ArchiveSeptember 2007

Claudia Roden Teaches at Ballymaloe

One of the great joys of owning a cookery school is that I have an excuse to indulge myself occasionally and invite some of my heroes to teach a guest chef class. Throughout the years there have been many, among them the late Jane Grigson, Marcella Hazan, Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers of the River Café, Diana Kennedy, Madhur Jaffrey, Frances Bissell, Sophie Grigson, Rick Stein, Rick Bayless, Nina Simonds, Peter Gordon, Ursula Ferrigno, Sam Clark, Antony Worrall Thompson, Deh-ta-Hsiung, Skye Gyngell, Alicia Rios, Alastair Little, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Maggie Beer, …. looking back, the long list reads like a who’s who of the culinary world.
Recently, Claudia Roden thrilled us with a glimpse into a world of food that I knew far too little about. Claudia has accepted an invitation to the school twice before but on this occasion on the suggestion of Rabbi Julia Neuberger she cooked not the Middle Eastern food for which she is perhaps best known, but Jewish food. We had a wonderful day where Claudia combined history and recipes with stories and personal anecdotes gleaned from the years of research that went into her Book of Jewish Food, published in 1997.
This marathon achievement told the history of the diaspora through its cuisine. The book’s recipes reflect the many cultures and regions of world, from the Jewish quarter of Cairo where Claudia spent her childhood to the kitchens of Asia, Europe and the Americas. To those of us less familiar with Judaism, she explained the dietary laws and intriguing culture of the Ashkenaz and Sephardi Jews. 
The Ashkenazim are the Jews whose origin lies in Western and Eastern Europe and Russia. Their culture developed in a Christian world. The Sephardi world stretched from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. With the exception of Christian Italy and Spain and parts of India, almost all the lands where the Sephardim lived before the seventeenth century were under Islamic rule. 
Food takes on enormous importance in Jewish households, it defines the identity of the family and is part of every ritual, festival and celebration. Many dishes are imbued with symbolism and tradition and for Orthodox Jews the food must be strictly Kosher.
Claudia hasn’t confined herself to Jewish or Middle Eastern food, Jane Kramer aptly described her in the New Yorker (September 3rd 2007), as “the youngest of a triumvirate of hungry, highly literate and ethnographically indefatigable women who helped transform how the British cooked”.
Beautiful and gentle, at 70 Claudia is still an indefatigable researcher and one of the most revered cookery writers of our time. At present she is finishing her long awaited 11th book on the Food of Spain to be published by Penguin/Michael Joseph.
During her day at the school she cooked a variety of mostly Sephardic dishes from many parts of the world, the flavours were delicious and intriguing. Each dish had a story, I’ve chosen a few recipes to whet your appetites – for almost 800 more you will have to seek out Claudia’s wonderful Book of Jewish Food (published by Alfred A. Knopf –New York 1997), which was awarded the Glenfiddich Cookbook of the Year, The Andre Simon Memorial Fund Food book, and the Jewish Quarterly/Wingate Book prize for non-fiction.

Roast Chicken with Onion Sauce and Couscous Stuffing

Most “Jewish” dishes are Sabbath (Saturday) dishes because the Sabbath was the only time during the week Jews prepared special dishes. They could be local dishes that they glamourised for the Sabbath. Stuffing a dish made it grand and there was always more stuffing on the side. Birds were often pot roasted because most people in Morocco did not have ovens. The onion sauce takes time because a large quantity of onions take about an hour to cook down.
Serves 6

1 large chicken
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Sauce
1kg (2 lb) onions, sliced 
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
Salt and pepper
Pinch of saffron (powder or pistils)
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey

For the Couscous Stuffing
250g (9ozs) packet couscous
400ml (14fl ozs) chicken stock (you can use 1 stock cube)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
100g (4ozs) blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
50g (2ozs) pistachios, coarsely chopped
50g (2ozs) pine nuts, toasted
50g (2ozs) raisins soaked in water for 30 minutes 

In a wide baking dish rub the chicken with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Put it breast-side down so that the fat runs down and prevents the breasts from drying out, and pour into the dish about a small teacup of water. 

Cook in an oven pre-heated to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for 40 minutes per kilo. Turn the chicken breast-side up after about 50 minutes. Test to see that it is ready by cutting into a thigh with a pointed knife. The juices should run clear, not pink. 

