ArchiveApril 2013

Sandor Katz – Food Activist and Fermentation Revivalist

Sandor Katz described himself as a DIY food activist and fermentation revivalist. He has a global cult following – so what exactly is all that all about? Well I met and heard him speak recently at the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference in San Francisco and I have to say it was an inspirational experience.

I’ve been following his trail and becoming more and more intrigued and fascinated since I bought the Art of Fermentation in a book shop in Skibbereen a couple of years ago.

I have felt for some time that our Western diet is seriously deficient in fermented foods and the paranoia around food hygiene and food safety has led to a lowering of immune systems. A growing body of research seems to indicate that children who are totally protected from bacteria seem to have higher rates of allergies and asthma. Sanitising the world can be counterproductive. The overuse of antibiotics has produced resilient bacteria more lethal than those we’ve managed to kill.

How arrogant and naïve are we who imagine that we can win the war against bacteria – over and over they out-evolve us, the battle is futile and in many cases counterproductive. We need to learn to work with bacteria and nature to re-establish healthy gut flora and guess what, they really like fermented foods like sauerkraut.

For the majority of us making fermented foods is an unknown or forgotten skill, unfamiliar names like sauerkraut and kimchi sound scary – we have no idea where to start. Nowadays most people are convinced that bacteria are all bad not realising that the majority of bacteria are beneficial and benign. Bacteria are everywhere, we are all made up of different types of bacteria and of course there are some pathogenic bacteria but the healthier we are the most resistant we are to dangerous bacteria. Ironically the more sterile our environment and more processed out diet the lower our resistance, so challenge your system with lots of live food, organic produce, natural cheeses and fermented foods.

So where do we start, whatever about bacteria the population at large is totally terrified of moulds – again people are convinced they are all scary and bad. Apparently the growing ignorance and paranoia about moulds is adversely affecting the growth of the cheeses, so people are missing out on that brilliant penicillium roqueforti.

In the past decade or two as food has become more and more processed, we’ve lost faith in our own judgment and become increasingly deskilled and put our faith in food manufacturers and sell-by dates.

We need to take back power over our own diet and re-learn forgotten skills, shake off our fear and learn to trust our instincts once again. As soon as I read the Art of Fermenting I googled Sandor Katz for his contact and invited him to speak at the inaugural Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine – 3rd to 6th May 2013.

My pantry larder is now full of bottles, crocks and jars full of experiments and ferments, I’ve been empowered by Sandor Katz who spoke so eloquently of his fascination with fermentation – and told us that there have been no recorded instances of food poisoning from fermented foods in the US so just scrape off that mould and enjoy the sauerkraut underneath.

Fermentation is the hottest new interest for many top chefs particularly in the US. I visited several during my visit to the West Coast. Apart from sauerkraut they are also and making pickles of all kinds. Kefir is now widely sold in supermarkets, so soon you’ll see fermented foods coming mainstream. At present Environmental Health Officers and food inspectors in the US are having difficulty coming to terms with this revolution. This new development, though time honoured, is unfamiliar and can be scary territory.

Sandor Katz is leading the way in our rediscovery of the ancient art of fermentation. His book the Art of Fermentation is the most definitive do-it-yourself guide to homemade fermentation ever published. There are two opportunities to meet Sandor at the Ballymaloe Lit Fest of Food and Wine – he and Ben Reade of the Nordic Food Lab will speak about The Art of Fermentation on Saturday 4th May at 11:30am in the Grainstore and a Practical Fermentation Demonstration at 9:00am on Sunday 5th May 2013


Sandor Katz Sauerkraut


Timeframe: 1-4 weeks (or more)

Special Equipment:

Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket, one-gallon capacity or greater

Plate that fits inside crock or bucket

One-gallon jug filled with water (or a scrubbed and boiled rock)

Cloth cover (like a pillowcase or towel)

Ingredients (for 3 3/4 litres)

2.2kg (5 lbs) cabbage

3 tablespoons sea salt


Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts, however you like it. I love to mix green and red cabbage to end up with bright pink kraut. Place cabbage in a large bowl as you chop it.

Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy, by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. 3 tablespoons of salt is a rough guideline for 2.2kgs (5lbs) of cabbage. I never measure the salt; I just shake some on after I chop up each cabbage. I use more salt in summer, less in winter.

Add other vegetables. Grate carrots for a coleslaw-like kraut. Other vegetables I’ve added include onions, garlic, seaweed, greens, Brussels sprouts, small whole heads of cabbage, turnips, beets, and burdock roots. You can also add fruits (apples, whole or sliced, are classic), and herbs and spices (caraway seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds, and juniper berries are classic, but anything you like will work). Experiment.

Mix ingredients together and pack into crock. Pack just a bit into the crock at a time and tamp it down hard using your fists or any (other) sturdy kitchen implement. The tamping packs the kraut tight in the crock and helps force water out of the cabbage.

