ArchiveJuly 21, 2012

Olympic Appetites

Sports lovers are in a frenzy of excitement at the prospect of a sports fest for the next couple of weeks. You’ll want to spend as much time as possible in front of the telly rooting for our national heroes. Even if sport is food and drink to you, some sustenance will improve your stamina and give you the energy to cheer even louder.

Interestingly this is the first Olympics that has had a food policy, Jan Whelan who is in charge of the initiative says “Sustain is very keen to ensure that Olympic food promotes health and sustainability, wins new business for sustainable producers, and creates a fabulous food legacy. We want London 2012 to showcase the very best of healthy, ethical and sustainable food and to communicate this to a local and global audience.

Sustain sees the London 2012 Games as a tremendous opportunity to help transform the food system.”

It’s worth cooking up a few filling, yummy and easy to eat dishes so you can relax and enjoy the spectacle. A frittata is a terrific idea, easy to make and a 10 inch one will feed 6 hungry lads or 8 less ravenous guys with a nice bowl of salad leaves and a few of the new season Irish cherry tomatoes. You can even pop it in the oven and dash back to the telly while it cooks at a gentle heat. Left overs make a great sandwich tucked into a crusty baguette with some rocket or watercress leaves.

A nice piece of cooked ham or a slab of good Irish bacon or kassler is a terrific standby, eat it hot or cold and any leftover scraps can be used to fill an omelette or tossed into a savoury tart or pasta sauce.

Better still buy a few ham hocks, they’ll only cost you a couple of euro. Put then into a deep saucepan, cover them entirely with warm water and boil gently for a couple of hours until the meat is almost falling off the bones. Then you can eat the meltingly tender meat in a variety of ways. On a chilly evening a ham hock would be fine and comforting on a bed of colcannon or champ with lots of parsley sauce or in a bean stew with a high tea salad.

If the weather suddenly turns summery, a roast chicken salad with lots of crusty bread will also have everyone smacking their lips, make a big bowl of mayonnaise and then flavour it in a couple of different ways. Handy to have in the fridge to make some sandwiches, get some decent bread in – maybe a few Arbutus loaves and make some pickled cucumbers.

A few smoked mackerel are a brilliant standby – I love the moist smokies from Frank Hederman’s Smoke House at Belvelly near Cobh and of course Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Organic Salmon, Then there’s Ummerra, Woodcock Smokery…all unique and delicious in their own way. A selection of artisan charcuterie is another must have for quick snacks, seek out Fingal Ferguson’s cured meat to perk up your sandwiches and baguettes, you could wash it all down with a few artisan beers, and there is such a choice from the Franciscan Brewery in Cork, the Dungarvan Brewery, Eight Degrees Brewery in Michelstown and Metalman Brewing in Waterford.


Smoked Mackerel, Leek and Dill Frittata


Serves 6-8


1 oz (25g) butter

2 medium leeks, thinly sliced

8 free range eggs

2-3 tablespoons freshly chopped dill

1 oz (25g) Gruyere cheese, grated

1 teaspoon salt

lots of freshly ground pepper

6-8 ozs (175-225g) smoked mackerel, cut into dice


1 “x 9” non-stick pan


Melt the butter in a sauté pan.  Add the finely sliced leeks, toss.  Cover and cook on a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave to continue cooking while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.


Whisk the eggs, add the chopped dill and grated cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the cooked leeks.  Melt a little more butter in the non-stick frying pan.  When it foams, add the egg mixture, reduce the heat to minimum.  Sprinkle the smoked mackerel over the top and allow to sink into the egg mixture.  Continue to cook for 8-10 minutes until almost cooked.


Meanwhile preheat the grill.  Flash under the grill until the top is puffed and golden.  Turn out onto a warm plate and serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a good green salad.


Ham Hocks with Haricot Bean and Tomato Stew


Visit the English market in Cork city to find ham hock they are delicious with so many things – a bean stew as well as cabbage and champ. They are also great on a bed of lentils or shredded into a broth with diced vegetables or in a split pea soup.

Serves 4


2 fresh or smoked ham hocks

1 onion

4 garlic cloves

1 carrot, thickly sliced

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon black peppercorns


Haricot Bean and Tomato Stew

This is great on its own or with a few chunks of chorizo, cabanossi or even breakfast sausages.


1 cup dried haricot beans

bouquet garni

1 onion

1 carrot

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 ozs (175g) chopped onion

4 large cloves garlic, crushed

1 x 14 oz (400g) tin tomatoes

1-2 tablespoons chopped rosemary

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar



lots of flat parsley or rosemary


Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water.


Next Day.

Cook the ham hocks. Put the ham hocks into a deep saucepan, add the vegetables and seasonings.  Cover well with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 – 21/2 hours or until the meat is virtually falling off the bones.


