ArchiveFebruary 2017

Shrove Tuesday

I love, love, love pancakes, bit fat juicy ones, thin crispy lacy ones, teeny weeny piklets, soft spongy crumpets, blousey Dutch babies…
Pancake batter is totally magical, one can make a million variations by just changing the proportions of egg and flour to liquid.
Half milk and water will give you a lacier crepe, less liquid will result in a thickish pancake. Use buttermilk instead and you can turn out a stack of fluffy American pancakes.

Everyone has their favourites, but simple pancakes conjure up the happiest memories of Pancake Tuesdays of our childhood. Mummy made a huge bowl of pancake batter and then cooked pancake after pancake for what seemed like hours. There were nine of us so we took turns to have the next one straight from the pan. We brushed the speckled pancakes with melted butter, sprinkled on some castor sugar and squeezed some lemon juice to zip up the flavour, rolled them up and then ate them slowly cut into little slices until it was our turn again. When my own children were little, pancakes were our quintessential fast food made in minutes when we arrived home from a shopping trip or an afternoon at the beach. Just pop a pan on the Aga, shoot a mug of white flour into a blender, add 3 eggs and 15 fl oz of milk, a dessertspoon of castor sugar. Whizz, bang – batter made. Melt a little butter in the pan, pour in a small ladel full of batter, tilt the pan to cover the base, cook on the highest heat for a minute or two until its easy to flip over. Slide it onto a hot plate, then fill or top with your favourite choice – chocolate spread is right up there, soft and easy to spread but now we know that the well-known brand is made with controversial palm oil you may want to make your own with good quality hazelnuts and chocolate.

Kumquat compote, a homemade lemon curd and crème fraîche are so morish. Honey, butter is also hard to beat but orange butter and freshly squeezed lemon juice are a quintessential favourite. Ring up the pals and arrange a pancake party – fun and delicious for all the ages from nine to ninety.
Here are some of my favourite recipes


Hot Tips

Date for the Diary
The Weston A. Price Foundation will be hosting their third conference at Thomond Park Stadium in Limerick on March 25th & 26th March 2017. ‘Changing Our Minds’ will focus on the nutritional foundations of a healthy mind and ways in which we can make profound positive changes to our health.
Contact Deirdre McMahon

Fairtrade Fortnight
From February 27th to March 12th 2017. Join your friends, neighbours, colleagues and communities to put Fairtrade products in your shopping basket whenever possible. Everything tastes better when you can enjoy it knowing that those who laboured to produce the food are fairly treated and compensated.
Check out for the Fairtrade Fortnight Action Guide.

Slow Food East Cork Event Fair Trade Nicaraguan Chocolate
Heydi Mairena from Jinotega in Nicaragua will share the story of her fair trade artisan Quetzalcoatl chocolate on Wednesday March 1st 2017 at 7pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Posh Shrove Tuesday Pancakes with Orange Butter

Every Shrove Tuesday we make pancakes at the School, the students queue up to eat them hot from the pan, with much swapping of stories about how mothers made them – this year one was heard to remark ruefully – ‘my mother’s pancakes never tasted like these- these are delicious! In fact these are very nearly as good as Crepes Suzette but half the bother.

Serves 6 – makes 12 approx.

Basic Pancake Batter
175g (6oz/generous 1 cup) white flour, preferably unbleached
A good pinch of salt
1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) castor sugar
2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range
425ml (scant ¾ pint) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) melted butter

Orange Butter
175g (6oz/1½ sticks) butter
3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
200g (7oz/scant 2 cups) icing sugar
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Grand Marnier (optional)

Freshly squeezed juice of 5 oranges

8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crepe pan

First make the batter. Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour from the sides. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of castor sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).
Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so – longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the pancakes stir in 2 tablespoons melted butter. This will make all
the difference to the flavour and texture of the pancakes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.
Next make the Orange butter.
Cream the butter with the finely grated orange rind. Then add the sifted icing sugar and beat until fluffy, add the orange liqueur if using.
Make the pancakes in the usual way.
Heat a non stick pan until very hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base when you tilt and swirl the pan. Put the pan back on the heat, loosen the pancake around the edge with a non metal slice. Flip over, cook for a few seconds on the reverse side. Slide over onto a plate. Repeat until all the batter has been used up.
Pancakes and orange butter can be make ahead and finished later. The pancakes will keep overnight covered in a fridge. They will peel apart easily – no need to interleaf them with greaseproof paper.
To Serve
Melt a large blob of the Orange butter in the pan, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and toss the pancakes in the foaming butter, fold in half and then in quarters (fan shapes). Serve 2 per person on warm plates. Repeat until all the pancakes and butter have been used.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Spread

You’ll never go back to the well known brand

Makes 2 small jars

250 g (9 oz) hazelnuts
150 g (5 oz) icing sugar
45 g (1.5 oz) cocoa powder (we use Valrhona)
4 tablespoons hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salt, between 1/8 and ¼ teaspoon

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Spread the hazelnuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes or until the skin start to loosen and the nuts are golden and evenly roasted. Rub the skins off the hazelnuts and discard.

Cool and transfer to a food processor. Whizz the hazelnuts for 2-5 minutes or until the oil begins to separate from the soft paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder, hazelnut oil, vanilla extract and salt to taste. Keep whizzing until the spread is loose, glossy and spreadable texture. Taste, it may need another pinch of salt or another tablespoon of hazelnut oil.
Spoon into little jars, cover and use within a month but usually it doesn’t last that long!

Reynard’s Dutch Babies

Makes 4
3 free range eggs
175ml (6fl ozs/3/4 cup) milk
75oz (3oz/1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
salt to taste
3/4 tablespoons (1 American tablespoons) clarified butter

4 slices cooked ham
75-110g (3-4ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated
maple syrup (optional)
2 teaspoon thyme leaves
freshly ground pepper

We use small, 15cm (6 inch) cast iron pans for ours.
Preheat an oven to 230°/450°F/Gas Mark 8.
Whisk all the ingredients together for the batter. Melt a scant tablespoon of clarified butter in each of the cast iron pans over a high heat, pour 1/4 of the batter into the hot pan. Transfer into the preheated oven, they will bubble up. Reduce temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add a slice of cooked ham and a good sprinkle of grated Gruyére cheese. Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the cheese melts. Slide onto a warm plate.

