ArchiveMarch 2007

Denmark longs for Real Food

This week I was in the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen speaking to a group called the Belly Rebellion about how to set up a Farmer’s Market. In Denmark people spend less than 8% of their income in real terms on food – the lowest in Europe. 

Food retail is controlled by two supermarket chains and most of the local shops are also controlled by the multiples so it is virtually impossible for most people to source fresh local food. 

Two years ago the movement called The Belly Rebellion was launched by a group of concerned women. Farmers, lawyers, teachers, doctors, politicians, chefs, dinner ladies, mothers……explored how they could set up a localized food system and an educational programme on the connection between wholesome nutritious food and good health. 

There is a deep craving among a growing number of people for real food and a frustration about how difficult it is to source it. There are now a variety of initiatives around the country. The growth of the movement is steady but for many including founder members Camilla Plum and Katrine Klinken, not quite fast enough so they organised a day long conference on Farmer’s Markets at which my daughter Lydia Hugh-Jones and I were speakers. We told them about the Irish Farmers Market movement and in particular about the Midleton and Mahon Point Farmers Markets that we have personally been involved in. The Danes are deeply envious of Ireland which now has over 300 Farmers Markets. Other speakers included -

Camilla Hersom – chairman of the Danish Consumer Cooperation who spoke about how to minimize the rules and regulations and minimize the hassle.

Fie Hnasen Hoeck, former director of a supermarket chain in Denmark spoke about the role of the supermarkets and stressed that they are not suited to selling small speciality type products

Mikhail Hansen, a chef, and chairman of an organization of producers/consumers on the Danish island of FYN spoke about the market and festival he arranges every year on the Island. His challenge is to cope with the huge numbers who turn up.

John Higson, a Swedish Irish man who founded the first new food market in Sweden, also spoke at the Conference. His market was called The Street and created a prototype for others to follow. John, whose background is in marketing, was originally inspired by a visit to Bath Farmers Market in the UK. He visited many others and eventually honed his ideas.

His next project was to buy a space in an unfashionable area close to the river in Stockholm bordering the park. He and his team linked up with local producers and set up a mobile restaurant to serve local food. Then he held a week-end market in conjunction with lots of other events. There was a stage for performances. It soon became the hippest coolest place to go at the weekends. Between 10 – 40,000 people turn up to get a bit of action – all eat and buy local food. Great bands and street performers perform for free for the exposure and this attracts more people. Every weekend there’s a different event – one weekend everyone was invited to empty out their attics and sell all their junk – it was a huge success. John is up for anything that will attract people to the STREET. The underlying object of the exercise is to sell local food. The whole idea has been such a success that now large companies such as Nokia are hiring out the space to launch new products. John’s latest scheme is a web site called  designed to link restaurant chefs and shop owners directly with the producers. He has established a distribution network around the country and a fleet of refrigerated vans to deliver directly to the local restaurants thus solving the twin problems of distribution and delivery. Chefs get weekly updates of what’s in season. Both chefs and producers get feed back from regular questionnaires about customer requests, crop capacity, emerging trends……..A very interesting concept that could be repeated in many other countries. John is happy to shape his ideas with anyone interested in promoting locally produced food. 

Karin Hvidtfelt is a market organizer in Denmark, she spoke about the practicalities of organizing and running markets in Copenhagen.

There was a general consensus that Denmark is ready and eager to have a Farmers Market movement. Much to the delight of the organisers, it looks like its already underway, five or six people decided to start a market in their local towns after last Saturday’s event. 

Here are some of Camilla Plum’s recipes


Serves 6
1.3 kg (3lb)frozen leg of lamb
3 handfuls of herbs to bake with the lamb; fresh bat leaves, rosemary, sage, fresh basil, lovage

1.2 L (2 pints) water
1 dl (3½ oz/100g) coarse salt
1 tbsp. whole peppercorns
1 whole, peeled garlic bulb, cut in thin slivers
A big handful of lovage leaves
A big sprig fresh oregano

Preheat the oven, to 75 degrees celsius. Wrap the frozen meat in tin foil, with the herbs. Wrap twice, so no juice can leak out. Put the package into a roasting tin and put it in the oven, on the middle shelf for 12 hours. While the meat is slowly cooking, boil the brine, leave the herbs in, and cool it, until needed. When the meat is cooked, heat the brine, unwrap the meat and place it in the brine.

The brine should cover the meat, so put it in a snug container, made of plastic, stoneware or stainless steel, just large enough to fit. If you do not have a suitable container, you can put the whole thing in a plastic bag, and close it tightly. Let the meat and brine cool, but do not put it in the fridge.

After 3-5 hours you can lift the meat from the brine. Slice it thinly, and eat it lukewarm or cooled, but its most delicious when it has not been in the fridge at all. You could of course heat it gently wrapped in foil, but it is not supposed to be eaten hot.

Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for 4 days. They are delicious in sandwiches.

Serve with Dill cream, new potatoes, and a crisp green, herby salad.

Dill Cream

1, 5 dl.(4¾ oz/140g) fresh goats cheese
1,5 dl (5 fl.oz/150ml) single cream
big bunch fresh dill, chopped, with the stalks (save some for the top)
small bunch chopped tarragon leaves, no stalks
1 tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp, coarsely ground, black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp. salted capers

Mix all ingredients, except the capers, to a smooth cream. Let it sit in a bowl on the kitchen table for half an hour, Adjust seasoning. The capers and dill can be sprinkled on top of the cream, or on the meat, as desired.

This is also very good in a potato salad, with smoked mackerel, and fried fish. 

Horseradish Cream for smoked salmon

Serves 5-6
2.5 dl (8oz/225g) creme fraiche
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 dl (3½oz/100g) freshly and finely grated horseradish root

Mix and adjust seasoning after 1 hour. Eat with toasted rye bread, smoked, thinly sliced salmon, and a green salad.

