ArchiveOctober 2007


A tempting invitation to a wedding in Cornwall gave us the excuse we needed to pop over to Newquay on the South West Airways connection from Cork – what a gem, this quick 45 minute hop gets you to Cornwall in almost less time than it takes to get to West Cork (notwithstanding the carbon footprint of course.)

Just five minutes from the airport is Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall which has just celebrated its first birthday.  The cool, funky restaurant with floor to ceiling windows, overlooks Watergate Bay, offers panoramic views over miles of sandy strand, surely one of the UK’s most beautiful beaches and a surfers paradise.

This is not merely another restaurant, Jamie Oliver is a chef with a mission and its not just PR guff, he really does want to use his many talents to make a difference. When he opened Fifteen Cornwall in a blaze of publicity in May 2006, it had an ambitious agenda, not only to serve terrific food made with the finest local ingredients, but also to transform the lives of its apprentices as well as supporting the food producers and community surrounding the restaurant.

Many of the disadvantaged young people had got themselves on to the wrong side of the law. In just twelve months they have been transformed from unemployed young people lacking in confidence and direction into highly skilled talented chefs.  The first batch graduated at an emotional ceremony in June and have now gone on to work in a variety of restaurants, some as far afield as New York.  Three of the original bunch remained at Fifteen Cornwall to mentor and train the second batch.  The atmosphere in the restaurant was young and energetic – the service skilled and knowledgeable and the food was fresh-tasting and delicious.

We started with one of Fifteen’s ‘amazing antipasta’ sharing plates, an outstanding selection of beautifully dressed roast seasonal vegetable, artichokes, fennel, baby leeks. Mammoth green olives, paper thin slices of Toscano and Milanese salami, Mozzarella with really good homemade breads.  Then a couple of pasta dishes – pappardelle of wild Cornish rabbit, olives and marjoram, Taglieri of local squid from Looe, tomato, chilli and grated bottega di Muggine and the lightest potato gnocchi with lots of mixed wild mushrooms, rocket and mascarpone – all were exceptionally good.  As if that wasn’t enough, we tucked into Grampound duck breast, creamy borlotti beans, hipse cabbage and red onion jam, roast monkfish, piperonata and pickled samphire and even fought over Cornish fisherman’s stew (sea bass, razor clams, squid, halibut and cockles with crostini and aioli – fresh, flavourful and gorgeous.

We couldn’t manage much on the pudding front but shared a white chocolate tiramisu with balsamic strawberries.

(Cornish mackerel, golden beetroot, loads of herbs and horseradish, wild quail, saltimbocca, smashed celeriac and twelve year old balsamic).

Well worth making the trip for that alone and it has to be said that I’m not that easy to impress.   If you do decide to make the hop there’s lots more in a small area to entice.  St Ives is close by, art and architecture lovers mustn’t miss the Tate Modern, but there are lots of craft shops, galleries and restaurants.  I particularly love Portminster Café although I didn’t manage to make it this time.

We scooted down along the coast to the Gurnards Head outside Treen.  The drive is one of the most beautiful in Britain and as soon as you come to the yellow-washed guest house on the brow of the hill, you know it will be something special.  This pub with rooms, voted Cornwall’s best newcomer in 2007 is owned by Charles and Edmund Inkin who have brought their award-winning formula from the Griffin in Felin Fach in Wales to Cornwall – a cosy convivial pub with just seven simply furnished bedrooms and great food.  Its very close to some of the most spectacular coastline in the British Isles and there really is something about the light in Cornwall, every second person seems to be a painter or a wannabe painter.

Charles changes his menu every day depending on what’s available locally.  We loved the sardine escabeche on rocket leaves, the pork rillettes with salsa verde and the cucumber and pomegranate, feta, sunflower seed and flat parsley salad with tahina dressing.  The pork chop with kale and roast butternut squash and tarragon butter, and the sirloin of beef with celeriac puree, turnips and chard.   There was also a tempting local cheese selection but we could only manage a chocolate tart with stem ginger and clotted cream.   One of those rare chocolate puddings that one licks guiltily off the spoon, allowing it to melt slowly and deliciously as you savour every calorie laden moment.

I managed to persuade Matt to part with the recipe and the recipe for sardine escabeche which would probably work well with mackerel also if fresh sardines are not available.

Breakfast was also a simple feast, fresh orange juice squeezed minutes earlier, local yoghurts and some cereals, good homemade bread to pop into the toaster, homemade jams, lemon curd and honey and the fattest kippers I’ve ever eaten and darn good fry – not surprising the Gurnard’s Head was announced as the winner of the 2008 Good Pub Guide “County Dining Pub of the Year” for Cornwall last week. It had already gathered the 2007 Best Newcomer by Which Good Food Guide,  2008 Good Hotel Guide – one of the really good newcomers in the Budget Hotel category and a 2 Star Rosette rating by the AA.

About 50 minutes drive from the Airport at Newquay, put it on your list of secret getaways. 

Gurnard’s Head Hotel, Treen, Zennor, Cornwall, Tel 01736 796928, Fax 01736 795313,

Meanwhile here are a few delicious recipes to try.


