If by any chance you have a few book tokens left over from Christmas presents, I’ve got some brilliant suggestions for worthwhile cookbooks to track down. For the growing number of cake-makers, Annie Bells Baking Bible published by Kyle books is a real gem. The recipes are triple tested so really work which can’t be said for every cook book by a long way.
April Bloomfield is the toast of New York at present. In London she worked at Kensington Place, the River Café and with Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum. Her initial venture in the US – the Spotted Pig in Greenwich – was the first real gastro pub in New York. She’s gone on to open the highly acclaimed Breslin and John Dory. I love her simple food, so I was thrilled to learn some of the secrets from her recent book – A Girl and Her Pig published by Harper Collins.
Any of Aussie chef’s Bill Granger’s books are worth having on your shelf; Bill’s Everyday Asian is full of tempting easy recipes like Vietnamese Rice Noodles and Sticky Prawns
Fermentation is the new big craze; it’s well known that we don’t have enough fermented foods in our Western diet so there is a huge revival of interest in foods like Kim Chi, sauerkraut, kefir, pickles…
Sander Katz is the king of fermentation, who by the way will be coming to Ballymaloe to do a session at the inaugural Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine over the May Bank holiday week-end.
Sander Katz’s book the Art of Fermentation is a modern classic and a ‘must have’ for those who are experimenting with fermentation. It costs around €40.00 but it’s worth every penny.
Finally, a little paper-back, ‘Cook on a Shoestring’ by Sophie Wright published by Kyle- an exciting new voice in food. This book is choc-a-bloc with easy, inspiring, straight forward recipes that you can even imagine trying out after a 9 – 5 slog.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year, may 2013 bring the blessing of many delicious meals around the kitchen table with family and friends.
Sophie Wright’s Barley and Curried Squash Soup
Serves 6 – 8
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
1 large butternut squash, chopped into small dice (seeds removed)
1 litre vegetable stock
125g pearly barley
A squeeze of lemon juice
To Serve (optional)
crumbled feta or goat’s cheese
Put a large flameproof casserole on the hob and add the oil. Add the chopped onion and celery and cook for 6 – 8 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper before adding the grated ginger and garlic along with the curry powder. Cook the spices for a few minutes before adding the butternut squash and the stock. Put the lid back on a simmer for 25 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, boil the pearly barley in a separate saucepan of boiling water until tender. The should take about 16 minutes.
Once the vegetables are tender purée the soup using a hand held blender, or by transferring the contents of the pan to a food processor. Ensure you don’t get splashed by any of the hot soup. Blitz the soup until it is completely smooth.
Drain the pearl barley and add it to the puréed soup. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and check again for seasoning.
If you have any feta or goat’s cheese, crumble a little over each serving and sprinkle over a few pumpkin seeds for extra texture and little bit of creaminess.
Sophie Wright’s Tray Baked Ginger-glazed Salmon
Serves 4 – 6
600 – 800g (1 ¼ to 1 ¾ lb) fillet or supreme of salmon, skin on or off
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons stem ginger syrup
2 pieces stem ginger, cut into fine strips
juice and zest of 1 lime
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas 5. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and lay the salmon fillet or supremes on top.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour or brush onto the salmon fillets on the fish side only. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes in you have a whole large piece of fish or 8 – 10 minutes for smaller pieces. You will know that the fish is cooked when you can easily flake the flesh using a fork.
Remove from the oven and flake the fish, if you wish, before serving with either steamed rice, stir-fried vegetables or noodles.
Bill Granger’s Vietnamese Rice Noodles and Sticky Prawns
250g (9oz) vermicelli
2 tablespoons light flavoured oil
16 large prawns, peeled and de-veined, tails intact
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves – crushed with the flat of a knife
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
4 tablespoons lime juice
small handful coriander leaves
1 cucumber, sliced
2 limes cut into wedges
Place the rice vermicelli in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 6 – 7 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water.
Place a wok or frying pan over a high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the prawns and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Remove from the wok. Heat the remaining oil, then add the onion, garlic and chilli and stir-fry for one minute. Add the lime juice and remove from the heat.
Divide the noodles between four bowls. Top with the prawns, coriander and cucumber.
