Itâ€™s been a busy week, just doing the final corrections for my next book, Grow, Cook, Nourishâ€¦. Every time I think weâ€™re there, another list of queries come winging their way by email. This book has been over two years in the making and may just be the most important book I ever write because Iâ€™m encouraging people to think about growing even a little of our own food. Once you experience the magic of harvesting something you grew yourself and then prepare and enjoy it, youâ€™ll be hooked, not to speak of the joy and health giving properties of freshly picked food.
This really hits home at the moment when Iâ€™m picking new seasonâ€™s broad beans and peas, itâ€™s a Zen like experience and then we sit around the kitchen table shelling the peas and unzipping the broad beans to retrieve the little treasures from the velvet lined pods. Every supper or dinner party starts with a preparty get together with the guests. I pour a glass of wine or cordial and then we all sit around shelling, podding and gossiping in a blur of nostalgia, recalling childhood memories. For some itâ€™s the first time they have ever podded a broad bean or shelled a pea, an American visitor to the school recently asked me what the fresh peas were and when I showed him how to open the pods he tasted a fresh pea for the very first time in his life â€“ his eyes were as big as saucers and he suddenly said, maybe if I grew these I could get my kids to eat some vegetables at least â€“ what a revelation.
This is not the first time Iâ€™ve been asked how to shell peas. Peas are so worth growing for the home gardener because one can eat them at every stage, the pea shoots, flowers, â€˜wizard whiskersâ€™, as the tendrils are called. The peas can be eaten at mange tout stage and then of course the peas and the pea pods can be used for a soup.
In Rome, the arrival of the first broad beans are considered to be the harbinger of Spring. Both at home and in local trattorias people sit around the table in little groups podding broad beans and flecking out little chunks of pecorina romana, a sharp salty sheepâ€™s milk cheese that contrasts deliciously with the sweet tender broad beans. The season starts earlier than ours, so Fave e pecorino are often enjoyed for Easter Sunday breakfast with crusty bread and a special pork fat studded salami called corallina, a delicious ritual that has endured.
We also love to dip each bean in a little extra virgin olive oil and a little flaky sea salt.Â As the season progresses the skin thickens and the sugars turns to starch, so at that stage the broad beans are best double peeled. Itâ€™s very easy to over cook them, they just need to be cookedÂ in boiling salted water for a minute, then drained and refreshed in cold water, then popped out of their shells and continue with the recipe. Gorge on both peas and broad beans while the season lasts.
In last weekâ€™s column I mentioned a pea mousse but it didnâ€™t make it into the text because of space restriction so here it is. It is a delicious summery little starter. Hope youâ€™ll also find time to make and enjoy this green gooseberry and elderflower tart and elderflower fritters from the fluffy blossoms that are adorning the hedgerows all over the country at present â€“
A Farmers Market near you
Killavullen Farmers Indoor Market is located on the grounds of the Nano Nagle Centre. Raw Milk and Yoghurt, Hegartyâ€™s Farmhouse Cheese, Free Range Rare Breed Pork, Jams, Chutneys, Cordials, Arbutus Bread, Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables, Home Baking, Gluten Free Baking, Crafts, Flowersâ€¦â€¦on Saturday 17thÂ June and every fortnight,Â just 10 minutes from Mallow on the N72, 10.30am to 1pm.
New on the scene:-Â The Cottage Market at the CreameryYard in Kildorrery, Cork has a great selection of vegetables, free range rare breed, smoothies, preserves, cordials and flowers. Fortnightly Saturday market from 11am to 2pm, ten minutes from Fermoy and Mitchelstown, next market 24thÂ June, 8thJulyâ€¦..Phone Ciaran Cotter on 086 376 1816 for details.
Swing off the main road in Rosscarbery up to the charming villagesque Pilgrims restaurant â€“ lots of small plates and some foraged ingredients and lots of imagination combine to create a memorable experience. Tel: 023 8831796 or www.pilgrims.ie
East Cork Slow Food Summer Pop Up Dinner.Â Our 12 Week Certificate students at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday June 24th cook up a feast from the organic farm, gardens and glasshouses, fish from nearby Ballycotton and meat from our local butcher. Tickets â‚¬40.00 for Slow Food members and â‚¬45 for non Slow Food members. Booking Essential on 021 4646785 or firstname.lastname@example.org
No Dig Gardening Workshop with Charles Dowding
Another opportunity to learn the principles of â€˜No Digâ€™ gardening. Charles Dowding has been advocating the â€˜No Digâ€™ technique since 1983 when he started a market garden. His original methods give superb results. Â In our experience here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, we have healthier crops, higher yields and about 80% less weeds â€“ so whatâ€™s not to like about â€˜No Digâ€™. We were deeply sceptical at first but have become big converts. Â His recent course was oversubscribed and got a brilliant response. Charles will teach another one day course on Monday June 19th. He has written nine books and appears on radio and TV including Gardeners World. He teaches extensively both at home and abroad. Â Monday June 19th 10.00am to 4.30pm www.cookingisfun.ie. Tel: 021 4646785
Taste of Dublin in the Iveagh Gardens is on this weekend, June 17th and 18th. Plenty of cookery demonstrations, tastings, market stalls, food and wine pairings, whiskey and craft beer tastings. www.dublin.tastefestivals.com
Risi e Bisi
Comfort food at its very best, a heavenly way to enjoy some of your precious fresh peas.Â Young shelled broad beans can also be added.
Serves 6 -9
2kg fresh young peas (podded weight approx.2 lbs)
1 kg broad beans (podded 500 g approx.)
