ArchiveFebruary 2020

Latest Food Trends

Gosh February is almost over, the weeks have whizzed past while I’ve been researching the latest food trends – what’s hot and what’s not!

It’s never a good idea to follow trends slavishly, but certainly it’s good to know what’s causing excitement and particularly important for those of us in the food business.

Let’s start with movements:

Climate change concerns are fuelling the vegan and plant based craze. Many young people are switching to a plant based diet believing it to be better for the planet and for animals. The global farming community have done themselves no favours, with intensive poultry and pig farming, raising many legitimate animal welfare issues.

Huge sums of research money continue to be invested in the faux meat and faux cheese industry. The fast food industry has also been quick to react. Sales of alternative meat products are growing in double digits.

The Impossible Whopper is now available in 7,000 Burger King locations. More recently, several variations on blended and fusion burgers have been developed with 25% mushrooms to respond to the growing numbers of flexitarians who are opting to eat less meat.

This trend is not going away anytime soon, and the products and recipes are getting better….

The multinational food products corporation Danone, famous for it’s dairy products has invested 60 million in developing dairy free products.

The Rise in Health Conscious and Socially Conscious Consumers Is driving the zero waste and reduced packaging movement.

193 member states of the United Nations have agreed to halve per capita global food waste, at the retail and consumer level, along production and supply chains by 2030”.

Scotland’s aim is even more ambitious, a  35% reduction by 2025.

Intermittent fasting is starting to gain more traction stateside.

Chefs too, are eager for us to know that they are into ‘zero waste’ …. lots of catchphrases around this topic like ‘too good to go’.

In a bid to use up leftovers deliciously, Skye Gyngell introduced the now famous Scratch Menu at Spring in London in Autumn 2017 – Brilliant value, superb food, pop it on your’ London List’.

Wonky Veg is becoming super cool… Driven by consumer demand, some supermarkets are embracing the idea at last. Socially conscious consumers are taking the local food pledge to spend 50% of their food budget on local food. Lots of new routes to market like Neighbourfood (www.neighbourfoods.ie) and Farmdrop (www.farmdrop.commaking this task easier.

 The demand for organic produce continues to grow in the US – particularly where consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the effects of glysophate and other pesticides and herbicides on their health.

Apparently, better quality gas station food is a big trend in the US and UK particularly. Can’t say I’ve noticed, but it would be a welcome development at this point in history when so many people buy their food from the same source as the fuel for their cars.

The word sustainable, with its many confusing interpretations continues to be bandied around. However, the term Regenerative Farming – farmers determined to work with nature to rebuild the fertility of the soil and the eco-system, is now cooler and more meaningful.

Agroforestry and Synthropic Agroforestry are buzz words in farming circles. 

The campaign to ban single use plastic continues to gain traction however the global recycling system appears to be in chaos as more and more countries follow China’s lead and adopt a ‘return to sender’ policy.

The Fermented Food Movement:

The fermented food movement continues to grow…..Kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass are all main stream products now.

Food to feed the gut biome is well understood and now more conversation about Food to feed the brain which is in essence the same.

In the US where they are even further down the road of desperation there appears to be a realisation that real food is what is needed.

People are desperately seeking REAL food to boost their health… Alleluiah…..!

Google searches on bone broth and collagen reached an all-time high in 2019. This liquid boosts the immune system, strengthens bones and promotes healthy hair and skin.

The Sourdough Bread Revolution continues unabated.

Artisan bakeries are popping up all over the country from Abbeyleix to Tramore with people like you and I queuing around the corner for a decent loaf of slowly fermented sourdough bread that doesn’t cause one to feel bloated or unwell…

Beware, there’s a lot of ‘faux sourdough’ around. If a loaf doesn’t cost at least €4.50, it’s unlikely to be a natural sourdough which takes at least 12 hours to ferment and should only contain flour (preferably organic), salt, water and a natural sourdough starter – no bakers’ yeast or other additives. The 48 – 72 hour feremented natural sourdough from the Ballymaloe Cookery School Bread Shed has a growing fan base. 