Cover kraut with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the crock. Place a clean weight (a glass jug filled with water) on the cover. This weight is to force water out of the cabbage and then keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. Cover the whole thing with a cloth to keep dust and flies out.

Press down on the weight to add pressure to the cabbage and help force water out of it. Continue doing this periodically (as often as you think of it, every few hours), until the brine rises above the cover. This can take up to about 24 hours, as the salt draws water out of the cabbage slowly. Some cabbage, particularly if it is old, simply contains less water. If the brine does not rise above the plate level by the next day, add enough salt water to bring the brine level above the plate. Add about a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water and stir until it’s completely dissolved.

Leave the crock to ferment. I generally store the crock in an unobtrusive corner of the kitchen where I won’t forget about it, but where it won’t be in anybody’s way. You could also store it in a cool basement if you want a slower fermentation that will preserve for longer.

Check the kraut every day or two. The volume reduces as the fermentation proceeds. Sometimes mould appears on the surface. Many books refer to this mould as “scum,” but I prefer to think of it as a bloom. Skim what you can off of the surface; it will break up and you will probably not be able to remove all of it. Don’t worry about this. It’s just a surface phenomenon, a result of contact with the air. The kraut itself is under the anaerobic protection of the brine. Rinse off the plate and the weight. Taste the kraut. Generally it starts to be tangy after a few days, and the taste gets stronger as time passes. In the cool temperatures of a cellar in winter, kraut can keep improving for months and months. In the summer or in a heated room, its life cycle is more rapid. Eventually it becomes soft and the flavour turns less pleasant.

Enjoy. I generally scoop out a bowl- or jarful at a time and keep it in the fridge. I start when the kraut is young and enjoy its evolving flavour over the course of a few weeks. Try the sauerkraut juice that will be left in the bowl after the kraut is eaten. Sauerkraut juice is a rare delicacy and unparalleled digestive tonic. Each time you scoop some kraut out of the crock, you have to repack it carefully. Make sure the kraut is packed tight in the crock, the surface is level, and the cover and weight are clean. Sometimes brine evaporates, so if the kraut is not submerged below brine just add salted water as necessary. Some people preserve kraut by canning and heat-processing it. This can be done; but so much of the power of sauerkraut is its aliveness that I wonder: Why kill it?

Develop a rhythm. I try to start a new batch before the previous batch runs out. I remove the remaining kraut from the crock, repack it with fresh salted cabbage, then pour the old kraut and its juices over the new kraut. This gives the new batch a boost with an active culture starter.


Asian Prawn Salad


Poached monkfish, scallops or squid (see recipe) also work well with this recipe.


Serves 4 – 6



500g (18oz) – peeled, freshly cooked Dublin Bay or organic prawns (see recipe)



Asian Dressing



1 tablespoon nam pla fish sauce

1 teaspoon caster sugar

juice of one lime

2 – 5 Thai green chillies finely sliced

1 stalk lemon grass finely sliced

2 kaffir lime leaves finely shredded

2 red shallots or 1 small red onion finely sliced and refreshed

1 scallion or spring onion cut at an angle

lots of fresh mint leaves or fresh coriander

½ – 1 cucumber cut in half and then in diagonal chunks


Whisk the fish sauce, freshly squeezed lime juice and sugar (you may need more) together. Add the other ingredients, toss gently, taste and correct seasoning and serve immediately with lots of coriander sprigs and a wedge or two of cucumber.


Hot Tips

The Burren Slow Food Festival in Lisdoonvarna is on from 17th to 19th May and showcases the best elements of food culture in County Clare. Visit the largest indoor and outdoor market in County Clare. Attend a food symposium, gala dinner, cookery demonstrations from local and celebrity chefs, and food and nutrition talks. There is also a range of events and demonstrations for children to enjoy.


Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 3rd – 6th May – In addition to the main program, there will be a Fringe festival in “The Big Shed” with a host of other food and wine related activities for young and old alike. Gardeners will rub shoulders with cooks, foragers with food historians, critics with musicians, artisan producers with bloggers – a melting pot -of eating, drinking, speaking and thinking. A place to be quiet or to make noise. A place for new ideas, words old and new, inspiration, learning and fun.

This is a unique event being staged in a special place – a gathering for all who love food and wine –


Check out the new Fish Bar at the Electric on the banks of the River Lee – 41 South Mall, Cork City, it takes its inspiration from the simple Portuguese fish shacks and San Sebastian’s taverns. They serve the freshest fish, simply cooked – half a dozen oysters, grilled sardines, crab and crayfish salad – how delicious does that sound! +353 21 4222 990

Ballymaloe Inaugural Literary Festival of Food and Wine

Down here in Ballymaloe we are all so excited about the first ever Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine.

It’s taking place in Ballymaloe House and at the Grain store and Ballymaloe Cookery School.

We have a fantastic line up of speakers – many of my food heroes from all over the world said yes to the invitation to come to Ireland for a gathering of cooks and chefs and food writers over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

This is your chance to meet and mingle and chat to the icons whom we never imagined we’d meet face to face.