While the ham hocks are cooking, strain the beans and cover with fresh cold water, add a bouquet garni, carrot and onion, cover and simmer until the beans are soft but not mushy – anything from 30-60 minutes. Just before the end of cooking, add salt. Remove the bouquet garni (bunch of fresh herbs) and vegetables and discard.


Meanwhile sweat the chopped onion gently in olive oil in a wide saucepan until soft but not coloured, approx. 7-8 minutes add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, add the chopped tomato and their juice, cook for 6-8 minutes, add the cooked beans, and chopped rosemary and cook for a further 5 minutes.


Remove the meat from the ham hocks, include the skin.  Add to the bean stew.

Simmer for another 3 or 4 minutes, add some of the bean liquid if necessary and season well with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  The mixture should be juicy but not swimming in liquid.

Sprinkle with lots of flat parsley and serve or alternatively for a more rustic presentation for hungry chaps, keep the ham hocks whole (you need to cook four).  Spoon some bean stew over and around the ham hocks.  Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Ham Hock and Bean Soup


Add 2 pints of chicken stock and some bean water to the stew – for a delicious robust soup.


Roast Chicken Salad with Avocado and Caesar Dressing


Crisp leaves of little Gem lettuce provide the perfect scoops for chunks of tender chicken drizzled with creamy Caesar dressing.  Everything can be prepared a little ahead to eat.


Serves 12


1 large or 2 smaller organic chickens

1 large or 2 small lemons

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 – 2 tablespoons clear honey

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 x 2 ozs (50g) tin anchovies

1 clove garlic, crushed

a generous pinch of English mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

6 fl ozs (175ml) sunflower oil

2 fl ozs (50ml) extra virgin olive oil

2 fl ozs (50ml) cold water


6 little Gem lettuces and lots of watercress

6 hass avocados


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.


Season the inside of the chickens with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Prick the lemons all over with a skewer, then put inside each chicken.  Tie the legs together, place in separate roasting tins.  Drizzle each chicken with 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil.  Roast for 1 – 1 1/2 hours in the preheated oven then brush the skin with honey and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Roast for a further 15 minutes or until the chickens are well-cooked and golden brown.  Remove from the roasting tin and allow to cool.  They can now be wrapped in tin foil and stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours.


Meanwhile, make the dressing. I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together.  As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.


To Serve

Separate the leaves from the lettuces, arrange the leaves over 2 platters.  Remove each breast coarsely from the chicken in one piece.  Pull the meat from the legs and wings and shred it.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cut each breast in to 6pieces each with a little skin attached.  Put a little brown meat in each lettuce leaf, then top with a slice of breast.

Half, stone, peel and quarter the avocados, tuck a few segments in between the leaves and sprinkle with Maldon seasalt.

Just before serving, drizzle a little dressing over each piece of chicken.  Garnish with watercress sprigs and marigold petals.

(Save the remainder of the dressing for another occasion. Refrigerate until needed).


Roast Kassler

That delicious German speciality, Kassler, is actually fresh loin of pork marinated with pepper, cloves and juniper berries for 12-24 hours and then oak-smoked for a further 12 hours.  It used to be quite difficult to find but is now becoming more widely available as many pork butchers produce their own.  It is best roasted rather than boiled.  It may be served hot, warm or cold.

1 x 5 lbs (2.25 kg) Kassler

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

Weigh the joint and calculate 20 minutes per 1 lb (450g).  Put the piece of Kassler onto a roasting tin; during cooking, baste once or twice with the fat which will render out.  Test the meat.  The juices should run clear.  When cooked, turn off the oven or set to a very low heat; leave the meat to relax for 20 minutes approx. before carving.  De-grease the pan and serve the sweet juices with the Kassler.  Keep the pork fat to roast or sauté potatoes.



Join Slow Food East Cork for a walk around Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm and Gardens on Saturday 28th July, 2012 at 3:30pm to 5:30pm. Bring appropriate weather-proof clothing and footwear. Donations to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project. Booking is essential for this event, please phone 021 4646785 or email

Food Festival Dates for your diary

Achill Island Seafood Festival / Feile Bia Na Mara, Thursday 19th- Sunday 22nd July Doonbeg SeaFood Festival, Friday 20th – Sunday 22 July Schull Country Market at Schull Show, Sunday 29th July Ardmore Pattern Festival Food & Craft Fair , Friday 27th – Sunday 29th July Ardmore Farmers Market Food Fair Sunday 29th July Cork Gourmet Trail, Monday 30th July Westport Food Festival, Tuesday 31st July to Thursday 2nd August

Gubbeen Garden and Farmhouse Lunches – I was so excited to read that Clovisse Ferguson – who has created a little ‘Garden of Eden’ on the family farm just outside Schull, West Cork – is offering a morning tour of the farm, dairy, smokehouse and organic vegetable garden followed by lunch in the Gubbeen farmhouse kitchen, how enticing is that!


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