Every now and then there’s a moment, a milestone which can indicate the end of an era…
For me a recent experience in a West Cork village was just that. I popped into the shop to buy a carton of buttermilk to make a loaf of soda bread, I searched the shelves to no avail and when I inquired at the till the lovely lady told me whimsically, “ah sure, there’s ‘no call’ for that, sure no one around here bakes a ‘cake of bread’ any longer.” It was just a small thing but I was always reassured by the presence of buttermilk in local shops, an indication that the tradition of baking a loaf of soda bread was alive and well in the parish. It’s a long time since one could buy an entire sack of flour in a village shop but it’s still possible in the one and only shop on Inis Meáin which hopefully indicates a rich baking tradition among the islanders. We certainly enjoyed Marie-Thérèse De Blacam’s delicious brown soda bread at Inis Meáin Suites on a recent visit.
The food in the little restaurant there is pure and delicious, home grown vegetables, herbs and flowers from the garden, a taste of the produce of the island and the local coastline. The Inis Meáin Suites are booked up almost a year ahead but the good news is that the restaurant is now open to non-residents from Wednesday to Saturday. (www.inismeain.com ) Some of the stand out dishes on the menu during our recent stay were mackerel carpaccio with an Asian dressing, thinly sliced raw mackerel caught a few hours earlier in the crystal clear waters off the coast – utterly sublime. I can’t understand why we don’t see more fish crudo on our restaurant menus. The squid with black squid ink mayonnaise was also super delicious, as was the beetroot salad served three way and a plump tender lobster claw with aioli and rocket leaves. All simple, elemental cooking made with superb fresh produce – no foams, gels or skid marks on the plate – just beautiful fresh flavours and simple presentations, a breath of fresh air.
Well, back to bread, many of you already know how to bake but for those of you who don’t, let me tell you how easy it is to make a loaf of soda bread, made in minutes and out of the oven in little more than 30 minutes. So next time when you need bread, just turn on the oven. You wouldn’t have found your car keys and be back from the shops by the time its baked and cooling on a wire rack, filling your kitchen with the irresistible smell of crusty homemade bread that you can guarantee will nourish your family. I include treacle bread and white soda bread for you to try.
Want to take the mystery out of cooking Seafood. Due to popular demand the seafood course for seafood lovers by covering all the basics: how to recognize really fresh fish, scaling, filleting, skinning, general preparation….
Using a variety of eclectic recipes we demonstrate how many of the best fish dishes can be cooked literally in minutes. Simple pan-grilling is an essential technique, while poaching, baking, deep-frying, steaming, salting and pickling all enhance the flavour. Sauces, salsas and flavoured butters, which subtly complement the fresh taste of fish, are an integral part of this course.
There are two practical sessions, which means you’ll have an opportunity to test out some of the recipes you have learned. Incidentally, the fish you’ll be using is really fresh. We buy from the boats at nearby Ballycotton Harbour as well as from Kenmare Bay. Whether cooking family meals or entertaining at home, this course will get you hooked on fish!
September 6th – 8th 2017, www.cookingisfun.ie
Indian Summer Supper Club at O’ Connell’s Restaurant in Donnybrook. If you are on a skite in Dublin today make sure you check out O’ Connell’s Restaurant. Alison O Reilly, Masterchef 2017 contestant has put together a 4 course menu inspired by fresh flavours and vibrant colours from the East. Dinner is €55 per person and include a raspberry and mint prosecco on arrival. Phone 01 269 6116 or follow the link for more information. http://oconnellsrestaurant.com/indian-summer/
Electric Picnic from 1st-3rd September 2017 in Stradbally, Co Laois.
Don’t miss Theatre of Food. Join the most talented food lovers in Ireland get all funky, all weekend long. From Assassination Custard to Rosanna Davison, from Finn Ní Fhaoláin to Fintan O’Toole, from drum supremo Ralph Rolle to sushi supremo Takashi Miyazaki, Theatre of Food presents a mind-expanding, mind-altering concept of what Irish food is all about. It’s all about fun, fantastic food and drool some drinks. Come along and meet Ballymaloe’s Rory O’Connell. Let April Danann of Rebel Foods and Dearbhla Reynolds of The Cultured Club expand your consciousness with their bubbling ferments. There will be music, there will be dancing and speed tasting of great wines of the world with Pascal Rossignol and Beverley Matthews of L’Atitude 51. Paul Flynn from The Tannery will be celebrating 20 years of Waterford’s most iconic restaurant, whilst Ivan Varian and Jonathan McCrea will show you once again just how strange the science of food can be…….lots lots more. www.electricpicnic.ie
Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites
Cáca Treacle (Treacle Bread)
Makes 2 x 1lb loaf tins
This is an adaptation of Marie-Thérèse mother’s recipe.