And it’s not just food, every wine buff’s hero Jancis Robinson MW and her husband Nick Lander restaurant critic for the Financial Times will give a presentation on the wine book, “Wine Grapes – A complete guide to 1,368 vine varieties, including their origins and flavours”,   of which she is the co-author with a wine tasting to illustrate her presentation.

We’ll have a whiskey tasting and Ger Buckley from Midleton Distillery will give a cooperage demonstration and we have a number of iconic craft beer brewers (West Kerry, White Gypsy, Metal Man, 8 Degree…) They will all be part of the fringe events in the Big Shed at Ballymaloe. Madhur Jaffrey is coming from New York to teach a class at the cookery school on Saturday 4th May and on Sunday 5th May she will also do a talk in the Grainstore about our love affair with curry – based on her new book The Curry Nation. You can’t see her anywhere else in the world, she just doesn’t give classes.

Same with Claudia Roden, much loved author of over 18 cook books including A Book of Middle Eastern Food, considered to be the standard work on Eastern food. Claudia was awarded a Lifetime Achievement in 2012 by the Guild of Food Writers. She’ll demonstrate recipes from her new book ‘Food of Spain’ on Saturday 4th May.

For those of you who love Asian food, David Thompson chef owner of Nahm restaurant is coming from Bangkok to show us some of his favourite Thai street food. He’s a super guy and we’ll choose recipes you can reproduce at home.

The new voices in food – Stevie Parle from Dock Kitchen in London, Thomasina Miers from Wahaca and Claire Ptak of Violet Cakes and our own Donal Skehan will strut their stuff.

Alice Waters – author of ten books – of Chez Panisse in Berkley CA, started the Edible School Yard project in California. Bill Yosses, pastry chef at the White House will tell us about Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden. And Stephanie Alexander, bestselling author of 14 books and whose project the development of a primary school kitchen garden program the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation is supported by the Australian government and has resulted in 295 Australian schools having gardens and kitchens for the children to learn how to grow and cook. Those interested in the education of our children, both parents and teachers, will find this session totally inspirational.

Budding writers and food bloggers will find much food for thought in sessions like Lucy Pearce’s Workshop, Food Writing for the Digital Generation (with  Aoife Carrigy, Caroline Hennessy and Michael Kelly) on Saturday 4th May. John McKenna In Conversation, Evolution of Food Writing (with Matthew Fort) on Sunday 5th May and In Conversation, How to Get the Best from a Restaurant (with Nick Lander, Tom Doorley and Hazel Allen) on Sunday 5th May.

Michelle Darmody who self-published her Cake Café Cookbook is also happy to share her secrets of how it’s done.

The centre of the gastronomic world has moved from Spain to Copenhagen in the past couple of years. Co-founder of Noma the best restaurant in the world will tell us how this Nordic food revolution came about. Are there lessons for Ireland here?

This session will be particularly fascinating for chefs and cooks, food writers and those involved in the hospitality industry.

Alys Fowler – who was the editor of the Landscape Review and has also presented her own successful TV series, The Edible Garden in 2010. She has published four books including The Thrifty Gardener, The Edible Garden and the Thrifty Forager – will do a foraging master class with Micheal Kelly of GIY (Grow it Yourself). The growing number of people, me included, who are interested in food issues should not miss Joanna Blythman’s workshop Digesting Unsavoury Truths with Ella McSweeney and Suzanne Campbell on Sunday 4th May. Joanna has won numerous awards and accolades including five Glen Fiddich Awards, a Caroline Walker Media Award for Improving the Nation’s Health by Means of Good Food, a Guild of Food Writers Award. Bring your questions… Food historians will be thrilled with the opportunity to hear Regina Sexton – Literary Conversation, The Early Food Writing of Myrtle Allen on Monday 5th May.

And then there are the fringe events in the Big Shed and farmers market and honestly there’s much more but not enough room to tell you about it. We reckon to have many exciting events for all the family, so check out the website for details and deals.

Meanwhile here are some of my favourite recipes from the guests chefs to whet your appetite.


David Thompson’s Nahm Sweet Pork


This sweet pork is addictive.  The sugar balances the heat of the chillies.  It is eaten as an accompaniment to Nam Priks (Relishes).


Serves 4 as a nibble


10 ozs (300 g) pork shoulder or neck

4 ozs (125 g) sugar

1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons water

10 shallots, sliced, dried and deep-fried until golden


Cook the pork in boiling water until cooked, then cut into ½ cm (¼ inch) cubes.  In a small pan combine the sugar and water and cook until it caramelises.  Add the pork, fish sauce, soy sauce and extra water.  Simmer for 5 minutes until sticky.  Mix in the deep-fried shallots and serve.


Thomasina Mier’s Green Chilli Vinaigrette


This is a delicious, bright salad dressing that is perfect for simple green salads.