Drizzle with maple syrup (optional), sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and a grind of freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.

Drop Scones with Loads of Toppings

These can be sweet or savoury, just omit the sugar.

Makes 12

110g (4ozs/1 cup) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
25g (1oz/1/8 cup) caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
110ml (4fl ozs/1/2 cup) milk
drop of sunflower oil, for greasing

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and stir to mix. Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and whisk, gradually drawing in the flour from the edge. Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time, to form a smooth batter.

Lightly grease a frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat. Drop 3 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons + 3 teaspoons) of the batter into the pan, keeping well apart so they don’t stick together. Cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and begin to burst and the drop scones are golden underneath, then flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or until golden on this side as well.

Remove from the pan to a wire rack. Serve warm with whichever topping you fancy.

Kumquat Compote and Crème Fraiche and Shredded Mint
Blood Orange, Labne, Roast Rhubarb and Pistachios
Labne, Pomegranates and Mint
Blueberries, Lemon Cream and Mint Leaves
Dulce de Leche, Bananas, Pecans and slivered almonds
Roast cherry tomatoes and Rocket Leaves
Blackberries, Lemon Curd, Cream and Blueberries

American Buttermilk Pancakes with Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup

Serves 4-6 depending on the size or helping

Makes 14 – 3” pancakes

We love to cook American pancakes on the Aga for Sunday brunch – it’s so difficult to know when to stop!

250ml (8 flozs/1cup) buttermilk
1 free-range egg, preferably organic
15g (1/2 oz/1/8 stick) butter, melted
150g (5oz/generous 1 cup) plain white flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bread soda

To Serve
12-18 pieces crispy bacon
Maple syrup or Irish honey

Mix the buttermilk, egg and melted butter in a large bowl, until smooth and blended. Sieve the flour, salt and baking soda together, stir into the buttermilk until the ingredients are barely combined, don’t worry about the lumps. Do not over mix or the pancakes will be heavy.

Heat a heavy iron or non-stick pan until medium hot. Grease with a little clarified butter. Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of batter onto the pan, spread slightly with the back of the spoon to a round about 7.5cm (3inch) across. Cook until the bubbles rise and break on the top of the pancake (about a minute). Flip over gently. Cook until pale golden on the other side. Spread each with butter.

Serve a stack of three with crispy streaky bacon and maple syrup.

Loganberry jam, sour cream and sausages
Serve pancakes with loganberry jam, sour cream and sausages

Cornmeal Pancakes

Substitute 25g (1 oz/1/4 cup) of cornmeal for 25g (1 oz/1/4 cup) of flour in the above recipe.

Russian Fluffy Pancakes

Julija Makejeva, who works with us at the Cookery School, taught me how to make these pancakes, known as oladushki in Russian.

Serves 6

225ml (8fl oz) buttermilk
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda or bread soda)
2 organic eggs, whisked
scant 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons caster sugar
250g (9oz) white flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Put the buttermilk into a bowl, sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda on top and leave for 3–4 minutes to allow the mixture to bubble.
Whisk the egg, salt and caster sugar into the buttermilk mixture. Slowly add the flour to the batter, whisking all the time, until the mixture has an even consistency. The batter should be very thick and reluctantly fall off the spoon.
Heat a wide frying pan on a medium heat. Add the vegetable oil. Pour a tablespoon of batter into the pan and repeat – you should be able to fit about 5 more pancakes in the pan, spaced evenly apart. Fry until golden brown on one side, flip over once bubbles have appeared on the surface and popped. Repeat the process until all of the batter is used. Serve with sour cream mixed with raspberry jam or sour cream sprinkled with brown sugar.


Exotic, crazy, colourful Marrakesh, so many intriguing cultural experiences but for the cook it’s a brave new world of tagines, cous cous, pastilla, meschoi, briouts, tangia, rfusa……

At first, the experience is virtually overwhelming. The souks and medina cover an area of approximately 19km and are not for the fainthearted. Acres of stalls selling everything you can imagine and much that you can’t. I armed myself with a map and the phone number of the manger of the Riad where I was staying so they could come and rescue me if and when I got hopelessly lost.

Before you venture into the Medina, sit down with a glass of frothy mint tea and a plate of Moroccan pastries and plan your adventure. I only had five days but I was determined to make the most of every moment.

I’d chosen to stay at a beautiful chic riad owned by Jasper Conran, with just five elegant bedrooms surrounding an inner courtyard garden with orange and banana trees, a date palm and a trickling fountain in the centre even a 10 metre lap pool for those who might like a refreshing dip even in Winter. The food was delicious – breakfast, lunch and dinner –Bouchra is the cook (dada) here. The elegant dining room has tall metal windows, huge mirrors and portraits of Indian maharajah. Billie Halliday crooned and the candles flickered as I enjoyed my first dinner at a low round table by the fireside. Three little Moroccan salads, zaalouk (aubergine), taktouta (red and yellow pepper), cooked carrot and cumin and then a superb lamb tagine with artichoke hearts, fennel and cooked to melting tenderness so all the flavours melded together. The dessert was layers of flaky warka with pastry cream and a chocolate caramel sauce. We’d hit the jackpot. ….

Breakfast was another little feast, four different Moroccan breads and lacy Beghrir, the tender Moroccan pancakes. I was determined to learn how to make at least these light lacy pancakes. I cheekily knocked on the kitchen door; Bouchra welcomed me into her kitchen and over the next few days showed me how to make a whole range of breads. Many, ingenious variations on the well-known Moroccan flat bread – M-semen. Some were cooked on the griddle others, shallow fried then drizzled with honey and sprinkled with coconut. Some were savoury to enjoy with eggs or B-Sara (buttara), the thick lentil and bean soup often eaten for breakfast. Others were light, flaky and slathered with honey butter. Then there are all the tagines which take their name from the earthenware pot with the conical lid in which they are served and if you are lucky also cooked. These can be vegetarian or made from seafood, chicken, beef, lamb or rabbit with seasonal fresh vegetables and fresh or dried fruit, olives and maybe nuts.