Serve with lime wedges.
April Bloomfield’s Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt, Eggs and Mint
These are not straight up Italian meatballs. The sauce has a bit of North Africa as well as the Mediterranean in it, so the dish is exotic and comforting at once. The sauce has a whiff of cumin and mint, both good friends to minced lamb. Just before I serve the meatballs, I add little blobs of yogurt, crack a few eggs into the pot and let them poach.
I.1kg boneless lamb shoulder cut into 2.5cm pieces
2 ½ tablespoons Maldon or another flaky sea salt
225g fine bread crumbs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
For the Sauce
1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon Maldon or another flaky sea salt
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 Dutch or other spicy long red chillies, pierced with a sharp knife
1 800g tin peeled whole tomatoes, drained, trimmed and squished with your hands
about 125ml (4fl oz) whole milk Greek style yogurt
4 large eggs
a small handful of mint leaves, a small handful of small, delicate coriander sprigs
extra virgin olive oil
Meat mincer or meat mincing attachment of a stand mixer. Make the meatballs: Put the lamb in a large mixing bowl, cover the bowl with Clingfilm and pop it into the freezer until the edges get crunchy, about 1 hour.
Toss the lamb well with the salt, then add the breadcrumbs and toss again. Use a meat mincer (or the mincing attachment of a stand mixer) to mince the mixture into a bowl. Put the mixture through the mincer once more.
Take a bit of the mixture in your hand, give it a few firm but still rather gentle squeezes, and roll it into a ball (you’re shooting for each one to be a little bigger than a golf ball) Over working the mixture is bad leads to tough meatballs, but this warning often makes cooks too timid when they form the balls: the outside of each ball should be smooth, with no big cracks or crags. Gently pinch any cracks closed so the ball doesn’t fall apart in the pan. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
Add the oil to a 8 to 9 litre casserole with a lid, set the pan over high heat and swirl the oil in the pan. When it just begins to smoke, cook the meatballs in batches to avoid crowding, turning them occasionally with tongs, so they develop a beautiful shiny, deep-brown crust on all sides. You don’t want to cook them too fast. If you see any black spots, turn your heat down a little. Keep at it until you’re happy with the colour of each one, transferring them to a plate when they finish browning. It’ll take 12 to 15 minutes per batch. Drain half the fat remaining in the pot.
Make the Sauce: Lower the heat to medium high, add the onion, garlic and salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and lightly browned and the garlic smells toasty and is a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin and chillies and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Turn the heat to low, add the tomatoes and simmer gently until the tomatoes begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, about 10 minutes. Add 1 litre water and raise the heat to bring the sauce to the boil, and then turn it down to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes more. Transfer 500ml of the sauce to a blender; give it a whiz until its smooth and airy, stir in back into the sauce in the pot.
Return the meatballs and their juices to the pot and stir gently to coat them in the sauce. Cover the pot, tweak the heat if need be to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes to let the flavours come together.
Finish the dish: Turn the heat to low, add blobs of the yogurt and crack the eggs here and there into the sauce. Tear and sprinkle in the mint leaves and coriander and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Cover the pot and turn the heat to mediu, Cook until the egg whites have just set (I like my yolks a little runny) 10 to 15 minutes.
Eat it right away from the pot or divided among shallow, bowls, making sure everyone gets an egg and some yogurt.
Homemade butter adds a little je ne sais quoi to your table, look out for Cuinneog and Glenilen Butter, a taste of the past and the future. Each one has a distinctly different flavour, a taste of the lush green grass on that farm. www.cuinneag.com and www.glenilen.com
Floury Irish potatoes: If you hanker for a floury Golden Wonder or a few Kerrs Pinks get to the Midleton Farmer’s Market good and early on a Saturday morning and head for Willie Scannell’s stall. The Market re-opens on Saturday 12th January, 2013.
Trout Caviar from Goastbridge Farm in Co Kilkenny – you’ll find a myriad of ways to use it, we love it on a tiny potato cakes with sour cream, on scrambled eggs, atop a baked potato. www.goatsbridgetrout.ie
Don’t forget Penny Dinners, St Vincent de Paul and Shelter et al in the New Year. People were very generous around Christmas but there’s a long year ahead.