Chocolate Torte
 (to make 1 x 9inch tin)
375g (13oz) dark 70% coco solid Chocolate
225g (8oz) unsalted butter
5 whole eggs
210g (7½ oz) caster sugar
 Preheat the oven to 110 degreesC (225F/Gas ¼)
 Melt the chocolate and the butter in a bain marie ensuring not to let the water beneath it come to a boil. The gentler this mixture melts, the better.
Meanwhile roughly divide the sugar into 2 piles of 1/3 and 2/3. Using 1/3 of the sugar, in an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until pale and voluminous.
 Put the remaining 2/3 of sugar into a saucepan with a sprinkle of water. Enough to dampen the sugar. No more than 2 tablespoons. Bring this slowly to the boil and when you have a clear viscous looking liquid, remove the pan from the hob.

Pour the sugar syrup over the melted chocolate and gently fold the chocolate mixture in amongst the egg mixture.
  Pour the finished mixture into a 9 inch cake tin that will fit snugly into a roasting tray and top the roasting tray up with boiling water, ensuring not to let the water rise and topple into the tin.
 Bake uncovered in the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. The torte should have a gentle wobble when removed from the oven.
Feta, pomegranate and pumpkin seed salad. (serves 4)
More of a method than a recipe perhaps!
 1 head of very leafy celery
250g Good quality Greek / Cypriot feta
2 deep crimson coloured pomegranates
Large handful of toasted pumpkin seeds
Flat leaf parsley
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Toasted and ground cumin seeds
Boiling water
Salt and pepper.
To make the dressing, first toast and grind the cumin seeds (equalling about 1/3 of a teaspoon).  In a bowl, put 1 heaped tablespoon of Tahini. Using the boiling water, thin the Tahini with enough water to make it the consistency of Crème Fraîche.  Now mix in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Some lemon juice to taste. A teaspoon of honey to balance the bitterness of the Tahini, the ground cumin and 1/3 teaspoon of sumac.  Finally season the dressing with salt and pepper.
 In a dry pan put a large handful of pumpkin seeds with a good pinch of salt and roast in the oven until crunchy and golden.

Using the leafiest celery you can find, slice in ¼ cm thickness.
 Slice the pomegranates in half, and using a wooden spoon beat the skin side halves thereby releasing the seeds onto a plate and making sure to pick out any of the white pith that may come away with the seeds.
In a large serving bowl, put the sliced celery, the pomegranate seeds, crumble the feta into sizable chunks, and pick enough whole parsley leaves to have a favourable mix of white, green and pink. Gently toss the mix with the dressing and scatter the toasted seeds on top of the finished salad.
 Sardine Escabeche

4 sardines – scaled, gutted and washed
1 carrot – peeled and thinly sliced
2 shallots – peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic – peeled and thinly sliced
Peel of ¼ orange – cut into thin strips
1 bay leaf – cut into thin strips
10 coriander seeds
12 saffron strands
1 sprig thyme
120 ml olive oil
Juice ½ orange
100 ml red wine vinegar (or Verjuice)
75 ml fish stock (or water)
Salt and pepper
           lightly flour and season the sardines. Fry in 1/2 the olive oil till almost cooked – lay in ceramic dish
          add the rest of the oil to the pan, and when hot add the carrot, shallot and garlic. Gently fry until just soft
           add aromatics (orange, bay, coriander, saffron, thyme) stir to mix
          pour over the liquids, season – bring to the boil and pour the hot mixture over the fish
           leave to marinate 24 hours.
Toffee Apple Tart – from Jamie Oliver “Jamie’s Dinners the Essential Cookbook”This is a fantastic dessert that Jamie loves to make for his friends as they can’t get enough of it. The combination of toffee and apples is a fairground classic but feel free to try it with pears, bananas and even strawberries.

Serves 6 – 8
For the Shortcrust Pastry
 optional: 1 vanilla pod125g /4½oz butter

100g/3¾oz icing sugar

a small pinch of salt

255g/9oz flour

Zest of ½ a lemon

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons cold milk or water

For the Filling
 2 x 397g tins of condensed milk or 2 jars or Merchant Gourmet Dulce de Leche toffee

4 medium sized cooking apples

2 heaped tablespoons icing sugar

Put your un-opened tins of condensed milk in a high sided pan, covered with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer constantly for about 3 hours with a lid on top. It’s very important to remember to keep checking the pan, as you don’t want it to boil dry – otherwise the tins will explode. It will give you the most amazing toffee. Put the tins to one side and allow to cool.

First of all you need to make your pastry. Score down the length of the vanilla pod, if using, and remove the seeds by scraping a knife down the inside of each half (keep the pod for making vanilla sugar) Cream together the butter, icing sugar and salt and then run in the flour, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and egg yolks – you can do all this by hand or in a food processor. When the mixture looks like course breadcrumbs, add the cold milk or water. Pat gently and work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough, then flour it lightly and roll it into a large sausage shape – don’t work the pastry too much otherwise it will become too elastic and chewy, not flaky and short as you want it to be. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for at least an hour. Remove it from the fridge, slice it up and line a 28cm/11 inch tart mould with the slivers. Push them together, and then tidy up the sides by trimming off any excess. Place the tart mould into the freezer for an hour. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350°F?gas 4, then take the pastry case out of the freezer and bake for around 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and place to one side.