Tagine Royale with dates or prunes, almonds and apricots, is one of the best loved of all. But there’s also chicken with preserved lemon and green olives or with caramelised onion and raisins or with caramelised onion and tomato. I ate superb versions of these at Al Fassia on 55 Boulevard Mohamed Zerktouni in the Ville Nouvelle, owned by the Marraskhi sisters and almost entirely run by women. The food is superb but you must book ahead. I managed to do it on the internet from Ireland and confirmed when I arrived in Marrakech. Don’t miss the pasilla with pigeon and the mezze made up of fifteen Moroccan salads, I had both lunch and dinner, sounds beyond greedy but I simply couldn’t taste as many dishes are I wanted in one sitting.

Cardoons were in season during my visit and they too make a wonderful addition to a tagine.

Close to the L-hotel Marrakesh riad on Derb Sidi L’ahcen St there were lots of little shops and stalls piled high with freshly harvested vegetables and fruit, others offered an enormous variety of spices, olives of every hue and preserved lemons, an essential flavouring in so many Moroccan dishes.

Lots of little butcher shops too. Everything was very fresh– there doesn’t seem to be a tradition of hanging meat and every scrap of the animal is sold and used, heads, feet and all the offal and entrails. Street food of every hue, apart from M-semen, round or square, flat bread, cooked on a griddle and served with butter and honey. One stall just sold goats feet to add to tangia, a stew cooked in an earthenware pot in the underground woodfired ovens that heat the water for the famous hamman (baths).

The flavour and texture of the slow cooked meat that emerges from the earthenware pots is rich and delicious and continues a long tradition.

You’ll find a little cluster of cafes that serve tangia and meschoi, meltingly delicious slow roasted lamb falling off the bones served with cumin and salt on Meschoi alley on the East side of Djemaa El Fna just around the corner from the olive and pickled lemon souk.
For Harira and Bsara head for Djemaa El Fna, Marrakesh’s central square, a crazy open theatre. There are snake charmers, henna tattoo artistis, colourful water sellers in fringed hats that make more money from having photos taken than they do from selling water. At night the square ramps up several notches, over 100 chefs arrive with their grills, utensils and set up their stalls. Musicians tune their instruments and the fun begins in earnest. Everywhere vendors are trying to entice you to try their specialities. The adventurous shouldn’t miss the snails and sheep’s head and other miscellaneous parts. Slide onto a bench beside a stall and enjoy every second of the spectacle and the food – unlikely to be a gastronomic experience but the atmosphere is unforgettable.

Here are a few recipes to give you a flavour of Morocco.

Hot Tips

For Moroccan ingredients and lots of other good things seek out Mr Bell’s stall in the English Market. Tel: 021 4318655

Masterclass in Wild Fowl with Slow Food Galway
On Sunday February 5th 2017, at the Cait Curran Siol Centre, Moycullen, Eoin Warner will give a short talk and slide show as well as bringing a selection of wild birds. There will be hands on experience in plucking and preparing the wild fowl, followed by lunch of game casserole and other dishes.
Phone Kate 087 931 2333 or for further information.

Pizza, Calzone, Panzerotti, Piadina…..
Sadly, this wonderful dish has had its reputation besmirched by fast and frozen food manufacturers. However, in the space of a single morning (including a pizza-orientated light lunch) you will learn how to prepare indescribably delicious, melt-in-the-mouth pizza! We shall cover everything from different sorts of pizza bases to innovative toppings, how to cook first class pizza in a domestic oven or a wood burning oven to the importance of using the right olive oil. Plus, we will look at all the other exciting things you can make with the same dough including a Calzone, Piadini, Sfinciuni, Foccacia with Maldon Sea Salt and Rosemary, Carta Musica as well as Dough balls with garlic butter. Friday February 17th, 2017

Moroccan Mint Tea

How this frothy mint tea transports one straight to Morocco – seek out little decorative Moroccan glasses, so pretty.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons Chinese green tea
4 tablespoons chopped mint, preferably spearmint
900ml water
sugar, to taste

To decorate
4 lemon slices, (optional)
4 small mint sprigs

Heat a teapot with boiling water. Add the tea and mint to the pot. Fill with boiling water. Allow to infuse and stand for 5 minutes.
Pour the tea from a height into Moroccan glasses edged with gold. Add sugar to taste (remember, in Morocco tea is supposed to be very sweet).
Variation: Iced Mint Tea

Add the sugar to the pot with the tea and mint. After steeping, pour the tea through a strainer over cracked ice, so it cools quickly. Serve in cold glasses with ice cubes, decorated in the same way.

Claudia Roden’s Preserved Lemons.

There are several methods. These come from ‘Tamarind and Saffron’ published by Penguin Books in 1999.

Claudia Roden’s Lemons preserved in salt and lemon juice
In this method, considered most prestigious, no water is used. 65g(2 ½ ozs) of salt is required for 500g(1lb) of lemons. This works out at about 75g(3ozs) or 4 tablespoons of salt for 4 lemons.

4 lemons
4 tablespoons sea salt
juice of 4 more lemons or more.

Wash and scrub the lemons. The classic Moroccan way is to cut each lemon in quarters but not right through, so that the pieces are still attached at the stem end, and to stuff each with plenty of salt. Put them into a glass jar, pressing them down so that they are squashed together, and close the jar. Leave for 3-4 days, by which time the lemons will have released some of their juices and the skins will have softened a little. Press them down as much as you can and add fresh lemon juice to cover them entirely. Close the jar and leave in a cool place for at least a month, by which time the lemons should be ready. The longer they are left the better the flavour. (If a piece of lemon is not covered it develops a white mould which is harmless and just needs to be washed off.)
Before using, rinse to get rid of salt.

Lemons boiled in brine and preserved in oil.
This is a brilliant stand by recipe which yields tender preserved lemon almost immediately

With a sharp knife make 8 fine-superficial, not deep-incisions into the lemon skin from one end of the lemon to the other. Put the lemons in a large pan with salted water (the same proportion of salt as above-for instance 8 tablespoons for 8 lemons) to cover. Put a smaller lid on top of them to keep them down as they float, and boil for about 25 minutes or until the peels are very soft. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, pack the skins into a glass jar and cover with sunflower or light vegetable oil.