2 green chillies
1 small clove of garlic
3 tablespoons water

100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

a teaspoon castor sugar

a handful of chopped coriander

Roast the chillies and garlic in a dry frying pan until they are blackened, blistered and soft (5-10 minutes approximately).  Remove the garlic skin and de-stem and de-seed the chillies.  Check the heat of the chillies with the tip of your tongue.  If they are hot you may only want to use one.  Roughly chop them and put in a blender with the garlic and the rest of the ingredients.  Blitz to a smooth-ish vinaigrette and serve at once (this dressing does not keep).


Madhur Jaffrey’s Rogan Josh

From  “Foolproof Indian Cookery”


Serves 4-6


5cm (2 inch) piece of fresh root ginger, chopped

7 garlic cloves, chopped

6 tbsp olive or groundnut oil

10 cardamom pods

2 bay leaves

2½cm (1 inch) piece of cinnamon stick

2lb (900g) boneless lamb from the shoulder, or beef cut into 2½-4cm (1-1½ inch) cubes

7oz (200g) onions, finely chopped

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1½ tbsp sweet, bright-red paprika

2 tsp tomato purée

1¼ tsp salt

10fl oz (300ml) water


Drop the ginger and garlic into a food processor or blender, add 4 tablespoons of water and blend to a paste.  Put the oil into a wide pan, preferably non-stick, and set it over a medium-high heat.  When it is hot, put in the cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon stick.  Quickly put in the lamb pieces – only as many as the pan will hold easily in a single layer and brown on all sides.  Remove with a slotted spoon and put in a bowl.  Brown the remaining meat in the same way.


Add the onions to the oil left in the pan.  Cook, stirring, until they turn brown at the edges.  Add the paste from the blender and stir for 30 seconds.  Add the cumin, coriander, cayenne and paprika, stir once and then add the tomato purée.  Stir for 10 seconds.


Add the meat and any whole spices that are still clinging to it, plus the salt and water.  Stir well and bring to the boil.  Cover the pan, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 1 hour or until the meat is tender.


* If using beef, cook for 1½ hours rather than 1 hour.


Claudia Roden’s Medjool Date and Coconut Chutney


Claudia Roden introduced me to this Jewish recipe when she taught a class at the school in 2007. It’s a gem, keep some in your fridge and you’ll find yourself eating it with everything.  Serve with everything or as part of a plate of mezze.


Makes 3 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars


150ml (5fl oz/1/4 pint) water

125g (4 1/2oz) desiccated coconut

50g (2oz) coriander leaves

juice of 2 limes or lemons

2 garlic cloves crushed

10 Medjool dates, stoned

1 tablespoon tamarind paste dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 tablespoons water


Pour the water over the desiccated coconut and allow to sit about 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Chop the coriander in the food processor, then add the lime juice, crushed garlic, dates, coconut and the tamarind paste dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water.  Season with sea salt and a good pinch of cayenne, and blend to a paste.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of water if necessary to make a soft creamy paste.  Fill into small jars, cover with non-reactive lids and store in the refrigerator.


25g (1oz) block of tamarind soaked for 20 minutes in 50ml (2fl oz) boiling water makes 1 tablespoon of tamarind purée.


Claudia Roden’s Fruit Salad with Honey and Orange Blossom Water

From “The Book of Jewish Cooking”


For this delicately scented fruit salad, have a mix of fruit chosen from three or four of the following: peaches, nectarines, apricots, bananas, plums, grapes, apples, pears, strawberries, mangoes, melon, pineapple, dates, and pomegranate seeds.


Serves 4


Juice of 1 large orange

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon orange blossom water

750g mixed fruit

To garnish: a few mint leaves

Mix the orange juice, honey and orange blossom water straight into a serving bowl. Wash or peel the fruits, core or remove stones and drop them in the bowl as you cut them up into pieces so that they do not have time to discolour.

Leave in a cool place for an hour or longer before serving, garnished with mint leaves.



Slow Food International and Sandbrook House are hosting the second International Slow Food Grandmothers Day Celebration on Sunday 21st of April 11am-6pm.  There will be a celebration of Forgotten Skills and a series of workshops and demonstrations from some of Ireland’s most passionate Slow Food experts.

Darina Allen, Pamela Black, Florence Bowe and Niall Murphy and Sophie Morris of the Kookie Dough company…. will do cookery demonstrations. Sign up for a hands on sausage making sessions with Ed Hick and a series of workshops and demonstrations on topics including butter, cheese and chocolate making, preserving, foraging, cooking bastible bread over the open fire will be free to attend.  Grandmothers are invited to bring along a favourite recipe that they would like to pass onto their grandchildren to include in a Slow Food Grandmother’s scrapbook.

Admission is €10 with free entry to all children with one adult, free car parking and free entry to all workshops.  Cookery demonstrations are €10.00-15.00 and are on a first come, first served basis. See  for more details.

Wine events at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine 3rd – 6th May 2013.

The inaugural Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine, 3rd – 6th May 2013 will include well known wine & drinks writers Jancis Robinson MW, Mary Dowey, Tom Doorley, John Wilson, to name but some of the 40 national and international speakers attending.

