ArchiveJuly 2019

A walk on the wild side….

Foraging for wild foods with my little basket on my arm is definitely up there with my favourite pastimes. I’ve been sharing my enthusiasm ever since we offered the first foraging course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School over 20 years ago in the Autumn of 1998. I’d just come back from Vancouver Island where I met Sinclair Phillips at Sooke Harbour House. He introduced me to their ‘in house’ forager who collected the wild foods and seaweeds to incorporate into every course on the Sooke Harbour House menu, Sinclair even dived for the scallops. I was intrigued and realised that what I had been doing as a child, collecting watercress, berries, nuts and field mushrooms in Autumn, had an exciting name…

Now we schedule 3 or 4 Foraging courses every year, one in every season and they are invariably oversubscribed – An introduction to gathering wild and free food can be life changing…where others see weeds and wildflowers I see dinner…

For many identifying and gathering food in the wild is really a ‘forgotten skill’ but one well worth acquiring. All these foods have either medicinal or culinary uses and often both. A very high percentage of the plants around us are edible, some of course are not so it’s best to err on the side of caution as you add to your knowledge.

It’s good to know that these wild foods still have their full compliment of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, up to 20 times more than the ultra-processed food on which so many depend nowadays.

Foraging is often just associated with Autumn when there is an abundance of fruit nuts and berries, free for the gathering but every season produces it’s treasures even in the depths of Winter when we feast on bittercress, sorrel, alexanders….

Spring brings primroses, wild garlic, hawthorn, sweet cicily, sea kale… Early Summer ground elder, purslane salad burnett, elderflowers ….in fact the Elderflowers have only just finished and those that remain on the trees are turning into elderberries which we’ll harvest in the Autumn to make syrups and jellies. We’ll dry some to add to scones, muffins or sauces to accompany game dishes.

On our recent Summer Foraging course we found over 50 different greens in the grounds of the Ballymaloe Cookery School and all along the seashore at Shanagarry strand and at Ballyandreen.

Often the perception is that one needs to go somewhere special to forage, along country lanes or into the woods, hedgerows and hillsides but in fact one can find wild foods everywhere and anywhere – in towns, villages and city parks. Avoid areas that may have been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides or where people regularly walk their dogs.

Once you begin to think foraging, one becomes much more aware of the wild foods around us in nature. Dandelions, nettles, hogweed….

In Summer many of the plants are flowering so pick the edible flowers to scatter over salads, cakes or to decorate ‘wee buns’.

Bring a gaggle of children with you, they love foraging. You’ll be astonished how knowledgeable and adventurous they become in a short time. In recent years, foraging has become super cool for top chefs and cooks, the revolution was led by Rene Redzepi and his team a Noma in Copenhagen but nowadays you need to look no further than your local area… Pilgrim’s in Rosscarbary, The Mews in Baltimore, The Chestnut in Ballydehob, Ichigo Ichie in Cork and of course Ballymaloe House where Mytle Allen was incorporating wild foods into her menu since she opened her country house as a restaurant in 1964.

The next Foraging Course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School will be on Saturday, 28th September. To book go to www.cookingisfun.ie

Meanwhile, take a basket or pop a little  bag in your pocket any time you go for a walk and gather some rich pickings to incorporate into your menu for optimum health – A walk in the country will never be the same again….

Foragers Soup

Throughout the seasons one can gather wild greens on a walk in the countryside – foraging soon becomes addictive.  Many greens are edible and some are immensely nutritious.  Arm yourself with a good well-illustrated guide and be sure to identify carefully and if in doubt – don’t risk it until you are quite confident.  Don’t overdo the very bitter herbs like dandelion. 

Serves 6

50g (2ozs) butter

110g (4ozs) diced onion

150g (5 ozs) diced potatoes

250g (9ozs) chopped greens – alexanders, nettles, wild sorrel, a few young dandelions, wild garlic, borage leaves, wild rocket, ground elder, beech leaves, chickweed, watercress

600ml (1 pint) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) creamy milk

75g (3ozs) chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon

extra virgin olive oil

wild garlic flowers if available

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the hot stock and boiling milk.  Bring back to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the greens and boil with the lid off for 2-3 minutes approx. until the greens are just cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Purée the soup in a liquidiser. Taste and correct seasoning.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan.  Add the diced chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon, cook over a medium heat until the fat starts to run and the bacon is crisp.  Drain on kitchen paper.  Sprinkle over the soup as you serve.  Use the chorizo oil to drizzle over the soup also and scatter a few wild garlic flowers over the top if available.