Tagine of Chicken with Green Olives

Serves 6

1 free range and organic chicken, jointed
2 onions chopped
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons coriander leaves
1 small cinnamon stick
1/2 preserved lemon, cut into dice (see recipe) (optional, depending on size, leave whole)
175g (6oz) green olives, rinsed and stoned
juice of 1/2 lemon

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
pinch of saffron strands
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin, toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

coriander leaves

First prepare the marinade. Mix the garlic, saffron, ginger, cumin, paprika, salt, freshly ground pepper and the olive oil in a bowl. Spread over the chicken, transfer the meat to a shallow dish, cover with cling-film and leave overnight to marinate in the fridge.

Next day, transfer the chicken and the marinade to a casserole. Add the onions, parsley, coriander and cinnamon stick and half cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, turning the chicken pieces frequently in the liquid. Add more water if it starts to reduce. Cook for a further 15 minutes, partly covered, until the chicken is tender and almost falls from the bone. Add the preserved lemons and the olives and continue cooking for a further 5-6 minutes so the flavours combine.

Transfer the chicken pieces, lemon and olives to a serving dish and cover to keep warm. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Boil the sauce uncovered until it is about 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup). Add the lemon juice and season to taste with more salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately with lots of fresh coriander and couscous.

Brother Hubbard’s Semolina Pancakes (Beghrir)

Makes about 8 pancakes

250ml milk
250ml water
2 eggs
10g dried fast action yeast
½ tsp salt
250g fine semolina (the finest grade, almost flour-like)
sunflower or Irish rapeseed oil, for cooking

Put the milk and water into a pot set over a medium heat. Heat this for a few minutes, stirring – you want to get it to the point that it should be just a little warmer than your body temperature. Remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl.
Crack the eggs into the bowl, then add the yeast and salt. Whisk well. Still using the whisk, whisk in the semolina – a good energetic go will do it. The mix will get a little thicker. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside to rest in a warm place, such as beside your oven or in a cosy corner of your kitchen. After a while, you will see the batter bubble up as the yeast works its magic. The batter should be ready after 20–30 minutes, once it’s good and frothy with lots of bubbles.
Place a non-stick medium frying pan (ideally 15–18cm diameter) on a medium-high heat and let it get fully heated. When it’s hot, add a tiny splash of oil and swirl it around the pan, then turn the heat down to medium.
Gently stir the pancake batter with a medium ladle, then add one
ladleful to the pan or enough of the batter to cover the pan with 3–4mm depth of batter, swirling gently so the surface is fully covered. Cook for 1–2 minutes. You will see bubbles form in the batter and then it will set as the wet texture on the surface gradually disappears towards the centre of the pancake. When it’s set, lift it up and flip it over to sear for a few moments – this side should almost be undercooked. Give the pan a shake so the pancake moves from side to side. Take off the heat and remove the pancake onto a plate. Keep covered with a cloth while you cook the remaining pancakes, stacking the cooked ones together under the cloth so they stay warm.

Brother Hubbard’s Sweet Beghrir Pancakes with Rose Mascarpone, Berry and Rose Compote and Fresh Mint

A real delight on the plate – the tang of the mascarpone works beautifully against the sweet burst of the berries!
Serves 4

1 batch of beghrir pancakes (see master recipe)
½ batch of berry and rose compote (see recipe)
1–2 sprigs of fresh mint
a few tablespoons of praline (optional) or toasted chopped nuts

Rose Mascarpone Cream
1 x 250g tub of mascarpone
approx. 2 dessertspoons honey
½–1 tsp rosewater or orange blossom water or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod

Make the pancakes as per the master recipe and warm up the berry compote.
To make the mascarpone cream, put the mascarpone into a bowl and gently stir in enough honey to give the mix a light sweetness and ½ teaspoon of rosewater. Stir well and taste, adding more of either ingredient if desired. However, this should not be overly sweet, as you want the creaminess and acidity of the mascarpone to cut through the warm berry compote.

When ready to build the plates, place the warm pancakes on a warm plate, overlapping in the middle (like a Venn diagram). Divide the mascarpone across the plates, placing a dollop on the centre of each pancake (2 dollops per plate). Divide the compote across the plates, placing a large spoonful of the warm compote around the mascarpone. Tear some mint leaves over and serve immediately with some praline sprinkled over, if using, or even just some toasted chopped nuts.

Brother Hubbard’s Berry and Rose Compote

A very easy and versatile recipe, this compote will hold in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Makes 1 large jar

500 g mixed berries
200 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon rosewater

Put the berries and sugar into a large pot. Put on a medium heat and slowly cook, stirring regularly until the sugar has dissolved and the compote has slightly thickened.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Stir in the rosewater, then taste and add a little more if you feel it needs it. However, please note that whenever you use rosewater, it should not be overpowering – a little goes along way, as you all you ever want is a hint of rose. Brother Hubbard, Garrett Fitzgerald

Moroccan Snake

One of the glories of Moroccan confectionery, great for a party. Individual “snakes” can be made with a single sheet of filo.

Serves 10-15 people

1 packet best quality filo pastry

1 lb (450g) ground almonds
11oz (325g) castor sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3-4 fl oz (75-110ml) orange flower water

3-4oz (75-110g) melted butter

Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl to form a paste.

To Assemble
Lay one sheet of filo on the work top, brush with melted butter. Take a fist full of the paste and make into a snake about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick. Lay this along the long side of the sheet of filo, about 1 inch (2.5cm) in from the edge. Roll up and bend into an accordian shape and then roll up into a ‘snail’. Put a sheet of tin foil on a baking sheet and lay the snail on top, continue with the rest of the filo and paste. Press the ends together to seal the joining and continue to make the snake. Brush with egg wash and then with melted butter. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for approx. 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Dust with icing sugar and perhaps a little sweet cinnamon.

Valentine’s Day

Are we all ‘loved up’ and ready to celebrate? Here it comes again, can’t have escaped your notice that St Valentine’s Day is right around the corner – every year the excitement ratchets up another notch, creative marketing teams have been brain storming for quick cool ways to engage a public who are increasingly tiring of overt consumerism.