There’s a revolution in the drinks world…

According to Neilsen data, 66% of millennials are making an effort to reduce alcohol intake hence the demand for non-alcoholic drinks is so skyrocketing. All manner of mocktails and floral infused drinks.

Whole Foods are shifting from alcoholic cocktails to mocktails and reporting a 377% rise in Kombucha sales. Look out for Makgeolli, a Korean rice liquer. Baijiu also known as Shaojiu, is a distilled Chinese drink made from grain. It too is becoming cool, even in non-Asian countries. Mescal is cooler than Tequila…. 

Look out for Seedlip, one of the first distilled non-alcoholic spirits to the market. Kin Euphorics ‘all bliss no  booze’ and Curious Elixirs ‘booze free cocktails’. Watch out for more trendy alcohol free bars like The Virgin Mary in Dublin’s Capel Street.

Cold brews and nitro coffee sales have soared, now 50% of Starbucks orders. I’m also loving all the exciting new bitters, artisan beers and ciders.

The success of the natural wine movement continues to baffle as the demand for clean, chemical and pesticide free, biodynamic and natural wines skyrockets. Fans tell us they love the added bonus of no hangover. Organic wines are gaining devotees of whom I’m one. For suppliers, check out Le Caveau Wine Merchants in Kilkenny, leaders in the field (www.lecaveau.ie)

The ‘free from’ market gains more shelf space in supermarkets and retail outlets and as ultra-processed food becomes less and less nutritious, the supplement market grows exponentially.

A direct consequence of agricultural policy since the 1950’s encouraging farmers to produce maximum food at minimum costs – a disaster in health and socio economic terms.

All manner of dairy free milks – oat milk, cashew milk, almond milk, soya milk, directly fuelled by the diminishing quality of cows milk. What’s going on?

CBD infused ‘everything’ is big business, snacks, coffee, drinks, even pet food…and growing.

Huge investment into developing healthy snacks with less sugar. Cadburys Dairy Milk now has a 30% less sugar than before chocolate bar….

Home Meal Kits:

Home meal kits and food delivery business is off the scale, used to be just in US and UK cities but delivery bikes and Uber Eats are a familiar sight to all of us now. Interestingly Uber Eats, who have their finger on the pulse, report that customers are turning to healthier plant based options in droves.

Onto the rest of the world…. more chefs are engaging in sustainable practices. Although many more establishments are still ‘talking the talk’ rather than ‘walking the walk’.

Michelin is coming under increasing pressure to factor sustainability and kitchen culture issues into its evaluation system for awarding stars. Chefs continue to spice up food to allay consumer boredom, hyper regional food is a big trend in the US. And of course the food on the plate needs to be Instagrammable, keeps the name out there…

There are signs that the general public are tiring of ‘cheffy wizardry’, more often than not it’s an occasional or ‘once and once only’ experience, fun to tick off the ‘bucket list’ but not the type of food that people want to eat every week or month… a dilemma…

Experiential Dining is one of the hottest new restaurant trends as is more adventurous kids menus with global flavours. It’s no longer enough to offer vegetarian and gluten free options, we now need dairy free, plant based, vegan and keto options too….

Ingredients…

·       We’ll be hearing more about Reishi mushrooms, which supposedly boost the immune system – fast becoming another superfood.

·       Mushroom coffee – Chaga

·       Foodies are loving the brassica family – roast Brussel sprouts roast cabbage, broccoli…cauliflower in its many delicious incarnations.

·       Peptides, nutritional yeast, food containing gut healthy probiotics.

·       Lotus seeds, add addictive crunchiness.

·       Harissa, the North African chilli spice paste is the new Sriracha.

·       Jerusalem Artichokes – sun-chokes in the US

·       Lard, beef dripping, duck and goose fat are all super cool..

·       Seaweeds are still trending…

·       Squid ink is also having a moment, added to pasta and mayo…

·       Plant based diets are fuelling an interest in lesser known grains, farro, millet, teff, freekah, sorghum, amaranth even pearl barley….The success of the Hodmedod’s enterprise in the UK, who grow a wide range of dried pulses and grains… is a clear indication of the revival of interest in ancient grains and pulses – increasingly being regarded as super foods.