Peel and quarter the apples and remove the cores, the slice finely and toss in the icing sugar. Remove the pastry base from the freezer and smear the caramel from both tins of condensed milk over it. Place the apples on top and pour any remaining juices over. Cook at the bottom of the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, to give you a crispy base and bubbling toffee over the apples. Serve with vanilla ice-cream. Beautiful.

Hot Tips
Savour Kilkenny Food Festival this weekend –
Food trails, special menus, tasting workshops – cooking demonstrations in the Ormonde Hotel today, Farmers Market on Kieran Street tomorrow and Gospel Brunch at Rivercourt Hotel, Polish specialities at Café Sol and much much more – booking with individual outlets.

West Cork Slow Food’s Seasonal Gourmet Food Discovery Evening at Urru
Will take place on Tuesday October 30th at Urru Culinary Store, Bandon.  
One of Ireland’s best known shopkeepers, Peter Ward from Country Choice Delicatessen in Nenagh, will be enthusing about the spectacular array of dried and candied fruits that you will all need for making the most delicious Plum Puddings and Christmas cakes, along with all the many other uses of these fruits.
The evening will include the preparatory stages of the Christmas cake baking and the evening will be complemented by wines from our sponsors, Febvre & Co.

Time 7.30 for 8pm, €10 for Slow Food Members, €12.50 non-members, booking essential – numbers limited.

Spirit of Christmas Fair – a Foodies’ Paradise 7-11 November 2007 Olympia London.
One of the highlights of this year’s fair – the ultimate Christmas shopping experience, is the Spirit of Christmas Food Hall, a virtual seventh heaven for all those who love fine wine, delicious and unusual ingredients and want the very best products sourced from around the world. Visit

Fifteen Corwall, On the Beach, Watergate Bay, Cornwall, TR8 4AA,
Tel 01637 861 000
Rory O’Connell will teach a 1 day Winter/Christmas Cookery Course on 8th December at Snugboro, Ballycotton, Co Cork.
For details and bookings contact Rory on 086-8516917

Neven Maguire

Neven Maguire is one of Ireland’s best loved chefs. I met him recently at the Ploughing Match in Tullamore where he was charming Mna na hEireann with his cooking demonstrations.  He gave me a present of his latest book Neven’s Real Food which I have been enjoying very much.   Neven is the Proprietor and Head Chef of MacNean House and Restaurant, Blacklion, Co Cavan, awarded Georgina Campbell’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’ Award 2007.

Neven has been cooking since in the kitchen of the family restaurant McNeans since he was twelve.  Like myself he’s one of nine children and he credits his passion for cooking to his mother Vera.  He dreamed of being a chef since those early days and was fully supported in this by his parents.

Sadly his dad Joe was tragically killed in a car accident seven years ago and his mother was involved in a serious accident two years later.  Consequently she no longer felt able to run the business, so in 2003 Neven took over as head chef and proprietor of the greatly expanded MacNean House and Restaurant in 2003.   The décor and menu at the restaurant were inspired by his travels with his girlfriend Amelda in London, Paris, Australia , New Zealand and Thailand.  They married in 2006, at first they lived above the restaurant but recently moved into their newly built home around the corner.  At last Neven has a huge kitchen which he adores. 

He is passionate about food as all good chefs should be and continues to travel and add to his knowledge.  He has done ‘stages’ in many eminent restaurants throughout Europe including Roscoff in Belfast, the Grand Hotel Restaurant, Berlin, Lea Linster Restaurant, Luxembourg and Arzac in San Sebastian in Spain.   

Neven employs about 27 people in the very small village of Blacklion in Co Cavan and recently he and his team pooled their tips and went off to Rome to check out the restaurants and food markets, experience the culture, and have fun!

Neven makes regular television appearances, he is familiar to many in Ireland through being resident chef on RTE’s Open House from 1998-2004, and he has also appeared on many other shows and series in the UK, France, South Africa and Australia. His new book, Neven’s Real Food for Families contains over 100 recipes for all occasions, presented by Neven in a straightforward way.    The recipes highlight easily available ingredients, ease of cooking and maximum flavour. They are focused on making a nutritious family meal easier than ever with everyone in the family helping out and sitting down together to eat the finished product, keeping in mind busy time poor parents as well as engaging children and getting them cooking.  

Neven has covered all occasions – Late Late Toy Show Treats, Christmas Lunch, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, anniversary dinners …..

 A must-have for anyone who wants to eat well at home without spending hours in the kitchen. 

 Here are some of Neven’s recipes for you to try from – taken from “Neven’s Real Food for Families” by Neven Magire published by Gill & Macmillan.

Breakfast Bar

This is a winning breakfast for children and adults alike.  As dried fruit and nuts are an excellent source of energy, they should keep everyone happy until lunchtime.  Eat in the car if you are planning an early start or use for lunchboxes or picnics as an excellent healthy option.  Experiment by replacing the sultanas with dried cranberries, cherries or banana chips.  Leave out the peanut butter and almonds if you have any doubt about a nut allergy.

Makes 16 bars

150g (5ozs) porridge oats

50g (2ozs) sultanas

75g (3ozs) ready-to-eat apricots, chopped

50g (2ozs) dried papaya, finely chopped

50g (2ozs) dates, pitted

25g (1oz) flaked almonds

25g (1oz) sesame seeds

2 tablespoons clear honey

3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

1 egg white


Preheat the oven to 190°C/350°F/Gas Mark 5.  Line a 27 ½ cm x 18cm (11 inch x 7 inch) baking tin with non-stick parchment paper.  Place the porridge oats in a bowl and stir in the sultanas, apricots, papaya, dates, flaked almonds and sesame seeds.

