ArchiveJuly 2010

The Art of Jam Making

While there are lots of delicious Irish currants and berries around, let’s have a ‘jam-session’. Even if you’ve never made a pot of jam in your life, I promise if you follow these few basic rules you’ll manage to turn out batch after batch of fresh tasting jam better than virtually anything you can buy. The secret as ever is to use beautiful fresh fruit and make it in small quantities – then every batch will be perfect.

For quite a long time there seems to be a kind of belief that if fruit is not quite good enough for serving fresh, it’s fine for jam. The fact is that mouldy fruit makes mouldy jam!

Before rural electrification the soft fruit season from mid June to September was a pretty hectic time for the dedicated housewife who wanted to have her shelves packed with jams and preserves for the Winter, now everything has changed.

If you don’t want to spend your whole summer in the kitchen, the most practical approach is freeze the fruit in perfect condition in small measured quantities so that you can make jam as you need it through the year. Jam made from frozen fruit will taste infinitely fresher and more delicious than a 6 or 7 month old jam made in peak season.

Guideline Rules for Successful Jam-Making – even if you are a complete novice

For really good jam, the fruit must be freshly picked, dry and unblemished

If the fruit is picked slightly under ripe, it will have more pectin and so the jam will set better.

Jam made from fruit that was wet when picked is more likely to go mouldy within in a short time.

The best jam is made in small quantities – eg. no more than 3lbs of raspberries at a time, perhaps 4lbs of strawberries with ¼ pint of redcurrant juice to help the set. Small quantities cook in a few minutes, so both the colour and the flavour of the jam will be perfect.

Ideally one should use a preserving pan for jam-making. Choose your widest stainless steel pan with a heavy base and sides at least 9 inch deep. It goes without saying that the depth of the contents in the preserving pan and the rate at which they boil, determine how long the jam needs to cook.

Sugar is the preservative in jams, so it is important to use the correct proportion – too little and the jam may ferment, too much may cause crystallization.

Citrus fruit peel, blackcurrants, gooseberries etc. must be thoroughly softened before sugar is added to the jam, otherwise they will toughen and no amount of boiling will soften them, as sugar has a hardening effect on skin and peel.

Stir well to ensure that the sugar is completely dissolved before the jam comes to the boil, (otherwise the jam will crystallize on top). For this reason it is better to add heated sugar, which dissolves more quickly and stir with a wooden spoon until the “gritty feeling” disappears.

Fruit should be simmered until the sugar is added, but from then on, it is best to boil as fast as possible until setting point is reached.

If necessary skim near to the end of cooking. If there is only a little scum, dissolve with a tiny lump of butter stirred in after the jam has reached setting point.

How Do I Know if the Jam is Cooked?

Test for setting frequently so that the jam doesn’t overcook – it will set when the temperature reaches 220°C on a sugar thermometer, a handy but expensive bit of kitchen equipment that you can live without. Alternatively put a teaspoonful of jam on a cold plate, leave in a cool place for a few minutes, if the jam wrinkles when pushed with the tip of your finger it has reached setting point. Skim if necessary and pot immediately.

How Do I Store the Jam?

Wash, rinse and dry the jam jars (remove any traces of old labels or any traces of glue if recycling, sometimes pretty tricky but methalated spirit will usually do the job. Jars should then be put into a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 1/2. Lids may also be sterilised in the oven – 5 minutes is fine. Fill the pots to the top to allow for shrinkage on cooling (use a jam funnel, to avoid drips) cover immediately with sterilised screw top lids if available or jam covers.

Covering Jam Jars.

One can buy packets of jam covers in most shops or supermarkets. These are made up of three elements, a silicone disc of paper, a large round of cellophane and a rubber band.

When the jam has reached setting point, pour into sterilised jars. Cover immediately with silicone discs (slippy side down onto the jam). Wet one side of the cellophane paper, then stretch it over the jar, and secure with a rubber band. If the cellophane disc is not moistened it will not become taut when the jam gets cold.

Later the jars can be covered with doyleys or rounds of material or coloured paper. These covers can be secured with rubber bands plain or coloured, narrow florists ribbons tied into bows or ordinary ribbon with perhaps little dried flowers or herbs.

Really delicious jams are always a welcome present and are also very eagerly sought after by local shops and delicatessens.

Remember if you are selling your jams to cost it properly, taking jars, covers, labels, food cost, heat, etc., into consideration. A formula used by many is food cost x 3. This would cover all the other items mentioned. If you are producing jam for sale you must contact the health authorities and comply with their regulations.

Note on Pectin

Pectin is the substance in fruit which sets jam. It is contained in the cell walls of fruit in varying degrees. It is higher when the fruit is under ripe. Acid e.g. lemon juice helps in the extraction of pectin. Some fruits are higher in pectin than others e.g. plums, damsons, gooseberries, blackcurrants and apples, while others contain little or none, e.g. marrow, blackberries. In these cases, it is necessary to add acid in the form of lemon juice or commercial pectin.

Raspberry, Boysenberry, Tayberry or Loganberry Jam

If you’ve never made jam before, this is a good place to start. Raspberry jam is the easiest and quickest of all jams to make, and one of the most delicious. Loganberries, boysenberries or tayberries may also be used in this recipe, too. Because it uses equal amounts of sugar and fruit, you don’t necessarily need as much as the recipe calls for. Sometimes when I’m trying to take the mystery out of jam-making for students, I put some scones into the oven, then make jam, and by the time the scones are out of the oven, the jam is made. It’s that easy!

Makes 3 x 450g (1lb) pots

900g (2lb) fresh or frozen berries

900g (2lb) white sugar; use 125g (4oz) less if the fruit is very sweet

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3.

Wash, dry and sterilise the jars in the oven for 15 minutes. Heat the sugar in a stainless-steel or Pyrex bowl in an oven at 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3 for about 15 minutes. When the sugar is hot, put the berries into a wide, stainless-steel saucepan. Mash them a little and cook for 3-4 minutes over a medium heat until the juice begins to run, then add the hot sugar and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is fully dissolved. Increase the heat, bring to the boil and cook steadily for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently (frozen berries will take 6 minutes). Test for a set by putting about a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate and leaving it for a few minutes in a cool place. Press the jam with your index finger. If it wrinkles even slightly, it is set. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim and pour into sterilised jam jars. Cover immediately.Keep the jam in a cool place or put on a shelf in your kitchen so you can feel great every time you look at it! Anyway, it will be so delicious it won’t last long!

Strawberry and Redcurrant Jam

Makes 7 lbs (3.2kg) approx.

4 lbs (1.8kg) strawberries

4 ¼ lbs (1.9kg) sugar

5 fl oz (150ml) redcurrant juice or if unavailable the juice of 2 lemons

First prepare the fruit juice using about 1 lb (450g) fruit to obtain 5fl oz (150ml) of juice. Put the strawberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan, use a potato masher to crush about three quarters of the berries, leave the rest intact in the juice. Bring to the boil and cook the crushed strawberries in the juice for about 2 or 3 minutes. Heat the sugar and add to the fruit, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat and boil for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until it reaches a set, skim. Pot immediately into hot sterilized jars, cover and store in a cool dry cupboard.




Blueberry and Lemon Verbena Jam

If lemon verbena is not available, include the rind of the lemons instead.

