drizzle it all over the pudding. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until it feels slightly firm in the centre. 
Serve with vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream. If you are not going to serve the pudding immediately, keep it somewhere warm until you are ready – it sits quite happily.

Foolproof Food

Popcorn Paradise
Serves 4

Its difficult to have a home cinema night without popcorn, so why not try this recipe and all its variations? Serve the popcorn in a big bowl or in paper cornets for each person.

Plain popcorn:
3 tbsp sunflower oil
75g (3oz) popcorn
25g (1oz) butter
Pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the popcorn and swirl the pan to coat the popcorn in oil. Turn down the heat to low, cover, and the corn should start to pop in a couple of minutes. As soon as it starts popping (after 5-7 minutes), take the saucepan off the heat and add the butter and salt. Put the lid back on the pan and shake to mix. Pour out into bowls and leave to cool a little.

Toffee Popcorn
Cook the popcorn as for the plain popcorn recipe, but while the corn is popping, make the toffee coating by melting 25g (1oz) butter in a small saucepan. Then add 25g (1oz) brown sugar and 1 generous tablespoon golden syrup and stir over a high heat for ½-1 minute until thick. Pour the toffee over the popcorn, put the lid on the pan and shake to mix. Pour out into bowls and cool a little before serving.
Spiced Popcorn
Cook the popcorn for the plain popcorn recipe as far as removing the pan from the heat. In a bowl, mix 1½ teaspoons each of ground cumin and coriander seeds with ½ teaspoon each of medium-strength curry powder and ground paprika and ¾ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons sunflower oil in a frying pan, add the spices and stir for about 30 seconds until lightly toasted. Throw in 25g (1oz) caster sugar and ¾ teaspoon salt, stir, then add all of this into the prepared popcorn in the saucepan, toss and empty into a big bowl.

 Hot Tips

Herb Tour/Talk at Airfield Gardens, Dundrum, Dublin 14 on tomorrow Sunday September 24th at 2.30pm, cost €10 – Info/Booking 01-2984301 or  organized by Irish Organic Herbs (  ) in association with Airfield House and Gardens. Anna Maria Keaveney, Medical Herbalist IIMH, will discuss the benefit of herbs in relation to such topics as the immune system, menopause, detox, arthritis, stress etc.

North West Food Fest continues this weekend –
Today Sat. 23rd – McNean Food Trail – 1.00-7.30pm 
Sunday 24th – 10.00am-5.00pm – Family Fun Fungus Forage – Tel Alex at 071-9643963
The Organic Fair at the Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim – 11.00am-5pm Tel 071-9854338 

Louth Food Group – Promoting Local foods with Louth Leader
Louth Leader have recently launched the ‘Louth Food Group’ whereby 9 local producers have come together under one umbrella to promote, develop and grow their business in the speciality food sector. Members benefit from Training Programmes, Collective Marketing, PR Initiatives, Individual Mentoring and access to Leader funding. More details from Michelle O’Brien, Food Specialist, Louth Food Group, Louth Leader, Market St. Ardee, Co Louth, Tel 041-6857375 

Beyond Baked Beans – Budget by Fiona Beckett

Let’s face it, cheap food has had a pretty bad press, often justifiably so.
I regularly voice my concern that the price we are paying for much of our food is not adequate for the farmers and food producers to deliver healthy wholesome food and stay in business.  However, the reality is that while some people could afford to spend more money on their food there are many who don’t have the option.  Nonetheless, it is perfectly possible to feed the family healthily on a small budget, not only can it be done, it can be fun.

To pull this off , one needs to learn two fundamental skills – how to shop and how to cook.

In her brilliant new paperback, ‘Beyond Baked Beans – Budget’, Fiona Beckett gives 10 golden rules on how to budget –

Plan your shopping trip
Shop twice a week
Scrimp at the start of the week
Buy things as you need them
Learn what things cost
And what’s in season
Avoid convenience foods
Don’t scoff the leftovers
Save on fuel
Be more adventurous
Choose the type of shops carefully – local butchers in general are cheaper than supermarket meat counters, ‘ethnic shops’ and these are growing in number nowadays, are full of bargains, particularly if you are adventurous.

Health food shops can be good value for nuts, beans, pulses, miso, tofu…….

If you want to enjoy rather than just endure your food shopping, seek out your local market and bring the kids, it is likely to be the cheapest place to buy your fresh vegetables and fruit in season.  The extra bonus is the convivial atmosphere.

On-line shopping is fast becoming a real option, so for those who don’t have a car or who are buying for a student house, this can be a real bonus and you eliminate the temptation to buy ‘bargains’ you may not need on impulse.

One could even band together with a few neighbours and split the cost of delivery. 

Fiona has lots of advice on ‘how to bag a bargain’, a terrific store-cupboard list,  suggestions for kitchen kit, how to make food stretch, a series of meal planners and how to store food safely, in this little gem of a book.

The main part of the book is divided into three categories, survive, share and splash out.

A great present for anyone, but particularly useful for students and others who are interested in healthy delicious food on a budget.