Place the honey and peanut butter in a small pan and heat gently, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Drizzle into the oat mixture and mix well to combine.

Put the egg white in a bowl and beat with a balloon whisk until light and frothy.  Fold into the oat and honey mixture until everything is sticking together.  Transfer to the prepared baking tin and spread out evenly, pressing down the mixture with the back of a spoon to make the surface as even as possible.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and feels firm to the touch.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly in the tin, then cut into 16 bars.  Leave to cool completely before removing them from the tin.  Store the bars in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Butternut Squash Soup with Cheese Toasties

I love all soups made with winter squashes, but this one has a wonderful subtle, almost nutty flavour that is hard to beat, especially when it’s served with toasted cheese sandwiches.  For a smoother, more velvety finish, pass the soup through a fine sieve.

Serves 4 – 6


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 kg (2 ¼ lb) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable or chicken stock

4 fresh thyme sprigs

200g (7ozs) crème fraîche

For the cheese toasties
50g (2ozs) butter

8 slices white bread

200g (7ozs) Gruyère cheese, grated

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan.  Cook the onions, garlic and butternut squash over a gentle heat for 10 minutes until the onions have softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally.  Pour in the stock and add the thyme.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the butternut squash is tender.

To make the cheese toasties, butter the bread and arrange the cheese over half of the slices, buttered side down.  Sprinkle over the chives and cover with the remaining slices, buttered side up.

Preheat a griddle or large non-stick frying pan and cook the sandwiches two at a time for 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown and the cheese has melted.  Cut into fingers and keep hot.

Remove the thyme stalks from the soup, then purèe with a hand blender until smooth.  Stir in the crème fraîche and reheat gently.  Season to taste.

Serve in a warm bowl with the cheese toasties stacked on the side.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Raspberry Meringue

This cake is a real favourite of mine, the raspberries, hazelnuts and chocolate being a particularly good combination.  Fill the meringue about 3 hours before serving; it will then cut into portions without splintering.  I’ve decorated it with white chocolate shavings, which can be very easily made using a thick bar of white chocolate and a potato peeler.

Serves 6 – 8

100g (4ozs) skinned toasted hazelnuts

6 egg whites

pinch salt

350g (12ozs) caster sugar

3 teaspoons sifted cocoa powder

For the filling
300ml (½ pint) cream

250g (9ozs) raspberries

For the chocolate sauce
50g (2ozs) plain chocolate, broken into pieces

2 tablespoons cream

white chocolate shavings, to decorate

icing sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick parchment paper.  Draw a 20cm (8 inch) circle on each piece of paper.  Place the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.  Set aside.

Place the egg whites in a large bowl with the salt.  Whisk on maximum speed with an electric whisk until stiff.  Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue whisking, still at top speed, until the mixture is very stiff, stands in peaks and all the sugar has been added.  It should be stiff enough for you to hold the bowl over your head upside down!  Fold in the reserved chopped hazelnuts with the sieved cocoa powder.

Divide the meringue mixture between the two circles, spreading into rounds of an even thickness using a spatula.  Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 110°C/225°F/Gas Mark ¼ and bake for 1 hour, until the tops of the meringue are crisp and the insides are soft, like a marshmallow.  Switch off the oven, then open the oven door slightly and leave the meringue to dry out for another 30 minutes.  Slide the meringues, which are still on the parchment, off the baking sheet onto wire racks and leave to cool completely, then peel off the parchment paper. 

Whip the cream in a bowl until it holds its shape and use to sandwich the meringues together along with the raspberries.  Melt the chocolate and cream in a small pan over a gentle heat, stirring constantly until smooth.  Leave to cool.

To serve, decorate the top of the meringue with the white chocolate shavings, then dust with the icing sugar.  Bring straight to the table, then cut into slices and arrange on plates with a swirl of the chocolate sauce.

Foolproof Food


Chilli Popcorn

This recipe could also be made using a microwave.  Simply place all the ingredients for the chilli butter in a heatproof bowl and cook on full power for 30 – 40 seconds, until melted and just bubbling.  Set aside.  Cook a bag of microwave popcorn according to packet instructions, then immediately pour over the chilli butter, shaking the bag to ensure an even coating.  Tip into a bowl to serve.


Serves 4 – 6

50g (2ozs) butter

1 clove of garlic, crushed

½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes

2 teaspoons hot curry paste or powder

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

75g (3ozs) popcorn kernels

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Melt the butter in a small pan and add the garlic, chilli and curry paste or powder, stirring to combine.  Season with ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper and keep warm over a low heat.

Heat the oil in a large pan until very hot, almost smoking.  Add the popcorn kernels, and as it starts to pop, cover with a lid.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally until the corn stops popping.  Quickly pour over the chilli butter, shaking the pan to ensure it gets evenly distributed.

To serve, tip into bowls and hand around to guests.

Hot Tips

Sunday 21st – Slow Food Festival Market on Patrick Street

Over 40 local food producers will line the pavements of Patrick Street from 11.00am – 5.00pm tomorrow. 