Makes 5 x 375g (13oz) jars

1kg (21/2lb) firm blueberries

juice of 2 lemons

a large handful (about 50) lemon verbena leaves, roughly chopped

700g (11/2lb) white granulated sugar, warmed

Pick over the blueberries and discard any that are bruised. Put the blueberries in a wide, low-sided saucepan or preserving pan. Add the lemon juice, chopped lemon verbena leaves and 300ml (1/2 pint) of water. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Add the warmed sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Boil until a setting point is reached. Fill the jam into sterilised jars, cover and store in a cool, dry place.



Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

There is just about time to make rhubarb and ginger jam before rhubarb comes to the end of its season.

This delicious jam should be made when rhubarb is in full season and is not yet thick and tough. I feel it’s so worth planting a few stools of rhubarb – it’s easy to grow and loves rich, fertile soil and lots of farmyard manure and will emerge every year for ever and ever if you feed it well.

Makes 8 x 450g (1lb) jars

1.8kg (4lb) rhubarb, trimmed

1.8kg (4lb) granulated sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 organic lemons

50g (2oz) fresh ginger, bruised and tied in muslin

50g (2oz) chopped crystallised ginger or stem ginger preserved in syrup (optional)

Wipe the rhubarb and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces. Put it into a large, stainless-steel or Pyrex bowl layered with the sugar. Add the lemon zest and juice and leave to stand overnight.

Next day, put the mixture into a preserving pan, add the bruised ginger. Bring to the boil until it is a thick pulp, about 30–45 minutes, and test for a set. Remove the bag of ginger and then pour the jam into hot, sterilised jars. Cover and store in a cool, airy cupboard.

If you like, 50g (2oz) of chopped, crystallised ginger or preserved stem ginger can be added at the end.


Whitecurrant Jelly

Most jellies are dripped overnight but this is a happy exception. It only takes eight minutes to reach setting point and you can use the pulp as well, so you get twice the return on your currants. The leftover pulp can be used as a filling for a tart or as the basis of a whitecurrant sauce. Just add a little more water and perhaps a dash of kirsch or brandy. Then it can be served either with ice cream or lamb.

This recipe also works brilliantly with redcurrants, a wonderfully versatile product and a must-have in the pastry section of any restaurant kitchen as invaluable as a glaze for red fruit tarts. You’ll also find it indispensable in your larder. Both white and redcurrant jelly make a delicious accompaniment to roast lamb, bacon and ham.

Whitecurrant jelly is particularly delicious with cream cheese as a dessert or a fresh goat cheese.

Whtecurrants will be difficult to find unless you have your own bush order 2 or 3 now to plant between now and Autumn.

Makes 6 x 225g (8oz) jars

900g (2lb) whitecurrants

900g (2lb) granulated sugar

Remove the strings from the currants either by hand or with a fork. Put the currants and sugar into a wide, stainless-steel saucepan. Heat and stir continuously until they come to the boil. Then boil for exactly 8 minutes, stirring only if they appear to be sticking to the bottom. Skim carefully. Turn into a nylon sieve and allow to drip through – do not push the pulp through or the jelly will be cloudy. You can stir in gently once or twice just to free the bottom of the sieve of pulp. Pour the jelly into sterilised pots immediately. Cover and store in a cool, dry place. Red currants are very high in pectin so the jelly will begin to set just as soon as it begins to cool.

Blackcurrant Jam

The stalks can be removed from fresh blackcurrants with fingers or a fork. Frozen blackcurrants may also be used, but the jam will take longer to cook. Blackcurrants freeze well, but don’t bother to remove the strings before hand; when they are frozen, just shake the bag – the strings will detach and are easy to pick out.

Makes 11-12 x 370g 13oz) jars

1.8kg (4lb) fresh or frozen blackcurrants

2.25kg (5lb) white granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Remove the stalks from the blackcurrants and put the fruit into a greased preserving pan. Add 1.2 litres (2 pints) of water bring to the boil and cook until the fruit begins to burst – about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the sugar into a stainless-steel bowl and heat for about 10 minutes in the oven. It is vital that the fruit is soft before the sugar is added; otherwise the blackcurrants will taste hard and tough in the finished jam. Add the heated sugar and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Boil briskly for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Skim, test and pot into sterilised jars. Cover and store in a cool, dry place.


A jam funnel

Glebe Gardens and Café in Baltimore 028-20232

West Cork recently opened up a little farm shop that sells homemade jams, salad dressings, freshly baked bread and scones, organic vegetables fresh from the garden… As well as their excellent lunch and dinner they also serve a really good breakfast. They use ingredients from their plentiful garden and fish fresh from the boats in Baltimore, for their small and deliciously fresh menu. is a brilliant little gadget to help you to fill the jam jars without getting yourself and everyone else covered with jam – available from good kitchen shops nationwide as are jam thermometers – the latter is a good investment but not essential.Screw top lids should be sterilized in boiling water before use.

Summer Berries

Strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, tay berries and now lots of black, red and white currants. A few weeks ago we feasted on green gooseberry and elderflower tarts, compotes and fools. The gooseberries that survived will be left on the bushes to ripen. When they are plump and full of sweet juice we’ll enjoy them as dessert gooseberries – no cooking required, just pop a bowlful on the table and enjoy. If you haven’t already got a few gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes in your garden, order them now to plant between now and the autumn. One can buy strawberries and raspberries, even redcurrants ad nauseum year round but unless you have a good Farmer’s Market close to you, gooseberries and blackcurrants are virtually impossible to find in the shops.

A red currant bush or two is also worth considering – they make a divine jelly and their bitter sweet flavour and high pectin content make a delicious and valuable addition to jams and fruit salad. They too are loaded with vitamin C. All the currants freeze brilliantly, don’t bother to string them, just weigh them into manageable kilogram lots and freeze. The strings will fall off when you shake the bag of frozen berries just before you use them – I discovered that trick years ago when I was too busy to string the fruit before freezing, so I decided to throw them in and worry about the strings later.

If you are stringing the fresh currants a fork is useful and children find it brilliant fun and may even nibble some of the vitamin rich fruit.

Fresh blackcurrants make a delicious cordial that can be diluted like the well known brand and of course stored for the winter. They also make irresistibly funky blackcurrant ice pops which you’ll find the ‘grown ups’ will want to steal from the children.

Strings of black, red or white currants are also easy to frost and look delicious on a cake or dessert. The sugary coating makes them irresistible to nibble – if you can hide them they’ll keep for several days in a dry place.

Next week I’ll devote my entire article to jam-making in response to readers request but this week a few delicious puddings to make the most of the Summer berries and currants.


Gooseberry Nectar

I love to make cordials and homemade ‘lemonades’ from Summer fruits.

Makes 20 glasses (approximately) or 2 pints 5oz (45fl oz)

900g (2lbs) gooseberries

450g (1lb) sugar

600ml (1 pint) water

2 – 3 elderflower blossoms

ice cubes

Put the elderflowers into a piece of muslin and tie into a bag. Simmer the fruit until well burst and very soft. Remove the elderflower bag and squeeze into the compote to extract every last drop. Pour the stewed gooseberries into a nylon sieve, press as much as possible through with the back of a ladle or a tablespoon. Allow to cool then chill well.

Serve in chilled glasses with lots of ice, add prosecco to taste or sparkling water for a little fizz in your life.