If you are short of ideas beyond a bunch of red roses and a glass of fizz, take to the internet to be inspired and amused. You can’t imagine how many creative suggestions you’ll find for ways to enthusiastically celebrate Valentine’s Day.
How about an early morning visit to Dublin Zoo, collect a romantic breakfast picnic, wander around and enjoy a talk on the courtship and romantic rituals of some of the animals. A romantic hike up Croagh Patrick or the Knockmealdown mountains…..

You could rent a bicycle made for two for a romantic cycle and a giggle. Go along to a comedy show together and nibble some popcorn. If none of these ideas appeal how about whale or dolphin watching or ice skating followed by cocktails and a romantic dinner for two.

But if the whole palaver of Valentine’s Day sends shivers down your spine and if you are a singleton or haven’t been planning to spend the day canoodling with a loved one you could check out the growing Valentine’s day back-lash. There’s a myriad of exciting anti Valentine shindigs planned. Lots of parties and events to chase away the singleton blues.

One way or other have fun. If you’re not ‘coupled up’ how about making Valentine’s Day your own – send a family member some flowers, send a Valentine’s day card or leave a little pressie for that little old lady or man with the dog who live close by or create a celebration by cooking a wonderful meal for your friends – the very best way to warm the hearts and tummies of your ‘besties’ including your very special loved one. Of course a romantic dinner in a gorgeous restaurant is a wonderful way to spend the evening if you haven’t booked by now you may well be too late to secure a table but believe me rustling up a delicious cosy brunch, lunch or dinner could well be the best way to bring on a proposal if you’ve been waiting on that magic question or keep the home fires burning. Happy Valentines’ Day

Here are a few suggestions

Hot Tips
Smoked Chilli Flakes
I’m super excited by some smoked chilli flakes that I found on Frank Hederman’s, Belvelly Smokehouse stall at the Midleton Farmers Market on Saturday last. Sprinkle some over grilled chicken breast. Add a pinch to a tomato fondue, a stew, tagine or chowder to introduce a perky smoky flavour.

Ballymaloe House
Now reopened following winter renovations. Check out their special breakaways – Valentine’s Getaway, Hello Spring, Ballymaloe Spring Breather… Tel: 021 4652 531

Avocado Toasts with Lime and Coriander

Enjoy a romantic brunch, avocado toasts are everyone’s favourites, there are so many variations on the theme – combine with scrambled egg for a more substantial brunch.

Much more than the sum of its parts!

Serves 2

1 ripe Hass avocados

1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 slices of sourdough, toasted or pan-grilled

Maldon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh coriander

Whisk the lime juice and extra virgin olive oil together.

Just before serving.
Toast or grill the bread.

Stone and peel the avocado and slice into chunky segments. Place the avocado on top of the toast – allow 1/2 per person. Drizzle with the dressing. Garnish with coriander and a few flakes of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

Oyster Stew with Hot Buttered Toast

We’ve always been told that oysters are an aphrodisiac, I love them au natural and without question natural Irish oysters are the best in the world. However this oyster stew given to me by one of my favourite American cooks, the late Marion Cunningham, is super easy to make and delicious to share.

Serves 2
8 fl ozs (250ml) milk
8 fl ozs (250ml) cream
14 shelled oysters (7 ozs/200g approx. after shelling) with their liquor reserved
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 oz (15g) butter, optional
To serve
lots of hot buttered toast

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan, but don’t let it boil. Add the oysters and their strained liquor. Simmer just until the edges of the oysters curl a little. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the butter and serve very hot with lots of hot buttered toast.

Cod Chraymeh

We found this recipe in Observer Food Monthly by Tomer Amedi and loved it. I’ve adapted it ever so slightly and reduce the quantity to serve two for a delightful one pot wonder.

Serves 2

1½ tablespoons olive oil
1 red chilli, depending on hot you like it, sliced
1 red pepper, cored, deseeded and cut into 1½ cm fingers
1 yellow pepper, cored, deseeded and cut into 1½ cm fingers
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1½ teaspoons hawaij spice mix (see recipe), optional
40 ml (1½ fl oz/2½ tablespoons) of Aniseed flavoured spirit, such as arak, pernod or ouzo, optional
75 ml (2½ fl oz) water
200 g tin good quality chopped tomatoes
A pinch of sugar
2 x 200 g (7 oz) cod fillets, skinned
Salt to taste
1 large bunch of coriander, chopped
Lemon juice, a squeeze

For the Hawaij Spice Mix
2 tablespoons black peppercorns or 1 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted or 1 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1tablespoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cloves, 10 cloves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon dried coriander leaves

2 tablespoons Labne, to serve
Fresh coriander leaves

To make the hawaij spice mix, toast the seeds for 2-3 minutes in a dry pan over a medium heat, then grind all the ingredients in a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar. This will keep in an airtight container for 1-2 months.

Heat a large saucepan or a wide shallow pan over a medium heat, add the oil, chillies and peppers and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the aniseed flavoured spirit, if using and crank up the heat to allow the alcohol to evaporate, then add the water and stir for a while.

Next add the tomatoes and sugar, then leave the stew to simmer for a further 10-15 minutes.

Season the cod fillets with salt, then gently slide them into the stew. Add half the coriander and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Add the squeeze of lemon juice, give the stew a good shake and check for salt, then turn the heat off and leave it to rest for 5 minutes before you serve, topped with the rest of the coriander and add a blob of labne.

Risotto with Shrimps and Lemon Thyme

Few dishes are more comforting than risotto, here we add the lovely little shrimps from Ballycotton but of course you could add scallops or mussels if you prefer or enjoy a vegetarian version. Follow with a salad of organic leaves. There’s ample here for four helpings so save the remainder for a second meal or make arancini.