Ballymaloe Potato and Spring Onion Salad
Serves 4-6

2 lbs (900g) freshly cooked potatoes - diced, allow about 2½ lbs (1.1kg) raw potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions or 2 teaspoons chopped onion
4 fl ozs (120ml) French dressing
4 fl oz (120 ml) Mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Keeps well for about 2 days.

Note: This potato salad is also delicious without Mayonnaise. Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, eg. add cubes of garlic salami, cooked Kabanossi sausages or cooked mussels.

Hot Potato Salad

Serve with sausages, boiled bacon, hot terrine, hot spiced beef or pate. Can be accompanied by red cabbage.
Serves 4-6

Ingredients as for potato salad above plus the following:
2 hard boiled eggs
2 tablespoons chopped gherkins

Make as above, but omit the mayonnaise. Add the eggs cut in 3 inch (5mm) dice, gherkins and capers if used.

Piped Potato Salad

1 generous litre freshly mashed potato
Add French dressing, finely chopped parsley, chives and mayonnaise to the stiff potato to taste. Pipe onto individual leaves of lettuce or use to garnish starter salad or hors d'oevures.

Potato and Thyme Leaf Salad
Serves 6 approx.

Scant quart cooked potatoes peeled and cut into 5mm (1/2 inch) dice
125ml (4fl ozs) fruity extra virgin olive oil
2-4 tablespoons thyme leaves and thyme flowers if available
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Coat potatoes in a good extra virgin oil while still warm. Season to taste. Sprinkle liberally with fresh thyme leaves. Garnish with lots of purple and mauve thyme flowers.

Coooks Book

Allegra McEvedy’s Colour Cookbook – published by Kyle Cathie

Allegra McEvedy believes that ‘Each season has a palette of colours associated with it, and if you eat by colour, by season you will naturally be giving your body what it needs at that time of year. 

The book contains a chapter for each season , with its own palette of colours, and recipes that use ingredients that are at the top of their game. At the beginning of each chapter there’s a run down on what it is exactly that each season’s produce can do for you, and why adding it to your diet will make you, and those you cook for, feel bouncier and bonnier than ever before.

Buy this Book from
Prune Date and Honey Powerbars 
Like a modern flapjack, but crumblier.
You can swap the suggested ingredients for whatever you have in the cupboard – apricots or figs instead of dates and prunes, walnuts for almonds, and use whatever seeds you have knocking about. The key to the flavour is the ratio oats:butter:honey.

Makes about 14 depending on the size you cut them.

160g butter
6 tablespoons clear honey
300g oats
80g flaked almonds
70g sultanas
70g dried apricots, chopped
80g dried prunes, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1 tablespoon linseeds

Preheat the oven to 160C/320F/gas 3

Melt the butter with the honey.

Toss all the dry ingredients together in a big bowl, then pour in the melted butter and honey. Line a 20cm x 30cm tin with buttered greaseproof paper and pack the mixture into it, pressing it down with the back of a spoon.

Cook for 45 minutes or until slightly brown. Take out of the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes before cutting into oblongs. Cool to room temperature before taking out of the tin.

*NB The Powerbars may be sometimes be a bit crumbly because of the varying absorbency of the dry ingredients. Allegra doesn’t mind this, but if you do you could make a note to add a bit more butter next time you are making them.

They will keep for 5 days in an airtight container.

Foolproof Food

Wild Garlic Soup

Wild garlic is plentiful in the countryside just now, take the opportunity to make this delicious Spring soup.
Both the bulbs and leaves of wild garlic are used in this soup and the pretty flowers are divine sprinkled over the top of each soup bowl. 

55g (2ozs) butter
140g (5ozs) diced onions
280g (10ozs) peeled diced potatoes
2 cups of wild garlic chopped, use both bulb and leaf 
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1.2L (2 pints) home made chicken stock
125ml (4 fl ozs) cream or creamy milk 
Garnish: Wild garlic flowers

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes, onion, and wild garlic and toss in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little cream or creamy milk to taste. Serve, sprinkled with a few wild garlic flowers.

Hot Tips

‘007 Licenced to Bake’
The Guild of Foodwriters in UK are welcome entries from Ireland to this year’s GFW Children’s Cookery Competition – Cook It! The theme of this year’s competition is ‘007 - Licenced to Bake’ and one of the dishes must be baked to encourage the traditional skills of pie, cake or biscuit making amongst children. Closing date is 12th April – 6 lucky finalists will cook off in the BBC Good Food magazine kitchens on Thursday 24th May. Fabulous first prize of a trip to Paris.

St Patrick’s Day 2007

Let’s have some delicious bacon and cabbage and parsley sauce for St Patrick’s Day. All over the world Irish emigrants are celebrating. Many, particularly in the US, will be tucking into corned beef and cabbage and turning their thoughts towards Ireland. For the past few weeks, I’ve had innumerable phone calls from foreign press wanting to know how we celebrate St Patrick’s Day and what special foods we eat in Ireland. 
In fact, many Americans still think we live on corned beef and cabbage and are amazed to discover that the majority of Irish people don’t eat corned beef and cabbage from one end of the year to the other. Last year and again this year, I will be in Philadelphia for St Patrick’s Day.

Why Philly? Well apart from the fact that it’s a lovely town with great food and a large Irish contingent, its home to QVC, the mammoth shopping channel. The studios are in Westchester, and I join a large group of Irish people who go over to sell their products every year, Waterford Glass, Galway Crystal, Belleek, Irish tweeds, linen, jewellery, perfumes, pottery. …. Stephen Pearce from Stephen Pearce Pottery came last year also. For the past few years I’ve been selling my book on Irish Country Cooking which the Irish Americans love to have to remind them of the food of their childhood. We cook up a variety of traditional dishes. Irish Stew of course, and Beef with Stout, Champ and Colcannon, lots of soda bread, spotted dog and treacle bread, Kerry Pies, Roscommon Rhubarb Tart, Scones with homemade jam and cream, porter cake, carrageen moss pudding …..