160g self raising flour
320g wholemeal flour
40g mixed seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower & linseed)
half teaspoon bread soda
1 dessertspoon treacle
Preheat oven to 210 degrees celcius and grease tins
Mix dry ingredients together by hand in big bowl and make well in centre
Mix egg, buttermilk and treacle together, pour half of liquid mix into dry ingredients and mix lightly by hand
Pour remainder of liquid in and mix very lightly by hand.
Put mixture into tins and bake in oven for 30/35mins turning midway for even baking. Tap bottom for hollow sound to test.
Turn out onto wire rack to cool
Copyright Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites
White Soda Bread
Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 30 – 40 minutes to bake. It is certainly another of my ‘great convertibles’. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses. It’s also great with olives, sun dried tomatoes or caramelized onions added, so the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.
1 lb (450g/4 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon breadsoda
sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-14fl oz (350-400ml) approx.
First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.
Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up and flip over gently. Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches (2.5cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.
Inis Meáin Squid Ink Mayonnaise
This is pictured with line-caught baby squid, grilled courgette from the garden, and wild and cultivated island flowers
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 egg yolks
300ml sunflower oil
50ml extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
salt to taste
8 x 4g sachets of squid ink
Crush garlic and whisk together with the mustard and egg yolks. Combine the oils in a jug and slowly add to the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously to create an emulsion. When all of the oil has been added, whisk in the lemon juice and season with salt. Whisk in the squid ink until you get a jet black mayonnaise
Harvest Relish of Beetroot & Tomato
This is pictured with butter-steamed golden beets and rocket flowers from the garden with pantelleria capers. We make this large batch of this delicious relish with any beetroot and tomatoes left in the garden at the end of the season and preserve it in jars for the following season.
20 sprigs of thyme
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1.5kg brown sugar
800ml red wine vinegar
200ml balsamic vinegar
10 red onions, chopped
2 sticks of horseradish, finely grated
Roast the beetroot in a large baking tray at 200 degrees Celsius for approximately 1 hour until soft. When cold enough to handle, peel and coarsely blend in a magimix, and put into a large pot.
Half the tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Mix lightly with the thyme leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a large baking tray at 200 degrees Celsius for approximately 30 minutes. Coarsely blend in magimix.
Put all the pickle ingredients except for the horseradish in a large pot and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and mix in the tomatoes and horseradish.
Gradually add the tomato pickle to the beetroot until you get a consistency and flavour that you are happy with.
Jar up your beetroot relish and any excess tomato pickle and put away for the winter!
Inis Méain Vanilla Flapjacks (Flapóig Fanaile)
These flapjacks were thin and crisp and altogether were more delicious than the version I’ve been making myself for years. Thank you Marie-Thérèse and the Inis Meáin team for sharing.
Makes 48 flapjacks
650 g butter
2 dessertspoons golden syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
900 g jumbo oatmeal or gluten free oatmeal
450 g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C. Get two trays and a large mixing bowl.
Melt the butter and golden syrup in a pot and add the vanilla extract. Mix the oatmeal and sugar together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into the tin, spread evenly and use a fish slice to flatten the surface well.
Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, turning the tray after 10 minutes. Check every 2 minutes after 15 minutes as they can burn easily. Cook until golden brown. Remove from the oven; place the tray on a wire rack for 3-4 minutes to cool slightly. The flapjacks need to be tended to once they come out of the oven. Cut the biscuits in a grid of 6 by 4 within 5 minutes of coming out of the oven. After a further 5 minutes once the butter has solidified slightly more but not too much use a fish slice to place flapjacks on a wire rack to cool.
Once set place in a tin lined with a sheet of greaseproof paper to store.