We’ve just said goodbye to our Summer batch of 12 Week Certificate Course students and I’ve just been paid perhaps the best compliment I’ve got when one chap told me ‘I have learned so much and had so much fun I feel I owe you money!’
There were lots of tears and hugging as students not only from Ireland but from all over the world (11 nationalities) said goodbye to each other before they wing their way home to all four corners of the globe.
Quite something because this course is unquestionably a big ask in terms of time and money but fortunately it is now looked on as an investment because at the end of 12 very intensive full-on weeks, students go straight into jobs in restaurant kitchens all over the world.
This group were aged between 18 and 60, some starting out on their careers others changing careers, had an exciting variety of plans.
Dan Morgenthau was off to Honey and Co in London. John Molony from Dublin was looking forward to working with Yannick Van Aeken and Louise Bannon at Nede the ‘hot’ new restaurant in Dublin.
Prue Campbell from NSW Australia will spend two months at Cappezzanna with Jean Charles and Rosalind Carrini in Tuscany. Jill Holmquist was off to work in the Rose Bakery in Paris. Michelle Rehme was going home to work in the Flagstone Pantry in Santa Barbara. Jessica Stewart-Fraser was heading to Portugal to open a boutique and B&B in the Algarve. Bernie ter Braak from Lithuania was heading home to Vilnius to his café, restaurant and tapas bar.
Not everyone wanted to go straight into a restaurant kitchen several had plans to get a stall in a Farmers Market so they could sell their pickles and preserves home baking or choccies.
Several others had plans to teach kids to cook or get involved in their local community and share their skills. A couple of semi-retired people had just taken time out to learn how to cook so they could at last enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and entertain their friends and business colleagues with ease and panache.
Having spent three months in the midst of a farm and gardens, they all have itchy green fingers and are determined to get a chicken coop and a few hens the moment it’s practical. Meanwhile they’ll be foraging for wild food to spice up their menus, fishing for summer mackerel and maybe even smoking them in a biscuit tin over the gas ring in the kitchen – a more elaborate smoker comes next – a cookery course can be life changing!
How to Smoke Mackerel, Chicken Breast or Duck Breast in a Simple Biscuit Tin Smoker
This is a simple Heath Robinson way to smoke small items of food. It may be frowned upon by serious smokers, but it is great for beginners because it gives such quick results. The fish, duck or chicken can be smoked without having been brined, but even a short salting or brining will improve flavour – 15–20 minutes should do it. Leave to dry for approximately 30 minutes before smoking.
mackerel or duck breast or organic chicken breast
1 shallow biscuit tin with tight-fitting lid
1 wire cake rack to fit inside
pure salt or 80 per cent brine
Place a sheet of tin foil in the base of the biscuit tin and sprinkle 3 or 4 tablespoons of sawdust over it. Lay the fish or meat on the wire rack skin-side upwards, and then cover the tin with the lid.
Place the tin on a gas jet or other heat source on a medium heat. The sawdust will start to smoulder and produce warm smoke that in turn both cooks and smokes the food. Reduce the heat to low. Mackerel will take about 8–10 minutes. Duck or chicken breast will take 20 –30 minutes, depending on the size. Leave to rest before eating warm or at room temperature.
Alternatively, you could buy a simple smoking box from a fishing store or hot-smoke in a tightly covered wok over a gas jet in your own kitchen.
Smoky Tomato Coulee
Pamela Nelson-Munson, a student from Ashland, Oregon gave me this recipe after one of our smoking demonstrations – it’s destined to become a must have sauce in our repertoire.
This is an all-round terrific sauce with endless possibilities, and totally vegan! Of course it has endless possibilities in its seasoning, but it’s surprising how much natural flavour comes out with just these simple ingredients.
As a starter, I love to serve this sparingly in a shallow bowl with 1 large or 2-3 small and very fresh butter-poached scallops. Enjoy!