Gooseberry, Elderflower and Strawberry Compote

Serves 8

The combination of gooseberries and strawberries is surprisingly delicious. Their seasons just overlap nicely.

the remaining gooseberry pulp may be served with yoghurt for breakfast, delicious. 



900g (2lb) green gooseberries, topped and tailed

2 or 3 elderflower heads

600ml (1 pint) cold water

450g (1lb) sugar

450g (1lb) ripe Irish strawberries

 Make the compote as in the Gooseberry Nectar recipe, cook until they just burst. Remove the bag of elderflowers. Pour the gooseberry compote into a bowl. Allow to cool completely. Add the sliced strawberries, stir gently and serve with softly whipped cream.


A fan oven works really well for meringues but don’t forget to reduce the temperature by 10-20% depending on your brand of oven.

Serves 10




4 organic egg whites

9 ozs (250g) approx. icing sugar, sieved

600ml (1 pint) chilled whipped cream

2 – 3 teaspoons rose blossom water

450g (1lb) fresh, fresh raspberries

To Decorate

organic rose petals

fresh mint leaves or sweet cicely leaves

Silicone paper

First make the meringue. Cover two baking sheets with silicone paper. Otherwise grease and flour the sheet very carefully. Draw two 25.5 cm (10 inch) circles on the silicone paper with a pencil.

Put the egg whites and all the sieved icing sugar into a spotlessly clean bowl and whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks. This can take 8-10 minutes in an electric mixer. Alternatively you can whisk it by hand but it takes quite a long time, so if you even have a hand-held mixer it will speed up matters a lot. Divide the meringue mixture between the two circles on the silicone paper and spread with a palette knife into two even discs.

Bake in a low oven 150°C/300ºF/regulo 2 for 45 minutes or until the meringue discs will lift easily off the paper. Turn off the oven and allow them to cool in the oven if possible.

To Serve:


Strawberries with Fresh Mint Leaves

One of our favourite ways to eat strawberries and good way to perk up less than perfect berries.

Serves 8-10

900g (2lb) ripe strawberries

2-3 tablespoons castor sugar

freshly squeezed lemon juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon

2-3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, torn or shredded

Just before serving hull the strawberries and cut into quarters or slice lengthwise. Sprinkle with caster sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Scatter with torn mint leaves. Toss gently, taste, adjust with a little more sugar or freshly squeezed lemon juice if necessary. Serve alone or with softly whipped cream.



Left over blackcurrant fool may be frozen – it makes a delicious ice cream. Serve with blackcurrant coulis made by thinning the blackcurrant puree with a little more water or syrup.

Wild Food

Marsh Samphire or Glasswort (Salicornia Europaea)

For just about a month one can gather marsh samphire, they look like little succulent cacti without the prickles. Catch them in your fingers and eat them one by one scraping them against your teeth to detach the flesh from the inner spine. If you can’t gather it yourself, look out for it at local farmers markets such as Kinsale, Mahon Point and Midleton. Or contact Michelle Breen on (086)3458710.

Serves 8 as an accompaniment

225g (8oz) samphire

freshly ground pepper

25–50g (1–2oz) butter

Cover the samphire with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 5–6 minutes or until tender. Drain off the water, season with freshly ground pepper and toss in butter – no salt because samphire has a natural salty tang.

Serve with fish or just have a little feast on toast with Hollandaise sauce.


Thrifty Tip

Freeze summer fruits in small individual portions for a taste of Summer in the Winter, delicious with yogurt for breakfast.


Ladurée Macaroons

were only available in Paris up to relatively recently; these psychedelic macaroons are now taking Dublin by storm and are available in Brown Thomas, Grafton Street (why not in Cork?) They sell for €1.60 each and are fast becoming the new cupcakes, the ‘must bring’ pressie for the hostess with the mostest. Like all ‘new’ ideas, it doesn’t take long before someone enterprising starts to experiment. The most delicious Irish macaroons I’ve tasted are made by Iseult Janssens from the Cake Stand in Newcastle, Co Dublin – 0860407676

– 086 8141133.



Meringue with Raspberries and Rosewater Cream

Blackcurrant Fool



Serves 10 approx.

340g (¾ lb) fresh or frozen blackcurrants

425ml (15fl oz) Stock syrup (see recipe)

Whipped cream

Cover the blackcurrants with stock syrup. Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts about 4-5 minutes. Liquidise and sieve or puree the fruit and syrup and measure. When the puree has cooled, add up to equal quantity of softly whipped cream, according to taste.

The fool should not be very stiff, more like the texture of softly whipped cream. If it is too stiff stir in a little milk rather than more cream.

Alternative presentation chose tall sundae glasses. Put 50ml (2floz) of blackcurrant puree into the base of the glass, top with a layer of softly whipped cream, another layer of blackcurrant puree and finally a little more cream. Drizzle a little thin puree over the top, serve chilled with shortbread biscuits.

Blackcurrant Ice Cream with Blackcurrant Coulis

Add rose blossom water to the cream to taste. Put a disc of meringue onto a serving plate. Spread with a layer of the softly whipped rosewater cream. Save some to decorate the top. Sprinkle with a generous layer of fresh raspberries (keep a few for decoration). Top with the second meringue disc. Whip the remainder of the cream stiffly and use to decorate the top with raspberries and fresh mint or sweet cicely leaves. Scatter some fresh rose petals over the top.

Blackcurrant Coulis

225 g (8ozs) blackcurrants

225ml (8fl oz) stock syrup

120 – 150ml (4 – 5fl oz) water (see below)

Pour the syrup over the blackcurrants and bring to the boil, cook for 3-5 minutes until the blackcurrants burst. Liquidise and sieve through a nylon sieve. Allow to cool. Add 4-5 fl oz (120-150 ml) water. Store in a fridge.

Blackcurrant coulis keeps for weeks and freezes very well.


Stock Syrup

175g (6 oz) sugar

125g (4 ½ oz) water

Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.

Blackcurrant Ice Pops

Makes 12 ice pops

Fill the blackcurrant coulis mixture into ice pop moulds freeze and enjoy.

Red Currant Jelly




Red currant jelly is a very delicious and versatile product to have in your larder. It has a myriad of uses. It can be used like a jam on bread or scones, or served as an accompaniment to roast lamb, bacon or ham. It is also good with some rough pâtés and game, and is invaluable as a glaze for red fruit tarts.

This recipe is a particular favourite of mine, not only because it’s fast to make and results in delicious intensely flavoured jelly, but because one can use the left over pulp to make a fruit tart, so one gets double value from the red currants. Unlike most other fruit jelly, no water is needed in this recipe.

We’ve used frozen fruits for this recipe also, stir over the heat until the sugar dissolves, proceeds as below.

Makes 3 x 1 lb (450g) jars

2 lbs (900g) red currants

2 lbs (900g) granulated sugar

Remove the strings from the red currants either by hand or with a fork. Put the red currants and sugar into a wide stainless steel saucepan and stir continuously until they come to the boil. Boil for exactly 8 minutes, stirring only if they appear to be sticking to the bottom. Skim carefully.

Turn into a nylon sieve and allow to drip through, do not push the pulp through or the jelly will be cloudy. You can stir in gently once or twice just to free the bottom of the sieve of pulp.

Pour the jelly into sterilised pots immediately. Red currants are very high in pectin so the jelly will begin to set just as soon as it begins to cool.