New Potatoes with Dillisk Butter

This seaweed butter is a delicious accompaniment to floury potatoes, otherwise enjoy them with lots of good Irish butter.

Serves 4-5

2lbs (900g) new potatoes e.g., Home Guard, British Queens (the variety we grow is Colleen)

2 pints (1.2 litres) seawater or 2 pints (1.2 litres) tap water plus 1 teaspoon salt

a sprig of seaweed if available

Bring the seawater to the boil. Scrub the potatoes. Add salt if using tap water and a sprig of seaweed to the water, and then add the potatoes. Cover the saucepan, bring back to the boil and cook for 15-25 minutes or until fully cooked depending on size.

Drain and serve immediately in a hot serving dish with dillisk butter.

Note

It’s vitally important for flavour to add salt to the water when cooking potatoes.

Dillisk Butter

110g (4oz) butter

1-2 tablespoons of chopped dillisk

This seaweed butter is a delicious accompaniment to floury potatoes, otherwise enjoy them with lots of good Irish butter.

Foragers Salad

We use a mixture of foraged leaves for this salad.  You are unlikely to have all of these so just add what you can find to a bowl of lettuces and salad leaves.  This salad can be a best for pan grilled, fish, meat or some foraged cockles or mussels.

In early Spring, we add some young beech and ground elder leaves.

A selection of wild leaves in season such as:

Dandelion leaves

wild garlic

wild watercress

bittercress

chickweed

wild sorrel (buckler leaf or lamb’s tongue)

salad burnet

buckler leaf sorrel

pennywort (also known as bread and butter, walker’s friend and navelwort)

sweet cicely

red orach

Dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or cold pressed organic rapeseed oil

1 tablespoon apple balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon honey

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Allow a handful of wild leaves per person. Wash them carefully in cold water and dry them in a salad spinner. Keep chilled until ready to use.

To make the dressing, whisk the oil, vinegar and honey together.  Season to taste.

Toss the dried leaves in just enough of the dressing to make them glisten. Taste a leaf to check that the seasoning is correct.

Serve immediately.

Note

For maximum flavour pick the leaves when young.

Meadow Sweet Panna Cotta

Panna cotta (‘cooked cream’), normally, is a somewhat bland vehicle for fruit or sauce. Here we infuse meadow sweat leaves and flowers but fig leaves are also delicious. This recipe comes from Yotam Ottolenghi, something of a charlatan, who prefers to make without cream at all, replacing it with yoghurt – both for a lightness of taste, and reduction of guilt.

Serves 4

3 sheets gelatine (2.5g each – ‘standard’ size)

400ml (14fl oz) whole milk

1 vanilla pod, split

25g (1oz) meadow sweet flowers or fresh fig leaves

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

150ml (5fl oz) double cream (or 200g/7oz Greek yoghurt)

Bloom the gelatine in cold water.

Bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla pod, and take it straight off the heat. Allow it to cool to about 70oC/158˚F, then add the meadow sweat flowers or fig leaves if using. Keep it around 60-70 oC/140-158˚F (put over a low flame briefly if it cools below) for 5-15 minutes, and taste to judge when the infusion is correct (too long and it starts to taste bitter, too short and it will be bland).

When you’re happy, strain the milk and, while still hot, add the sugar and the bloomed gelatine. Stir to dissolve. At room temperature, stir in the cream or yoghurt and portion into glasses or moulds.

Serve turned out onto little plates, just as they are or with some summer berries, wild strawberries would delicious.

Crystallized Flowers

Flowers and leaves crystallized with sugar will keep for months, although they may lose their initial vibrant colour. This is what we call a high-stool job – definitely a labour of love and not something suited to an impatient, Type A personality. The end result is both beautiful and rewarding and many family and staff wedding cakes have been embellished with crystallized flowers over the years.

Flowers and leaves must be edible and are all worth doing.

Smaller flowers are more attractive when crystallized e.g. primroses, violets, apple blossom, viola’s, rose petals….We crystallize lots of leaves as well as flowers so one can make attractive arrangements.  Use fairly strong textured leaves – e.g. mint, lemon balm, sweet cicily, wild strawberry, salad burnet or marguerite daisy leaves.