Beyond Baked Beans

– Budget by Fiona Beckett – published by Absolute Press – 5.99 stg.
Meals with Mince
Budget Bolognese 1
Serves 4

Apart from the Marmite this is a reasonably authentic Italian recipe – a modest quantity of meat, bulked out by a generous amount of veggies.   The only downside is that it takes a long time to cook – but you can leave it simmering away just like a stew.

4 tbsp. olive, sunflower or vegetable oil
250-300g minced beef
2-3 slices back or streaky bacon (about 75g), rind removed and very finely chopped (optional)
1 medium onion, (about 125g), peeled and very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
1 medium carrot (about 75g), peeled and very finely chopped
1 stick celery, very finely chopped (optional)
2 tbsp. wine vinegar
1½ tbsp. tomato paste
1 x 400g whole tomatoes
150ml stock made with ½ tsp Marmite
Salt and black pepper
400g spaghetti
Parmesan or cheddar cheese to serve

Heat a saucepan or casserole for 2-3 minutes until hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and fry the beef until lightly browned on all sides.  Scoop the beef out of the pan with a large spoon, leaving the fat behind, then discard the fat*.   Add 3 more tablespoons of oil, heat through for a minute then add the onion, stir and cook for 3-4 minutes over a low heat until the onion starts to soften.  Add the garlic, chopped carrot and celery, cover the pan and fry for another 5-6 minutes.  Return the meat to the pan, fry for a couple of minutes then pour in the wine vinegar and bubble up for a minute or two until evaporated.   Stir in the tomato paste and mix well with the meat and vegetables.   Add the tinned tomatoes and break down with a wooden spoon.   Pour in the stock, stir and bring to the boil.  Turn the heat right down, partially cover the pan and leave the sauce to simmer for 1½ - 2 hours, stirring the sauce occasionally.  About 15 minutes before you want to eat, put the spaghetti on to cook in a large pan of boiling, salted water, following the instructions on the pack.

Spoon a little cooking water into the sauce.  Drain the spaghetti. Check the seasoning for the sauce, adding salt and pepper if necessary.  Divide the spaghetti between 4 plates, spoon the sauce on top and grate over a little Parmesan or Cheddar.

*( Don’t pour the fat down the sink – it may block it!  Its better to pour it into a cup or bowl, let it solidify then wrap and dispose of it.)

Budget Bolognese 2.
Serves 4

An alternative Bolognese – lighter and creamier – based on turkey or pork mince, both of which tend to be cheaper than beef mince.

2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
450g pork or turkey mince
A thin slice of butter (about 10-12g)
250g mushrooms, rinsed and very finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
½ a 400g tin whole or chopped tomatoes or 150ml creamed tomatoes or passata
Just over 100ml stock made with boiling water and ½ tsp Marmite
400g spaghetti
A small carton of whipping cream or double cream
Salt, pepper and lemon juice or white vinegar to taste
2-3 tbsp finely chopped parsley if you have some

Heat a frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Once the oil is hot, fry the mince until browned then remove it from the pan with a large spoon letting the fat drain away.   Pour off the fat into a bowl.   Add the remaining oil to the pan then add the butter.  Tip in the mushrooms and stir-fry over a high heat for about 3-4 minutes until any moisture has evaporated.  Turn the heat down and return the mince to the pan.  Add the tomato paste and garlic and cook for a minute then add the tomatoes or passata.  (If using whole tomatoes break them down with a wooden spoon or a fork.)   Add the stock, stir and leave the sauce simmering over a low heat while you cook the spaghetti.  Once the spaghetti has drained add about two thirds of the cream to the sauce and heat through gently.  Season the sauce with salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice or wine vinegar.  Stir in some chopped parsley if you have some.  I don’t think this needs cheese but feel free if you fancy it.


– Baked and Otherwise
Despite the title of the book and its predecessors, Fiona says ‘I have nothing against baked beans.  They’re a good wholesome food that provides protein, fibre and some useful minerals such as iron.  Here are various ways of enjoying them’…

Chilli Baked Beans
Serves 1

1 tbsp oil
½ a medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed (optional)
½ a red pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips or a handful of frozen peppers
1-1½ tsp mild chilli powder or 1 tsp paprika
Half a 400g tin of baked beans
Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Heat the oil in a saucepan or small frying pan and fry the onion over a moderately high heat for about 5 minutes until it begins to brown at the edges.  Turn the heat down a bit and add the garlic, if using, and peppers.   Stir and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the chilli powder and beans, stir and cook for another couple of minute until heated through, adding a little water if the sauce seems too thick.   Add the parsley if using.  Good with wholemeal toast, sausages or a baked potato.

What to do with the other half of the tin.
Curry Beans

Fry a small or ½ a medium onion as described above, add a clove of crushed garlic and ½ - 1 teaspoons of curry paste or 1-1½ teaspoons of Moroccan Spice Mix (see recipe).  Tip in half a tin of beans and heat through.  Add a squeeze of lemon or a few drops of wine vinegar and a heaped teaspoon of fresh coriander or a handful of fresh spinach leaves. (Or some frozen leaf spinach, cooked, well drained and squeezed dry.) Serve with rice.