Two Herbal Health Talks in May by Herbalist Kelli O’Halloran at Ballyseedy Garden Centre – Carrigtwohill.

The Sneezing Season! Saturday 4th May – 10:30am – 11:30am – How to prevent and alleviate the symptoms of hayfever with herbal medicines.

Happy Heart Weekend Saturday 11th May 10:30am – 11:30am To coincide with the Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘Happy Heart Weekend’, Kelli looks at the natural herbal and dietary approach to preventing and reducing high cholesterol. Both talks cost €10, Slow Food Members €8, a cup of herbal tea included. Phone 087 965 2822 to book.

Jacob Kenedy – Bocca di Lupo


Cooking is the very best way to show special love to your family and friends’ – Jacob Kenedy’s sentiments as he cooked one beautiful dish after another at the Ballymaloe Cookery School recently. Jacob, whose mother came from Rome, owns one of my favourite restaurants in London, Bocca di Lupo. He feels that there is something particularly alluring about Italian food; it nourishes not only the body, but also the soul, mind and heart.

Jacob has been cooking with his Italian mama since he was very little. When he graduated from Saint Johns in Cambridge, he was already a chef at Moro in London and he continued to flit between the kitchens there and Boulevard in San Francisco before taking a year out to travel around Italy.

He opened Bocca di Lupo in a hidden back street in Soho in 2008 and it has since been  named Best Restaurant of the Year twice. In 2010 he opened Gelupo just across the road selling possibly the very best homemade ice cream in London.

As soon as I ate there, I loved the food and wanted to entice Jacob over to the Ballymaloe Cookery School to teach a guest chef course – difficult enough because Jacob is on the stove at Bocca di Lupo almost every day.

The restaurant has received all sorts of accolades and awards for its stripped down, honest regional Italian cuisine. Everything is made from scratch with superb ingredients much of which comes directly from Italy. Jacob and his chefs make all their own pasta, breads, sausages, salami, pickles, mostardo and sublime gelato and granitas.

If you are planning a trip to London, book ahead. Bocca di Lupo is also brilliant for pre-theatre or after theatre bites.

Here are some of the dishes Jacob cooked for us but this is just a taste of what’s in the Bocca Cookbook published by Bloomsbury Publishing.


Bocca di Lupo’s Shaved Radish Salad


Serves 4 as a starter


1 bunch, or about 8 radishes breakfast radishes

1/2 a black radish (approximately 150g/5oz) (available from Turkish shops), or 5cm (2 inches) green mooli (Chinese greengrocers) or mooli

a chunk of celeriac (approximately 50-50g/2 – 2 1/4oz) – about 1/4 of a very small bulb – peeled

a little chunk of pecorino Romano – about 50g (2oz)

1/4 pomegranate, picked – or 6 tablespoons picked seeds

a few sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves picked




1 tablespoon white truffle oil

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

juice of 1/4 lemon (or 2 more teaspoons white balsamic)

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Make a dressing with the oils, vinegar, lemon, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning.


Do the following just before you serve as radishes dry out, and celeriac blackens with time. Wash the radishes (both red and black, don’t peel either), and shave thinly – best on a mandolin. Use a potato peeler to shave the celeriac and pecorino. Toss the lot with the pomegranate seeds and parsley, and dress lightly.


Serve in haphazard but tall piles on individual plates, or in a bowl to share from.


Jacob Kenedy’s Fagioli all’uccelletto – Cannellini Beans cooked ‘like little birds’ with Tomato and Sage

Serves 4 as a side

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 sage leaves, roughly chopped
a tiny pinch of crushed dried chilli flakes

800g cooked cannellini beans, plus a little of their liquor

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) light tomato sauce or passata

Fry the garlic in the oil until it looks like it’s thinking of colouring, but hasn’t quite started to. Add the sage and chilli, then quickly follow with the beans, a small ladleful of their liquor, and the tomato sauce. Season to taste and boil for a few minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the beans.


Jacob Kenedy’s Honey-Grilled Pork Chops


Serves 4


4 good pork chops (preferably from the shoulder, or neck end of the loin) – 200-250g (7-9oz) each and 1.5-2cm (1/3 – 3/4 inch) thick

4 tablespoons runny honey

salt and freshly ground black pepper

a couple of sprigs of rosemary


6 hours to 2 days before you cook, smear the pork chops with half the honey, and about half the salt and pepper you’d use to season them if you were cooking them now. Pick the leaves off one sprig rosemary and sprinkle over the chops. Wrap them up with cling film and refrigerate. This is a kind of quick brine, to partly cure the meat and keep it super-juicy when cooked.


An hour before you’re ready to eat, take the meat from the fridge to come to room temperature. Have ready, blazing hot, a griddle pan or barbecue. Season the chops with a touch more salt and pepper and grill them until gloriously charred on the outside, using the remaining rosemary branch as a brush to anoint them with extra honey as you go. They should be served still a little pink inside, and be given a minute or two to rest and release their honey-sweet juices before serving with braised greens and perhaps some cannellini beans.