The caster sugar must be absolutely dry, one could dry it in a low oven for about 30 minutes approx. Break up the egg white slightly in a little bowl with a fork. Using a child’s paintbrush, paint the egg white very carefully over each petal and into every crevice. Pour the caster sugar over the flower with a teaspoon. Arrange the crystallized flowers carefully on silicone paper so that they retain a good shape. Leave to dry overnight in a warm, dry place such as close to an Aga, over a radiator or in an airing cupboard. When properly crystallized, these flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a pottery jar or a tin box with an airtight lid.

Finco Buenvino Spain

I’m in Spain, just an hour north west of Seville and I’ve just had the most (for me) idyllic morning wandering in a remote part of Andalucia through oak woods where the black legged Iberian pigs snuffle to find the acorns that make the famous Jamon de bellotta (cured ham) from this area so  sweet and exquisite. But today I’m picking wild plums directly from the trees, there are two types, yellow mirabelles and small wine coloured fruit that look like fat cherries, sweeter and not as tart as damsons but a similar size. Sadly the wild figs and pomegranate aren’t quite ripe yet but the green walnuts are just at the perfect stage for pickling.

We’re staying at Finca Buenvino near Aracena, a pink washed, guest house, covered in wisteria and vines, virtually hidden amongst the chestnut and cork oak trees on a hilltop in the heart of the Sierra de Aracena.

Sam Chesterton and his Scottish wife Jeannie came to Spain in the early seventies in search of an old ruin to convert but eventually decided to build on this beautiful site close to a spring of clear water, an immensely important factor in Spain.

Much of the building material was old and traditional, local brick, terracotta tiles, metal grills, high arched doors, a panelled dining room, an intriguing mix of Scottish country house and Spanish villa with a relaxed country house feel.

Finca Buenvina has just five bedrooms, the house can be taken as a unit complete with cook and cleaner or one can just stay on as a guest and be pampered. There’s also the option of several lovely self catering cottages in the woods complete with pool.  It’s quite the find for those who are seeking an alternative to Costa del Sol. Sam and Jeannie are the most genial of hosts. Jeannie cooks the kind of food that I love to eat and now their son Charlie has joined Jeannie in the kitchen.

The food scraps from the kitchen get fed to the happy hens who scratch around under the trees so beautiful eggs for the many Spanish egg dishes. Tapas before dinner were some of the best I’ve tasted anywhere – quail egg with morcilla, Pimenton de Padron, tortillitas.…

A little shaded corner to curl up with a book or just snooze for a siesta in the afternoon and yet another memorable dinner on a terrace as the sun sets with the swifts swooping and whistling overhead.

Sam and Jeannie offer regular cooking classes and one can book now to partake in the traditional metanza early in the New Year, the next one is scheduled for around the first week in February 2020. A fascinating experience where one can learn how to butcher and preserve every scrap of the free range black pigs from the snout to the tail. Learn how to cure jamon in sea salt, (Kg for every kilo of ham) and how to make a variety of chorizo and salchichon, morcilla, zarappa, chistora and a myriad of other porky treats. At the end there’s a party with a huge cauldron of guiso de cerdo, a pork stew, serve with lots of beer and red wine and much merriment.

Wannabe writers can join a Writers Retreat – details for all of these options are on http://www.fincabuenvino.com/

Here are some of the dishes we enjoyed some of which come from The Buenvino Cookbook – Recipes from our farmhouse in Spain published by…

Other places to eat in the area:

D’Caprichio in Los Marinos

Jesus Carrion Restaurante in Aracena

Visit Cinco Jotas in Jabujo for a tour of the Jamon curing rooms to taste the very best Jamon that Spain has to offer – understand why Pata Negra is so revered around the world.

Salmorejo with Hard-Boiled Egg and Serrano

Serves 6

1 clove of garlic crushed

800g (1lb 7 1/2 oz) ripe red tomatoes cut into quarters

50g (2oz) white bread, crust removed and cut into cubes

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 – 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, we use Forum

salt, pepper, and sugar

To Serve

2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped

75g (3oz) strips of Serrano ham cut into slivers

extra virgin olive oil

flat parsley

Shallow Terracotta Bowls

Place the garlic, tomatoes, bread, olive oil and 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a food processor – season with salt, pepper and sugar. Whizz until well blended but still slightly coarse.

