After months of build up and careful planning by Rory O’ Connell, Rebecca Cronin, Colm McCan and the Litfest team the 2nd event came and went in a whirlwind of exciting workshops, debates, lectures, tastings,demos ….. The fringe festival in The Big Shed was a throbbing melee of food stalls, craft beer makers, artisan producers, fresh coffee roasters and Ivan’s restaurant …
Camilla Houston who spreads magic everywhere she goes, had created a fantastic Family Corner decorated with huge paper mache fruit and vegetables and Happie the cow was there for the kids to climb on.
This year the festival was renamed the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine to acknowledge our title festival sponsors.
Camilla and her team of elves had back to back activities for the children all connected to food and growing. Rene Redzepi’s daughter Arwen loved learning how to make smoothies. GIY were also there encouraging and showing people how to grow some of their own food.
Philip Dennhardt and his team at Saturday Pizzas turned out bubbly pizzas from his woodburning oven. Laurent Catinot and daughters did crepes and chicken gizzard salad, while aficionados queued.
Next door in the Drinks Theatre, Colm Mc Can consultant sommelier at Ballymaloe House hosted one brilliant wine, drink, spirit, craft beer and cocktail event after another. The look was upscale retro, with 1 green bottle hanging on the wall beside 99 dark bottles. The great graffetti now called Street Art and rightly so was done by Dusto (Adam O’ Connor) and the installations were by Sam Gleeson, Barry Rodgers from Elemental Designs and Sharon Greene, Yvonne Woods and Aoife Banville. All were food and literature connected – after all this was a literary festival.
In the Grain store Rene Redzepi held forth on The Nordic Food Revolution. Joanna Blythman, Ella Mc Sweeney and John Mc Kenna debated on Good Fats, Bad Fats and much much more.
Myrtle Allen’s Cookery archive with Regina Sexton was another stand-out event as was the Butter Vikings.
A shuttle bus ferried people backwards and forwards to the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry where a mind blowing list of iconic chefs and cooks from all over the world wowed their audience. People were utterly gob smacked by feisty Diana Kennedy, 91 going on 19 who insisted on being involved in the mis en place for all her dishes the day before. What is she on…. She has extraordinary energy and vitality and gave a fantastic performance of delicious food. There was also Maggie Beer from Australia who reintroduced us to verjuice and cooked beautiful simple food with our fresh ingredients. Standing room only for the Ottolenghi boys, Yotam and Sammi and sadly we had to turn people away.
RTE finest, with Martin Shanahan, Catherine Fulvio and Paul Flynn gave a splendid and hilarious performance. Ross Lewis with Rachel Allen by his side cooked some of the dishes from his beautiful book Chapter One and clearly illustrated why he is so successful. Much loved as ever our past students, Clodagh McKenna, Lily Higgins, and Jordan Bourke made us very proud and signed lots of books after their session.
Rory O Connell and Ariana Bundy shared the stage and cooked some of their favourite recipes from Master It and Pomegranates and Roses and there was so much more – altogether a great weekend. We’ve already begun to work on next year’s event 15th – 17th May. Pop those dates in your diary now. We’ve got a fantastic line up planned of which more anon.
Maggie’s Beers Oyster Shooters
One year, a great caterer and friend of mine, Cath Kerry, introduced a verjuice oyster shooter to as many of her customers as she possibly could. I thought it a great idea, then, given my love of jellies, took it a step further by adding gelatine. Having the oysters encased in a soft verjuice jelly, with the surprise of the thyme and vinegar on top, is both a taste and textural sensation – and it’s so simple to do. And oh what a difference it makes if you shuck your own oysters.
These shooters are best when the jelly is only just softly set so that the jelly-encased oyster slips easily out of its glass.
Makes 6 shooters
1/2 x 2g gelatine leaf
110ml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) verjuice
1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
6 oysters, freshly shucked
1/2 golden shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Soak the gelatine leaf in cold water for a couple of minutes to soften. Heat the verjuice and sugar in a small saucepan over a high heat until sugar dissolves, then leave to cool a little. Squeeze the extra liquid out of the gelatine leaf and stir into the lukewarm verjuice until dissolved.
Divide one third of the verjuice mixture between 6 shot glasses then refrigerate until the jelly sets. Keep the remaining 2/3 in a warm place so that it doesn’t set while the mixture in the glasses is in the refrigerator. If it does set, gently reheat over a low heat. Place a freshly shucked oyster on top of each of the set jellies, then top with the remaining verjuice mixture and refrigerate until set.
Meanwhile mix shallot, sherry vinegar and thyme, then season to taste and leave for 20 minutes for flavours to infuse. Top each shot glass with a little of the shallot mixture, then serve each one with a teaspoon so that your guests can enjoy their oyster shooters in one bite.
Ottolenghi’s Saffron Chicken and Herb Salad
50g (2oz) honey
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
about 300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) water
1kg (2 1/4lbs) skinless chicken breast
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
15g (1/2oz) picked coriander leaves
15g (1/2oz) picked basil leaves, torn
15 picked mint leaves, torn
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 red chilli thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Trim and discard 1cm (1/2 inch) off the top and tail of the orange and cut it into 12 wedges, keeping the skin on. Remove any pips. Place the wedges in a small saucepan with the honey, saffron, vinegar and just enough water to cover the oranges. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about an hour. At the end you should be left with soft orange and about 3 tablespoons of thick syrup; add water during the cooking if needed. Use a food processor to blitz the orange and syrup into a smooth, runny paste; again, add a little water if needed.