·       The acreage of heirloom wheat, oats and grains is increasing every year as more artisan bakers, mill fresh batches of flour for their sourdough breads, adding extra flavour and nutrients.

·       Pho and Banh mi sandwiches

  • Rapadura sugar
  • Winter tomatoes

·       Yuzu – a tart fruity citrus about the size of a tangerine that originated in China, we’re all loving the bright flavour.

·       Ube – a vivid, purple yam used to create violet coloured ice creams, brownies, macaron, cakes….

·       Pinsa – a Roman version of pizza, a flat bread made with a combination of spelt, rice and wheat flour.

·       Pizzetta’s – a finger food sized pizza, what’s not to love?

·       Air dried meats, like Biltong and Jerky and more fermented salami and saussicons.

·       Nashville hot chicken is huge in US.

·       Japanese fluffy soufflé pancakes are all the rage.

·       Savoury porridge with numerous toppings.

·       Dessert hummus…with added chocolate, peanut butter, cookie dough…

·       Non dairy spreads – almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia nut butter, gluten free products, psyllium, buckwheat – no palm oil and less sugar.

Winter Tomato Salad

Flavourful tomatoes in Winter sound like an oxymoron a complete contradiction in-terms but Winter tomatoes are different, These are special varieties that only reach their full flavour potential during Winter when night time temperatures drop below 5 centigrade in Sicily, Sardinia and Spain. They are still quite difficult to source over here but look out for Marinda from Sicily, Camone from Sardinia and Black Iberico and RAF from Spain. They have a crisp , slightly tart flavour and are best eaten raw in salads during the season from December to end of April. Check out Natoora for stockists…. natoora.co.uk

Serves 4-6

6 Winter tomatoes, use several varieties if available..

Flakey sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

A sprinkling of rapadura sugar or pale soft brown sugar.

3-4 ozs Goat curd or fresh goat cheese… St Tola or Ardsallagh…

A couple of fistfulls of leaves…..Pennyworth and/or wood sorrel leaves and a few small rocket leaves.

Coarsely chopped unskinned almonds and pistachio nuts.

Just before serving …

Cut the tomatoes in different shapes and slices for contrast of colour and flavour on a flat plate, Sprinkle evenly with salt, freshly cracked pepper and a little sprinkling of sugar. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together and drizzle about half over the tomatoes and the remainder over the leaves, toss gently to coat.. Divide the fresh and foraged leaves evenly between 4-6 wide bowls, top with a mixture of the nicely seasoned tomatoes… Pop a few blobs of goat curd or soft cheese on top and sprinkle with coarsely chopped nuts..

Prawns in their Shells with Watercress and Yuzu Mayonnaise

Yuzu is a deliciously fragrant citrus fruit mainly cultivated in Japan, Korea and China, it’s about the size of a tangerine, if you can’t find it fresh in Asian stores, use the bottled juice which is also very good..

Prawns are not cheap, but always a special treat. You can of course buy them pre-cooked but they are very simple to cook at home in well salted water. Add some fresh or bottled yuzu juice to a homemade mayonnaise to embellish beautiful fresh prawns. Make sure to open their heads and scoop out the soft tomalley, provide a prawn cracker to crack the claws so you can extract every last sweet morsel, then save the shells for a prawn bisque, chefs often make more money from the bisque than they do from the prawns.

Serves 8

40-48 large very fresh Irish prawns

3.6 litres (6 pints) water

3 generous tablespoons salt

Accompaniment

4-8 tablespoons Yuzu mayonnaise  

Large white plates

Garnish

watercress sprigs

4 segments lemon

First cook the prawns

Bring the water to the boil and add the salt (it may sound a lot, but this is the secret of real flavour when cooking prawns or shrimps).  Cook the prawns a few at a time in the boiling salted water. As soon as the water returns to a rolling boil, test a prawn to see if it is cooked.  It should be firm and white, not opaque or mushy.  If cooked, remove prawns immediately.  Very large ones may take 1/2 to 1 minute more.  Allow to cool in a single layer on a tray.  Uncurl the tails.  