Taste, you may need to add more vinegar, depending on the sweetness of the tomatoes. Chill well. If the mixture is too thick add a little water but not too much. Serve in chilled shallow terracotta bowls with a couple of tablespoons of chopped hard boiled egg and slivers of Serrano ham in the centre of each.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Eat with lots of fresh crusty bread.

Ajoblanco with Apple – Ajoblanca de Almendras con Manzana

Also called Gazpacho Blanco

Many people are familiar with the tomato version of Gazpacho but this white version comes from Cordoba and is very nutritious.

Serves 4-6

250g (9oz) blanched, peeled almonds

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 slices of stale white bread with the crusts removed

2 cloves of garlic

salt

2-3 spoons white wine vinegar

2 apples (or 1 bunch white grapes, or 2 slices of melon)

Mash the garlic and salt in a mortar, gradually adding the almonds until a smooth paste is attained.  This can be done much more easily in a food processor.  Soak the bread in water and mix into the paste along with the oil and vinegar.

Mix everything thoroughly, then add 32fl oz (1 pint 12fl oz/4 cups) of cold water. The soup should have a thick, smooth consistency.   Add ice cubes if desired.  The fruit should be added just before serving.  Apple or melon should be diced and grapes should be whole.

The proportions of garlic, olive oil and vinegar are entirely a matter of taste.  This will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Papas Fritas (Potato Crisps) with Jamon

Making potato crisps at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce

a ton of crisps and nothing you buy in any shop will be even half as delicious. A mandolin is well worth buying for making chips – but mind your fingers!  

Serves 4

125 grams pata negra de bellotta or Serrano ham, thin slivers
4-6  large, even-sized potatoes, Maris Piper, Aran Victory, Golden Wonder, Kerr’s Pink, Santé

extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying

salt

Scrub, wash and peel the potatoes. For even-sized crisps, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth. Slice them very finely, preferably with a mandolin. Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together). Drain off the water and dry very well.

In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil or dripping to 180ºC. Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and divide between four plates. Lay slivers of jamon on top of the hot crisps and serve immediately.

Sam’s Roast Quails

Choose a couple of quail per person if they are very small. We get them plucked and gutted.

Rub the quail all over, inside and out, with pinchito spice, salt and pepper; or if you cannot get it grind up cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper and paprika to a fine powder. 

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas 6. 

Place the quail in a roasting tin, large enough to hold them all without crushing them together. Pour round the bottom of the baking tray a quantity of good cold tea, enough to keep the birds from drying out in a hot oven, roast for 20 to 30 minutes, basting occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through. If you find the quail are browning unevenly, move them around in the tin during cooking. It’s ideal to have the breasts nicely browned, so that the skin is crisp, but you don’t want them to dry out.

Serve with mashed potatoes and a green salad, or fresh peas or beans from the garden.

Sam’s Turkish Eggs

Serves one for a delicious breakfast….

You will need 2 beautiful fresh eggs.

Fry the eggs in melted butter until crisp at the edges, white should be just set but the yolks still soft …. Sprinkle crumbled dried chillies over the egg, some cumin seed, flaky salt and freshly ground pepper… Add a spoonful of rich natural yogurt and a sprinkling of chopped parsley. Eat from the pan with crusty bread….

A few days in Spain…

A few days in Spain…

If you are longing for a taste of simple Spanish food you’ll need to head away from the main drag – off into the back streets and out into the villages in the wooded hillside…

Malaga, the point of entry into Andalucía for many is certainly worth lingering in for a couple of days. The Picasso Museum in the town of the artist’s birth is definitely worth a gentle browse and Cathederal de la Encarnacion is properly awe inspiring. Don’t miss the Centro Pompidou either and stroll along the Pedregalejo seafront and eat the freshest fish in one of the many chiringuitos.

For breakfast, seek out crispy churros to dunk in a glass of hot chocolate. They are a specialty in Malaga and a ‘must do’ for breakfast…

For tapas, Check out Meson Iberico, on Calle San Lorenzo 27, it opens at 8.30pm. Book ahead of else be ready to queue. Be there by 8.15pm… if you want to get a seat at the counter or by the window ledge, you’ll need to sharpen your elbows and make a dash as soon as the doors are opened such is the enthusiasm of the regulars…but it’ll be worth it..