Mix the chicken breast with half the olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper, and place on a very (!) hot ridged griddle pan. Sear for about 2 minutes on each side to get clear char-mark all over. Transfer to a roasting tray and place in the oven 15-20 minutes, or until just cooked.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, but still warm, break it with your hands into rough and quite large pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl, pour over half the orange paste and stir well. The other half you can keep in the fridge for a few days and would make a good addition for herb salsa to serve with oily fish such as mackerel or salmon.
Add the remaining ingredients to the salad, including the rest of the olive oil, and toss gently. Taste, add salt and pepper and, if needed, some more olive oil and lemon juice.
Ariana Bundys Cold Cucumber Soup with Plump Raisins, Walnuts, Mint and Spring Onions
Iranians eat a lot of cucumbers. They’re considered more of a fruit than a vegetable and eaten as such. The cucumbers in Iran are small, juicy and packed with flavour. When you bite into one, the smell fills the whole room. At parties, they’re piled high, with some rock salt on the side for sprinkling.
This yogurt and cucumber coup is an example of a perfectly balanced ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ dish. ‘Cold’ yogurt is mixed with ‘hot’ walnuts and raisins, with fresh herbs for easy digestion.
Here, I’ve used different types of yogurts to mimic the texture and slightly sour taste of yogurt made in the villages of Iran. You can also use natural full-fat or even fat-free yogurt, mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice. One of my best foodie friends, Maryam Samiy uses champagne grapes instead of raisins, which adds a whole new dimension to this dish.
1 large cucumber, semi peeled, seeded and diced or 6 small cucumbers, diced.
400g (14oz/1 1/2 cups) of low-fat Greek yogurt or crème-fraîche.
200g (7oz/3/4 cup) full-fat natural yogurt
200g (7oz/3/4 cup) soured cream
50g (2oz/1/2 cup) raisins
4 tablespoons roasted walnuts chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
3 tarragon sprigs finely chopped
2 spring onions finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
fresh pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dried rose petals, to decorate.
Mix all the ingredients except the rose petals together in a large bowl. But if preparing in advance, add the cucumbers at the last minute so that they stay crunchy and don’t give out too much juice. You can also slice the cucumber first, sprinkle with salt, leave for an hour in a colander, run under the tap to remove the excess salt, dry the slices and then dice them. They’ll be extra crunchy and not go limp the next day in case you have any soup left over.
Sprinkle the soup with rose petals and serve in individual bowls. On a hot day, add a few ice-cubes.
Rory O Connells Yoghurt and Lemon Cake with Raisins and Sherry
This is a Middle Eastern recipe which I like very much and I serve it as a dessert cake. I sometimes serve it in the winter months with a seasonal Salad of Dates and Oranges rather than the sherried raisins. This cake rises in the cooking and then falls a little to present itself looking like a cross between a cake and a tart.
Thick Greek style yoghurt is best for this cake
4 large eggs
100g (3 1/2oz/scant 1/2 cup) caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60g (2 1/2oz) plain white flour
400g (14oz) Greek style yoghurt
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Prepare a 23cm (9 inch) spring form tin, by brushing the sides with melted butter. Line the base of the tin with a disc of parchment paper. Separate the eggs and place the whites in a clean bowl for whisking later. With an electric mixer or a hand held machine, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla to a thick pale cream.
Sieve the flour and fold it into the egg and sugar mixture with the yoghurt, lemon zest and juice and mix to a smooth consistency. Whisk the egg whites to a stiff but not dry peak and fold lightly but thoroughly into the mixture. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50 –60 minutes, until the top is browned and the cake looks set and firm. The cake will have risen and then fallen during the cooking.
Remove the tin from the oven and place on a wire rack. After 5 minutes, run a blunt table knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the edges. Now remove the sides of the tin and allow the cake to cool for a further 20 minutes.
Place a flat plate, serving side down over the top of the cake. Invert the cake on to the plate so that the base of the tin is now uppermost. Remove the base of the tin and the parchment. Get another plate, the one you want to serve the cake on, and again invert the cake so you now have restored the cake to its correct serving position.
Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with sherried raisins spooned over the cake. Pass yoghurt or softly whipped cream separately.
Raisin and Sherry Sauce
75g (3oz) raisins
75ml (3fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) Oloroso Sherry or Pedro Ximinez
Place the raisins and sherry in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and immediately remove from the heat. Allow to macerate for at least 1 hour.
Green Saffron keep storming on – Arun and Olive have recently introduced some new spicy blends including one for Rogan Josh and Bombay Aloo – don’t miss their Vintage Basmati Rice – it’s a whole different experience – you’ll think you’ve never tasted rice before. www.greensaffron.com.
Date for your diary
What a joy to be able to snip your own fresh herbs outside the kitchen door – want to learn how and what to grow. Susan Turner consultant head gardener at Ballymaloe Cookery School is doing a half day course – Designing a Herb Garden on Monday 16th June, 9am – 2pm. Booking essential – phone – 021 4646785
Beef, Bulls, Butchers and Biodiversity
Maybe not everyone’s scene but the Agricultural History Society of Ireland have a fascinating Summer conference on Cattle in Ireland:, on 14th & 15th June in County Arms Hotel, Birr, Co Offaly. Lecture programme available on www.ahsi.ie