I have a short slot of maybe five or six minutes on air, but I’m joined by one of the QVC hosts – brilliantly skilled sales people who could unquestionably sell billions of gallons of oil to the Arabs. Even if one is on a maiden voyage or camera shy, they manage to generate enthusiasm and excitement for the product. People telephone in from all over the country with nostalgic memories of forgotten flavours, often looking for mislaid recipes from the days of their happy childhood in Ireland.

It’s a thrilling experience racing against the clock. They suddenly tell you – that’s it, you’re sold out and they’re on to the next product. The books are then beautifully wrapped and posted all over America to people who want to recapture the forgotten flavours they yearn for.

This year I will again be selling my Irish Country Cooking book which is the US edition of Irish Traditional Cooking.

Back here in Ireland its easier to find a Thai Chicken Curry, fajitas or fried Halloumi than it is to find a bowl of Colcannon or Irish Stew. In fact, the dreaded breakfast roll, or ‘belly roll’, as its now being dubbed, is fast becoming our national dish.

Traditional foods are part of our national food culture, lets serve them proudly at least on St Patrick’s Day.

Buy this Book from

Over 300 Recipes from Ireland's Heritage 
I had a magical Irish country childhood. I grew up in a tiny village...... 
Read some more..............

Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Cathie.

Beef with Stout

Use your favourite stout for this recipe. In Cork we use Beamish or Murphy, but even Cork people have divided allegiances!
Serves 6-8

2 lbs (900g) lean stewing beef, eg. Chuck
seasoned flour
3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
2 thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry English Mustard
1 tablespoon concentrated tomato puree
1 strip of dried orange peel
a bouquet garni made up of 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh thyme, 4 parsley stalks.
4 fl oz (125ml) Beamish, Murphy or Guinness
¾ pint (425ml) beef stock
8 ozs (225g) mushrooms
½ oz (15g) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the meat into 1½ inch (4cm) cubes and toss in seasoned flour. Heat some oil in a hot pan and fry the meat in batches until it is brown on all sides. Transfer the meat into a casserole and add a little more oil to the pan. Fry the thinly-sliced onions until nicely browned; deglaze with the stout. Transfer to the casserole, add the stock, sugar, mustard, tomato puree, orange rind and bouquet garni. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer in a very low heat, 150C/300f/ regulo 2, for 2-2½ hours or until the meat is tender.

Meanwhile wash and slice the mushrooms. Saute in a very little melted butter in a hot pan. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside. When the stew is cooked, add the mushrooms and simmer for 2-3 minutes, taste and correct the seasoning. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Note: This stew reheats well. You may need to add more sugar to the recipe if you find it a little bitter.

Leek Champ

I came across this lesser known recipe for Champ in Ulster, but it is now also firmly entrenched in Co. Cork.
Serves 4

1 lb (450g) potatoes
¾lb (350g) leeks
1-2 ozs (30-55g) butter
8-10 fl.ozs (250-300ml) milk
salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until cooked through. Meanwhile wash and slice the leeks into thin rounds, melt 1 oz (30g) butter in a heavy pot, toss in the leeks, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover with a butter wrapper and the lid of the saucepan. Cook on a gentle heat until soft and tender. As soon as the potatoes are cooked, drain immediately. Bring the milk to boiling point, peel the potatoes and mash immediately. Beat in the buttered leeks and their juices and enough boiling milk to make a soft texture. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Kerry Pies

Mutton pies, made in Kerry, were served at the famous Puck Fair in Killorglin in August and taken up the hills when men were herding all day. The original hot water crust pastry was made with mutton fat but we have substituted butter for a really delicious crust.
Serves 6

450g (1lb) boneless lamb or mutton (from shoulder or leg - keep bones for stock)
275g (9 1/2oz) chopped onions
275g (9 1/2oz) chopped carrots
1 teaspoon parsley 
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
300ml (8fl oz) mutton or lamb stock
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper

350g (12oz) white flour
175g (6oz) butter
125ml (4fl oz) water
Pinch of salt
1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze

2 x 15cm (6 inch) diameter tins, 4cm (1 1/2inch) high or 1 x 23cm (9 inch) tin

Cut all surplus fat away, then cut the meat into small neat pieces about the size of a small sugar lump. Render down the scraps of fat in a hot, wide saucepan until the fat runs. Discard the pieces. Cut the vegetables into slightly smaller dice and toss them in the fat, leaving them to cook for 3-4 minutes. 

Remove the vegetables and toss the meat in the remaining fat over a high heat until the colour turns. Stir the flour into the meat. Cook gently for 2 minutes and blend in the stock gradually. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Return the vegetables to the pan with the parsley and thyme leaves, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and leave to simmer, covered. If using young lamb, 30 minutes will be sufficient; an older animal may take up to 1 hour.

Meanwhile make the pastry. Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Dice the butter, put it into a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. Pour the liquid all at once into the flour and mix together quickly; beat until smooth. At first the pastry will be too soft to handle but as it cools it will become more workable. Roll out to 2.5-5mm (1/8-1/4inch) thick, to fit the tin or tins. (The pastry may be made into individual pies or one large pie.) 

Fill the pastry-lined tins with the slightly cooled meat mixture. Make lids from the remaining pastry, brush the edges of the base with water and egg wash and put on the pastry lids, pinching them tightly together. Roll out the trimmings to make pastry leaves or twirls to decorate the tops of the pies, make a hole in the centre and egg wash carefully.

Bake the pie or pies at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for 40 minutes approx. Serve hot or cold.