Jacob Kenedy’s Escarole Salad

Serves 4–8 as a side, or after a main

1 head escarole



1 1⁄2 tablespoons lemon juice
1⁄2 garlic clove (optional)

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

The escarole is best washed whole, by immersing it upside-down in a sink-full of water and moving it around a little, then shaking dry. Remove any damaged outer leaves, then separate all the rest from the stem and tear into generous pieces.

My grandmother rubs a wooden salad bowl with the garlic, then discards the clove. My mum makes the dressing in advance, and leaves the garlic to steep in it for half an hour or more before discarding it. I sometimes make the salad without any garlic at all. In any case, dress the escarole moments before you serve, seasoning with salt and pepper. The sodden bits of salad left at the bottom are best eaten with a crust of bread, also used to mop the bowl.



Jacob Kenedy’s Caramelised Blood Oranges


This used to be Jacob’s mum’s signature dessert, which he has adopted as his own now!


Serves 4


6 blood oranges

50g (2oz) caster sugar


Pare the skin and pith from the blood oranges, and slice across into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick pinwheel discs. Arrange these on a serving dish.


Cook the sugar to a dark caramel. There’s no need to add any water – just put the sugar in a small, heavy pan and cook over a high heat until it’s a dark brown, volcanically hot liquid. Drizzle this over the oranges and refrigerate for 6-24 hours. Most of the caramel will dissolve into a ridiculously tasty sauce, leaving just a few crunchy nuggets for variety.


Hot Tips


Hake is one the most delicious white fish in our waters and is far superior to cod in my opinion – the Spanish love them yet many Irish people have never tasted Hake. Bord Bia have recently published some great recipes to try –


The Good Things Café Cookery School brochure makes me want to jump into the car and head for Durrus in West Cork right away – check it out!


In one simple afternoon practical cookery session at Ballymaloe Cookery School get stuck in and Just Cook It!  In this short class you will get some practical experience on preparing and cooking a delicious three course meal. Just Cook It -  Friday 17th May 2013 – 2:00pm to 5:30pm Price: €165.00 –

Dublin Bay Prawn Festival – Howth, County Dublin from 25th – 28th April 2013. Savour the taste of the sea with local fresh seafood on offer and enjoy an interesting mix of local food, music and entertainment with plenty of walks, talks and Dublin Bay seaside fun.

The IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) EU Group is organising “Sustainable Rural Development Training Days” between the 23th and 25th April in Dublin. The event is targeted at organic farming organisation other interested civil society groups and will focus on new rural development and innovation policy. They are also interested in getting ARC members involved in our event particularly those who have an interest and expertise in the implementation of EU rural development programmes. IFOAM EU brings together more than 160 organisations, associations and enterprises from all EU-27 and EFTA countries. IFOAM´s goal is the worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems that are based on the principles of Organic Agriculture.

For more information and a link to registration can be found at Sustainable Rural Development Training Days


Cinnamon – Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (originally Ceylon) is the largest producer of real cinnamon in the world. A beautiful gentle spice which has been used both for cooking and medicine since ancient times – lots of references in the bible and in Egypt cinnamon was used for embalming.

When buying cinnamon much of what is sold as cinnamon is an inferior product called cassia which is less expensive but has a much stronger and more acrid flavour.

There are four commercial spices all sold as cinnamon, only one is true cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) produced from the inner bark of a small evergreen tree of the laurel family.

Cassia which is frequently sold as cinnamon comes from three related species, Cassia Burmannii (Indonesian) Cassia Aromaticum (Chinese) and Cassia Loureiroi (Vietnamese).

True cinnamon is native to the lush tropical forests of lovely Sri Lanka, a country formerly known as Ceylon, hence the name  Ceylon cinnamon. The gentle coastal hills in the south of Sri Lanka are especially suited to the growth of cinnamon. Wars have been fought over this spice. In 1505 the Portuguese came to this part of the world in search of cinnamon so they could cut out the Arab middlemen. In those days it was gathered from wild trees but when the Dutch succeeded the Portuguese the first plantations were sown and cinnamon has been flourishing ever since.

On a recent trip to Sri Lanka I wanted to see the process of cinnamon production for myself so I visited Mirissa Hills a working Cinnamon Estate with 360 degree views over Weligama Bay. Thilak the general manager, showed us around the estate which grows both cinnamon (35 acres) and galangal (15 acres) We passed the little temple to Pathini, The Buddhist God of cinnamon on our way to the plantation, the air was filled with the scent of cinnamon. Thilak explained the whole process from the saving of the seed, the production of the seedlings to the cultivation and harvesting and finally peeling and drying. The trees are planted at a spacing of 3 x 4 feet; the two year old plants are pruned drastically which prompts the tree to produce lots of new shoots. Harvesting begins in the third year and every eight months thereafter, as opposed to tea which has to be harvested every seven days.