Serves 4

½ l-3/4 litre broth or homemade chicken stock
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
10 g butter
½ onion, finely chopped
200g Carnaroli or Arboria rice
10 g butter
11/2 teaspoons lemon thyme leaves
110 g cooked and peeled shrimps
25 g freshly grated Parmesan
Sea salt

First bring the broth or stock to the boil, turn down the heat and keep it simmering. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the rice and stir until well coated (so far the technique is the same as for a pilaff and this is where people become confused). Cook for a minute or so and then add 150 ml of the simmering broth, stir continuously and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 150 ml of broth. Continue to cook, stirring continuously. The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if it’s too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside. If it’s too slow, the rice will be gluey. It’s difficult to know which is worse, so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously. The risotto should take about 25-30 minutes to cook. Add the lemon thyme leaves.

When it is cooking for about 20 minutes, add the broth about 4 tablespoons at a time. Watch it very carefully from there on. The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly ‘al dente’. It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick. The moment you are happy with the texture, stir in the warmed shrimps and the remaining butter and Parmesan. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve immediately. Risotto does not benefit from hanging around.

Taste, carefully – you may not need all the cheese. Follow with a salad of organic leaves.

Arancini are crispy rice balls usually made from left over risotto (spread the risotto onto a baking tray to cool), coated in bread crumbs and then deep fried. The name literally translated means ‘little orange’. There are regional variations in shape, the Sicilian version tends to be more conical rather than round. Flavour the risotto as desired – they can be plain or flavoured with a myriad of tasty additions – ragu, wild mushrooms, mozzarella, aubergines, wild fennel, shellfish, pistachio…..they sometimes have a little surprise filing in the centre though not always. Scoop up a fist full of cold mixture, shape into a round slightly oval or conical shape. Dip in breadcrumbs and deep-fry in hot oil until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.

White Chocolate Mendiants with Dried Cherries and Pistachios

A fresh cherry with stalk attached is also pretty good.

Makes 28

110g white chocolate (we use Valrhona)
12g dried cherries
12g shelled pistachios
50g dark chocolate

parchment paper

Put the white chocolate into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Just as soon as the water comes to the boil, turn off the heat and allow the bowl to sit until the chocolate has melted.

Put teaspoons of the melted white chocolate a little apart onto the parchment paper. Shake gently to level, then shape in heart shapes, quickly dot a few dried cherries and coarsely chopped pistachios on top. Allow to set.

Meanwhile, melt and cool the dark chocolate. Peel the medallions of white chocolate off the paper and brush the bases with dark chocolate. Allow to set and cool on the parchment paper. They look wonderfully festive served on a gold doyley on a chilled plate.

Coeur a la Crème with Summer or Autumn Fruits

Serves 4

A most exquisite summer pudding. You may use one large mould or individual moulds. In France they are traditionally heart-shaped. The moulds must be well perforated to allow the cheese to drain. Also delicious with a compote of blackcurrants, Kumquat compote, green gooseberry and elderflower compote. Save some for another meal. A heart shaped dessert that melts in the mouth.

225g (8oz) unsalted cream cheese or homemade cottage cheese
300ml (1/2 pint/1 1/4 cups) softly whipped thick double cream
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) castor sugar
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Berries, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackberries……
300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) cream, softly whipped
castor sugar

mint leaves

Press the cheese through a fine meshed nylon sieve and blend it gently with the double cream. Stir in the sugar and lightly but thoroughly fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Turn the mixture into muslin lined heart shaped moulds. Stand them on a wide plate, cover with a large plastic bag and leave in the refrigerator overnight to drain.

Just before serving, turn the moulded cheese hearts out on to white plates. Scatter a selection of summer fruits around the cheese hearts.

Serve with a fresh strawberry coulis, raspberry coulis or blackcurrant coulis, softly whipped cream and castor sugar.

Note: If you have not got the traditional heart shaped moulds, one can make Coeur a la Crème in a muslin lined bread basket or even a sieve.

Strawberry Coulis

450g (16ozs) fresh strawberries
70g (2 1/2ozs/1/2 cup) icing sugar
lemon juice

Clean and hull the strawberries, add to the blender with sugar and blend. Strain through a nylon sieve. Taste and add lemon juice if necessary, it should taste deliciously bitter sweet. Store in a fridge.

Stock Syrup

Makes 825ml (825 ml/3 1/2 cups)

350g (12oz/1 1/2 cups) sugar
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water

To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.

Valentine’s Chocolate and Almond Cake with Raspberries and Chocolate Curls

Serves 10
150g (dark bitter chocolate or baking chocolate such as the Menier Chocolat Patissier, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons water
150g (5oz/1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, separated
100g (3 1/2oz/scant 1/2 cup) caster sugar
100g (3 1/2oz) ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) rum

50g (2oz) dark bitter chocolate, broken into pieces
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) water
50g (2oz/1/4 cup) caster sugar
25g (1oz/1/4 stick) unsalted butter

Chocolate Curls, see below
1 lb (12 oz) fresh raspberries

9 inch tin, preferably heart shaped

butter, to grease the cake tin
flour, to dust the cake tin

Heat the chocolate with the water in a Pyrex bowl or small pan that is sitting on top of a pan containing water over a low heat so that the top pan or bowl does not touch the boiling water (this is a double boiler), until almost melted. Add the butter and let them both melt.

In a bowl mix the egg yolks, sugar, ground almonds, baking powder and rum very well. Add the melted chocolate and butter and mix vigorously. Beat the egg whites until stiff with an electric mixer and fold them into the mixture.

Grease a 23cm (9 inch) (in diameter (preferably non-stick) with butter and dust it with flour. Pour in the cake mixture and bake in an oven preheated to 160°C/310°F/Gas Mark 3 for about 35 minutes until firm. Turn out when it is cool.

For the optional topping, melt the chocolate with the water in the small bowl or pan over boiling water, as above. Add the sugar and the butter, let them melt and mix well. Spread over the cake. Top with fresh raspberries and chocolate curls. Sprinkle with a little icing sugar. Decorate with fresh mint leaves and serve with lots of softly whipped cream.

Chocolate Curls

Makes enough to cover 1 x 18cm (7 inch) cake

300g (11oz) dark, milk or white chocolate, in drops or chopped into pieces

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of water on a medium heat and bring to a rolling boil, then turn off the heat. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly, stirring occasionally.