Porter Cake

1 lb (450g) white flour
8 ozs (225g) butter
8 ozs (225g) brown sugar
3 eggs, preferably free range
1/2 teasp. bread soda
2 teasp. mixed spice
1/2 pint (300ml) stout, Guinness, Beamish or Murphys
1/2 lb (225g) sultanas
1/2 lb (225g) raisins
4 ozs (110g) cherries (halved)
4 ozs (110g) mixed peel
rind of 1 orange

9 inch (23cm) round tin

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

Melt the butter, sugar and stout in a saucepan. Add the orange rind and all the fruit except the cherries. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil for 3-4 minutes stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until it is lukewarm.

Sieve the flour, breadsoda and spice into a mixing bowl. Add fruit to the flour and add the cherries. Beat the eggs, add gradually, mixing evenly through the mixture. Cook at 180C/350F/regulo 4, on the middle shelf for 1 hour 10 minutes approx. If you wish you may later pour 4 tablespoons of stout over the cake when its cooked. Keep for 2 or 3 days before cutting.

Country Rhubarb Cake

This delicious juicy Rhubarb Cake, based on an enriched bread dough, was made all over the country. Slow traditional food which originally would have been baked in the bastible or baker beside an open fire. My mother, who taught me this recipe, varied the filling with the seasons – gooseberries, bramley apples, plums, blackberry and apple….
Make with the first of the new season’s rhubarb.
Serves 8

350g (12oz) flour
A pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon breadsoda
50g (2oz) castor sugar
75g (3oz) butter
1 egg, preferably free range and organic 
165ml (5 1/2fl oz) milk, buttermilk or sour milk
700g (1 1/2lb) rhubarb, finely chopped
Egg wash
175-225g (6-8oz)) granulated sugar

Castor sugar for sprinkling
Softly whipped cream
Moist brown sugar

1 x 25.5cm (10 inch) enamel or Pyrex plate

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4

Sieve the flour, salt, breadsoda and castor sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter. Whisk the egg and mix with the buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in most of the liquid and mix to soft dough, add the remainder of the liquid if necessary. Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface, turn out the dough and pat gently into a round. Divide into two pieces, one should be slightly larger than the other, keep the larger one for the lid. Meanwhile dip your fingers in flour. Spread the smaller piece onto the plate. Scatter the finely chopped rhubarb all over the base, egg-wash the edges and sprinkle the rhubarb with the granulated sugar. Roll out the other piece of dough until it is exactly the size to cover the plate, lift it on and press gently to seal the edges. Make a hole in the centre for the steam to escape, egg-wash and sprinkle with a very small amount of sugar.

Bake in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/gas mark 4, for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the rhubarb is soft and the crust is golden. Leave it to sit for 15-20 minutes so that the juice can soak into the crust. Sprinkle with castor sugar. Serve still warm with a bowl of softly whipped cream and some moist brown sugar.

Foolproof Food

Mollie Keane’s Potato & Bacon Cakes

The late Mollie Keane, the indomitable Irish writer - author of Good Behaviour and countless other books on the life of the Irish Ascendancy - included this recipe in her book Mollie Keane's Nursery Cooking.
Serves 4

4 rashers of streaky bacon, rinds removed, chopped
1 lb (450g) mashed potatoes
1 oz (30g) plain white flour
salt and pepper
butter or dripping for frying

Fry the bacon without any additional fat until crisp. Remove and drain on absorbent paper. Stir the bacon into the mashed potatoes with the flour, salt and pepper. Form the mixture into four cakes. Heat the butter or dripping in a frying pan, add the cakes and fry for about 5 minutes on each side until golden and crisp.

Hot Tips

St Patrick’s Day Farmers Market
Will be held from 10am – 5pm on Emmet Place Cork. (the Square by the Opera House)

New Aga Showroom in Cork
Now open at City Quarter, Lapps Quay – beside the Clarion Hotel and Irish Examiner Offices. Showing Aga and Rayburn cookers and the AGA Cookshop range of accessories.

BBC Goood Food Summer Festival 13-17 June, NEC Birmingham

This year the festival will be co-located with BBC Gardeners World Live and BBC Good Homes Live – one ticket can be bought for all three shows – ticket hotline 0970 380 0139 or book online

Ballycotton Light

Doug Jeffords from Nashville did the 3 month Certificate Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School ten years ago, a great music lover he comes back every year to attend the music weeks at Ballymaloe House. On his recent visit he launched his CD Ballycotton Light which includes some of his own compositions along with his own favourites – Ballycotton Light is available from the Ballymaloe Shop at Ballymaloe House.

The Real Magic of India

For me, the real magic of India, comes not just from the stunning temples, palaces and vibrant colour but from the myriad of street foods, cooked on the little stalls and portable kitchens in every city, town and village all over the country. 
India is the world’s largest democracy and the economy is growing at a rate of 9% a year. 

In the 12 months since my last visit, the change is palpable. The number of new cars on the roads is increasing at a rate of 20,000 a day. In large cities like Mumbai and Delhi flyovers are being built at a frantic rate, but the traffic is fast becoming unbearable. Everywhere the roads are being dug up to make way for high tensile cables and there are acres of glitzy malls under construction. 

Tuc tuc’s and rickshaws are being eased out of city centres, they don’t fit in with the new cosmopolitan image that these cities are so anxious to portray. Needless to say, I don’t go to India to visit the latest Mac Donalds or KFC. They are all there and many more besides, desperate to get a piece of the action in this fast-growing economy. I’m looking for the quintessential Indian experience.