Must-have Moroccan Spice Mix
As you might buy four different spices to make this it might seem extravagant but they will make enough to last you a whole year.

Mix up in small batches: 2 tablespoons each of ground coriander and cumin, 1 tablespoon of turmeric and 1-2 teaspoons of chilli powder, depending on how hot you like it.  A teaspoon or two is brilliant added to a simple tomato sauce with veggie stews or with fish.

Red Kidney Beans

You probably bought them to go in a Chill Con Carne. Here’s what to do with the rest.

Red Bean and White Cheese Salad

Serves 1

2 tsp lemon juice
5 tsp sunflower oil or light olive oil
½ a 400g tin of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced, or a finely chopped slice of onion
50g Caerphilly, white Cheshire or Wensleydale cheese, cut into small cubes
A heaped tbsp finely chopped parsley and a little mint if you have some
Salt and ground black pepper
Spoon the lemon juice and sunflower oil into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk together with a fork.  Add the kidney beans, sliced or chopped onion, cheese and parsley and/or mint, if using, and toss together.

Mexican-style Re-fried beans
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan and add small finely chopped onion. Fry over a moderate heat for about 4-5 minutes till beginning to soften. Add a clove of crushed garlic, ½ teaspoon of chilli powder and a chopped fresh or tinned tomato, or a couple of tablespoons of passata, stir and cook for another minute. Add ½ a tin of drained and rinsed kidney beans then turn the heat down, cover the pan and cook for 3- 4 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and mash the beans roughly with a fork. Season to taste with salt, lemon juice and a pinch of cumin if you have some and stir in a tablespoon of chopped fresh coriander. Cool for 10 minutes or so then use the mixture to stuff a pitta bread or wrap together with some sliced cucumber, tomato and onion.

Stir –Fries
Stir-fries are great student food – fast and healthy – but they can be pricey too, particularly if you buy those read-made stir-in sauces.  For a basic stir-fry stick to the cheaper stir fry mixes and use soy sauce.
Basic, Simple Stir-Fry
If you want o serve rice with it; cook it beforehand.

2 tbsp oil
½ a small bag of stir-fry vegetables (about 150g)
A cooked chicken thigh, skin removed and cut into thin strips or 75g of cashew nuts (optional)
2 tbsp light soy sauce

Heat a wok or large frying pan until it begins to smoke.  Pour in the oil and immediately tip in the vegetables and the chicken or nuts, if using.  Cook for a couple of minutes, moving them about continually so they don’t burn. Add about 3 tablespoons of water and cook until evaporated.  Add the soy sauce and cook for a few seconds more.  Taste, adding more soy if you think it needs it.  Serve up.

What to do with the rest of the stir-fry veg.

If they’re absolutely fresh – ie you’ve just bought them and they have a couple of days to go to the ‘eat-by’ date you could use them to make a Spicy Chicken salad.  Otherwise you could use them in a spicy Asian-style soup.

A homemade sweet and sour sauce is surprisingly good.

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 chicken or turkey breast or fillet, cut into fine strips
2 tbsp oil
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips
½ a red or green pepper, deseeded and cut into thin strips.
½ a bunch of spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced or a small onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
½ a small (227g) tin of pineapple pieces in natural juice
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar if needed

Put 1 tbsp of the soy sauce in a bowl, add the chicken or turkey strips and mix together.  Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok.  Add the chicken, carrot and pepper and stir fry for about 3 minutes.  Add the spring onions and garlic and fry for another minute.  Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice.   Add half the pineapple and all the juice to the stir-fry, along with the ketchup and remaining soy sauce.
Taste and add the lemon juice or vinegar if needed.  Serve with rice or noodles.

 Leftover Pineapple?
Eat the rest of the pineapple for breakfast with some low-fat fromage frais, yoghurt or add it to a fruit salad.

Foolproof Food

Spicy Chicken Salad
(aka Coronation Chicken – this recipe was invented to celebrate the Queen’s Coronation in 1953)

1 cooked chicken breast – (skin removed, cut into strips)
¼ of a cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into strips
½ a carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips
2 spring onions, trimmed, quartered and cut across into short pieces
Crisp lettuce leaves
A few chopped cashew nuts or unsalted roasted peanuts (optional)

For the dressing
¼-½ tsp mild to medium hot curry paste or powder
½ tsp tomato ketchup
1 heaped tbsp mayonnaise
1 heaped tbsp plain yoghurt
1 heaped tbsp apricot jam
A little salt

First mix the ingredients for the dressing thoroughly together in a bowl, adding a teaspoon of water.  Pour over the prepared chicken and vegetables and toss together.  Lay few crisp iceberg or Little Gem lettuce leaves on a plate and spoon over the salad.  Sprinkle over a few chopped nuts if you have some.