Place a baking tray or roasting tin upside down on your work surface. Once the chocolate has completely melted, pour it over the upside-down try or tin and, using a palette knife, spread it out so that it’s 3-4mm (1/8 inch) thick and about the size of an A4 sheet of paper.

Place the chocolate somewhere cool (but not the fridge as this will be too cold – see tip below) and allow it to slowly set. The chocolate is set when it is no longer shiny – it should become matt in appearance.

Using a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler or a cheese slier, run along the top of the chocolate and shave off curls. Either place the curls directly onto the cake or, if you’d like to make them ahead of time, transfer them onto a plate or into an airtight box and place somewhere cool (but not the fridge). Stored in an airtight container, they will keep for up to two weeks.

It’s important that the chocolate is completely set before using it, yet not too cold. If it’s too cold, it will not ‘curl’, but if it’s not sufficiently set the curls will collapse.

Gluten Free Recipe of the Week
Raspberry and Nut Brownies

For Valentine’s Day we stamped out two heart shapes from the tin, added a blob of softly whipped cream, piled some fresh raspberries on top and garnished it with a few fresh mint leaves. It looked adorable and tasted moist, rich and delicious. Can be an irresistible nibble or a gorgeous pud with a blob of crème fraiche.

Makes 24 medium or 18 large squares

175g (6 ozs) butter, cut into dice
150 g (5ozs) caster sugar
150 g (5 ozs) soft brown sugar
175g (6oz) dark chocolate, broken into pieces
100g (4oz) Doves gluten free self-raising flour
100g (4oz) hazelnuts chopped
3 organic eggs
110 g (4 ozs) raspberries, fresh or frozen

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

20cm x 30cm (8 x 12 inch) swiss roll tin (deep tin)

Line the swiss roll tin with silicone paper.

Put the butter, sugar and chocolate in a saucepan on a gentle heat stirring until it’s smooth and melted. Remove the pan from the heat, cool a little.

Sieve the flour, add the chopped nuts. Beat the eggs and add to the chocolate. Next add the chocolate mixture into the flour, mix well and pour into the prepared tin. Scatter the raspberries over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until almost firm in the centre. Cool in the tin, then turn out and cut into heart shapes.

New Year Resolutions

Wonder how many of your New Year resolutions you’ve managed to keep so far – I’ve been hopeless about lots of things but this year I am determined to encourage as many people as I possibly can to grow some of their own food. Join the now worldwide renaissance in urban as well as rural farming and gardening.

It’s extraordinary what’s going on, particularly in the US where many people are further down the road of desperation than we are.
There’s a grass roots revolution, people are growing up walls, down walls, in window boxes, hanging baskets, on roofs, balconies, even on fire escapes although that’s not encouraged for obvious reasons. The ‘Grow Food not Lawns’ Movement attracts more devotees all the time.

Here in Ireland, allotments are in peak demand and the sales of polytunnels have skyrocketed. Once you’ve planted a few seeds and waited for the plants to grow into something delicious to eat – life changes. We appreciate the work of the growers and gardeners so much more plus one has the reassurance that the herbs, vegetables and fruit haven’t been sprayed with a cocktail of pesticides.

So if you haven’t already, got the bug, don’t worry, it’s not too late for this year – you’ve got several weeks to cogitate. Maybe get together with a few pals who live close by and make a plan. Each agree to grow 5 or 6 vegetables and then share. My best Top Tip is don’t be over ambitious, start small but you could be preparing the soil now. Put a layer of compost and maybe some powdered seaweed on top of the ground and let it sit until the weather warms up. The soil temperature needs to be 7°C before you sow seeds, otherwise they won’t germinate.

Well this is a cooking column but as we all know good nourishing food starts (whether its veg or meat) in rich fertile soil….but you could even start with a seed tray on your window sill, I live in the middle of a farm and I feel so blessed to have space to grow and produce quite a lot of our own food and it’s surprising how much is in the garden still in the depths of winter. All the gutsy hardy perennial herbs, rosemary, thyme, sage are thriving and ever more exciting the new seasons chives are already well above the ground, much earlier than usual – one of the bonus’s of climate change.

We also have lots of leeks, a few Brussels sprouts, masses of knobbly Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, kale, chard…. Our carrots are finished but we have lots of cabbage that would never make it onto a supermarket shelf . A few slugs have discovered them but some careful washing in salted water sorts that out and they are sweet and delicious after a few nights frost. As are the black radishes, celeriac and swede…..turnips which are having their moment. Can you imagine the humble swede is becoming cool and swede chips are featuring on lots of menus.

Well that long list is certainly enough to rustle up lots of tasty meals either vegetarian or vegan and to serve as an accompanying dish to meat or fish. Think I’ll start with this Leek Framiche, like a quiche but super delicious.

Hot Tips
Date for the Diary:-
Pop up Dinner with our Winter 12 Week Certificate students on Saturday March 11th 2017. Welcome Aperitif at 6.30pm; three course dinner at 7pm. Tickets are €40 for Slow Food members, €45 non Slow Food members. Further details in a few weeks’ time.

Cooking for Baby and Toddlers: Natural and Wholesome Food
Everyone wants to feed their baby nourishing and wholesome food. Yet it’s difficult to know how and when to start offering solids. Many of us lack the confidence to make our own baby food Darina Allen is happy to pass on the tips and advice gleaned over years of feeding children and grandchildren totally without packets, cans or jars! An invaluable half-day course covers everything – choosing the ingredients, recipes, preparation tips, menus, storage, health and nutrition – the lot. Not only will it save you a small fortune but also it will be infinitely better for your baby. You’ll soon discover that making your own, nourishing baby food is quick, easy and surprisingly good fun. Also, by giving your baby lots of variety you’ll ensure that as they grow up they don’t become fussy eaters. This course is subsidised by the Ballymaloe Cookery. If you need to bring a child minder with you they are very welcome to take a walk around our gardens free of charge while you are attending the course.
Friday March 3rd 2017 at 2.30pm.

Leek Flamiche

There are many variations on this theme, some have no cheese, others no bacon. Similar leek tarts and pies are made in Belgium, France and many parts of the UK, including Wales and Cornwall. One can use the filling to make into a gorgeous pie with pastry underneath and on top, or just on top. Either way it is delicious.