Tourist numbers are also at an all time high but sadly many travelers never get a real taste of India, scared by the prospect of a bout of ‘Delhi Belly’ they steer well away from street food and rarely venture into the roadside dhabas where I’ve had some of my most delicious and inexpensive bites. This is simple food by Indian standards and challenging by Western hygiene standards but most is freshly prepared from food brought in the morning market. It is cooked as you wait, some like naan breads and dosa are cooked in a Tandoor oven or in a iron tava others like samosas, bajiis, pakoras catchoris and pooris are deep fried in huge iron woks called Kad. Idli of south India are steamed and served with little bowls of sambar. The Indians love to snack, some poorer families don’t have any kitchens, few rural families have ovens. So all cooking is done over wood fires or with dried cow pats. In villages, towns and cities breakfast, lunch and evening meals come from street stalls, that specialize in just one or two items . 

Hard core foodies who want to enhance their Indian gastronomic experience need to develop a sixth sense survival strategy. First observe the stall quietly, not quite so easy when you are conspicuously white and foreign. As ever, its best to gravitate towards the busier stalls. If locals are already queueing up its likely to be the best choice in the area. Ask for the food to be cooked in front of you, rather than accepting an item that was cooked earlier. Much of Indian food is vegetarian. If it contains meat it will be referred to as non veg, Chicken or mutton (meaning goat) are the most usual meats. In some areas close to the sea, local fish can be very good. 

As far as street foods are concerned. Calcutta or Kalcota as it is now known, was by far the most vibrant and varied. We headed for the office area near Dalhousie Square just before noon when all the government clerks spill out of their offices and take a break from filling in dusty ledgers.

Just behind the office area and all around the corner there are food stalls on both sides of the pavement. The variety is staggering and affordable. As we wander down the street the vendors are gearing up for the imminent onslaught. One is chanting a puja around his stall. Several have little auspicious garlands of limes and chilli hanging from their umbrellas to ward off evil spirits. One romali roti maker feeds his first stuffed ‘handkerchief bread’ to the brazier as he murmurs a prayer, presumably to ask for a busy lunchtime trade. Indians of all ages and creeds are exceedingly devout.

All the ‘mise-en-place’ is done, bread dough made, vegetables chopped, pickles and chutneys at the ready. Big pots of mutton and chicken biryani are steaming hot ready to serve.

Other stalls are piled high with the ingredients for an ‘egg toast’ with chopped onion, green chilli, fresh coriander added to the beaten egg. It is fried on a hot tava in a little sizzling oil on a hot tava, then cut into quarters, sprinkled with pepper and coarse salt. Can you imagine how delicious that is. The skill and speed at which they work is astounding. Several are doing vegetable and non vegetable versions of the famous Kolcata Kati roll. 

Other stalls are piled high with flaky triangular Shingaras (Bengali savoury samosas) and moghlai parathas, stuffed with mince.

Another vendor is selling roast hard boiled eggs with pickles and chatt masala, yet another roti and gravy. Cauliflower is in season so yet another has crispy little cauliflower fritters which have been dipped in a gram (chickpea flour) batter laced with chilli powder and turmeric, so moreish. Many of the foods are served in little leaf baskets on banana leaves or in recycled newspaper bags.

Juice Wallahs have their stalls piled high with watermelons, pineapples, pomegranates and mangos. Tea shops making sweet chai and spicy marsala chai are also doing a roaring trade. 

There was much, much more, chickpea stews, dahls , fresh and cooked, vegetable salads, always spiced up with a hot sauce and served with a segment of lime.

Indians have an incredibly sweet tooth, several other stalls are providing a variety of sweet meats. One chap is piping thin spirals of a batter into hot oil to make Jalebas. When they are crisp they will be dropped into a heavy syrup to provide a tooth-wrenching sweet, but other favourites are the famous Rosagulla made from casein.

Sadly while we were there the Times of India carried a lead story that the Indian government planned to ban street food in Delhi. 

This may well be the beginning of the end for this kind of food which provides a livelihood and inexpensive nutritious food for literally millions of Indians of every class and creed every day.

Here are a few examples of some of the street foods I enjoyed.

Indian Spiced Vegetable Pakoras with Mango Relish

Serves 4-6
1 thin aubergine cut into 3 inch (5mm) slices
1 teasp. salt
2 medium courgettes, cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) slices, if they are very large cut into quarters
12 cauliflower florets
6 large mushrooms, cut in half

6 ozs (170g) cups Chick pea or all-purpose flour
1 tablesp. chopped fresh coriander
1 scant teasp. salt
2 teasp. curry powder
1 tablesp. olive oil
1 tablesp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
6-8 fl ozs (175-250ml) iced water

Vegetable oil for deep frying
Garnish: Lemon wedges and coriander or parsley 

Put the aubergine slices into a colander, sprinkle with the salt, and let drain while preparing the other vegetables.

Blanch the courgettes and cauliflower florets separately in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, and dry well. Rinse the aubergine slices and pat dry. 

Put the flour, coriander, salt and curry powder into a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil, lemon juice and water until the batter is the consistency of thick cream. 

Heat good quality oil to 180C in a deep fry. Lightly whisk the batter and dip the vegetables in batches of 5 or 6, slip them carefully into the hot oil. Fry the pakoras for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning them with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a moderate oven (uncovered) while you cook the remainder. Allow the oil to come back to 180C between batches. When all the vegetable fritters are ready, garnish with lemon wedges and fresh or deep fried coriander or parsley. Serve at once with Mango relish.

Mango Relish

2 fl ozs (50ml) medium sherry
2 fl ozs (50ml) water
2 fl ozs (50ml) white wine vinegar
2 tablesp. sugar
2 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 teasp. salt
Pinch of ground mace
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
1 tablesp. lemon juice

Put the sherry, water, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, star anise, salt and mace into a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the mango, pepper, and lemon juice, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Spoon into a screw top jar and refrigerate until required.