Hot Tips:

Youghal Celebrates History 22-24 September 2006
The theme of this year’s Conference is Sir Richard Boyle, the first Earl of Cork and father to the world famous scientist Robert Boyle. Richard Boyle was an amazing man – the wealthiest man in the world in his day, it is said - Talks, Choral Service, guided Garden Tour, Classical Concert, Quilt Competition ….For details Tel 024 81010 

Back to Class at The Good Things Café, Durrus, West Cork
Autumn term starts on Tuesday 26th September with morning classes on the Tuesday and evening classes on the Tuesday and Thursday.  New Wine Appreciation Class with Michelle Syron, Searson Wines to accompany the delicious food being cooked.  Friday 13th October Party Night. or ring 027-61426

Ballyvaughan Farmers Market

This week we ventured off our usual turf and headed North-West to Co Clare. We stayed in a Hidden Ireland house called Mount Vernon close to New Quay, a Georgian gem owned by Ally Raftery and Mark Helmore, son of the last owner Mary Helmore. Built in 1788 for a friend of George Washington, Mount Vernon became the summer home of Sir Hugh Lane and then of his aunt, Lady Gregory, who entertained many of the leaders of Ireland’s Cultural Renaissance there, including Yeats, Synge and Shaw. 
Augustus John designed the brick Arts and Crafts fireplaces, much of the books, furniture and pictures tell a story. There are just five bedrooms so it has the deliciously comfy feel of staying in a country house. We arrived very late and had a delicious lobster salad followed by a wedge of lemon tart with some Summer berries and good cream. 
Next day we drove through the stunningly beautiful countryside of North West Clare. We’d heard that there was a Farmers’ Market in Ballyvaughan on Saturday morning. I’m intrigued by markets, each one has its own personality and speaks volumes about the local area. This one is held in the courtyard of the village hall. By 11 o’clock it was buzzing with about 20 stalls. Rochan and Peter from Fanore sold pickles, beetroot and hummus. Nomalie McDonagh originally from Sri Lanka now living in Co Galway, made a variety of curries and dahls and vegetable pickles to tempt the locals. Marie and Deirdre Hyland who used to run Hyland’s Hotel in Ballyvaughan were there manning their stall selling delicious quiches. They love the social aspect of the Farmers Market, “so convivial and good for the community”. Sean Shannon from Bellharbour who has a particular interest in fruit trees told us it was only his second day on the market, he was enjoying himself hugely as he sold damsons, Victoria plums, Grenadier and Beauty of Bath apples. Such a joy to find these fruit that are absolutely unavailable in the shops and supermarkets – this is what farmers markets are all about. There is no point in selling products that can be bought in local shops, there must be a USP (unique selling point), otherwise they are just a sham. Deirdre and Phyllis Flanagan, mother and daughter living in Clarinbridge, Co Galway baked a variety of cakes including lemon drizzle, coffee cakes and chocolate chip muffins, along with savoury quiches and tarts. Much of the ingredients for these are grown in their own garden. Tracey Kelly is the treasurer of the market, now in its third season, she is a Londoner who now lives in Fanore and has produced a variety of different sweet cakes, tarts, scones and breads since she started in the market three years ago and is now specialising in producing a variety of flavoured yeast breads and flavoured butters. She will also take orders for novelty and all kinds of celebration cakes. Beside her is Mary Hayes who has a well established garden in Ballyvaughan where she harvests a variety of choice vegetables, all kinds of currants and berries and a selection of old apple varieties, all of which she skilfully converts into delicious preserves. Moving around I met Annie Nolan who was selling Kinvara potatoes, onions, carrots and parsnips, freshly pulled and still covered in rich earth. Behind her, local farmer Finola Costello sold luscious cheesecake, porter cake and brown bread alongside new season potatoes. Her stall was complemented by her niece Emma’s handmade greeting cards and homemade jewellery. Tom Tarpey, chairman of the Farmers Market was selling garlic. We bought his entire stock and have it hanging in our kitchen. Aisling Wheeler from Ennistymon, grows a variety of beautiful organic vegetables and offers a selection of local cheese. The Ailwee Caves also had a stall and were offering fantastic local honeycombs and their award winning Burren Gold cheese in several flavours, including cumin, fenugreek, smoked, black pepper, nettle and garlic and plain. There was a tangible bonhomie and camaraderie between the stallholders and a real buzz. Maureen Roche, another newcomer from Kilfenora, grew a variety of healthy shrubs and trees on her farm. Chris Keane, a former café owner, ably assisted by her mother who is visiting from Australia, bakes all kinds of mouth watering cakes, scones and muffins which sell out early. When it comes to keeping it in the family nobody here does like the Fahys from Newquay. Between three generations they produce a variety of products on their farms which include salad leaves, herbs, courgettes, cabbage, kale, carrots and onions, all of which are chemical free, along with freshly baked bagels. A recent addition to their repertoire is dairy ice cream in a variety of flavours. Meriel Francis has a small stall on which she offers home baked breads and cakes along with preserves, plants and homemade crafts. However what she lacks in quantity is made up for in quality. The little jewels and beads on local jewellery maker Mary Keegan’s stall caught the rays of the sunshine which cheered the crowded market. As I moved around the market I met Michael Monks. This retired local publican has a confident stance matched by the pert green leaves of his freshly picked cabbage displayed among the other vegetables and eggs on his stall. Nestled beside him local German goat farmer Gabrielle Koeller displays her exquisite and generous portions of goats cheese quiches and cheesecakes. Her herd of forty goats which eat the sweet grasses and flowers of the Burren produce exceptional quality milk which she expertly turns into cheese. Ballyvaughan Farmers Market is a colourful and multi-ethnic example of local food for local people, congratulations to all concerned.