Rustic Peach Tart with Summer Berries

Serves 6-8


8 ozs (225 g) plain white flour

1 tablespoon castor sugar

4 ozs (110 g), cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) dice

cold water or cream to mix


3-4 ozs (75-110g) sugar

1 tablespoon corn flour

4 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick

4 ozs (110g) blueberries

4 ozs (110g) raspberries

Castor sugar for sprinkling, about 1 tablespoon

1 x 9 inch (23cm) pie plate or tart tin.

First make the pastry, put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the cold butter. When the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, add just enough water or cream to bind. Knead lightly to get the mixture to come together. Cover with wax or silicone paper and rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 14 inch (35cm) round approximately. Transfer to a 9 inch (23cm) greased plate or baking sheet.

Just before filling the tart.

Mix the sugar with the corn flour. Toss in the sliced peaches and blueberries. Stir gently. Add the raspberries, but don’t stir. Pour the fruit and the juices into the chilled tart shell and distribute evenly. Fold the overhanging edge to cover the outer portion of the filling, leaving a 5 inch (12.5cm) opening of exposed fruit in the centre of the tart. Brush the pastry with cream, sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake the tart in a preheated oven 220°C/427°F/Gas Mark 7 for 8-10 minutes, lower the temperature to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and bake for 30 to35 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature with softly whipped cream.

Frosted Red, White or Blackcurrants

So pretty to nibble on, use to decorate cakes and desserts.

Take about 12 perfect bunches of red/white or blackcurrants attached to the stem. Whisk one egg white in a bowl until broken up and slightly fluffy. Spread 115g/4ozs castor sugar onto a flat plate. Dip a bunch of redcurrants in the egg white, ensure that every berry has been lightly coated, and drain very well.

Lay on the castor sugar and sprinkle castor sugar over the top. Check that the entire surface of every berry is covered.

Arrange carefully on a tray covered with silicone paper and put into a dry airy place. until crisp and frosted.


Rock or Marsh Samphire with Melted Butter

 Serve alone on toast or with fish dishes.

The Art of Preserving

All over the country people are rediscovering the joy of growing their own vegetables, a little soft fruit, an apple tree or even a few fresh herbs. It’s not just about the economics; there is the sheer thrill of digging your own potatoes, carrots or beets and it is certainly is a thrill having waited patiently for 4 to 5 months for them to grow.

In spring, it’s difficult not to get swayed by the shiny seed packets and few of us can resist planting more than we need or can share with our neighbours and friends.

So those of us who succumb will know the effort that goes into the growing, weeding, harvesting and then dealing with the inevitable gluts. But let’s look on a glut as a bonus, an opportunity to relearn the almost forgotten skill of preserving. In earlier times when there were no freezers it was an essential survival skill. Now we can utilise all the labour saving mod cons like food processors, blenders and slicers to help us prepare the food.

When I was little in the days before electrification, a glut in the garden provoked a frenzy of activity; Mummy was determined to save every scrap of the precious crop. There was a great sense of urgency as it was the only opportunity people had to lay down a store for the winter months. Preserving was acutely important in the rhythm of the year. During my childhood waste was not an option – food was too precious and scarce to be thrown away. Since the advent of electricity, most households have freezers and surplus food can easily be frozen, so the reasons for preserving have changed. Recently I’ve seen a huge revival of interest and creativity as people experiment, combining old and new techniques and flavours. Chefs who just a few years ago wouldn’t have been ‘seen dead’ jam making and who regarded preserving merely as the domain of grannies are now proudly offering their own chutneys and pickles at their restaurants as an integral part of their food style.

I love the smell of jams and chutneys bubbling on the Aga. You can’t help feeling a glow of satisfaction every time you look into a well-stocked pantry and see your bottles and jam jars lined up on the shelf like ‘good deeds’. It also means you have a ready supply of terrific gifts to take along to a dinner party – much more welcome than a dodgy bottle of wine.

One of the best ways to preserve a glut of French or runner beans is to blanch them quickly in boiling well salted water then drain and refresh under ice cold water, drain again very well, tray freeze and then freeze in boxes or bags.

When defrosted they can be served in a variety of ways – reheated in boiling water for a minute or two and simply tossed in extra virgin olive oil and some freshly chopped herbs or better still use for Gujarati style French beans a recipe lovely Madhur Jaffrey taught us years ago when she came to the cookery school to teach a guest chef course.


Gujerati Style Green Beans

If you are using frozen beans, just re-heat in boiling salted water, drain and proceed as in recipe below.

Serves 4

1 lb (450g) fresh green French beans

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon whole black mustard seeds

4 cloves garlic, peeled and very finely chopped

1/2 – 1 hot, dried red chilli, coarsely crushed in a mortar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

freshly ground black pepper

Trim the beans and cut them into 1 inch (2.5cm) lengths. Blanch the beans by dropping them into a pot of well-salted boiling water, boil rapidly for 3-4 minutes or until they are just tender. Drain immediately in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium flame. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, put in the garlic. Stir the garlic pieces around until they turn light brown, (be careful not to burn or it will spoil the flavour). Put in the crushed red chilli and stir for a few seconds, add the green beans, salt and sugar. Stir to mix. Turn the heat to medium-low. Stir and cook the beans for 3-4 minutes or until they have absorbed the flavour of the spices. Season with freshly ground black pepper, mix well and serve.

Lettuce, Broad Bean and Spring Onion Soup with Chorizo and Mint

A delicious way to cope with a glut of several vegetables. Soups can of-course made in quantity and frozen for Autumn and Winter. Omit the chorizo and mint until serving.

Serves 8

55g (2oz) butter

140g (5oz) spring onion finely sliced – use green and white parts

170g (6oz) potato, peeled and diced

170g (6oz) lettuce: Butterhead, Cos, Little Gem, Oakleaf… finely shredded

250g (9oz) shelled broad beans

20 floz (2 pints/ 1200mls) light chicken or vegetable stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

125g (4 ½ oz) chorizo skinned and cut into ¼ inch dice approximately

fresh mint leaves

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and when it foams add the spring onion, stir and cook over a gentle heat for 3 or 4 minutes until nice and soft. Meanwhile bring the stock to the boil, add to the saucepan with the broadbeans, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring back to the boil for 2 minutes, add the shredded lettuces, stir well, continue to boil rapidly for another 3 or 4 minutes, just enough for the lettuce to wilt (Cos and Little Gem will take longer than the Butterhead) add about 15 mint leaves to the soup, puree the soup in batches adding a little more stock or creamy milk if necessary. Taste and correct seasoning. Blanch the remaining broad beans in boiling salted water, drain, refresh under cold water. When they are cool enough to handle, pop them out of their skins and keep aside for a garnish.

To Serve

Heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over a medium heat in a pan, add the chorizo and cook for a couple of minutes until the oil runs and the chorizo begins to crisp. If necessary re-heat the soup (do not cover or it will spoil the colour)

Serve the hot soup plates scatter a few warm broad beans, some chorizo and a few mint leaves over the top of each bowl.