Cork Free Choice Meeting at the Crawford Gallery Café, Emmet Place, Cork,  on Thursday 25th October 10, 2007 at 7.30pm

Chicken for Dinner – Showing of Andrew Legge’s film ‘Fowl’

Breeding and feeding chickens for the table. 

Food and Living in Ethiopia – Gerald McSweeney on is life and work there.
Admission €6 including tea, coffee and tastings – proceeds to help projects in Ethiopia.
Gourmet Nights at Cookes Restaurant in Dublin

3 events priced at €85 per head to include a paired wine/accompaniment per course – a wine expert will choose the wines and introduce each choice.

Wild Game Banquet – Thursday October 25th

Seafood & Shellfish Extravaganza – Thursday November 1st

Spain Gourmetour – Thursday November 8th, featuring 2 chefs from Salamanca and Andalucia with the Cookes Team

Tel 01-6790536 for information and bookings or email 

A visit to Montreal

Its about ten years since I’d last visited Montreal, my experience was clouded by my memories of a segregated city where two communities were divided by culture and the language they spoke. The French-Canadians resolutely refused to speak English and seemed not even to suffer inarticulate visitors gladly. The Anglophones seemed equally entrenched – it is unlikely to have been so polarized but that was certainly my impression on a brief visit.
Last January I received an invitation from Dr. Michael Kenneally of Concordia University in Montreal, to give the second annual St Patrick Society Lecture in Canadian Irish Studies this fall. This lecture was inaugurated in September 2006 by Dr. Garret Fitzgerald and aims to bring speakers to talk on topics of interest to both the university and wider communities. The Centre for Canadian Irish Studies offers study programmes that focus on the history and culture of Ireland and the experiences of the Irish in Canada. My topic was the History of Irish Food and I also covered the current food scene in Ireland, the emergence of Farmers Markets and the artisan food sector. Michael Kenneally himself originally hails from Youghal where his brother Tom is a vet. I was delighted to accept the invitation and was promised a tour of some of the culinary delights of Montreal including the markets, at their best at this time of year.
On my return visit I was thrilled to discover that the city had completely transformed itself. Montreal is possibly the most bilingual city in the world. The majority of citizens seem equally at home in French or English so many of the barriers seem to have melted away, allowing the inhabitants to come together and embrace each other’s culture – the result is an absolutely extraordinary city which is ‘food mad’. It seems that all the best aspects of the French, English, Italian, West Indian , Greek and Jewish traditions have contributed to make an intriguing melting pot – no wonder the markets are so rich and multi-cultural and the restaurants and cafes so deliciously varied. 
There are two fantastic markets in Montreal, Marché Jean Talon and Marché Atwater.
On my first morning I woke early and took a cab to Marché Atwater the smaller of the two main markets. By 7.30am row upon row of vegetable and fruit stalls were already piled high. Locals were filling their bags and I spotted a couple of local chefs doing their rounds, I was particularly intrigued by the delicious homemade pickles, ketchups and chutneys made by Serge Bourcier. Quebec with its long cold winters has a strong living tradition of preserving summer bounty and the season was in full swing. Everywhere people were carrying huge crates of red peppers and tomatoes to make purees and pickles for their Winter store-cupboard. I also wandered into several of the shops around the periphery of the market. William J Walters freshly made sausages and bacon are legendary among locals and visitors alike, La Fromagerie du Deuxième with its impressive cheese selection is definitely worth a visit also.
Having done my rounds I popped into a Première Moisson for a double expresso and an almond croissant. This small chain of câfe bakeries, the brainchild of the Colpron-Fiset family, is well above average chain quality and having found them I breakfasted in one every morning. Every city should have a Premier-Moisson.
Later I went to the St Denis area to the chic Arthur Quentin (No 3960) kitchen shop – another magnet for the cook is Quincaillerie Dante a hardware shop that sells kitchen gadgets at one side and guns at the other, if you are lucky you may catch one of the owners Elena Faita-Venditelli’s Italian cooking classes. The charming shop and tea room called Au Festin de Babette and offbeat La Witcha which sells fairy dust and herbal tea potions are also worth popping into. I then headed off to Laurier Ave E. to check out an artisan bakery, La Fromentier. They make the best bread in Montreal in a large open bakery with wood burning oven, which shares a space with a charcuterie and cheese shop. (Cheese buffs will also want to visit Yannick Fromagerie d’Exception, 1218 Bernard Street W. to taste cow and goat milk cheeses.)
I also loved two cafes nearby, Byblos and Café des Entretiens, but there’s lots more for foodies on this cool street.
Visitors to Montreal shouldn’t miss Schwartz, a humble café opened as a steakhouse by Romanian immigrant Reuben Schwartz in 1928. You can either eat at one of the communal tables or at the counter. You may have to queue a long time for a famous smoked beef brisket sandwich with mustard on old style rye bread, but both the flavour and atmosphere will be worth it. Don’t ask for lean, it will be too dry, medium is okay, but a toppling sandwich of fat brisket is deliciously, insanely juicy and succulent. Another ‘must not miss’ experience is a Montreal bagel, quite a different animal from the standard bagel. Opinions vary as to which are best but the Fairmont and St Viateur 24 hour neighbouring bakeries are both institutions. The hoops of dough are first boiled, then baked in a wood-fired oven which adds a smoky note to the flavour of the dough – don’t miss the Fairmont onion bagel.
As ever I ran out of mealtimes but greatly enjoyed Alexandre Loiseau’s food at Cocagne on St-Denis Street. He served one of Montreal’s landmark puddings Pouding Chomeur (unemployed man’s pudding) with spice ice-cream and was kind enough to share the recipe with me. Toque! on the edge of Vieux Montreal is a tonier spot where charming Normand Laprise and his team weave their magic with local ingredients in season. I also enjoyed the marginally chaotic Au Pied de Cochon, which was packed and bustling by 6pm. Plum tomatoes were piled high along the counter.
No toques here, the team of young chefs cooked in jeans and baseball hats. Owner Martin Picard is by all accounts a charismatic passionate foodie who has built up an enviable network of local Quebec artisan producers who supply the restaurant with superb meat, vegetables and fruit. The food is robust and gutsy with strong flavours and huge portions. Picard does all his own preserving and pickling and customers can take home either the preserves or the equipment to do it themselves. 
Last but not least you mustn’t leave Montreal without ordering Poutine, a mound of greasy chips sprinkled with cheddar curds doused in thick gravy – doesn’t sound very appetizing but you can’t imagine how good it can taste. It is served in cafes all over town but we were recommended to go to a hip little spot called La Banquise in the Plateau Montreal neighbourhood. I sat at the formica topped tables surrounded by groovy students with dreadlocks, tattoos and many piercings tucking in to the classic poutine. I couldn’t believe I was eating this bizarre concotion, forkful after forkful – I couldn’t resist, it was sooooo good and so cheap, and though its still on my hips three weeks later I don’t regret a single bite!