Compote of Plums or Greengages
Poach the fruit whole, they’ll taste better but quite apart from that you’ll have the fun of playing – he loves me – he loves me not! You could just fix it by making sure you take an uneven number! Greengages are delicious cooked in this way also.

Serve for breakfast or dessert.
Serves 4

400g (14oz) sugar, a bit less if the fruit are very sweet
450ml (16fl oz) cold water
900g (2lb) fresh plums, Victoria, Opal or those dark Italian plums that come into the shops in Autumn or greengages

To serve: whipped cream

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Tip in the fruit, cover the saucepan and simmer until they begin to burst (4-5 minutes). Turn into a bowl, serve warm with a blob of softly whipped cream. Divine!

Tip: Poached plums or greengages keep very well in the fridge and are delicious for breakfast without the cream! 

Lemon Tart with Candied Julienne of Lemon Peel

Serves 8
Shortcrust Pastry (enough for two tarts)
11 ozs (310g) plain flour
6 ozs (170g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
1 oz (30g) icing sugar
1 free range egg

3 eggs and 1 egg yolk
zest of 2 lemons (washed well)
juice of 3 lemons (200ml/7fl oz) and juice of 1 orange (150mls/¼ pint)
3 pint (150ml) double cream
5½ ozs (155g) sugar

Candied Julienne of Lemon Peel
2 lemons

stock syrup made with 6 ozs (170g) sugar and 6 fl ozs (175ml) water, cooked together for 2 minutes.

1 x 8 inch (20.5cm) tin

First, make the pastry. This pastry can be made by various methods. Number 1 is our preferred method.

1. Make in a food processor. Stop as soon as the pastry starts to come together. Flatten, wrap and chill overnight if possible.
2. Make by pâté brisée method. Flatten, wrap and chill overnight if possible.
3. Make by the rubbing-in method. Flatten, wrap and chill for several hours if possible.

If the pastry is needed urgently, divide into 2-3 equal parts. Flatten and chill for minimum 30 minutes, better still an hour.

Preheat the oven to 1801C/3501F regulo 4. 

Line the 8 inch (20.5cm) tin with pastry and bake it blind for 20-25 minutes until it is golden and fully cooked. Remove the beans, paint the base with a little egg white and replace in the oven for 2-3 minutes. When it is cooked, let it cool while the filling is prepared. Lower the oven temperatures to 160C/325F/regulo 3.

Grate the zest finely, (careful not to get any pith).

Whisk all the ingredients for the tart filling together - the eggs, orange and lemon juice, lemon zest, cream and sugar. When the mixture is nice and frothy, pour most of it into the tart shell. The mixture needs to come right to the top, but to avoid spilling it, put the partly filled tart into the oven (with the temperature now reduced) and finish filling it with a spoon.
Bake the tart until the filling has become firm. This should take about 35 minutes. Check by giving the tin a little shake. Take the tart out of the tin when it is lukewarm and leave it on a 
wire rack to cool. Decorate it crystallized lemon rind and tiny mint or lemon balm leaves. Best eaten on day it is made.

Candied Julienne of Lemon Peel

Peel 2 lemons very thinly with a swivel top peeler, be careful not to include the white pith, cut the strips into a fine julienne. Put in a saucepan with 2 cups of cold water and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the pot, refresh in cold water and repeat the process again. Put the julienne in a saucepan with the syrup and cook gently until the lemon julienne looks translucent or opaque. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on bakewell paper or a cake rack. When cold sprinkle with castor sugar.*
* Can be stored in a jar or airtight tin for weeks or sometimes months.

Apple Fudge Cake
From “Rachel’s Favourite Food”by Rachel Allen

This is one of Rachel’s recipes given to her by her sister-in-law, Penny. It's perfect as a dessert or with a cup of tea or coffee. 
Serves 10

2 large cooking apples, such as Grenadier or Bramley
2oz (50g) dark brown sugar

Cake Batter
6oz (175g) butter
6oz (175g) light brown sugar
6oz (175) self-raising flour
4 eggs

Fudge Sauce
4oz (110g) butter
4oz (110g) light brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

You will also need a 10 inch (25cm) sauté pan or a springform tin.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4

Butter the sides of the tin and line the base with a disc of greaseproof paper. Peel and cut the apples into eights and arrange in a single layer in the tin (this will be the top of the cake when it's cooked). Sprinkle over the 2oz (50g) dark brown sugar.