The tapas are traditional, made from superb ingredients and as a result are memorably delicious. We enjoyed a plate of wafer thin slivers of jamon Iberico from Cinco Jotas, perhaps the best pata negra in all of Spain, made from the hams of the long legged black Iberian pigs, reared in the dehesa oak forests and fattened on acorns… You can’t imagine how the delicious flavour lingers in your mouth – food for the gods. We also enjoyed tender whelks, octopus a la Gallega sprinkled with paprika and flakes of sea salt. The tiny, briny sweet clams were also memorable as were the crisp little tortilla aux Camorones (shrimp fritters). Finally, there was a plate of the tiniest little broad beans with two quails eggs and a few slivers of jamon melting over the top. There were many other temptations but by then I was defeated but Meson Iberico goes to the top of my Malaga list.

Next day, we drove out into the countryside to Gaucín, one of the prettiest of the famous Pueblos Blancos villages of Andalucia that hang precariously off the edge of the wooded hillside like a stack of tumbling sugar cubes…. The drive over the mountains from Malaga is spectacular and even more awe-inspiring from Gaucin and even more so onto Ronda. This Moorish city is teeming with tourists but it is definitely worth seeing the El Tajo Gorge under the Punta Nuevo (built in 1735). While you are there, pop into the Inglesia de Santa Maria church and check out the Royal Cavelry Bull Ring, the earliest in Spain.

Back in Gaucín, breakfast at Brena Verde was my favourite find in Guacín. Here, the cheery cook sent plate after plate after plate of tortas fritta out of the kitchen, irregular shaped squares of bubbly fried dough to enjoy drizzled with local honey….simple and so delicious….we  loved them sent lots of compliments to the kitchen so the cheery cook invited me into the kitchen to watch her making the frittas and shared the recipe. So fun to make, your children will love them too, topped with their favourite morsels.

Sleepy Guacin is about 45 minutes from the closest beach but we found several river bathing places with pools of varying depth. The grandchildren spent hours building dams, chasing dragonflies and watching little fish swimming around them in the river. Can you imagine the joy….It brought memories flooding back of swimming in the river Gaul outside the little village of Cullohill in Co Laois when I was a child….

We stayed at Molina del Carmen in Guacín, a former olive oil mill with some of the old machinery still intact. It’s now a complex of five chic interlinking apartments that can be rented individually or as a complex complete with a pool, perfect for a multi generational family holiday. The views from the terraces are jaw dropping… The rock of Gibraltar is clearly visible and Morocco a mere 35 mins ferry ride away… The village has lots of cafes , pubs and artist studios and is less than an hour from the closest sandy beach… you may even chance on a local festival or Féria as we did with fiesty prancing horses, a greasy pole competition to win a jamon and free community paella… a real and enchanting glimpse of Spanish country life…. 

Papas Bravas

Serves 10-12 as a tapa

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 red chilli, chopped (with seeds)

1 x 400g (14ozs) tin of tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon homemade tomato purée

2 teaspoons paprika

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

extra virgin olive oil

2lbs (900g) potatoes (e.g. golden wonder) peeled or unpeeled, which ever you prefer

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

sea salt

To Serve

aoili (see recipe)

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan.  Add the chopped garlic and chilli and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add the chopped tinned tomatoes, tomato purée and paprika.  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Simmer for 5-8 minutes or until slightly reduced.

Meanwhile, heat 1 inch (2 1/2 cms) olive oil in a frying pan.  Dice the potatoes into 1 inch (2 1/2 cm) pieces.  Dry on kitchen paper.  Cook the potatoes in the hot oil until light golden brown in colour and tender all the way through. 

While the potatoes are cooking, liquidize the sauce and add the sherry vinegar.  Return to the pan.  When the potatoes are cooked, remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.  Season lightly with some sea salt.

Heat the sauce, taste.

Serve the potatoes on a plate, drizzle with the sauce and a good dollop of aoili.

Tortillitas à la Patata

Sam and Jeannie Chesterton of Finca Buenvino in Andalucia, recently introduced me to this little gem.  They are so easy to make and completely addictive – kids also love them and they make the perfect little bites to nibble with a drink, preferably a glass of Fino or Manzilla.  This is totally brilliant way to use up leftover boiled potatoes.  The tortillitas are made in minutes and can be served as part of every meal from breakfast to supper. 

Makes 26

4 organic eggs

225g (8oz) cooked potatoes, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and chives

extra virgin olive oil, for frying

Maldon sea salt, to serve

Aioli (see recipe)

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the diced potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add the herbs.