Claudia Roden’s Marinated Courgettes – from The Book of Jewish Food


When you grow courgettes it’s either feast or famine so here’s a recipe to use some up. Claudia cooked these for us and stressed that they should be brown. I like the sweet/ sour, ‘agrodolce’ version best


Serves 6

750g (1 ½lbs) courgette (zucchini)

olive oil

2 or 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

a few sprigs of fresh basil or mint, finely chopped

4 tablespoons wine vinegar or 2 tablespoons wine vinegar and I tablespoon sugar

salt and pepper

Trim the ends of the courgettes and cut in thin slices diagonally. Fry quickly in batches in hot olive oil, turning them over once, until browned all over. Lift out and drain on paper towels

Fry the garlic or leave it raw. Lay the courgette slices in layers, sprinkling each layer with the drained garlic, the basil or mint, the vinegar, salt, and pepper (sugar if using) Leave to marinate a few hours before serving cold. It keeps very well for a week or more.




We also have a glut of basil at present so we’re making lots of pesto and basil oil. Homemade Pesto takes minutes to make and tastes a million times better than most of what you buy.


Serve with pasta, goat cheese, tomato and mozzarella.


4ozs (115g) fresh basil leaves

6 – 8 fl ozs (175 – 250ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 oz (25g) fresh pine kernels (taste when you buy to make sure they are not rancid)

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 ozs (50g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiana Reggiano is best)

salt to taste


Whizz the basil with the olive oil, pine kernels and garlic in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar. Remove to a bowl and fold in the finely grated Parmesan cheese. Taste and season.


Pesto keeps for weeks, covered with a layer of olive oil in a jar in the fridge. It also freezes well but for best results don’t add the grated Parmesan until it has defrosted. Freeze in small jars for convenience.

Basil Oil

Basil may be used either to flavour the oil or the oil may be used to preserve the basil, depending on the quantity used. If using a large quantity of basil, you can preserve it in a jar with enough olive oil to completely cover it for up to three months. Basil oil may be used in salad dressings, vegetable stews, pasta sauces or many other instances

extra virgin olive oil

fresh organic basil leaves

Ensure the basil leaves are clean and dry. Pour a little of the olive oil from the bottle and stuff at least 8–10 basil leaves into the bottle, or more if you like. The basil must be covered by at least 1cm (1⁄2in) of oil. Seal and store in a cold place. We sometimes fill bottles three quarters full and then chill them. When the oil solidifies somewhat, we top it up with another layer of oil. If the basil is not submerged in the oil, it will become mouldy in a relatively short period of time.

Beetroot Chutney

Delicious with cold meats and cheese.

Makes 6 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars

900g (2 lbs) raw beetroot, peeled

450g (1 lb) onion, diced

450g (1 lb) cooking apples, peeled and diced

25g (1oz) grated ginger

1 teaspoon salt

600ml (1 pint) cider vinegar

350g (12oz) granulated sugar

Chop the beetroot finely. Put into a stainless steel saucepan with the diced onion and apples. Add the grated ginger, salt and vinegar.

Cover and simmer until the beetroot is soft and the apples have cooked to a fluff, approximately 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

Add the sugar and cook until thick, 15 to 20 minutes.

Pot into sterilized jars and cover with non reactive lids. Store in a dark airy place.


Strawberry Jam


Makes 7lbs (3.2kg) approx


Homemade strawberry jam can be sensational but only if the fruit is a good variety. It’s one of the most difficult jams to make because strawberries are low in pectin, so don’t attempt it if your fruit is not perfect. Redcurrants are well worth searching out for this jam. They are very high in pectin and their bitter-sweet taste greatly enhances the flavour.


4 lbs (1.8kg) unblemished strawberries (El Santa or Rapella if available)

3-4 lbs (1.6-1.8 kg) granulated sugar (not castor or jam sugar)

5 fl ozs (150ml) redcurrant juice (see below) or if unavailable the juice of 2 lemons


First prepare the fruit juice (see below) using about 1 lb (450g) fruit to obtain 5 fl ozs (150ml/1/2 cup) of juice. Put the strawberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan with redcurrant juice. Use a potato masher to crush the berries, leave the rest intact. Bring to the boil and cook the crushed strawberries in the juice for about 2 or 3 minutes. Warm the sugar in a low oven and add to the fruit, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil for about 10-15 minutes stirring frequently. *Skin, test and pot into sterilized jars, cover and store in a cool dry cupboard.


* This jam sticks and burns very easily so be careful.


Redcurrant Juice


Put 1 lb (450g) redcurrants (they can be fresh or frozen) into a stainless steel saucepan with 6 fl ozs (175ml) of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve. This juice can be frozen for use another time if necessary.


Mummy’s Strawberry Jam

Put the strawberries and lemon juice in a stainless steel saucepan. Cover with sugar. Leave overnight.

Bring the strawberries to the boil; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to boil until it reaches a set. Pour into sterilized jars, cover immediately and store in a cool dry dark cupboard.

Pickled Peaches

Sometimes in summer you’ll find a tray of inexpensive peaches at the market. When you’ve eaten your fill, try making some pickled peaches, which go well with glazed ham, bacon, duck or goose.

Makes 6 x 370g (13oz) jars

10 peaches or nectarines, sliced into segments (peaches need to be peeled)600ml (1 pint) cold stock syrup1 small stick cinnamon1 chilli, halved and seeded2.5cm (1inch) piece of ginger, sliced

6 cloves

2 slices of lemon

Cook all the above ingredients together in a saucepan for 10 minutes.

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

Put all the ingredients into an oven-proof saucepan. Bring to the boil, cover and put in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove the chilli, cinnamon and lemon slices. Cool, store in the fridge or fill into sterilised Kilner jars. Seal and store in a cool place.

It will keep for a year but is best used within 2 or 3 months.



The motorway from Cork to Dublin is so seductive that it takes serious will power to make a detour. Recently we revisited Chez Hans in Cashel – I had not been there for far too long. We enjoyed Dover sole and a juicy well aged T Bone steak. The meat comes from Phelan’s butchers in Clonmel. It is terrific to see the second generation following in her father’s footsteps and lovely friendly professional staff. Well worth the detour but you’ll need to book ahead particularly at the weekend.

Moor Lane, Cashel Co. Tipperary. Tel: 062 61177


It was a beautiful balmy Summer evening at Lyons Village for the launch of Clodagh McKenna’s new cookery school, café and kitchen shop recently. Clodagh did the 12 Week Certificate Course at Ballymaloe in January 2000 and started her career in Midleton Farmers Market. Don’t miss her new Farmers Market at the Village of Lyons every Friday 9am to 2pm. The cookery school is in a sublime setting with the beginning of a vegetable garden and orchard close by. Clodagh has a great list of Summer courses with catchy titles like ‘Domestic Honey’ and ‘Baking Angels’ for full course schedule


Cork Butter Museum have exciting news

The National Dairy Council has agreed to sponsor free admission to the Butter Museum every Friday for the months of July, August and September, on ‘Free Friday’ people will have the opportunity to visit this unique museum of Ireland’s signature food. Cork was the biggest butter market in the world in the1700s. The museum has been described by the New York Times as “engaging and multi- faceted”.

O’Connell Square, Shandon, Cork City – 021 430 0600 – www.corkbuttermuseum/


Simply Salads – Barny Haughton

This week lots and lots of salads, just what we all yearn for during this unexpected spell of beautiful weather. Recently chef and cookery teacher Barny Haughton from Bristol came to Ballymaloe Cookery School to do a whole morning on salads.