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
125g butter, softened
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1.75 litres homemade chicken stock (see recipe)
200g onion, finely chopped, we use our new seasonâ€™s spring onions
300g risotto rice
110g Parmesan, freshly grated
Pod the peas and save the pods.Â Bring a large saucepan of water (4.8L) to the boil, and add 2 tablespoons of salt.Â Add the pea pods and cook for 5 minutes.Â Then scoop them out.Â Put through a mouli, with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water.Â Blanch the peas in the boiling pea pod water, drain and add to the pea-pod pulp.Â Next bring the water back to the boil, add the broad beans and cook for one to 2 â€“ 3. Drain, refresh and shell.
Season with lots of freshly ground pepper and add 45g of the butter
Put half into a food processor and pulse.Â Return to the whole peas.
Heat the stock. Taste and check for seasoning.
Melt half the remaining butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.Â Gently fry the onion until soft and just beginning to colour.Â Add the rice, stir to coat each grain with butter and cook for 2-3 minutes.Â When the rice is opaque, increase the heat to medium and start to add the hot stock ladle by ladle, adding the next only when the last of the stockÂ has been absorbed.Â Stir continuously.Â After 10 minutes add the peas and parsley, continue to cook until the rice is al dente â€“ about 10 minutes.
Finally, stir in the remaining butter, and most of the Parmesan.Â Taste and correct seasoning.Â Serve immediately in deep wide soup bowls, with a little more Parmesan sprinkled over the top.
Pea Mousse with Pea Shoots, Radishes and Shrimps
This is my interpretation of a delicious starter dish that I ate recently at a restaurant in London. It is exquisite made with fresh peas but I have to admit, I have also made it with frozen peas and the result has been pretty delicious.Â Â We use the beautiful little shrimps (palaemon serratus) from Ballycotton but itâ€™s also good without them.
500g fresh peas
Â½ teaspoon salt
Â½ teaspoon sugar
1 gelatine leaf
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
100ml of softly whipped cream
1 tablespoon chopped mint
50g fresh peas, blanched and refreshed
A mixture of French Breakfast and Cherry Belle radishes
Tender fresh pea shoots
75 â€“ 100g small pink shrimps (palaemon serratus), cooked
Extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Bring 150ml fresh cold water to a fast rolling boil, add salt. sugar and peas, return to the boil for 2-3 minutes, drain, save the cooking water, and refresh the peas under cold water.
When cold, whizz to a smooth puree with 100ml cooking water. Push through a nylon sieve into a bowl, chill.
Soak the gelatine in cold water, allow to soften for 4-5 minutes, drain, then dissolve the softened leaf in a tablespoon of hot water. Add the pea puree gradually then cover and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until just beginning to set. Fold in the softly whipped cream. Divide between 6 wide soup bowls, cover and allow to set.
Meanwhile, trim and slice the radishes lengthwise and put into iced water.
Put the peas into a bowl, add the peeled shrimps and the pea shoots. Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, a few flakes of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss.
Top each mousse with a generous portion, scatter 5 or 6 slices of radish over the top, add a couple of drops of extra virgin olive oil and a few flakes of sea salt and serve.
Â Chargrilled Peas
Peas cooked in this way are super delicious and totally addictive
450 g (1 lb) fresh peas, about 88 pods
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Pop a pan grill on a high flame. Toss the pea pods in a very little extra virgin olive oil and some flaky sea salt. When the pan is very hot, lay the pods in the pan in a single layer, allow to colour from the grill, 3-4 minutes,Â flick over and char on the other side.
Taste, add a little more salt if necessary.
Put the pod between your teeth and enjoy the peas as they pop outâ€¦..
Ballymaloe Green Gooseberry Tartlets
Makes 36 tartlets approximately
1 quantity cold cream pastry (see recipe)
450g (1lb) green gooseberries (topped and tailed)
Preheat oven to 190Â°C/375Â°F/Gas Mark 5.
Using plenty of flour roll the cold pastry to a thickness of 2mm (1/8 inch). Cut the pastry with a 7.5cm (3 inch) round cutter and use the disks of pastry to line a standard flat based bun tray.
Cut the gooseberries in half and arrange 6-7 halves on each disk of pastry. Place a rounded teaspoon of caster sugar on top of the fruit in each tartlet. Bake the tartlets for 15-20 minutes or until the sugar begins to caramelise and the pastry is a golden brown colour. Remove the tartlets from the bun tray while still hot – use a palette knife for this – and place on parchment paper which has been sprinkled with caster sugar.
These tartlets are best served warm.
Sounds scary but this pastry is really delicious and flaky
This pastry keeps in the fridge for up to 6 days.
110g (4oz/1 stick) cold salted butter
110g (4oz/1 cup) plain flour
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) cold cream
Sieve the flour into the bowl of an electric food mixer. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour using the paddle attachment until the mixture forms a coarse texture (slow speed and then a little faster).Â (DO NOT over mix, if you do the mixture will form a shortbread like ball! Pour the cold cream into the coarse mixture and mix on a low speed until a smooth pastry forms. Wrap the pastry in parchment paper and chill overnight.
Always roll cream pastry straight from the fridge. If the pastry comes to room temperature it will be too soft to handle!
These are very easy to make, very crispy and once youâ€™ve tasted one, you wonâ€™t be able to stop! Serve them with the Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote, below. Serves 4
110g (4oz/1 cup) plain flour
pinch of salt
1 organic egg
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) lukewarm water
8â€“12 elderflower heads
sunflower oil for frying
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Using a whisk, bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the water at the same time. Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 180Â°C/350Â°F. Hold the flowers by the stalks and dip into the batter (add a little more water or milk if the batter is too thick). Fry until golden brown in the hot oil. Drain on kitchen paper, toss in caster sugar and serve immediately with gooseberry and elderflower compote.