The cinnamon is still harvested and peeled in the same time honoured way by the skilled Salagama caste. It cannot be mechanised and the process has survived virtually unchanged since the era of the ancient kingdoms, through colonial domination right down to present times.

The cinnamon peelers go early to the fields in the morning to harvest the cinnamon. They choose twigs about 5 feet long and about 1 ½ inches thick.  The straighter they are the easier they will be to peel.  Next, any shoots or leaves are trimmed with a sharp curved machete. The peelers sit cross legged on hessian sacks on the floor in the peeling shed with their bundle of sticks by their sides. They need just three tools, a curved peeler, a brass rod and a small sharp knife called a kokaththa.

First the outer dark leathery layer is shaved off; this is returned to the cinnamon fields for compost. Next the cinnamon peeler picked up the brass rod, about 12 inches in length and begins to massage the surface of the peeled stick. After a couple of minutes when the inner bark loosens and becomes more flexible, he takes the kokaththa and with a surgeons precision cuts two parallel slits in the bark, then in one deft movement he eases the thin layer of cinnamon free from the stick. Nothing is wasted; the latter is used for firewood.

When he (the peelers are all male) has several layers of precious inner bark he carefully layers them inside each other, over lapping them to create a four foot quill.

These were carefully laid on strings of coconut coir hanging beneath the tin roof – it will take eight days, away from sunlight to curl and dry. Then they will be rolled tightly, and allowed to dry for a further ten days. The cinnamon quills are then tied into large bundles to sell in the market where they will be precisely cut into the cinnamon sticks we know.

I wanted to buy some but Thilak advised me to wait until after the monsoon in May when they have Ellba, the best quality, which sells for between 1,800 and 2000 rupees a kilogram, whereas Hamburg sells for 1,500 rupees.

So how can you judge? True Ceylon cinnamon is pale tan in colour, softer in texture, with a sweet citrus flavour. Cassia has a harder bark that is much more difficult to grind. Ground cinnamon is invariably ‘cut’ with cassia so is darker in colour and stronger and more acrid in taste.

In the US cassia is very often sold as cinnamon although better spice companies are now differentiating between the different types of cinnamon – so read the label carefully – there will be a considerable difference in price. So be sure to buy cinnamon sticks and grind them yourself in a spice or coffee grinder. True cinnamon grinds easily into a powder and fine splinters. Cinnamon is used in a myriad of ways in SriLankan cooking, in tea, curries, cakes, biscuits, drinks and medicinally.

One of the most impressive health benefits of cinnamon is its ability to improve blood sugar control, just ½ teaspoon a day has been shown to significantly reduce blood sugar levels, triglycerides, LDL (bad cholesterol) and total cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes, but make sure it’s real cinnamon.


Beef Stew with Cinnamon, Thyme and Shallots


Try this rich good gutsy beef stew, made with shin of beef, from one of my favourite London gastro pubs, the Eagle in Farringdon Road.


Serves 6-8



100g (4oz) streaky bacon, chopped

100g (4oz) salt pork fat, washed and chopped (this would be sold as lardo salato in Italian grocers. Alternatively use all streaky bacon.

1.5kg (3¼ lb) shin of beef cut into 3cm (1¼ inch) cubes

½ glass of red wine vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil

10 shallots or baby onions peeled but left whole with the root intact (you may find it easier to peel them if they are soaked in cold water first)

5 fat garlic cloves, peeled but left whole

1 tablespoon tomato puree

a handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra to garnish

2 fresh bay leaves

a large sprig of thyme

2 strips of orange peel

2 cinnamon sticks

2 glasses of strong red wine

water or beef stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Slowly melt the streaky bacon and pork fat in a wide, heavy casserole.  Take the bacon out and put it in a warm bowl.  Brown the beef in the pan – in batches if necessary – then add it to the bacon in the bowl. Pour the red wine vinegar into the hot pan and stir to deglaze, letting it bubble until slightly reduced. Pour it over the meat.  Heat some olive oil in the pan, add the shallots and garlic cloves with some salt and a generous amount of black pepper and fry for a few minutes over a moderate heat.  Stir in the tomato puree and chopped parsley and cook for a minute longer, then return the meat to the pan with any resulting juices.

Make a bouquet of the bay, thyme and orange peel and bury it in the pot with the cinnamon sticks.  Heat the red wine, then pour it over the meat and add enough water or stock to bring the level of the liquid to no more than an inch below the surface of the meat.  Cover the meat with an inner lid made of foil and then a close-fitting pan lid.  Turn the heat to very low or place in a slow oven (150C/Gas Mark 2).  It will take around 3 hours to cook, but I would cook it for 2 hours one day, refrigerate it and then finish it the next. Remove any congealed fat, re-heat gently on the top of the stove. Garnish with lots of roughly chopped parsley and serve with a big bowl of mash.


Slow Cooked Pork Belly with Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger and Star Anise



This is a deliciously rich and unctuous dish from A Year in my Kitchen by Skye Gyngell. She likes to serve it with braised lentils, but it is also very good with lightly cooked Asian greens, such as pak choi.