Serves 6-8
A pre-baked 22.5cm tart shell (see p.00) made with 225g shortcrust pastry –
Made with 175g flour
75g butter
1 egg yolk and a little water

450g white part of leeks, sliced in 1cm thick rings
50g butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 eggs or 1 large egg and one egg yolk
300ml cream

100g rindless streaky raw bacon or cooked ham cut into lardons
75g Gruyère cheese, grated

22.5cm tart tin with removable base.
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat. When it foams, add the sliced leeks. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss, cover and cook gently until soft and tender but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Drain if necessary and allow to cool. Cut the bacon or bacon or ham into 5mm lardons. Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add bacon and cook for 5-6 minutes or until slightly golden and cooked through. No need to re cook ham.
Meanwhile whisk the eggs and cream together, stir in the cooled leeks and ham or bacon and most of the grated cheese. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spoon into the pre-baked tart shell, sprinkle the remainder of the grated cheese on top and bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes or until just set in the centre and golden on top. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm.

Salad of Jerusalem Artichokes with Smoked Almonds and Preserved Lemon Dressing

Everyone loves this combination but if you’d rather have cooked artichokes, roast them in slices before combining the salad.

Serves 4

4 good handfuls of perky bitter lettuce leaves
2 small Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean
a little freshly squeezed lemon juice
110g (4oz) of smoked almonds, rough chopped *(see note at end of recipe)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey or agave syrup
a good pinch of sea salt
1/2 preserved lemon, seeds removed and finely chopped (see last week’s column)

Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together, add the preserved lemon.

Wash and dry the salad leaves.

Next, use a mandolin to slice the artichokes paper thin – otherwise slice with a very sharp knife. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the artichokes to prevent them from discolouring whilst also adding some flavour.

Put the salad leaves into a bowl, add the artichoke slices and roughly chopped almonds. Pour over enough of the dressing and toss to coat the leaves. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately.

* To Smoke Almonds
We hot smoke a lot of different ingredients in a biscuit tin over a gas jet. Just scatter 2 heaped tablespoons of apple wood chips on the bottom of the tin. Put a rack on top. Place the almond on top of the wire rack. Pop on top of the gas on a high heat until the wood chips start to smoke and cover the box. Lower the heat and smoke for 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and continue to smoke for a further 1 minute.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Chorizo Crumbs

Serves 8-10

Jerusalem artichokes were a sadly neglected winter vegetable, but many people have discovered them in recent years. We love the flavour and of course they are brilliantly nutritious – packed with inulin. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants!

50g (2oz) butter
560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped
1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock
600ml (1 pint) creamy milk approx.

Chorizo Crumbs

Makes 175g (6oz)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
125g (4 1/2oz) chorizo, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
100g (3 1/2oz) coarse breadcrumbs

First make the chorizo crumbs. Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo. Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to run and the chorizo begins to crisp. Careful it’s easy to burn the chorizo, drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan.

Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden. Drain and add to the chorizo. (You’ll have more than you need but they’ll keep in a covered box in your fridge and are great to sprinkle over gratins, stews, etc)

Next make the soup. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onions and artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk, and adjust the seasoning.

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Scatter with a spoonful of chorizo crumbs.

This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required.

Gillian Hegarty’s Chickpea, Swiss Chard and Tomato Stew

Gillian Hegarty, originally of Ballymaloe House originally brought this recipe from Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers from the River Café. Perfect for a winter evening.

Serves 6 – 8

175g (6oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 large garlic clove, peeled
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
900g (2lb) Swiss chard leaves, washed and large stems removed (set aside to use in the recipe)
1 head of celery outer stalks removed peeled and diced finely
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 dried chillies, crumbled
3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons of fresh picked thyme leaves
225ml (8fl oz) white wine
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
3 handfuls flat leaf parsley chopped
extra virgin olive oil

Drain the chickpeas and place in a saucepan with water to cover, add the garlic, and 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of olive oil. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. Keep in their liquid until ready to use. Blanch the chard leaves and chop coarsely. Chop the chard stalks into half inch pieces.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onion and fry for a minute then season with salt and pepper. Put the lid on and cook for a further 20 minutes stirring frequently until they have completely collapsed.

Add the carrot, chard stalks and celery cook slowly for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Season with salt, pepper and chilli. Add the garlic and thyme leaves. Cook for a further 5mins with the lid off. Pour in the wine and reduce almost completely. Add the tomato sauce and reduce until very thick. Add the chickpeas and mix. Season and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the chopped chard leaves at the very end to retain the colour and freshness.

Chop the parsley just before you are about to serve, Stir into the chickpeas, Drizzle with about 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil.

Salad of Shaved Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts with Red Onion, Raisins and Parmesan

This is a refreshing salad that can be served as a light starter or as part of a selection of salads. It goes particularly well with cold ham or cured meats such as salamis and chorizos. I also like it with spiced beef or coarse terrines.

Serves 6 – 8

50g (2oz) raisins soaked on boiling water for 1 hour
1 small cauliflower
12 Brussels sprouts peeled
225g (8oz) red onion
50g (2oz) roasted, peeled and chopped hazelnuts
2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
8 tablespoons Caesar Dressing (see recipe)
50g (2oz) grated parmesan
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds optional

Trim the outside leaves and tough stalk off the cauliflower and break it into florets. Slice the cauliflower florets thinly, 1/2cm (1/4 inch), by hand or with a mandolin and place in a large bowl. Slice the peeled red onion and sprouts even more thinly and add to the cauliflower. Add in the drained raisins. Dress the salad with half of the olive oil and the Caesar dressing and toss thoroughly but gently. Add in 3/4 of the grated parmesan and mix again. Taste and correct seasoning add salt and pepper as necessary. Spread out in a large shallow bowl or plate and sprinkle on the hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds if using.

A final drizzle of oil and the remaining parmesan sprinkled over the salad and it is ready to serve. The salad can sit for an hour before serving.

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 x 2oz (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
6fl oz (175ml) sunflower oil
2fl oz (50ml) extra virgin olive oil
2fl oz (50ml) cold water

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.


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