Heat about 5mm (1/4 inch) of oil in a frying pan on a high heat, cook a teaspoonful of mixture and taste for seasoning.  Correct if necessary.  

Continue to cook the mini tortillas as needed, using a scant dessertspoon of the mixture for each. Cook on one side for about 1-2 minutes, flip over and continue to cook on the other side for a similar length of time, or until slightly golden.

Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt.

Serve hot, or at room temperature with a blob of Aioli (see recipe).

Saffron Aioli

“Aioli” refers not only to the sauce made with garlic, egg yolks and olive oil, but also to a complete dish where the sauce is served with boned salt-cod, hard-boiled eggs, squid or snails and vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, artichokes and green beans.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

225ml (oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 175ml (6fl oz) arachide oil and 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

1-4 cloves of garlic, depending on size

1/4 teaspoon saffron soaked in 2 teaspoons of hot water (optional)

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the crushed garlic, mustard, salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

If the Mayonnaise curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled Mayonnaise, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.  Finally add the saffron if using and taste for seasoning.

Churros with Cinnamon Sugar and Hot Chocolate

Makes 25 approx.

choux pastry (see recipe)

225g (8oz) caster sugar

2-4 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon

sunflower oil for deep-frying

Hot Chocolate for dipping

Make choux pastry below

Choux Pastry

150g (5oz) strong flour (Baker’s)

pinch of salt

225ml (8floz) water

100g (3 1/2 oz) butter, cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes

3-5 eggs depending on size (free range if possible)

Sieve the flour with the salt onto a piece of silicone paper.  Heat the water and butter in a high-sided saucepan until the butter is melted. Bring to a fast rolling boil, take from the heat.  (Note: Prolonged boiling evaporates the water and changes the proportions of the dough).  Immediately the pan is taken from the heat, add all the flour at once and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for a few seconds until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan to form a ball. Put the saucepan back on a low heat and stir for 30 seconds – 1 minute or until the mixture starts to furr the bottom of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and cool for a few seconds.

Meanwhile set aside one egg, break it and whisk it in a bowl.  Add the remaining eggs into the dough, one by one with a wooden spoon, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Make sure the dough comes back to the same texture each time before you add another egg. When it will no longer form a ball in the centre of the saucepan, add the beaten egg little by little. Use just enough to make a mixture that is very shiny and just drops reluctantly from the spoon in a sheet. 

 To make the Churros

Heat the oil in a deep fry to 180°C/350°F.

Mix the cinnamon with the caster sugar and pour onto a flat plate.

Put a medium sized star shaped nozzle into a piping bag. Fill with choux pastry.

When the oil is hot, pipe strips of choux pastry, 2 1/2 inches long approx, directly into the hot oil.  They will puff up so do just a few at a time. Cook until crisp and golden brown, drain on kitchen paper.

Toss in cinnamon sugar and dunk in hot chocolate!

Honey & Co

Honey & Co Chefs, husband and wife team, Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich are sitting contentedly at our kitchen table podding peas and broad beans for supper.  They’ve spent the afternoon prepping for their guest chef course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.  They live in Central London, run two mega successful and much loved restaurants and a deli called Honey & Smoke in Fitzrovia.

Each is jam packed with guests who absolutely love their homey Middle Eastern food.  There’s something particularly welcoming, warm and comforting about Sarit & Itamar’s places and it’s the kind of food we love to eat, who isn’t addicted to scooping up dollops of hummus or baba ganoush on ashtanur flat bread or pitta.  They both love cooking and have since they were five.  They originally met in the kitchen of a posh Italian Restaurant in Israel but decided to emigrate to London, where they worked in the Orrery, it’s worth knowing that Sarit was pastry chef for Ottolenghi and executive head chef at Nopi, both sensational restaurants.

This is their third guest chef appearance at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, they love coming to Ireland and their idea of heaven is being able to wander through the farm and gardens, pick the leaves and petals for the salad, dig potatoes, snip off the blossoms from the zucchini, licking their lips at the thought of how they will prepare them.  Real cooks are endlessly excited by beautiful produce and exciting new flavours.  They have searched the highways and byways of the Middle East for the best spices, sumac, za’atar and best street food.  Their enthusiasm is infectious, even strangers sometimes share recipes with them – they endlessly try to recreate the flavours of their childhood and home country.  Honey Spice is like a tiny Aladdin’s Cave with shelves packed with the best Middle Eastern ingredients, which I’ve discovered I can now order online to recreate their recipes from their three books.