Serves 6


2kg piece belly of pork (organic, free-range)

2 cinnamon sticks

3 star anise

1 tsp cloves

1 red chilli

3cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled

6 garlic cloves, peeled

2 tbsp chopped coriander, roots and stems

100ml tamari (or soy sauce)

75ml maple syrup

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp sunflower oil


To serve:

Braised lentils



Put the pork belly into a large cooking pot (or pan) in which it fits quite snugly and add cold water to cover.  Bring to the boil, then immediately turn off the heat and remove the pork from the pan.  Drain off the water and rinse out the pan.

One-third fill the pan with cold water and place over a medium heat.  Add the pork, this time along with the spices, chili, ginger, garlic and chopped coriander roots and stems.  If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the meat, add some more water.   Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer very gently for 1½ hours until the meat is cooked and very tender.   If you have the rib end, the meat will have shrunk back to expose the tips of the bones.   With a pair of tongs, carefully remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Turn the heat up under the pan to high and add the tamari and maple syrup.  (If you don’t want the sauce to taste ‘hot’, remove the ginger and chili at this point.)   Let the liquid bubble until reduced by half, this will take about 20 minutes.   As the sauce reduces, the flavours will become very intense, forming, a rich, dark sauce.

In the meantime, slice the pork belly into individual servings – one rib should be enough per person.   Season the ribs with a little salt and pepper.  Place a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat and add the oil.  Heat until the pan is starting to smoke, then add the pork ribs and brown well on both sides until crunchy and golden brown on the surface.  Strain the reduced liquour.

To serve, lay a rib on each warm plate (or soup plate) and spoon over the reduced sauce and warm braised lentils.  Serve at once.


Sri Lankan Toast with Cinnamon



Serves 4


4 free range eggs

175ml (4flozs) whole milk

1 teaspoon of freshly ground cinnamon


4 slices white bread

4 tablespoons clarified butter


sesame seeds



Whisk the eggs, milk and cinnamon together until well blended.  Strain the mixture into a shallow bowl in which you can easily soak the bread.  Dip both sides of each slice of bread in the egg mixture. Melt 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter in a frying pan.  Fry the bread over a medium heat until very lightly browned, turning once.  Serve warm sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Drizzle with honey and serve.


Cinnamon Ice Cream


Serves 6


Serve this delicious ice-cream with an Apple Tart or with a compote of pears.


1/2 cinnamon stick (1- 1 1/2 inches (2 1/2 – 4cms) in length)

8 fl ozs (225ml) milk

8 fl ozs (225ml) cream

5 egg yolks

4ozs (110g) sugar


Grind the cinnamon stick coarsely in a coffee grinder.  Put the milk in a saucepan, add the ground cinnamon, bring slowly to scalding point, add the cream then allow to cool.  Leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes.


Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until white and fluffy, then whisk in the warm infusion.  Pour back into the saucepan and cook over a gentle heat stirring all the time until the mixture just coats the back of a spoon.


Sieve it, then cool quickly and freeze in an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Alternatively pour in a plastic box, cover and put into the freezer, whisk once or twice during freezing.



Cinnamon Biscuits


Use any cutter you fancy but these are completely delicious.

Makes 24 biscuits (3 inch x 2 inch)


Makes 48 (3 inch x 1 inch)


115g (4 ¼ oz)  butter

115g (4 ¼ oz)  pale golden brown sugar

50g (2 oz) caster sugar

1 free range egg

150g (5oz)  flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon powder (we grind the cinnamon sticks in a spice grinder)



Cream the butter, add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the egg. Beat well again and then fold in the flour and cinnamon.   Cover with parchment paper and chill for at least an hour.


Roll out and cut into chosen shapes. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4.


Bake for 10 minutes approximately until golden but still softish.  They will crisp as they cool.

Store in an airtight box.



Hot Tips


The 6th West Waterford Festival of Food takes place from Thursday 11th to Friday 14th April. There’s a packed programme of free and ticketed events, some held indoors while many unfold in the great outdoors. Marie Power ‘The Sea Gardener’ will host seaweed seminars on  Clonea Beach while botanist Paul Green will lead ‘crude food’ trails in Colligan Woods. There’s a ‘Raw Food Revolution’ going on too with nutritionists, chefs and food entrepreneurs demonstrating the huge value and great taste of raw foods.  Children get to do cookery classes alongside their parents and mini- buses take festival goers on tour to visit local producers, bakers, brewers, juice and cheese makers. The legendary nose to tail UK chef Fergus Henderson will be at The Tannery on Friday April 12th while on stage in Dungarvan’s town hall theatre to cook their favourite dishes will be Ross Lewis, Rachel Allen and Garrett Byrne.


The Intensive 12 Week Certificate course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School is looked on as an investment. Students learn the skills to earn their living from their cooking. Summer course begins on 22nd April 2013 –


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