Cooks Share Skills


 Food crosses every border. We all have to eat so when we cook and share together, a special bond is formed.

The influx of immigrants from the Eastern European countries during the past five or six years has greatly enhanced our economy and enriched our culture.

At Ballymaloe we have some wonderful Polish, Lithuanian, Czech , Croatian and Russian staff working with us.   Each has their own traditions and indigenous foods and most importantly cooking skills.

I once asked a lovely lady from Lithuania who applied for a job, if she could cook, she was completely baffled by the question – “Of course I can cook, everyone cooks, one has to be able to cook to survive.” How true.

Recently the East Cork Slow Food Convivium created an event around Eastern European Food so we could learn more about it.

We had three cooks, Julija Makejeva who has worked with us here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for the past three years.

Kate Zalesski from Poland, whom I met a few weeks ago at the open day on Jenny and Peter Young’s farm, lives near Naas, Co Kildare and cooks a wide variety of vegetarian food which she sells at the Naas Farmers Market, Kate operates under the name of Green Harvest.

Katrina Kollegaeva from Estonia was with us for few weeks working in the gardens.

Kate cooked the famous Beetroot Soup – Borscht –, Potato and Cheese Pierogi, Blueberry Buns and Kulebiak, a Cabbage and Mushroom Pastry garland.
Then Julija rolled up her sleeves and made Tsepeliny (Lithuanian national dish).  First she grated the potato, then squeezed out the liquid and saved the starch as though she was making boxty.  This was mixed with the potato and wrapped around a tasty mince mixture.   These were poached for 40-45 minutes and then served with a sauce of sour cream and bacon.
Julija’s husband and her little boy Denis came to watch and he told me how proud he was of his Mama.

Kate’s husband Ralf also drove her down from Naas and their daughter Anya came too, she was dressed up in her best spotted apron and the cutest shoes, ready to help her Mum to fill the pierogi and spoon fresh blueberry purée into the buns.  It was a delight to see the traditional cooking skills being passed from mother to daughter.

Russian Salad, which is what Julija calls Vinigret, was next and I’m delighted to report that it was quite unlike any Russian salad I’ve ever eaten before.  Julija’s version is tossed in a light dressing rather than lots of globby mayonnaise – deliciously light and moreish.

Oladushki, or fluffy pancakes have already been absorbed into our repertoire.  The batter is made in minutes, spoonfuls are cooked in a little sizzling butter on a frying pan until the bubbles burst on one side, then they are flipped over until golden on the other side.   They are served with a choice of three toppings – sour cream mixed with raspberry jam, or sour cream mixed with soft brown sugar or honey.  They are Denis’s favourite breakfast, they were easy and so delicious – so do try them.

It was a wonderful convivial event where the audience participated in filling the pierogi and blueberry muffins and everyone tucked in at the end.

Foolproof food
Beetroot Soup ( BORSCHT )
Serves 6
 6 medium beetroots, peeled and cut into small cubes
3 carrots, chopped2 sticks celery, chopped2 large cabbage leaves, cut roughly and chopped 1 onion, chopped2 or 3 bay leaves6 cups (2 pints/1.2L) vegetable or chicken broth

5 medium -sized potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes 

freshly squeezed lemon juice

freshly ground black pepper


1 cup (8fl.oz/225ml) sour creamfresh dill for garnishCook the chopped onion in a little oil until lightly browned.Place the beetroot, carrot, celery, cabbage, onion and bay leaves into a pan, cover with broth. Add salt and cook until vegetables are tender -  about an hour.Meanwhile boil the potatoes in salted water, until tender. Strain off the liquid.  Set aside.When the beets are soft add lemon juice,salt ,pepper, sugar.Ladle the soup over the potatoes.Dollop with a generous spoon of sour cream, garnish with the snipped dill.Kulebiak – Cabbage and Mushroom Pastry
Serves 5
 Delicious eaten with Borscht.  Dough:
1 kg (2¼lb) plain flour
375 g (13oz) butter100g (3½ oz) fresh yeast3 Tbs sugarpinch of salt250-300 ml (9-10fl.oz) sour cream.

Stuffing:2 lb (900g) white cabbagefew dried wild mushrooms1 onion, chopped4 tbsp sunflower oilsalt and freshly ground pepper