250ml (9fl oz) full fat milk
2-3 cardamom pods
2.5cm (1inch) piece of cinnamon
3 peppercorns
3 teaspoons loose tea leaves
500ml (18fl oz) boiling water

Put all the ingredients except the tea leaves and the sugar into a saucepan, bring slowly to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Bring back to the boil, add the tea leaves, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer for 1-2 mins. Turn off the heat and allow the leaves to settle. Serve in tea cups.

Cauliflower Fritters – from India’s Vegetarian Cooking by Monisha Bharadwaj – published by Kyle Cathie

Phoolkopir bhaja

Serves 4
For the batter:
150g flour
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon ajowan seeds

Sunflower oil for deep-frying

300g cauliflower, cut into medium-sized florettes

Make a thick batter of all the batter ingredients and batter as needed to achieve the consistency of thick custard.

Heat the oil in a deep kadhai or frying pan until it is nearly smoking.
Dip each cauliflower florette in the batter and gently add to the hot oil. Reduce the heat to allow the cauliflower to cook through. Do this in batches, a few at a time, frying until golden, then drain on absorbent paper.
Serve hot with Pineapple Chutney or tomato ketchup.

Potatoes and Green Pea Samosas – from India’s Vegetarian Cooking by Monisha Bharadwaj

Mutter ke Samose

Serves 4 (makes 12 samosas)
Samosas are very popular all over the world and can be served as a snack, a main meal or a picnic treat. In India they are served with tomato ketchup, sweet and sour tamarind chutney or a spicy mint relish. The potatoes in this recipe need to be cut up finely, almost the size of a fingernail. They should retain their shape but melt in the mouth. Although they are traditionally deep-fried, Monisha bakes hers.

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
300g potatoes, peeled, cut into small cubes, boiled and drained
150g frozen green peas, cooked and drained
500g frozen ready-to-use filo pastry

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and fry the cumin seeds until they turn dark, for a few seconds. Reduce the heat.

Add the spice powders and stir in the potatoes at once as the spice powders will scorch easily. Add the peas and salt and cook until well blended, for a couple of minutes.

Line a baking tray with tinfoil and preheat the oven to 220C/gas 6.

Lay a sheet of pastry on a flat surface. Fill with a bit of the potato and pea mixture. Fold the pastry to make a triangle and continue similarly for the rest of the filling. (Folding technique: lift the top centre corner and fold over the filling to be in line with the bottom edge, making a triangle shape. Now lift the right bottom corner over to the top and then the top left down again. Carry on until you have a triangular parcel).

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, turning over once to cook both sides.
Serve hot.

Foolproof Food

Indian ‘French toast’

Serves 4
4 thickish slices of good white bread
3 - 4 free range eggs
1 green chilli chopped 
4 tablespoons of freshly chopped coriander 
1 small onion chopped 
rock or sea salt 
freshly ground pepper

First lightly toast the bread (in Calcutta it was chargrilled over charcoal). Whisk the eggs in a flattish dish; add salt, finely chopped onion, green chilli and coriander. 

Dip one slice of bread into the egg, turn over to make sure it is saturated on both sides. Slap it onto a hot pan with a little sizzling oil. Cook until crispy on both sides. Cut in quarters, sprinkle with rock salt and serve. 

Hot Tips

Launch of Diversity Awards 2007
The launch of the Diversity Awards 2007 will take place on Monday 22nd March at the Stephen's Green Hibernian Club. 
Funded by the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform, under the 'National Action Plan Against Racism' (NPAR), the mission of the Diversity Awards is to recognise and celebrate the initiatives, policies and practices taken by both companies and individuals who embrace diversity within the Irish Hospitality and Tourism Industry. 
The Diversity Awards were first launched in 2006, and were met with great success. Now in their second year the Diversity Awards will be open to applications within a range of categories. 
For more information email Helen at 

Burrenbeo Information Centre and Café Beo reopen after winter break

The Burrenbeo Resource Centre and Cafe Beo - located in Kinvara - is now open, Wed - Sat, 10am to 6pm daily. Featuring: Images of the Burren - a stunning collection of photographic images of the Burrens rich heritage, Multilingual factsheets and other free Burren information, free broadband internet access, as well as an extensive range of Burren reference books to browse through while you relax with a cup of the best (fair trade) coffee in the Burren!

Diploma in Speciality Food Production – at University College Cork
2 April – 16 May 2007. This course is for individuals who are starting a speciality food business and also for those involved in this sector including producers, retailers, culinary specialists, buyers, food designers and journalists. For details contact Mary McCarthy Buckley, Food Industry Training Unit, University College Cork. Tel 021-4903363

Kitchen Garden Cooking for kids – by Stephanie Alexander

In Australia, many of the top culinary icons I met were women, Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer and the incorrigible, and irrepressible Cherry Ripe.
Stephanie Alexander opened Stephanie’s Restaurant in Melbourne in 1976, a landmark establishment later credited with having revolutionized fine dining in Australia.

From 1997, along with several pals, she set up and ran Richmond Hill Café and Larder, a neighbourhood café renowned particularly for its superb cheese.

Stephanie is one of Australia’s most highly regarded authors. She’s written innumerable cookbooks and her signature publication – The Cook’s Companion has established itself in almost 400,000 homes world wide, including pride of place in the library in the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

I am full of admiration for Stephanie in so many ways, not least for her work in spearheading the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College in 2001. 

The programme’s aim was to introduce inner-city kids to the joys of healthy, homemade food. Since then, she and her team have worked with hundreds of primary school children, teaching them to grow edible organic produce in the school grounds, and to turn their harvest into wonderful dishes such as muffins, homemade pastas, vegetable-rich winter soups and decorated tea eggs.