For the onion sauce, put the onions in a wide pan with 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil, and cook, covered, over very low heat for 30 – 45 minutes until they are very soft, adding salt and pepper and stirring occasionally. They will stew in their own juice. Remove the lid and continue to stir occasionally until the onions are melting soft and golden. Add cinnamon, saffron, ginger and honey and cook for a few more minutes. In all it should take about 1 hour.
Put the couscous in a bowl. Warm the stock, adding a little salt (take into account the saltiness of the stock) and the cinnamon. Pour 300ml (10fl ozs) of the stock - the same measured volume as the couscous - over the couscous, mix very well and leave for 20 minutes until the couscous has absorbed the stock. Then stir in the oil and break up any lumps with a fork. Rub the grain between your hands, to air it and make it light and fluffy. Stir in the chopped almonds and pistachios (you can chop them in the food processor), the pine nuts and raisins, and mix well. Cover the dish with foil. All you will need is to heat it through for 20 minutes in a 200ºC/400°F/Gas Mark 6 oven before serving. Pour the remaining stock on top.

Cut the chicken into 6 serving pieces, remove the carcass arrange them in a wide serving dish and pour the onion sauce on top and let it mix with the gravy. Heat through at the same time as the couscous stuffing. 

Serve the two separately or the chicken and sauce on top of the couscous stuffing. 

Creamy Cheese Flan with Filo – Boghatcha

Few people know about this dish. The name means “drunkard” in Judeo – Spanish – perhaps because the pastry is soaked in milk. It is a curious and wonderful pie – a version of the Turkish sutlu borek. The filo pastry with a sharp cheese filling, baked in a light creamy custard, becomes soft, like sheets of ever-so-thin pasta.
250g (½ lb) filo – 7 sheets about 46cm x 32cm (18 by 12 ½ inches)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
500g (1lb) feta, mashed
350g (¾ lb) Gruyère cheese, grated
75g (3 ozs) grated Kashkaval or Parmesan 
6 eggs
1 pint (600ml) milk

For the filling, mix the feta, Gruyère, and about ¾ of the Kashkaval or Parmesan with 2 of the eggs.

Open out the sheets of filo, leaving them in a pile. Brush the top one with melted butter and put a line of filling about 1 inch (2 ½ cm) thick along one long side. Roll up, making a long thin roll, folding in the ends about halfway to stop the filling from oozing out. Crease the roll like an accordion by pushing the ends towards the centre with both hands. Place it in the middle of a round baking dish about 12 inches (30cm) in diameter, curving it like a snail. Do the same with the other sheets and place the rolls end to end to form a long coil like a snake. Lightly beat the remaining 4 eggs with the milk and pour over the cheese-filled coil (you do not need to add salt, because the feta cheese is very salty).

Sprinkle with the remaining Kashkaval or Parmesan and bake at 180°C (350°F/Gas Mark 4) for about 1 hour, or until the cream is absorbed and set and the top of the pastry is brown. Serve hot or cold, cut into wedges.

Burghul Pilav
Bulgar Wheat with Almonds, Raisins and Pine Nuts.
In many communities in the Arab and Ottoman worlds, cracked wheat is served as an alternative to rice and as a filling or accompaniment to poultry such as pigeons, chickens, and turkey. The raisins and nuts turn the grain into a festive dish. This way of preparing it is quick and easy. Serve with chicken or lamb.
1 litre (1¾ pints) stock or water
500g (18oz) coarse burghul (cracked wheat) 
About 1¼ teaspoons salt
100g (3½ oz) blanched almonds
5 tablespoons sunflower or light vegetable oil
75g (3oz) pine nuts
50g (2oz) cup raisins, soaked in water for ½ hour

Bring the water or stock to the boil in a pan. Add the cracked wheat, salt and pepper and stir, then cook, covered on a very low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave covered for 10 minutes or until the grain is tender. 

Fry the almonds in 1 tablespoon of oil, stirring and turning them until beginning to colour. Add the pine nuts and stir until golden. Stir the nuts, the drained raisins and the remaining oil into the cracked wheat in the pan and heat through. 

Foolproof Food

Almond and Chocolate Cupcakes – Mustacchioni

These little Almond and Chocolate Cupcakes from Trieste were particularly delicious and have the added bonus of being gluten free.
They are extremely easy to make, with no melting of chocolate or separating of eggs. You just blend everything together in a food processor.

200g (7oz) dark, bittersweet chocolate broken into pieces
200g (7oz)) lightly roasted blanched almonds
3 eggs
(90g (3¼oz) sugar
2 tablespoons rum (optional)

Put everything into the food processor and blend to a soft, creamy paste. Drop into little paper cups by the heaping teaspoonful. Bake in a preheated 3500F (1800C) oven for 25 minutes, or until slightly firm. They are meant to be soft and moist.