Barny cooked his first serious meal in St Tropez aged 9, when there was a Saturday market on the harbour side and Bridget Bardot hung out in the Hotel de Paris drinking crème de menthe. He was, for twenty four years a restaurateur/chef in Bristol, and for seven of these, event caterer to HRH The Prince of Wales. He is a member of the Academy of Culinary Arts, chair of judges of the Soil Association’s Organic Food Awards, 2007 winner of the Glennfiddich Food and Drinks Independent Spirit Award for his pioneering work in food training and education in the restaurant industry, a teacher at the University of Gastronomy in Italy, Chef Ambassador to Slow Food UK, and founder of Bordeaux Quay and the Cookery School at Bordeaux Quay in Bristol. He appears regularly at food festivals and conferences giving demonstrations and talks and teaches in Bristol and at other cookery schools and colleges in the UK. He is a consultant on sustainable food systems and ‘eco-gastronomy’ advising businesses, restaurants, schools and community centres and teaches cooking to students, teachers and school cooks. Barny also now runs the Budleigh Farm Project in Somerset with his partner Gaye Donaldson. Budleigh Farm is a 14 acre mixed ‘model’ small-holding, shortly to include a farm shop and cookery school workshops. 00441823421300

Here is a selection of the delicious salads he made for us.


Roast Chicken Salad Sicilian Style

Serves 6 people


1 x 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) organic chicken

a clove of garlic

10 needles rosemary

salt and pepper

a little olive oil

1/2 a lemon

a clove of garlic

2 bay leaves

12 small waxy potatoes, new if in season

a little olive oil

1 bay leaf

1-2 slices of lemon

a good pinch of salt

1 tablespoon sultanas

small bunch parsley leaves

zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon pinenuts

1/2 tablespoon capers



olive oil

red wine vinegar

Balsamic vinegar

Chop the garlic, rosemary to a paste and add salt and pepper and a little olive oil. Rub well into the chicken. Stuff the chicken with half a lemon, a clove of garlic and a couple of bay leaves. Roast in the normal way. Leave to cool and strip the meat off the carcass, removing sinew and any gristly bits. Reserve the chicken carcass for stock

Cut the potatoes into 2cm (3/4 inch) thick slices, place in sauce pan with barely enough water to cover, a splash of olive oil, a bay leaf, a slice or two of lemon and a good pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover with parchment or lid, but leave a little gap so that the steam evaporates and by the time the potatoes are cooked (about 20 mins) there is barely any liquid in the pan. Leave to cool.

Put the potatoes in a bowl with sultanas, parsley, lemon zest, pinenuts and capers and toss together.

Make a dressing of 6 parts olive oil to 1 part red wine vinegar and 1 part balsamic vinegar.

Toss together with other ingredients in bowl. Add generous quantity of dressing and serve.

Lovely with broad beans or peas as well

Smoked Mackerel, Fennel and Orange Salad

Serves 8

1 head fennel

a pinch of salt

1 juicy, sweet orange


a sprig of dill

6 small waxy potatoes, new if in season

1 bay leaf

1 slice of lemon

225ml (8fl oz) water

drizzle of olive oil

4 fillets of smoked mackerel

2 large handfuls watercress


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

To Finish

freshly squeezed lemon juice


Finely slice the fennel long-ways and toss in a pinch of salt. Segment the orange, slice the segments into small pieces, and add to the fennel. Squeeze remaining juice from the orange over the fennel and mix gently together with a little freshly ground black pepper and the chopped dill.

Slice the potatoes long-ways into 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick slices. Put them in a pan with a bay leaf, a slice of lemon, a cup of water and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook gently until the liquor has evaporated. Add a little more water if necessary. Leave to cool.

Take the skin off the mackerel fillets and break them up into bite size pieces.

To assemble the salad: toss the potatoes and fennel together. Dress the watercress with a little vinaigrette, mix gently with the fennel and potatoes and transfer to salad bowl. Scatter the mackerel pieces over this. Finish with a squeeze of lemon

Garden Salad of Raw Vegetables and Herbs

This is a salad of thinly sliced seasonal vegetables. Now it is mid summer and the list of possible ingredients is endless. In the winter you could use turnip or swede of finely shredded black cabbage or sprouts. Cauliflower, broke into tiny florettes is good too. Use asparagus in the asparagus season. Kholrabi works as well. You get the drift.

The vegetables need to be fresh, firm and crunchy. Beware of combining too many different vegetables however tempting it is; four or five is enough, plus some carefully chosen salad leaves and herbs.

Keep the beetroot separate until the last minute so that it doesn’t stain the other vegetables.

A salad for four people will need:

2 courgettes

2 peeled carrots

1 bulb of fennel

4 scrubbed baby beetroot

a handful of fresh podded broad beans and/or peas

a big handful of peppery salad leaves (rocket, watercress, pea-shoots, mustard leaves etc)

a small bunch of mixed fresh herbs: eg mint, basil, tarragon and parsley

Making the dressing

In a big salad bowl, make a dressing with the juice of a lemon and a splash of white wine vinegar mixed with half a teaspoon of salt, to four parts of olive oil. Pour a little of this dressing into a smaller bowl for the beetroot.

Preparing the vegetables

Using a very sharp knife or mandolin, slice the courgettes, carrots and fennel into thin ribbon lengths. Transfer to the big bowl. Slice the beetroot, thin as the petals of a rose and transfer to the smaller bowl. Toss the vegetables in the dressing, then add the leaves and mint and toss gently together. Arrange the beetroot prettily over the top

Chicory, Watercress, Apple and Hazelnut Salad

Serves 8

The dressing for this salad doesn’t need the more robust flavour of olive oil. Groundnut or hazelnut or a mix of both are best, but sunflower will do fine.

Tart/sweet? I mean that the tartness is the first thing I am looking for in the taste.

a handful of whole unblanched hazelnuts

2 bunch watercress

2 bulbs chicory

4 medium sized tart/sweet crisp apples eg Worcester, Orange Pippen


2 tablespoons cider vinegar

pinch of salt

10 tablespoons groundnut oil/hazelnut oil

To Serve

a small bunch of chives cut into inch or so lengths

Maldon sea salt

Toss the hazelnuts in a little oil and a sprinkle of salt and roast in a hot oven until toasty brown. Leave to cool. Break them into coarse pieces with a rolling pin

Make the dressing in a large mixing bowl; mix the vinegar and a pinch of salt along with the groundnut or hazelnut oil into an emulsion.

Remove the more fibrous stalks from the watercress and separate the leaves of chicory. Cut the apples into slim wedges, removing the core with a sharp knife.

Just before serving.

Gently toss the chicory, watercress and apple in the dressing and transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle liberally with the broken hazelnuts and chives and a pinch of Maldon sea salt

Serve with baked potatoes or good bread.


Tomato, Cucumber and Chickpea Salad with Harissa

200g (7oz) chickpeas

1 tablespoon harissa (see recipe)

1 red onion, finely diced

1 bulb confit garlic (see recipe)

juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

salt and pepper

150g (5oz) cherry tomatoes

1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced

small bunch mint

small bunch coriander

Soak the chickpeas overnight in PLENTY of water.

Cook the chickpeas. Add salt towards the end of cooking. Leave to cool.

Mix the chickpeas with harissa (generous amount). Add finely diced red onion, puréed confit garlic, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

To Serve

Add cherry tomatoes (halved/quartered, depending on size) and peeled and diced cucumber, mint and coriander.