Honey & Co, Honey & Co The Baking Book and the recently published Honey & Co At Home, which has already become many of their devotees favourite.  The format of Honey & Co At Home is different to the two previous books and includes recipes, For Us Two, For Friends, For the Weekend, For a Crowd…at the end of the book there’s an excellent section entitled For the Kitchen, a sort of store cupboard section of spice mixes, pickles, relishes & sauces.  The book is worth the price for this one chapter alone. Their harissa, ras el hanout and tahini has certainly added zing to my dishes, I also love the pithy and the self-deprecating writing.

Sarit & Itamar enchanted us for a whole day, and here are a few dishes they cooked for us, the Ashtanur bread, a super quick flat bread and so worth knowing about, kids also love to make and bake it on a pan or outdoors.

The one pot chicken dish will definitely become a favourite, cracked wheat is easy to find nowadays but if you can’t source it, use long grain rice.

It’s also worth checking out the Honey & Co podcast The Food Talks available on iTunes and Spotify to download and several segments on Youtube where they are cooking favourite dishes in their inimitable way.

Honey & Co www.honeyandco.co.uk

25 Warren St., Fitzrovia, London, W1T 5LZ Tel: 2073886175

Honey & Spice

52 Warren St., Kings Cross, London W1T 5NJ Tel: 2073886175

Honey & Smoke

216 Great Portland Street, London W1W5QW Tel: 2073886175

Harissa and Goat’s Cheese Buns

Makes about 20

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

100g (3 1/2oz) butter (at room temperature), diced

1 egg, lightly whisked and divided into 2 small bowls

60g (2 1/4oz) finely grated Pecorino or Parmesan, divided into 2 small bowls

125g (4 1/2oz) ricotta

125g (4 1/2oz) soft, young, rindless goat’s cheese

30g (1oz/2 tablespoons) rose harissa paste

1 teaspoon sea salt or a generous pinch of table salt

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

Pre-heat your oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 or 180°C/350°/Gas Mark 4 (Fan)

I use a mixer to make these; the dough is easy enough to make by hand, but it’s a little messy. Place the flour and butter in a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment and combine to a crumb-like consistency.

Add half the egg and half the grated pecorino or Parmesan, along with the ricotta, goat’s cheese, harissa paste and salt. Mix together until everything forms a nice, soft, pliable dough.

Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each one into a log about 20cm (8 inch) long. Brush each log all over with the other half of the egg, which you set aside earlier.

Mix the remaining Pecorino or Parmesan and the cumin seeds together, and sprinkle on the work surface. Roll the logs in the cheese cumin mixture until coated all over. Place on a tray in the fridge to rest for at least an hour, and up to 48 hours.

When you are ready to bake – best done just before serving as these are great hot –Cut each log into about 10 slices, each about 2cm (3/4 inch) thick, and lay them flat on a lined baking tray. Bake for about 13-15 minutes, until the cheese becomes golden but the buns are still soft. Remove from the oven and serve hot.

Fennel, Kohlrabi, Orange and Chilli Salad

Makes enough for 6-8 as a side of 4-6 as a starter

2 fennel bulbs

1 head of kohlrabi

1/2 teaspoon salt

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 red chilli

3 oranges (blood oranges work beautifully here)

1 small bunch of coriander

1 teaspoon Orange Blossom Water

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Halve the fennel bulbs and remove the core. Lay them flat on a chopping board and slice lengthways as thinly as you can. Place in a large bowl.

Peel the kohlrabi, cut into quarters and then cut into thin wafer-like slices (you can use a peeler, or a mandolin if you own one). Add the kohlrabi slices to the fennel, sprinkle with the salt and lemon juice, and mix.

Cut the red chilli into thin rounds and add to the bowl. Peel the oranges, slice into rounds and add these to the bowl too. Pick the coriander into sprigs and pop them into ice cold water for 10-15 minutes. Drain and add them to the bowl just before serving.

Dress with the orange blossom water, vinegar and olive oil. Mix well and serve.