For a version from Padua, use only 50g (2oz) of chocolate and add 50g (2oz) of chopped candied citrus peel.

Hot Tips

Pig Out Day Courses with Frank Krawczyk
Frank, one of Ireland’s best known salami and sausage makers, will share the secrets of his art during a one-day action packed demonstration – he will use every single part of a pig to produce a huge range of pork delicacies – brawn, pate, sausages, bacon, salamis, speck, smoked ham and much, much more. Dates – October 19th and December 7th this year. Enquiries to Frank at Derreenatra, Schull, Co Cork, tel 028 28579 email-  

Arun Kapil’s Green Saffron Spicy Granola is the newest and most sought after breakfast munch –  Available at Green Saffron outlet at Stephen Pearce Gallery, Shanagarry and Mahon Point Farmers Market.

Blueberries are definitely the ‘new black’

Blueberries are definitely the ‘new black’ – seems like every magazine and cookery article I picked up for the last few weeks has an article extolling the virtues of this plump little berry – In season from May to October, we’re told they are packed with Vitamins C and E, manganese, dietary fibre, low in calories and virtually fat free. Research has shown that they come out tops in their capacity to destroy free radicals and are credited with helping to strengthen eyesight because of the substance called anthocyanin which they contain, they improve the support structures in the veins and entire vascular system and may help reduce cholesterol and provide protection against ovarian cancer. They also help prevent urinary tract infections. The US Department of Agriculture has claimed that they contain 50% more antioxidants than strawberries, 100% more than oranges and 400% more than broccoli and spinach.
Truly remarkable, even though I greatly enjoy blueberries I have to say that I am getting increasingly cynical about each new wonder food and while I love the juicy cultivated Irish berries, I still hanker for the tiny intensely flavoured wild bilberries which we call herts or fraughans (they are known as blaeberries in Scotland) . They are in season for a short time around the beginning of August and can be picked from the low growing bilberry bushes on hilltops and mountain ranges around the country. Because of their size they take ages to pick enough for a decent plateful, but the flavour is bittersweet and intense. You’ll need to wear thorn proof clothing to protect you from the scratchy bushes.
I wouldn’t dream of cooking fraughans. I’m convinced they taste best when lightly crushed with a sprinkling of sugar and then eaten with some rich pouring cream. Try to find the Glenilen traditional cream – divine – a forgotten flavour, like cream used to taste before the bottom line became more important than the flavour.
Ireland now grows about 20 tons of blueberries annually . A renowned Irish horticulturist Dr. Lamb established a 10-acre blueberry farm in near Portarlington, Co Offaly in 1965 after he recognized the commercial potential of growing American varieties in Irish bog-land. They love acid soil. A colleague John Seager became involved with the pioneering work in 1977 and took over the plantations in 1995, 20 acres of blueberries at Derryvilla now produce 70% of Irish blueberries. John still owns the plantation and is very involved and Nuala O’Donogue runs the operation on a day to day basis in Derryvilla. Nuala would like to let people know that they can come and pick their own blueberries on the farm every day, they hope to have blueberries up to mid-September. They also have some excellent quality early season frozen blueberries for sale. Our nearest source is Sunnyside Farm in Rathcormac, Co Cork where John Howard added sulphur to 2½ acres of his land to get rid of the lime and create the correct PH for blueberries to thrive. This year he produced about 3½ tons and will have frozen blueberries (as well as other berries) available from his shop every Saturday from 2-5 during the off-season.
This year the blueberries seem larger and plumper than ever before probably because of the abundance of rain throughout the summer months. The flavour seems less zingy but nonetheless delicious. I’ve been eating them in every possible way for the past few weeks but being passionate about local and seasonal I was shocked and distressed to find that the blueberries in the local Supervalu store in West Cork were from Poland, others come from Italy, at almost twice the price of the Irish ones in the middle of the season. Where’s our patriotic streak, its high time we made our voices heard and voiced our support for shops and supermarkets who sell local food in recognition of the local customers who support them and condemn those who sell imported produce in the midst of the Irish season. We need more cooperation between producers and retailers – a bond of trust and a fair price.
Even if you are vigilant its so easy to fall into the trap – I am passionate about buying Irish and local whenever possible but I was conned by O’Driscoll’s fresh raspberries in mid-season. With a name like that one would assume that they must come from West Cork or Ireland at least, but on closer examination of the small print I discovered the raspberries came from the US. How about that for carbon footprint and airmiles!
Could readers write or email me ( the names of local shops or supermarkets which highlight local foods and I will be happy to publish them for other readers.