Put all the cake batter ingredients into a food processor and whiz to combine. Pour it over the apples and sugar. Cook in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until the cake is spongy in the centre. Wait for it to cool for 2 minutes before turning out.

Next make the fudge sauce. Combine and melt the butter, sugar and lemon juice. Stir and pour over the cake when it's cool.

Darina's fool proof food

Wild Damson Jam
Damsons, bullaces or wild plums still grow wild in many parts of Ireland, they ripen towards the end of September – we love collecting them, and eat lots freshly picked the surplus we make into damson pies, compotes and jam. They also make a delicious sauce to accompany roast pork with crackling and freeze perfectly.

*The new cultivated varieties are much sweeter so you will need to reduce the sugar to 1.8kg (4 lb) for 2.7kg(6lb) fruit 

Makes 4-4.5 kg/9-10 lbs approx.

2.7 kg/6 lbs damsons
2.7 kg/6 lbs sugar*
900 ml/11/2 pints water

Pick over the fruit carefully, wash and drain well and discard any damaged damsons. Put the damsons and water into a stainless steel preserving pan (greased with butter) and stew them gently until the skin breaks. Heat the sugar in a low oven, add it to the fruit and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil steadily, stirring frequently. Skim off the stones and scum as they rise to the top. Test for a set after 15 minutes boiling. Pour into hot sterilised jars and cover. Store in a cool dry place.
Note: The preserving pan is greased to prevent the fruit from sticking to the bottom.

Hot Tips

West Cork Slow Food Event Sunday 10th September
A Historical Walk and Hog Roast at Dun Lough Castle in partnership with the Mizen Peninsula Archaelogical Society – meet at Barley Cove car park at 1.00pm (car pool will be organised). Food by Food for Thought Catering and wine sponsored by Febvre. Not suitable for children and dogs not permitted. Sturdy footwear required. Cost €25 per person with discount for Slow Food and Archaeological Society Members. Booking essential, Tel Sarah at 087-7528940 or 087-7528945, or Deirdre on 028-28350.

A Taste of West Cork Food Festival 2006, Skibbereen – 14-17th September 2006
Includes ‘A West Cork Feast’ at the West Cork Hotel, story telling at local primary schools, final of schools cookery competition, photo exhibition by John Minihan, West Cork Food Festival Pub Trail, demonstrations and tastings in supermarkets, Farmers Market, Art Workshops, field visits, open air Food and Craft Market and much, much more. Visit  for more information. Food producers contact Kevin Santry at 023-34035 & 086-2672288, Craft makers contact Ivan McCutcheon on 023-34035 or email  

Certificate in Marketing Skills for Tourism 2006/2007
Starting in Cork in September/October 2006, the programme runs till May 2007 with workshops scheduled for 2 days each month. It is tailored specifically to the tourism industry by Failte Ireland and the Marketing Institute of Ireland to develop the professional marketing skills of managers. Information from Josephine O’Driscoll 021-4313058,

The Chinese Kitchen

I love Deh-ta Hsiung to bits – when I first started the cookery school in 1983 I longed to learn a little more about Chinese cooking – a friend told me about a Chinese chef who taught at Ken Hom’s cooking school in London. In fear and trepidation I wrote and invited him to teach a course at my then unknown Cookery School. To my delight he answered yes. 

He and his lovely wife Thelma came over to Ireland and it was love at first sight. His first taste of grey sea mullet from Ballycotton almost persuaded him to move to Ireland. He was enchanted by the quality of our ingredients.

Deh-ta was born in Beijing and has travelled widely in China. As a teenager coming from a family of gourmets and scholars, his interest in food and wine was encouraged as part of his traditional Chinese upbringing. He came to England in 1950 to complete his education at Oxford, and in London where he now lives he is an acknowledged expert on Chinese food and cookery. Besides being author of several best selling cooking books he is also a tutor of international renown. Before he arrived I went over to London to meet him. He brought me to Chinatown and we went through the supermarkets and Chinese shops selling all sorts of weird and pungent ingredients – I was intrigued and curious. Deh-ta was obviously held in huge respect everywhere we went. We bought woks, steamers, clay pots, spiders, cladets, bamboo spoons, chopsticks, porcelain bowls and spoons and lots of unfamiliar ingredients. After our shopping spree, I couldn’t wait to learn how to use them.

Deh-ta is tiny, we could scarcely see him above the work counter but he worked magic with his ingredients and painstakingly explained the basic techniques of Chinese food. Just today his new book “The Chinese Kitchen” arrived on my desk – this is no ordinary cook book, it is an encyclopaedic survey of Chinese ingredients, all readily available in the West, that are essential for authentic Chinese recipes. A thorough knowledge of what ingredients are available, where to buy them and how to prepare them is the secret of truly delicious and authentic Chinese food – it doesn’t need to be complicated. Over 120 items are listed ranging from basics like rice, chillies and soy sauce to cassia, lotus root, gingko nut and mango. Each ingredient entry includes historical background, medical properties, cultivation and manufacturing details, information on buying and storing and of course culinary uses.