Unlike other cookbooks for kids, Stephanie’s recipes do not assume that a child’s palate is unsophisticated or unable to appreciate complex tastes. Although the recipes are simple, Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids incorporates a wide range of interesting ingredients, with a particular emphasis on those that are healthy and inexpensive. Stephanie also arranges her menus seasonally to encourage an appreciation for fresh (even home-grown!) produce, rather than packaged and pre-prepared convenience foods.

Stephanie’s philosophy is that there is no such thing as special food for children: if food is good, then everyone will enjoy it regardless of age. In Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids, Stephanie gathers together 120 recipes, all specially written for children, with simple instructions, a list of equipment needed for each recipe, a colourful layout and lots of fast, fun facts for curious minds. But while all of these recipes can be negotiated by a couple of eight year olds in aprons with a bit of adult supervision – the dishes are anything but standard kids’ fare: alongside the muffins and slices are homemade pastas, Indian curries, Asian tea eggs and vegetable-rich winter soups.

The book also tells the story behind the recipes – the inspiring tale of the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College. In 2001, Stephanie initiated a garden and cooking programme in a large inner-city Melbourne school. Since then the programme has given hundreds of primary school children the opportunity to plant, grow, harvest, cook and eat the very best kind of food – freshly grown, organic, unprocessed and delicious.

Stephanie’s book will appeal not only to mums and kids but also to the growing number of teachers who are developing kitchen gardens and school food initiatives.

Kitchen Garden Cooking for kids – by Stephanie Alexander
Published by Lantern, an imprint of Penguin Books

Buy this Book from

Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad

This delicious salad can be made up to an hour before your wish to eat it and kept refrigerated, but if made too far in advance the cabbage and daikon will lose their crunchy texture. On another day you could use prawns or poached fish instead of chicken.
Serves 6 or tasting for 12

Poached chicken fillets
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 x 2cm piece fresh ginger
2 skinless chicken breast fillets

3 cloves garlic
1 long red chilli (use disposable gloves if you can)
¼ cup lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
â…“ cup fish sauce
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Cabbage Salad

1 carrot
1 daikon (Chinese radish)
½ cabbage
1 small red onion
20 mint leaves
12 stems coriander 

Trim the outside layer from the spring onions and cut off the tops and ends, then cut the rest into 4 pieces. Peel and slice the ginger. Fill the saucepan with water, add the spring onions and ginger, then bring to a simmering point over a high heat. Carefully slip the chicken breasts into the saucepan and allow the water to return to a simmering point, then use the ladle to skim off and discard any froth that rises to the top. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave the chicken to cool in the liquid for 5 minutes. Do not lift the lid during this time. Use the tongs to transfer the chicken breasts to the plate. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until needed.

Now make the dressing. Peel the garlic. Place the cloves on the chopping board and flatten with the side of a large knife. Finely chop the garlic and place in a large bowl.

Slip on the disposable gloves and slit the chilli in half lengthways. Scrape the seeds into the rubbish bin. Slice the chilli as finely as you can and place in the garlic bowl. Discard the gloves. Wash and dry the chopping board and knife. Juice the lime. Add the lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, oil and sugar to the garlic bowl and stir.

Make the cabbage salad. Soak the coriander in a small bowl of water. Peel the carrot and daikon. Using the food processor or a vegetable slicing gadget, shred the carrot and daikon and add to the dressing bowl. Cut away the thick stalk from the cabbage, then cut the cabbage into 2 or 3 pieces. Using the large knife, shred the cabbage and add to the dressing bowl. Peel the red onion and cut it in half lengthways, then place the flat sides on the chopping board and slice each half into fine rings. Add to the dressing bowl. Place all vegetable scraps in the compost bucket.

Using your fingers, shred the cooked chicken breasts.

Add the chicken to the bowl with the dressing and vegetables.

Lift the coriander from its soaking water. Rinse the mint. Dry the herbs by rolling in the tea towel. Set aside 6-12 leaves to use as a garnish, then roughly chop the rest and add to the bowl.

Use a large spoon to mix all the ingredients together, then spoon into serving bowls and top with the reserved coriander or mint.

Chargrilled Middle Eastern Lamb Burgers with Pita Breads

Makes 10 small burgers
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
½ onion
1 lemon
15 stalks parsley
10 sprigs thyme
500g minced lamb
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 small pita pocket breads
½ cup yoghurt

You will need 2 baking trays and a frying pan. Chopping board and knives. Mortar and pestle.
Preheat the oven to 150C and put one of the baking trays in the oven to keep warm.
Heat the frying pan over a medium heat. Tip in the coriander seeds and stir with a wooden spoon until they start to smell fragrant. Tip the seeds into the mortar. Toast the cumin seeds in the same pan until they, too, smell fragrant. Add these seeds to the mortar and wipe out the frying pan with a piece of kitchen paper.

Using the pestle, grind the toasted seeds to a coarse powder. Tip the powder into a large bowl. Set out the chopping board and knives. Peel and chop the onion finely (or grate it) and tip into the bowl. Juice the lemon and grate the zest, adding both to the bowl.

Rinse the parsley and thyme, dry by rolling in the tea towel, then chop. Add the herbs to the bowl. Now add the lamb and salt, along with a good grind of black pepper. Make sure your hands are very clean, then use your hands to mix everything together very well.

Heat the frying pan over a medium heat and add a tiny dash of the oil. Take a walnut-sized piece of the mixture and fry it in the frying pan for a couple of minutes. Using a tongs, lift this sample out of the frying pan. Allow to cool a little, then taste it to decide if the mixture needs more salt or pepper.

Form the mixture into 10 equal balls. Flatten each ball a bit with the back of a fork and place on the cold baking tray. Using the pastry brush, brush the lamb burgers with the oil. Heat the chargrill pan over a medium-to-high heat. Place the burgers carefully on the hot grill – do not try to move them once they have been placed. Turn after 8-10 minutes and cook the other side for about 5 minutes.