5-6 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half, spoon out seeds
3-4 smashed cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 fresh clove garlic
50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Lay the halved Roma tomatoes (cut side down on rack) in a stove top smoker (medium heat as you see the smoke begin) for 20-30 minutes or until hot all the way through and soft but not mushy (This may take shorter or longer in your smoker). Add smashed garlic (also on rack) for last 15 minutes.
Slip the tomato out of their skins and put in food processor or blender with peeled smoked garlic, a fresh garlic clove, and any accumulated juices.
When puréed, with processor still running, add olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Store in fridge.
Madhulika’s Grandmother’s Pork Masala
Madhulika Sundaram from Chennai cooked this pork masala while she was with us and sweetly shared the recipe. We’ve made it several times since and remember her as we enjoy it.
1kg (2 1/4lb) x 2.5cm (1 inch) pork cubes from shoulder of pork
100g (3 1/2oz) sunflower oil
25g (1oz) brown mustard seeds
1 rounded tablespoon cumin seeds
500g (18oz) onion, finely chopped
1 level teaspoon turmeric powder
100g (3 1/2oz) ginger, peeled and finely diced
100g (3 1/2oz) garlic, finely chopped
6-10 red chillies, sliced into rings
350 – 475ml (12-16fl oz) water
1 teaspoon soft brown sugar (optional)
Put the oil in a saucepan on a high heat, when it begins to bubble add the mustard seeds and cumin to it. As soon as the mustard seeds pop, add the onions and cook until light brown. Reduce the heat to medium and add the diced pork and the ginger, garlic, turmeric and chillies to the pan. Stir well, cover and leave to cook on a medium heat for 15 minutes.
Add 350ml (12fl oz) water, season lightly with salt and stir. Cover the pan and allow to cook gently for 40 minutes on a medium heat, stirring at regular intervals. The water should be almost fully reduced at this stage. Add half the sugar, stir well and add more if desired.
Serve in a warm bowl with rice and a fruit raita.
- Reduce chillies if that amount is too terrifying.
Bernie ter Braak Lithuanian Honey Liqueur
Compiled and presented for your pleasure by Bernie Ter Braak.
Makes 4 – 6 pints.
2 tablespoon orange peel
1 tablespoon lemon peel
3 sticks cinnamon (break lightly)
4-5 pods of cardamom, lightly crushed
1 nutmeg, lightly crushed
3-5 cloves (leave whole)
1 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
3-4 allspice, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon black pepper, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon white pepper, lightly crushed
3-4 thin slices white ginger
3-4 thin slices red ginger (if available)
1 tbsp or 3 sticks of vanilla
a pinch of saffron (for colour)
3lbs (1.3kgs) honey
1.2 litres (2 pints) water of water
750ml (1 ½ pints) vodka
Put the water into a large pot. Simmer the dry spices until fragrant. Add the moist spices. When blended, add the honey, simmer but do not boil. When the honey is dissolved, remove the spices (strainer). Remove from any flame source and add the alcohol. Allow to cool and bottle in sterilized containers.
Some people drink this right away, but it is highly recommended that you let it age in the bottle in a dark, cool place, for at least 6 months. The longer it ages, the better it gets.
The members of OOOBY (Out of Our Own Backyard) Shanagarry have some wonderful fresh produce from their gardens for sale on the wall outside the Shanagarry Design Centre from 10:30am to 12:30pm every Saturday. They also sell their home-baking, jams and pickles.
Silver Darlings – Irish Atlantic pickled and marinated herring products made by a Finnish native Kirsti O’Kelly. Kirsti learned to pickle herring from her mother and both of her grandmothers. It is not cooked but the process of preserving the fish dissolves all the nasty herring bones leaving the flesh meaty but soft and easy to eat. The family recipes were passed on the generations and now Kirsti with her husband Eoin continue the tradition on Corbally Road in Limerick. Silver Darlings products are available at farmers markets at the Real Olive Company stalls, Toonsbridge Café, the English Market in Cork, Mortons in Ranelagh, Cake Café, Dublin and Kai Galway – 086-0661132