Ashtanur – Griddle Bread

Makes 6-7 flat breads

250g (9oz) strong flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

7g fresh yeast or 1/2 teaspoon dried yeast

1/2 teaspoon honey (or sugar)

60ml (2 1/2fl oz) + about 60ml (2 1/2fl oz) warm water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra for oiling and rolling

Mix the flour and salt in a big bowl. Dissolve the yeast and honey (or sugar) in the first 60ml of warm water and set aside until it starts to foam.

Pour the foaming water-yeast mixture and the oil into the flour and mix, bringing it all together. Add as much of the additional water as you need to get a good even dough, then start kneading until it becomes supple and shiny. Drizzle with some extra oil on the top, cover the bowl with cling film and set aside until the dough doubles in volume, or place in the fridge for the next day.

Oil your workbench and turn the dough out, Divide into six or seven balls of approximately 50g (2oz) each and roll them in the oil, making sure each one has a nice coating of it. Leave them on the counter for 10 minutes to rest. Now is the time to set the griddle pan on the stove to heat up.

Start stretching the dough balls. The best bay is to oil your hands, then press the dough down to flatten and spread it with your hands until it is as thin as you can get it – you should almost see the work surface through it.

Lift the first stretched dough ball carefully and pop it on the hot griddle pan. It will take about a minute or two to colour, then flip it, cook for 10 seconds and remove from the pan. Put the next one on and repeat the process. Stack them while they are hot and wrap them in cling film to serve later the same day, freeze once cooled or eat immediately.


Chicken Braised in Spicy Matbucha and Cracked Wheat Pilaf

A gorgeous one pot dish…

Serves 3-4

1kg (2 1/4lb) chicken thighs

2 teaspoons salt

1 red chilli, thinly sliced

1/2 lemon, quartered and very thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 long red pepper, cut into thick rings

3 plum tomatoes cut into thick slices

1/2 teaspoon sugar

20 cherry tomatoes (any type will do, but a mix is nice)

1 small bunch coriander, roughly chopped

125ml (4 1/2fl oz) water

200g (7oz) coarse cracked wheat

Place the chicken thighs skin-side down in a large saucepan or sauté pan and season with a teaspoon of the salt. Place on the stove on a low heat and allow the fat from the skin to render out — it will take about 15-20 minutes to crisp the skin. Then flip and cook for an extra five minutes on the other side. Carefully lift the thighs on to a plate, leaving all the fat that’s been produced in the pan. Keep the pan on the heat and add the chopped chilli, lemon slices and garlic. Sauté until a strong aroma of lemons comes from the pan — about three minutes.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the pepper rings. Sauté for another three minutes, stirring all the time, then add the tomato slices. Season with the second teaspoon of salt and the sugar and mix well. Cook for about five minutes or until the tomato slices start to fall apart and create a sauce.

Return the chicken thighs to the pan, skin side up. Add the whole cherry tomatoes and sprinkle the chopped coriander on top. Add the water, reduce the heat to a minimum and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove the lid. Stir your dish a little to make sure it isn’t catching on the bottom of the pan. Replace the lid, but this time don’t close it entirely. Allow some steam to escape and simmer very slowly for another 15 minutes.

You can eat the dish now if you wish, but the best thing to do is to sprinkle the cracked wheat into the pot. Stir it a little, bring back to the boil and return the lid to the pot. Set aside for 15 minutes (off the heat) and then serve.

Sumac and Vanilla Shortbread

240g (8 1/2oz) butter, at room temperature

120g (scant 4 1/2oz) icing sugar

360g (12 1/2oz) plain flour

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

1⁄2 teaspoon flaky sea salt

For the coating

2 tablespoons sumac

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Heat your oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5 (170°C/325°Fan)

Use a food processor or an electric mixer with a paddle attachment to work the butter, icing sugar, flour, vanilla seeds and salt until the mixture just forms a ball of dough. It takes a while to come together, so don’t lose faith.

Once it has formed, turn the dough out onto the work surface. Divide into two pieces and shape each one into a log – I prefer to make it rectangular but it is tasty in any shape.

Mix the sumac and sugar on the work surface. Roll the log in the sumac-sugar to coat all over, then place in the fridge to set for at least 1 hour (or freeze it until you want to bake them)

Line two baking trays with baking paper. Use a sharp knife to cut each log into 12–14 slices and place them flat on the trays.

Bake for 10–12 minutes until light golden, then remove from the oven. Leave to cool on the tray before eating.

Letters

Past Letters