Harissa Oil


Serve with grilled meat, fish and vegetables and in soups

6 chillies, roasted, seeded and peeled

6 tablespoons of tomato purée

8 cloves of garlic crushed

3 teaspoons of ground and roasted cumin seeds

3 teaspoons of ground and roasted coriander

6 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaf

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Put the prepared chillies, tomato purée, garlic and ground spices in a food processor. Puree until smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil and vinegar. Remove and add the fresh coriander. Correct seasoning and add a little more olive oil if necessary.


Confit Garlic


6 fat firm bulbs of garlic

olive oil

salt and pepper

baking foil or parchment paper

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Cut 4 sufficiently big squares of foil or parchment paper to wrap each bulb. Brush each bulb with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper and wrap them in the foil. Bake them in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until the bulbs are soft and slightly browned. Remove and leave to cool. The cloves can then be easily removed from the bulbs.

To preserve: mash the cloves with a fork until a paste, mix with a little olive oil and salt, put in a lidded jam jar and refridgerate.


Puy Lentil, Spelt Grain, Bean and Vegetable Salad

Main course for 6 people

100g (3 1/2oz) dried puy lentils

4 bay leaves

100g (3 1/2oz) spelt grain

100g (3 1/2oz) dried borlotti or other, soaked in cold water for 24 hours

a little salt and olive oil

1 aubergine

2 red peppers

2 courgettes

salt and pepper

30g (1oz) raisins, soaked until plump but firm

2 cloves garlic

big bunch parsley

75ml (3fl oz) red wine vinegar, soy sauce and olive oil dressing: 1 part vinegar, 1 part soy sauce 3 parts olive oilWash and cook the lentils with a couple of bay leaves and as little water as you can get away with but always enough to cover. When cooked (don’t under cook; they should be firm but absolutely not crunchy). Leave to cool, then drain, reserving the liquor for soup.

Cook the spelt and beans in the same way. Mix them together with a little salt and olive oil

Dice the aubergines, peppers and courgettes into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes and separately season with salt and pepper and fry until they take a good colour but are still a little crunchy.

Fine slice the garlic, fry until nutty brown.

Coarsely chop the parsley, including an tender stalky bits.

Toss everything together with the dressing.

Feta cheese crumbled over this lot is lovely but not necessary.


Summer Fruit Salad with Pea-Shoots and Broad Beans with Ricotta

Serves 4 people

1/4 a cucumber, peeled, halved longways, de-seeded and thinly sliced

a little salt

juice of 1 lemon

500g (18oz) mix of fresh raspberries, strawberries and redcurrants

400g (14oz) broad beans, podded, blanched and peeled

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

a large handful of peashoots or rocket

100g (3 1/2oz) fresh ricotta

a little pepper


1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper


Toss the sliced cucumber in a little salt and the lemon juice. Refridgerate for 30 minutes.

Make a dressing with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and seasoning.

Drain the sliced cucumber of any water. Gently mix the fruit together with the broad beans and mint.

Arrange the fruit mixture, cucumber, pea-shoots and ricotta on a serving dish anddrizzle with balsamic dressing. Finish with a little black pepper.

Salad Paysanne

Found everywhere in France; sometimes named after the region – La salade de Perigord for instance and meaning peasant salad.. Classic ingredients may include duck confit, duck pate, duck or chicken livers, croutons, bacon, cured duck or goose giblets (heart, gizzard, neck), along with frisee or chicory, parsley and capers. Green beans and walnuts are also often included. The dressing needs to be made with a good red wine vinegar

Serves 6 people

4 slices good bread

olive oil

salt and pepper

2 cooked cured duck legs, torn into small pieces, bones discarded, skin retained

2 big handsful of frisee, washed, dried and torn into fork-size pieces

chives or parsley

a small handful green beans – if in season

1 desertspoon full of drained capers

50g (2oz) lardons or 2 slices streaky bacon cut into strips

100g (3 1/2oz) duck or chicken livers, trimmed


olive oil and or walnut oil

red wine vinegar

To make the croutons: cut 4 thick slices of good stale bread into bite-sized cubes and toss them with olive oil and seasoning in a bowl. Transfer to a baking tray and bake in a medium oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Fry the duck skin gently until crisp and not brown. Break into little pieces

Make the dressing:

5 parts oil, 2 part vinegar; a standard dressing should be 5:1, but you need more vinegar to meet the richness and fat of the meat in this salad.

Put frisee, croutons, crispy duck skin, chives or parsley and capers in a big bowl.

In a hot pan fry the lardons until crispy, then the livers until brown on the outside but pink inside and then the duck just to warm it through, one after the other, and add them all to the bowl.

Dress, toss, eat.




Hot Tips

Denny Lane Gourmet Foods

in Tralee is loosely modelled on the Avoca style where customers queue as they come in the door with most of the menu on display in large serveovers, salads, quiches, sandwiches, desserts and cake stands on the top displaying the biscuits and buns. They cater very well for coeliacs, all their soups and chowder are gluten free and their fish pies.  “Delicious – Gluten Free Bakery” in Ballincollig in Cork supply them with gluten free bread, brownies, carrot cake and apple slices. Check their facebook page where they update our soups and specials daily. Julianne Reen who is a graduate of Ballymaloe Cookery School tries to source most of her produce locally – 066 719 4319 www.dennylanecafe.ieTipperary Food Producers Network


will host their annual ‘Long Table Dinner’ in Tipperary to showcase local produce to encourage people to buy local. The dinner is based on the old Irish long table tradition and this year is the fourth annual dinner. The event takes place on August 25th 2010 around the Festival of Tipperary Food. For further details contact Pat Whelan 0872433100

Splash from the Sea – Cooking with Seawater

Sometimes if I wake up early enough in the morning to catch Farming Today on BBC Radio 4. It’s always interesting and keeps me in touch with the farming scene across the water. Recently I heard an interesting interview with Andy Inglis from Dunbar, Scotland, who had decided to sell Hebridean seawater as a commercial venture, Acquamara Seawater –

Remember when we first heard that some ‘prime boy’ was actually bottling water and selling it. Maybe, you didn’t think it was a daft idea but I certainly did. No doubt many will be jut as sceptical about this and perhaps they are right but if you are fortunate enough to be close to the sea where water is clean and relatively unpolluted make use of this wonderful resource plus the seaweed on the strand. Years ago coastal communities fought pitch battles over seaweed. They knew the value of algae as a fertiliser. Nowadays, scarcely anyone bothers to collect, so if you are one of the new urban farmers or if you’ve been bitten by the vegetable gardening bug, next time you go for a walk on the beach take along a string bag and fill it with seaweed! Our grandfathers knew well the extra ‘blás’ it gave a crop of potatoes. We did a trial this year and then compared the flavour and they were totally right.

But back to the sea water, you can’t imagine how much more delicious many foods are when cooked in sea water – it’s not just about the salt, it’s also about all those extra mineral flavours, traces of iodine…

Try cooking new potatoes in sea water, you’ll be amazed at the difference in flavour, shrimps, prawns, lobster, crabs are all immeasurably better cooked in seawater, even a few fresh mackerel turn into a feast when poached in a marine bath.

Green vegetables, pasta, broccoli, French or runner beans, even the flavour of carrots is greatly enhanced.

In the same radio piece the interviewer asked a local chef for his opinion. The chef displaying an arrogant ignorance dismissed the suggestion as ridiculous – sea water was in his opinion exactly the same as well salted water – well try and see what you think.