As the burgers are cooked, transfer them to the baking tray that has been in the oven.

While the burgers are grilling, brush the pita pocket breads with oil, then place on the oven rack to warm through. This should take 5-8 minutes. Serve the burgers and warm breads at the table, where your guests should open their pita breads, spoon in some tabbouleh and then top with the lamb burger and a dollop of yoghurt.


Serves 6
½ cup cracked wheat
3 tomatoes
1 long cucumber
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 clove garlic
10 stalks parsley
15 mint leaves
1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the cracked wheat in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for 10 minutes, then tip into the strainer. Press out as much liquid as possible with the back of the tablespoon.

Tip the cracked wheat into a thick tea towel and roll it like a sausage. Two people are now needed to each hold one end of the tea-towel sausage, and to twist in opposite directions to squeeze even more liquid from the grains.

Rinse and dry the bowl used to soak the cracked wheat, then unwrap the ‘sausage’ and carefully shake the cracked wheat into the bowl.

Set out the chopping board and knives. As you chop the following ingredients, place them in the bowl with the cracked wheat. Cut the tomatoes into small dice using the serrated knife. Peel and dice the cucumber. Trim the outside layer from the spring onions, cut off their tops and ends, then finely slice the rest. Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Rinse the parsley and mint and dry by rolling in the second tea towel. Chop the herbs and add to the other ingredients. Juice the lemon. In the small bowl, mix the oil and lemon juice to make a dressing, then add to the medium bowl. Mix everything together and taste for salt and pepper. Spread the parsley evenly throughout. Transfer the tabbouleh to the serving bowl and serve.

Orange and Cardamom Cakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Makes 10
125g butter
¾ cup castor sugar (170g)
2 large oranges 
2 eggs
125g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Cream Cheese Icing
60g pure icing sugar
60g cream cheese
30g butter

You will need a 12 hold muffin tray and 10 cupcake cases (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190C. If using cupcake cases , drop one into each of the holes in the muffin tin. Otherwise, weigh the butter, then melt 1 tablespoon into the small saucepan and use the pastry brush to grease the holes of the muffin tin.

Set out the chopping board and knife. Cut the remainder of the butter into small cubes and place in the bowl of the food processor. Add the sugar and run the motor for 1 minute.

Juice the oranges and place the juice in a medium bowl. Grate the zest from the oranges and add the zest to the bowl. Crack the eggs into the same bowl, then lightly whisk to combine. Sift the flour and ground cardamom into a second medium bowl.

With the food processor running, and working quickly, add about one-third of the egg and juice mixture, then add about one-third of the sifted flour. Immediately add another one-third of the egg mixture and another one-third of the flour, then the remaining egg mixture and flour and process until smooth and creamy.

Spoon the batter evenly into 10 holes of the greased muffin tin, filling each hole about two-thirds full. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked. To test the cakes, remove from the oven and insert a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean, the cakes are done.

While the cakes are cooking, make the icing. Wash and dry the bowl of the food processor and place the sieve over the top. Tip the icing sugar into the sieve and use a spoon to push the icing sugar through. Cut the cream cheese into small cubes, then tip into the food processor, along with the butter, and process until smooth and creamy.

Remove the cakes from the oven. Allow them to cool for 1 minute in the tin, then turn the tin upside-down and bang the bottom of the tray to release the cakes. Place right side up on the wire rack to cool completely. When the cakes are cool, use the spatula to spread a little icing on top of each cake and serve.

Hot Tips

Cooking for Kids with Rachel Allen – 
Half day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School - 2pm on Friday 13th April – Tel 021-4646785 to book.

Chinese New Year 2007 is The Year of the Pig – 
To expand your repertoire of Chinese cooking have a look at some Chinese cookbooks recently on the shelves –
Simple Chinese Cooking by Kylie Kwong – published by Penguin Michael Joseph
Shows how Chinese cooking has never been easier . Using the freshest produce, simplest cooking techniques and step-by-step photographs, the 14 chapters containing over 100 recipes are each devoted to one main ingredient – be it chicken, rice, stocks or seafood.
The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-ta-Hsiung – Originally published in 1999 this classic has recently been reissued by Kyle Cathie – a wonderful overview of Chinese ingredients and useful sources.
China Modern by Ching-He Huang – also by Kyle Cathie
100 cutting-edge, fusion-style recipes for the 21st century. In China Modern, Ching-He Huang explores new influences from the rest of the Far East as well as the West, looking first at familiar recipes and giving them a makeover as well as traditional home cooking from the less well known provinces such as Hunan and Sichuan.

Failte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority
Will be running a series of continuing professional development programmes in all areas of tourism and hospitality in 2007 – courses are run nationwide – for details of courses in each area – Cork 021-4313058  Dublin 01-8847766  Galway 091-561432  Midlands 01-8847766 

Foolproof Food

Stir-fried Pork Fillets with Honey and Ginger

From Simple Chinese Food by Kylie Kwong
Serve as a meal for 4 with steamed rice or as part of a banquet for 4-6
If possible, marinate the pork overnight for better flavour!

600g (1lb 4oz) pork fillets, cut into 5mm (¼ in) slices
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 spring onions (scallions), trimmed and cut into 10cm (4in) lengths
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
2 limes, halved

2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons shao hsing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons finely diced ginger
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons five spice powder
½ teaspoon sesame oil 

Combine pork with marinade ingredients in a large bowl, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a hot wok until surface seems to shimmer slightly. Add half the marinated pork and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Remove from wok with a slotted spoon and set aside. Heat remaining oil in the wok, add remaining pork and stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Return reserved pork to the wok with spring onions, vinegar, soy sauce and water. Stir-fry for a further minute or until pork is just cooked through and lightly browned.

Arrange pork on a platter and serve with lime halves.


Past Letters