This is essential information for anyone interested in cooking authentic Chinese food – armed with this knowledge one can embark on the 200 easy to follow recipes and there are lots of stunning photos of China and the recipes to guide and whet your appetite. For those of you with a yen for Chinese food this book is a real gem and one I personally highly recommend. “The Chinese Kitchen” is published by Kyle Cathie Limited at a price of £14.99 sterling. Here are some of Deh-ta’s recipes.

Buy this book from Amazon

Drunken Eggs

Here is a method of preserving eggs that you can try at home. They can be stored in the preserving jar for several months.
12 ducks or hens eggs
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon Sichuan Peppercorns
About 685ml (24fl.oz) distilled or boiled water 
150ml (5fl.oz) Chinese spirit, such as Mou-tai, or brandy, whisky, rum or vodka

Soft boil the eggs (3-4 minutes for hens, 4-5 minutes for ducks). Take care with the timing as the yolks must be neither too soft nor too hard.
Dissolve the salt in the distilled or boiled water. (It is very important that the water be bacteria free, because egg shells are porous.) Add the Sichuan peppercorns, then allow the water to cool down before adding the spirit. (Please note that Chinese spirit is 30 percent stronger than Western liquor so adjust the measurements of Western liquor accordingly.)

Gently tap the shells of the eggs to crack them, but do not peel. Submerge the eggs in the spirit in a jar or bottle, making sure that every egg is covered by the liquid. Add more spirit if necessary. Seal the jar or bottle well – it must be absolutely air-tight – then leave to stand in a cool, dark place for 7-8 days.

To serve, remove the eggs from the liquid, peel off the shell and cut each egg in half or quarters. They are an ideal snack.
Note: The liquid can be re-used.

Kung-Po Chicken

This is one of the most popular Sichuan dishes in Chinese restaurants. Gongbao was a court official from Guizhou, who happened to be stationed in Sichuan, and it was his cook who created this world-famous dish.
Serves 4

275g-350g (10-12oz) chicken meat, boned and skinned
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon light soy 
1 teaspoon cornflour
3 tablespoons oil
4-5 dried red chillies, soaked and chopped
A few small bits of fresh ginger
2 spring onions, cut into short sections
1 small green pepper (capsicum), cut into cubes
2 tablespoons yellow bean sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine
85g (3oz) roasted peanuts
A few drops sesame oil

Cut the chicken into small cubes about the size of sugar lumps. Mix with the salt, soy and cornflour.
Heat about half the oil in a preheated wok and stir-fry the chicken cubes for about 1 minute; or until they change from pink to white. Remove.
Heat the remaining oil and add the red chillies, ginger, spring onions and green pepper (capsicum). Stir-fry for about 1 minute; add the yellow bean sauce and chicken. Blend well, add the rice wine, and continue stirring for another minute.

Add the peanuts with the sesame oil and toss a few times. Serve hot.

Ginger-flavoured Lychee Sorbet

This is the most refreshing sorbet imaginable. Ginger can also be added to other types of sorbet, such as lemon, coconut, kiwi fruit, or mango
Serves 4-6

60g (2oz) rock sugar and 100ml water (if using fresh lychees instead of canned ones)
450g (1lb) fresh lychees in their shells or a 450g can of lychees in syrup or natural juice
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root

Make a syrup, if using fresh lychees, by dissolving the rock sugar in boiling water, then leaving to cool.
Peel the fresh lychees and remove the stones. Place the lychees and ginger in a food processor or blender with the syrup, or juice from the can, and process to a smooth puree.
Pour the puree into a freezer-proof container, and place in the freezer for about 2 hours or until almost set.
Break up the iced mixture and beat until smooth. Return the mixture to the freezer for 30-45 minutes to set solid before serving.

Crispy Roasted Belly Pork

Serves 10-12 as a starter or 6-8 as a main course
1kg (2lb 4oz) belly of pork, with rind on
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
Lettuce leaves

For the dip:
3-4 tablespoons light soy 
1 tablespoon chilli sauce (optional)

Ideally, the pork should be in one piece, like the pork you see hanging in the windows of some Cantonese restaurants. But if you prefer, the meat can be cut into large pieces for cooking. Pat dry the skin with the kitchen paper and make sure that it is free from hairs. Rub the meat and skin all over with the salt and five-spice powder, then leave to stand for at least 1 hour – the longer, the better.
Heat the oven to 240C/475F/gas mark 9. Place the pork, skin side up, on a rack in a baking tin and roast for 20-25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and cook for a further 45-50 minutes or until all the skin has turned to crackling.
To serve: chop the meat into small bite-size pieces, place them on a bed of lettuce leaves and serve hot or cold with the dip.
Note: any leftovers can be used in other dishes.