Tomato Tart

- from “Au Pied du Cochon – The Album”
Serves 6

Pie Dough
225g (8oz) cold butter
275g (10oz/1â…” cups) all-purpose (plain) flour
70ml (â…“ cup) cold water
1 pinch fine salt

6 fresh ripe tomatoes
300ml (1¼ cups) béchamel sauce
300g (11oz) Gruyere cheese (grated)
5 sprigs fresh thyme (chopped)
Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper

First make the pastry. Cut the butter into 2cm (1 inch) cubes. Mix the flour, salt and butter together by hand or with a food processor.
Some small pieces of butter, about 3mm (â…›in), should remain in the flour mixture. They will help the pastry cook to perfection.
Add water and form a dough roll without working the pastry too much. Leave to rest in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx. 3mm (â…› in), Cut out 6 rounds of 15cm (6in) in diameter.
Spread 50ml (¼ cup) of cold béchamel sauce onto each pastry round, along with a few dashes of Dijon mustard. Then add 50g (approx. 2oz) of Gruyere cheese.
Cover the tarts with 6 or 7 thin slices of tomato about 3mm (â…› in) thick. Top with some fresh thyme. Sprinkle with salt.
Cook the tarts in the oven at 200C (400F) for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Bechamel Sauce

1L (1¾ pint/4 cups) cold milk
70g (2¾ oz) butter
70g (2¾ oz) flour
1 pinch nutmeg (grated)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Mix in the flour. Cook over a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden.
Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the nutmeg and season to taste. Slowly bring to a boil and cook over low heat for approximately 1 minute. 


from Alexandre Loiseau of Cocagne Restaurant
This recipe was written in American measurements which we have converted
1 egg
2¼ tablesp.(3 American tablesp) maple syrup 
10g/½ oz (1 American tablesp) butter, melted
4oz (110g/1 cup) plain flour
Pinch salt
1 heaped dessertspoon (1 American tablesp.) baking powder
1 pinch nutmeg
4fl.oz (125ml/½ cup) milk
7oz (200g/1 cup) maple sugar (you could also use brown sugar here)
12fl.oz (350ml/1½ cups) heavy or whipping cream

Preheat oven to 375ËšF. 

Lightly grease a porcelain baking dish (a lasagne type dish would be fine) 30x10x7cm or a square 24x24cm dish., approximately 

Beat together the egg and maple syrup, then blend in the butter. 
In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg, then mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture alternatively with the milk until you have a smooth batter. Spread evenly into the prepared the baking dish. Whisk together the maple sugar (or brown sugar) and cream, then pour over the batter. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake is firm and golden, and the syrup is thick and bubbly.

Off-to-Bed Butter Cookies

(from Gourmet Magazine)
Crumbly, delicate and glistening with golden sugar, these easy slice-and-bake cookies will quickly become one of your favourite standbys.

Makes about 4 dozen

6oz (175g/1½ cups) plain flour
¼ teasp. salt 
150g (5oz/¾ cup) unsalted butter, softened
100g (3½oz) granulated sugar 
2 teaspoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar

2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Stir together the flour and sugar in a bowl. Beat together butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing, and continue to mix until batter just comes together in clumps. Gather clumps to form a dough, then press dough with lightly floured hands into a smooth 1¼ in (3cm) thick log on a very lightly floured work surface. 
Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour.
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350F/180C/gas mark 5.
Cut chilled log crosswise into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices and arrange slices about ½ inch (1cm) apart on baking sheets. Brush tops of cookies lightly with cream, then sprinkle generously with Demerara sugar.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 12-15 minutes in total.
Cool on sheets on racks.