Emer Fitzgerald’s Blueberry Scones

Makes 18-20 scones using a 72 cm (3inch) cutter
900g (2lb) plain white flour
170g (6oz) butter
110g (4oz) blueberries
3 free range eggs
pinch of salt
55g (2oz) castor sugar
3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix
For glaze:
egg wash (see below)
granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250C/475F/gas mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Add the blueberries. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to about 22cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones. Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve split in half with butter.
Egg wash:
Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

Warm duck breast salad with pine kernels and blueberries

Serves 4
a selection of lettuces and salad leaves eg. lollo rosso, frisse, butterhead and rocket
1 large duck 
Walnut dressing
3 tablesp. walnut oil
1 tablesp. wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper

2-3 pine kernels
4 tablesp. blueberries

Wash the salad leaves and dry well. Make the dressing and set aside. Score the skin of the duck breast, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook skin side down on a heavy pan for 10-15 minutes depending on size, turn over and continue to cook until cooked but still slightly pink in the centre.
Toast the pine kernels until golden, keep warm
To serve
Toss the lettuces and salad leaves in just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten, add the pine kernels and toss again. Divide between the four plates, slice the duck breast thinly, arrange 3 or 4 slices on top of the mound of salad. Scatter a tablespoon of blueberries over each plate. Serve immediately.

Blueberry and Apple Pie

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from 'hot hands' don't have to worry about rubbing in the butter.
Serves 8-12

8 ozs (225g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
12 ozs (340g) white flour, preferably unbleached

18oz (500g) Bramley Seedling cooking apples
6oz (175g) blueberries
5 ozs (140g) sugar
egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk
Castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve
Softly whipped cream
Barbados sugar

tin, 7 inches (18cm) x 12 inches (30.5cm) x 1 inch (2.5cm) deep

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

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle. 
To make the tart
Roll out the pastry 1/8 inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Peel, quarter and dice the apples into the tart, add the blueberries and sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and barbados sugar. 

Mango, Blueberry, Pomegranate and Kiwi Salad

Serves 4
Great for breakfast or dessert.

2 mangoes
1 pomegranate
2 kiwis 
1/2 punnet of blueberries
1-2 tablespoons sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime

Peel and chop the mango into cubes, deseed the pomegranate and add to the mango in a bowl. Peel and dice the kiwi and add with the blueberries to the mango and pomegranate in the bowl. Add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar and the juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime. Toss gently and taste.

Banana and Blueberry Smoothie

Play around with whatever ingredients you have to hand
Serves 1-2

225ml (8fl oz) natural yogurt
1 ripe banana
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
110g (4oz) blueberries

Peel the banana, chop coarsely, add the blueberries and blend with other ingredients in a liquidizer until smooth.
Pour into glasses and serve immediately.
Note: if you prefer you can leave out the banana and just use blueberries.

Blueberry and Lemon Passion

- from Mary Berry One Step Ahead
This luxurious dessert, which can be made with raspberries or blackberries instead of blueberries if you prefer, is very quick and easy to make, requiring only a few ingredients.

Serves 4-6

150g (5oz) fresh blueberries
200ml (7fl.oz) tub of half-fat crème fraîche
150ml (¼ pint) thick Greek-style yoghurt
3 good tablespoons luxury lemon curd
Grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½
Icing sugar

You will need 4 wine glasses or shot glasses

Reserving 3 blueberries for the top of each glass, sprinkle the remaining blueberries in the bottom of each glass.
Stir the crème fraîche, yoghurt and lemon curd together, adding the lemon zest and juice. Taste the cream and, if you think it needs to be a little sharper, add more lemon juice.
Spoon the lemon mixture over the blueberries and smooth the tops. Chill for at least an hour or overnight.

• This can be made completely up to 48 hours ahead, then just top with the reserved blueberries and dust with icing sugar before serving. It is not suitable for freezing.

Decorate each glass with 3 blueberries and dust with icing sugar.

Ballymaloe Blueberry Muesli

Serves 8
This is a huge favourite with all our family and friends – its such a good recipe to know about because its made in minutes and so good. We vary the fruit through the seasons – strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blueberries, and grated Cox’s Orange Pippin apples or Egremont Russet in the Autumn.

6 tablespoons rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)
8 tablespoons water
250g (8oz) fresh blueberries
2-4 teaspoons honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the blueberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a couple of teaspoons are usually enough but it depends on how sweet the blueberries are.
Serve with pouring cream and soft brown sugar.


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