Shredded Duck with Mango

Fresh fruit is seldom used in savoury dishes in Chinese cooking, so the following recipe must have originated somewhere else in Southeast Asia, where fruit plays a bigger part in the diet.
Serves 4

225g (8oz) cooked duck meat, boned but not skinned
1 fresh mango or 175g (6oz) canned mango slices, drained
3 tablespoons oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small red pepper (capsicum) thinly shredded
½ teaspoon salt 
2 tablespoons Hoi Sin sauce
1-2 spring onions, cut into short sections

Cut the duck meat into thin shreds. Peel the fresh mango and cut it into thin slices.
Heat the oil in a preheated wok or pan. Stir-fry the onion slices until opaque. Add the red pepper (capsicum) and duck meat with the salt and stir-fry for about 2 minutes.
Add the mango slices with Hoi Sin sauce and spring onions, blend well. Cook for another minute. Serve hot.

Spring Onion Pancakes

Popular in northern China, these savoury pancakes can be served on their own as a snack or as the fan part of a meal with other cai dishes.
Makes 10-12

450g (1lb) plain flour
300ml (½ pint) boiling water
50ml (2fl oz) cold water
dry flour for dusting
4-5 spring onions, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp sea salt
100g (3½oz) lard
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and gently pour in the boiling water. Stir for 5-6 minutes, then add the cold water and knead to a firm dough. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to stand for 25-30 minutes. 

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a sausage and divide it into 10-12 pieces. Roll each piece into a flat pancake about 20cm (8 inch) in diameter. Sprinkle each pancake evenly with the chopped spring onions, salt and lard. Fold up the pancake from the sides, then roll again to make a 5mm (¼ inch) thick pancake.
Heat the oil in a preheated frying-pan and fry the pancakes, one at a time, over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, turning over once. They should be golden brown and crispy on both sides. Shake and jiggle the pan while cooking so you have a flaky pastry finish.

Serve hot. Cut each pancake into small pieces and eat with your fingers. The pancakes should have a strong spring onion flavour with the occasional sharpness of the salt crystals – absolutely delicious.

Minced Meat or Seafood Wrapped in Lettuce

The original version of this Shanghai dish calls for quail or pigeon. Chinese restaurants generally use chicken or pork, while seafood (a mixture of prawns, squid and scallops) seems to be quite popular too.
Serves 4-6

225g (8oz) chicken or pork or seafood
Salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon light soy
1 teaspoon rice wine
2 teaspoons cornflour paste
3-4 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked
100g (4oz) preserved vegetables
50g (2oz) water chestnuts, drained
3 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped spring onions
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
12 crisp lettuce leaves (Webb or Iceberg) to serve

Coarsely chop the meat or seafood and marinate with the salt, pepper, sugar, soy, wine and cornflour for 10-15 minutes.
Squeeze dry the mushrooms and discard any hard stalks. Coarsely chop the mushrooms, preserved vegetables and water chestnuts.
Heat the oil in a preheated wok and stir-fry the ginger and spring onions until fragrant. Add the meat or seafood and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Tip in the mushrooms, preserved vegetables and water chestnuts, and continue stirring for 2 more minutes. Pour in the oyster sauce and blend well. Serve on a warm dish.

To eat: place 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture onto a lettuce leaf and roll up tightly into a parcel. Eat with your fingers and provide finger bowls and paper napkins for your guests.

Foolproof Food

Bang Bang Chicken
This popular Sichuan dish is known as Bon-Bon Chicken because the meat is tenderized by being banged with a stick (bon).

Serves 4-6 as a starter.

225g (8oz) chicken meat (boned and skinned)
A few lettuce leaves
2 tablespoons sesame paste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons light soy
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chilli sauce
½ teaspoon sugar

Place the chicken meat in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving a little liquid. Beat with a rolling pin until soft, then pull into shreds.

Shred the lettuce leaves and place them on a serving dish. Place the chicken meat on top of the lettuce leaves.
Mix a little of the liquid in which the chicken has been cooked with the sesame paste. Blend in the soy, vinegar, sesame oil, chilli sauce and sugar. Stir until you have a smooth, creamy paste, pour all over the chicken and serve.

Hot Tips

A Taste of West Cork Food Festival 2006, Skibbereen – 14-17th September 2006
Includes ‘A West Cork Feast’ at the West Cork Hotel, story telling at local primary schools, final of schools cookery competition, photo exhibition by John Minihan, West Cork Food Festival Pub Trail, demonstrations and tastings in supermarkets, Farmers Market, Art Workshops, field visits, open air Food and Craft Market and much, much more. Visit  for more information. Food producers contact Kevin Santry at 023-34035 & 086-2672288, Craft makers contact Ivan McCutcheon on 023-34035 or email  

Diploma in Speciality Food Production at University College Cork
This course is intended for those who are interested in developing speciality foods as a commercial venture or as a way or adding value to agricultural food commodities. Suitable for those currently in the speciality food sector as well as suppliers, buyers and retailers. For details contact Food Training Unit, Faculty of Food Science and Technology, UCC. Tel 021-4903178. 


Past Letters