Note: Dough log can be chilled, wrapped well in plastic wrap, up to 3 days or frozen, wrapped in plastic and foil, 1 month (thaw in refrigerator just until dough can be sliced).
Cookies will keep for 4days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Hot Tips 

BIM Seafood Circle – from Tide to Table 
This initiative recognizes and rewards the many shops, supermarkets, pubs and restaurants that push the limits to deliver excellent seafood and service to their customers. When buying fish or eating out look for the Seafood Circle symbol – 

Q82 Restaurant, Dungarvan, Co Waterford
Celebrate their local producers with a Slow Food Dinner Menu designed around their spectacular produce on Wednesday October 17th at 6.30pm for 7pm
Enjoy the feast and meet the producers themselves. 
Booking essential – places limited – Tel Q82 on 058-244555 (quote Slow Food when booking) €55 for 6 courses (excluding wine) €48 for Slow Food members and students.

Cork City becomes a GM-free zone
Minister for Food and Horticulture backs move
Top chefs and restaurants welcome recipe to protect food quality and traditions
The City of Cork is now a GMO-free zone, following a recent motion by Cork City Council which declares the area off-limits to the release of genetically modified seeds and crops. The decision follows similar motions adopted by Bantry and Clonakilty last year.
The Minister of State for Food and Horticulture, Trevor Sargent, said the move will help to protect the economic interest of Ireland’s food and farming future as a clean green GM-free food island.

Darina wins Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Award

Darina wins Euro-toque Cavan Crystal AwardLast week brought an unexpected announcement, Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Awards honoured my “outstanding contribution to the Irish Culinary Sector”.
The citation read – “Darina Allen’s award was given in recognition of her exceptional work in providing an outstanding level of culinary education at Ballymaloe Cookery School, for her involvement in the Slowfood movement and her activities as a lobbyist for the artisan food industry, and for her commitment and passion in protecting and promoting traditional Irish and local food. Her contribution has been invaluable in creating the high standard of artisan food production and culinary expertise which exists in Ireland today.”

Was that not a lovely surprise on a Monday morning.

As a friend wryly remarked in her congratulatory note – great to get a pat on the back while you’re still alive, they (not Euro-toques) usually wait till you’re pushing up the daisies.

Euro-toques – The European Community of Cooks, was established in 1986 in Brussels as a guardian of European culinary heritage and as a lobby group addressing the concerns of Europe’s top chefs and cooks about food quality and the future of food.

Every year they honour artisans and food producers who produce real quality. Speaking on behalf of Euro-toques, Founder member Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House commented “We cannot do our job as cooks without top-quality ingredients and recognizing and promoting the people who provide these is central to what Euro-toques is all about. We are delighted to have here today, a group of people who have championed traditional and local products and production methods and have carried on and developed their businesses in the face of great challenges.

One of our grave concerns in recent years has been the shutting down of small abattoirs right across the country, so we are delighted to recognize a butcher who has continued to raise, slaughter and sell his own animals on his own premises – this is the true meaning of traceability. We also see the depletion of native fish stocks as one of the major food threats currently and are therefore awarding a fisherman who has taken a special interest in conservation. All these people contribute in a small, but vital way, to ensuring a viable and diverse food supply into the future.”

This year, a butcher, a baker, a fisherman, a miller and a dairy farmer were amongst those commended by top Irish chefs for their contribution to Irish food.

The annual event is sponsored by the Cavan Crystal Hotel and this year’s awards were presented by Cavan Euro-toques chef, cookbook author and TV personality Neven Maguire.

Awards were presented to five outstanding food producers/suppliers:

Glenilen Dairy, Drimoleague, West Cork
Recognised for diversifying a traditional dairy farm into production of quality dairy-based products including traditional country butter, clotted cream and yoghurt, as well as a range of cheesecakes, mousses and desserts.

Michael McGrath Butcher, Lismore, Co Waterford
A fourth generation butcher recognized for maintaining traditional methods, above all for retaining their on-premises abattoir and slaughtering their own cattle, as well as providing a slaughtering service for local farmers.

Flahavan Mills, Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford
The well-known producer of Flahavan’s Oats, recognized for maintaining high production standards in keeping with traditional methods and environmental concerns.

Terry Butterly, Coastguard Seafoods, Annagassan, Co Louth
A fisherman for 35 years, Terry Butterly now processes seafoods for supply to some of the top restaurants on the east coast. He was recognized for his special interest in conservation and the service he provides in informing chefs about the seasonality and availability of fish.

Ditty’s Home Bakery, Castledawson, Northern Ireland.
A third generation bakery producing traditional Ulster breads, using ingredients from local artisan suppliers. Recognised for promoting regional diversity and developing new artisan products.

These awards are unique in that nominations are made by the Euro-toque members, and winners are then carefully selected by the Euro-toques Food Committee, made up of chefs from all over the country. Therefore, these awards give producers recognition from the top industry chefs and cooks in the country.

Each award winner was presented with a specially commissioned engraved piece by Cavan Crystal Design.

Serves 8-10

425ml (15 fl ozs) Glenilen natural yoghurt
230ml (8 fl ozs) milk
200ml (7 fl ozs) cream
175g (6 ozs) castor sugar (could be reduced to 5oz)
¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly ground – you’ll need about 8-10 green cardamom pods depending on size
3 rounded teaspoons powdered gelatine

1-2 pomegranates depending on size
a little lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons castor sugar
Rose blossom water to taste

Garnish: Sweet geranium or mint leaves
Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Awards
Remove the seeds from 8-10 green cardamom pods, crush in a pestle and mortar.