Check out to find the location of Blue Flag beaches around our coast.



New Potatoes cooked in Seawater

Serves 4-5

2 lbs (900g) new potatoes e.g., Home Guard, British Queens

2 pints (1.2 litres) seawater or 2 pints (1.2 litres) tap water plus 1 teaspoon salt

a sprig of seaweed if available

Bring the seawater to the boil. Scrub the potatoes. Add salt if using tap water and a sprig of seaweed to the water, and then add the potatoes. Cover the saucepan, bring back to the boil and cook for 15-25 minutes or until fully cooked depending on size.

Drain and serve immediately in a hot serving dish with good Irish butter.


It’s vitally important for flavour to add salt to the water when cooking potatoes.




Salmon Poached in Seawater with Hollandaise SauceMost cookbooks you look up will tell you to poach salmon in a ‘court-bouillon’. This is a mixture of wine and water with perhaps some sliced carrots, onion, peppercorns and a bouquet garni including a bay-leaf, but I’ve found that a beautiful salmon is at its best poached gently in just boiling seawater.


If seawater is not available use 1 rounded tablespoon of salt to every 40 fl ozs (2 pints) of water. Although the fish or piece of fish should be just covered with water, the aim is to use the minimum amount of water to preserve the maximum flavour, so therefore one should use a saucepan that will fit the fish exactly.

Serves 8

1.4 kg (3-3 1/2 lbs) centre-cut of fresh salmon

Seawater or tap water and salt (see above)

Hollandaise Sauce (see recipe)


fennel, chervil or parsley

8 segments of lemon

Choose a saucepan which will barely fit the piece of fish: an oval cast-iron saucepan is usually perfect. Half fill with measured sea water, bring to the boil, put in the piece of fish, cover, bring back to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, allow to sit in the water for 5-6 minutes and serve within 15-20 minutes.

If a small piece of fish is cooked in a large saucepan of water, much of the flavour will escape into the water, so for this reason we use the smallest saucepan possible. Needless to say we never poach a salmon cutlet because in that case one has the maximum surface exposed to the water and therefore maximum loss of flavour. A salmon cutlet is best dipped in a little seasoned flour and cooked slowly in a little butter on a pan, or alternatively pan-grilled with a little butter. Serve with a few pats of Maître d’hôtel and a wedge of lemon.


Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 4-6, depending on what it is to be served with

Hollandaise is the mother of all the warm emulsion sauces. The version we use here is easy to make and quite delicious with fish. Like Mayonnaise it takes less than 5 minutes to make and transforms any fish into a feast. Once the sauce is made it must be kept warm: the temperature should not go above 70-80C/180F or the sauce will curdle. A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale; otherwise put the Hollandaise Sauce into a delph or plastic bowl in a saucepan of hot but not simmering water. Hollandaise Sauce cannot be reheated absolutely successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need. If however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or mashed potato.

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic

125 g (5ozs) butter cut into dice

1 dessertspoon cold water

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, approx.

Put the egg yolks in a heavy stainless saucepan on a low heat, or in a bowl over hot water. Add water and whisk thoroughly. Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water if necessary. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add the lemon juice to taste. If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency.

It is important to remember that if you are making Hollandaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce.

Another good tip if you are making Hollandaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.

Keep the sauce warm until service either in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water (do not have gas jet on). A thermos flask is also a good option.

Hollandaise Sauce is best served with poached fish not pan-fried or pan-grilled fish.

Mackerel Poached in Seawater with Bretonne Sauce

Serves 4 as a main course

8 as a starter

Fresh mackerel gently poached and served warm with this simple sauce is an absolute feast without question one of my favourite foods. .

4 fresh mackerel

1.2 litres (40 fl ozs) seawater or 1.2 litres (40fl ozs) water plus 1 teaspoon salt

Bretonne Sauce

55g (2ozs) butter, melted

2 eggs yolks, preferably free range

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (We use Maille Verte Aux Herbs)

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped or a mixture of chervil, chives, tarragon and fennel, chopped


Cut the heads off very fresh mackerel. Gut and clean them but keep whole. Bring the seawater to the boil; add the mackerel. Bring back to boiling point, and remove from the heat, keep covered. After about 5-8 minutes, check to see whether the fish are cooked. The flesh should lift off the bone. It will be tender and melting.

Meanwhile make the sauce. Melt the butter and allow to boil. Put the egg yolks into a bowl; add the mustard, wine vinegar and the herbs – mix well. Whisk the hot melted butter into the egg yolk mixture little by little so that the sauce emulsifies. Keep warm, by placing the Pyrex bowl in a saucepan of hot but not boiling water.

When the mackerel is cool enough to handle, remove to a plate. Skin, lift the flesh carefully from the bones and arrange on a serving dish. Coat with the sauce and serve while still warm with a good green salad and new potatoes.


How to Cook Crab

Put the crab/s into a saucepan, cover with cold or barely lukewarm seawater, alternatively (use 6 ozs (175g) salt to every 2.3 litres (4 pints). This sounds like an incredible amount of salt but try it: the crab will taste deliciously sweet. Cover, bring to the boil and then simmer from there on, allowing 15 minutes for first 1 lb (450g), 10 minutes for the second and third (I’ve never come across a crab bigger than that!). We usually pour off two-thirds of the water as soon as it comes to the boil, cover and steam the crab for the remainder of the time. As soon as it is cooked remove it from the saucepan and allow to get cold.

To extract the crab meat from the shell and claws:

First remove the large claws. Hold the crab with the underside uppermost and lever out the centre portion – I do this by catching the little lip of the projecting centre shell against the edge of the table and pressing down firmly. The Dead Man’s Fingers (lungs) usually come out with this central piece, but check in case some are left in the body and if so remove them.

Press your thumb down over the light shell just behind the eyes so that the shell cracks slightly, and then the sac which is underneath can be removed easily and discarded. Everything else inside the body of the crab is edible. The soft meat varies in colour from cream to coffee to dark tan, and towards the end of the season it can contain quite a bit of bright orange coral which is stronger in flavour. Scoop it all out and put it into a bowl. There will also be one or two teaspoonfuls of soft meat in the centre portion attached to the small claws – add that to the bowl also. Scrub the shell and keep it aside if you need it for dressed crab.

Crack the large claws with a hammer or weight and extract every bit of white meat from them, poke out the meat from the small claws also, using a lobster pick, skewer or even the handle of a teaspoon.

Mix the brown and white meat together or use separately, depending on the recipe. Delicious served simply with homemade mayonnaise or make into a crab cakes or use as a filling for a juicy crab sandwich.


French Beans Cooked in Seawater

Serves 8

We’ve got a wonderful crop of French beans this summer. I find that they need a lot of salt in the cooking water to bring up the flavour, so seawater works perfectly. They don’t benefit from being kept in a hostess trolley, so if you need to cook them ahead try the method I suggest below. I think it works very well. The proportion of salt to water is vitally important for the flavour of the beans.

900g (2 lb) French beans

1.1 litres (2 pint) seawater or tap water plus 3 teaspoons sea salt

30-50g (1-2 oz) butter or extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Top and tail the beans. If they are small and thin leave them whole, if they are larger cut them into 2.5-4cm (1-1


1/2 inch) pieces at an angle.


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