Rinse and cook the mushrooms, and cut into small cubes.  Shred cabbage, add cubed mushrooms and chopped onion, oil and a little mushroom stock and cook until tender on a low heat flame, for about 20 minutes. Steam off liquid at end. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let it cool.First make the dough. Mix the yeast with sugar. Cut butter into flour, add sour cream, yeast mixture and salt and knead into dough.  It should be firm enough to be rolled out. Cover and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.Sprinkle some flour on a board. Roll the dough out into a rectangular piece, about 5mm (¼ in) thick. Spread the cooled cabbage mixture along the edge of dough and roll into a swiss roll. Place the dough on a greased baking tray in a circle, brush with milk, cut half way into the dough every few inches.  Cover, allow to rise, and when it has doubled in size, bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F/gas 4 for 35-45 minutes.These are great hot or cold.Oladushki (Russian Fluffy Pancakes) with Sour Cream and Raspberry Jam
Serves 4
160g (5 1/2 ozs/scant 1 1/2 cups) white flour
225 ml (8fl ozs/1 cup) buttermilk
2 free-range organic eggs
1/2 teaspoon breadsoda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vegetable oil, for pan frying
 First, measure the buttermilk into a small bowl and sprinkle the baking soda on top and leave for 3 to 4 minutes to allow the mixture bubble.   Whisk the egg, salt, and sugar into the buttermilk mixture.   Next, slowly add the flour to the batter by whisking until mixture appears to have an even consistency, set aside. 
Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat. Add a little vegetable oil. Fill the pan with 5-6 tablespoonfuls of batter spaced evenly apart. Fry until golden brown, flip once bubbles have appeared on the surface and popped. Repeat frying process until all of the batter is used. Serve with dips (see below).
Serving SuggestionsMake several dips by mixing sour cream with raspberry jam 50/50; sour cream with brown sugar, and honey. Tsepeliny (Lithuanian national dish)
  Serves 3-5
 1.5-2 litre (2½ -3½ pints) of salted boiling water             3 large potatoes
             1 onion, grated              Salt and freshly ground pepper             200 g (7oz) minced pork            1 onion, finely chopped

1 egg

125 g (4½ oz) smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons

125 g (4½ oz) sour cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Snipped parsley

Muslin clothBring the water to the boil in a large saucepan.Peel the potatoes. Finely grate them together with 1 onion. Put the potatoes and the onion into the muslin cloth, and squeeze the excess liquid out into a bowl. Then, carefully pour the liquid into a smaller bowl, so that the starch left at the bottom of the first bowl stays at the bottom of the bowl. Take half of the starch left behind and mix it into the boiling water so that there are no lumps.Make the filling by mixing the mincemeat with 1 beaten egg, 1 chopped onion, and salt and pepper. Set aside.Next, add the remaining half of the starch to the bowl of potato/onion mixture. Mix it well, divide it into 3-5 equal portions. Take one portion and put it into your palm, flatten so it is approx. 1 centimeter high; put a tablespoon of the mincemeat mixture into the centre and seal the potato mixture around it.  Slip the tsepeliny into simmering water and cook uncovered for 40-45 minutes.Just before the tsepeliny are ready, fry the bacon lardons in a frying pan until they release the fat and are crispy.  Add the sour cream and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Serve tsepeliny per person, topped with the sour cream/bacon sauce.

Scatter with freshly snipped parsley

Blueberry Buns
 500g/1lb 2oz strong flour2 tsp dried yeast
2 tbsp melted butter12 fl.oz (350ml/1 1/2 cups) warm milk2 tbsp sour cream4 tbsp sugarVanilla extract

200g (7oz) blueberries4oz (110g/½ cup) sugar1 glass 3½ – 4 inches in diameter for cutting dough.Prime the yeast in warm water. Leave for 5 minutes, until dissolved. Mix with flour. Add sugar, sour cream, milk and vanilla. Knead until smooth, add melted butter and knead until absorbed and the dough is shiny and elastic, about 10 minutes. Put the dough in a bowl, cover with tea towel and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.Meanwhile put the blueberries and sugar into a saucepan and cook them for about 20 minutes to make jam.When the dough is ready divide it into two parts, roll them out on floured surface. Cut out the circles with a glass. Place a teaspoon of jam in the center and cover with another dough circle. Seal the edges .Let the buns to rise for 20 min. Brush with milk and bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F/gas4, for 20-25 minutes.Dust with icing sugar. These are lovely while still warm with milky coffee.Hot Tips
Asian Kitchens – another addition to Cork’s culinary scene –
Unit 6&7, Camden Wharf, Carroll’s Quay, Cork, tel 087 902 3068
Wonderful Asian cook Wasinee Beech and her husband Len have just opened their new Asian food shop, so for authentic ingredients pay them a visit. 
  The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has announced a national food labelling public consultation calling on Irish consumers and interested parties to express their views and opinions on food labelling.  This process is in light of an EU proposal to amend labelling regulations, which will ultimately ensure greater food safety protection by allowing consumers to make informed decisions on food purchases.  The public is urged to visit to communicate its views on all food labelling issues that are of interest to them.  The consultation phase will run for over two months and the closing date for responses is 19th September 2008.  All comments will be considered in the FSAI submission to the Department of Health and Children and will form the structure of Ireland’s national policy on food labelling
 Slow Food East Cork
Learn how to prepare, cook and extract meat from Ballycotton Crabs with Darina Allen on Tuesday 15th July 2008 at 7.30pm at Ballymaloe Cookery School –
Dressed Crab, Crab Mayonnaise, Spicy Crab Cakes, Potted Crab ….
€30 for Slow Food Members, €40 for non-Members – booking essential Tel 021-4646785
slowfood@cookingisfun.ieIghtermurragh Allotments, Ladysbridge, Co Cork
Allotment Gardening Information Day – Saturday 19th July 2-5pm
Guest speaker Michael Brenock – view progress and discuss future plans – allotment holders will talk about their experience and new prospective holders very welcome.
Tel 021-4667330   086-3003810  



About the author

Darina Allen


Past Letters