Put the milk, sugar and cream into a stainless steel saucepan with the ground cardamom, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse while you dissolve the gelatine.

Put 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatine over the water, allow to ‘sponge’ for a few minutes. Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine has melted and is completely clear. Add a little of the cardamom infused milk mixture, stir well and then mix this into the rest. Whisk the yoghurt lightly until smooth and creamy, stir into the cardamom mixture.

Pour into a wide serving dish or a lightly oiled ring mould and allow to set for several hours, preferably overnight.

Meanwhile, cut the pomegranates in half around the Equator! Carefully separate the seeds from the membrane. Put the seeds into a bowl, sprinkle with just a little freshly squeezed lemon juice, add castor sugar and rose blossom water to taste. Chill.

If the cardamom cream has been set in a ring mould, turn out onto a chilled white plate. Fill the centre with chilled rose-scented pomegranate seeds. Garnish with sweet geranium or mint leaves or even prettier, garnish with crystallized rose petals. I’ve got a wonderful Irish rose called ‘Souvenir de St Anne’s” in Lydia’s garden. This rose has a bloom even in the depths of winter so I steal a few petals and crystallize to decorate this and other desserts.

Serves 4-6

2½ – 3 lbs (1.35kg) lamb chops (gigot or rack chops) not less than 1 inch (2.5cm) thick
8 medium or 12 baby carrots
8 medium or 12 baby onions
8 -12 potatoes, or more if you like
salt and freshly ground pepper
1½-1¾ pints stock (lamb stock if possible) or water
1 sprig of thyme
1 tablesp. roux, optional – see recipe

1 tablesp. freshly chopped parsley
1 tablesp. freshly chopped chives

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

Cut the chops in half and trim off some of the excess fat. Set aside. Render down the fat on a gentle heat in a heavy pan (discard the rendered down pieces).

Peel the onions and scrape or thinly peel the carrots (if they are young you could leave some of the green stalk on the onion and carrot). Cut the carrots into large chunks, or if they are small leave them whole. If the onions are large, cut them into quarters through the root, if they are small they are best left whole.

Toss the meat in the hot fat on the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots and onions up in layers in the casserole, carefully season each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt. De-glaze the pan with lamb stock and pour into the casserole. Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme, bring to the boil on top of the stove, cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, 1-1½ hours approx, depending on whether the stew is being made with lamb or hogget.

When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid, de-grease and reheat in another saucepan. Slightly thicken by whisking in a little roux if you like. Check seasoning, then add chopped parsley and chives. Pour over the meat and vegetables. Bring the stew back up to boiling point and serve from the pot or in a large pottery dish.

4 ozs (110g) butter
4 ozs (110g) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

Add 1-2 tablespoons pearl barley with the vegetables.
Increase the stock to 2 pints (1.2L) as the pearl barley soaks up lots of liquid.

These nutritious biscuits keep very well in a tin. Children love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter, because the flavour is immeasurably better.

Makes 24-32

1 lb (450g) Flahavan’s rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)
12 ozs (340g) butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar

Swiss roll tin, 10 inches (25.5cm) x 15 inches (38cm)

Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and pure vanilla essence, stir in the castor sugar and oatmeal and mix well. Spread into a large Swiss roll tin and bake in a preheated moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, until golden and slightly caramelised – about 30 minutes. Cut into 24-32 squares while still warm.

Note: Make half the recipe if a 9 inch (23cm) x 13 inch (33cm) Swiss roll thin is used.

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

Serves 6 as a main course

175g (6 x 6oz) pieces of haddock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
225g (8ozs) Irish mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoon cream

1½ lbs (675 g) beetroot cooked
½ oz (15 g) butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
A sprinkling of sugar (if necessary)
5-6 fl ozs (140-175ml) cream
1-2 tsp finely chopped chives.

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

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

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

Choose a piece of perfect Irish farmhouse cheese made from cow, goat or ewe’s milk – Milleens, Gubbeen, Durrus, Cashel Blue, Baylough, Desmond, Croghan, Ardsallagh, Knockalara, Kerry, Cooleeney, Coolea, Abbey Blue, Killorglin, Chetwynd, Ardrahan, Lavistown, Ring, Boilie … there are over 80 to choose from and serve with Ditty’s Oatcakes.

Hot Tips
The winners
, Annagassan, Co Louth – Tel 042-9372527
, Main St. Lismore, Co Waterford –
Tel 058-54350


are now available in London at
Tom’s Deli, 226 Westbourne Grove, W11 2RH – Smoked Dry Cured Bacon/Rashers, Organic Salmon and if you’re lucky some Organic Gravlax – Call Sophie Taylor at Tom’s Deli – 0207 221 8818 to reserve a little taste of Ummera if you have a longing for a taste of West Cork.

One of the most popular Primary school campaigns, organised by Le Crunch French Apples, is back!

Schools around the country will focus on a healthy approach to eating and lifestyle when they return from the mid-term break as the students paint, draw, photograph or otherwise create posters depicting how they and their classmates get active and become health heroes.


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