Note: Do not be tempted to cook too many prawns together, otherwise they may overcook before the water even comes back to the boil, cook them in 2 or 3 batches.

To serve

Put 5 or 6 cooked whole prawns on each plate.  Spoon a tablespoon or two of Yuzu Mayonnaise into a little bowl or oyster shell on the side of the plate.  Pop a segment of lemon on the plate.  Garnish with some fresh wild watercress.  Serve with fresh crusty brown soda bread and Irish butter.

Shrimps are cooked in the same way but take a minute or two longer, check that there is no trace of black at the back of the head.

Homemade Yuzu Mayonnaise

I know it is very tempting to reach for a jar of the well-known brand, but homemade mayonnaise is made in 5 minutes, even by hand. If you decide to use a food processor it’s even faster and sooo worth the effort. 

As ever the quality of the eggs really matters. Use the best free-range and better still organic eggs you can find and really good quality sunflower and olive oil and wine vinegar if using.

2 egg yolks, free range or organic

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard or pinch of English mustard

1 dessertspoon Yuzu juice or white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) olive oil (or a mixture of olive and sunflower  6:2 or 5:3)

Put the egg yolks into a medium-sized Pyrex bowl with the mustard, salt and the Yuzu juice. Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil into 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 confident 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 yuzu juice if necessary. 

Shrove Tuesday

“Myrtle, your hair is on fire”…an alarmed guest exclaimed as Myrtle’s fringe went up in flames while she was enthusiastically flambéing crêpes beside their table. The guest jumped out of his chair and damped out the flames with napkin and the water jug – drama in the dining room….

For many years, in the Ballymaloe House dining room, it was a ritual to serve Crêpe Suzette on Shrove Tuesday. Many regular customers from earlier years will remember that Myrtle would wheel the famous Ballymaloe House Sweet Trolley into the dining room with her copper chaffing dish, a pile of crêpes, the spirit stove, and a bottle of Cointreau and Grand Marnier. The delicious crêpe suzette were made to order and she shared the recipe in the Ballymaloe Cookbook, first published in 1977 and still in print to this day. If you are fortunate to still have copy of the first addition in hardback, treasure it, it’s a collectors’ item now.

Well, Shrove Tuesday is just around the corner, so I’ll my favourite recipe for pancake batter. I love, love, love pancakes, but doesn’t everyone? Super quick to make and such a brilliant standby, whisked together in minutes with ingredients that pretty much everyone has to hand, eggs, milk, flour, butter, castor sugar and a lemon for traditionalists. But why stop there, the possibilities for fillings are endless….

Pancake batter is magical, it’s definitely one of my ‘great convertibles’. One can make a million variations by just changing the proportion of egg and flour to liquid. White flour can be substituted by buckwheat, chickpea, tapioca, spelt, rice flour….or a mixture. The liquid too can be varied coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, buttermilk, even oat milk. Sparkling water or soda water gives an even crisper batter. One can create dairy free, gluten free and vegan versions. Half milk half and water result in a lacier crepe. Use less liquid to make a thicker pancake. …buttermilk will produce a stack of fluffier American style pancakes for breakfast or brunch.

Pikelets and crumpets are all variations on the theme as are Dutch babies and Toad in the Hole, Yorkshire pudding and popovers.

Basic pancakes, as we always called the thin lacy crepes, were my “go to” recipe when the kids were little. The recipe was written inside the door of the kitchen cupboard and could be whizzed up in seconds while a pan was heating up on the Aga and a little butter softened on the side of the stove. The kids would line up to eat them in turns, hot off the pan slathered with butter, sprinkled with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.

We were conservative then but now so much more adventurous, chocolate spread and lots of roasted nuts, peanut butter and honey, homemade lemon curd and mascarpone, honey butter and of course savoury pancakes too. We made some delicious ones yesterday with kale pesto, goats cheese and a little tomato and ginger relish. The possibilities are endless.

So why not plan a Shrove Tuesday pancake party and try some of these recipes.

Crêpes with Orange Butter

 

This crêpe recipe is very nearly as good as those Crêpes Suzette they used to serve with a great flourish in posh restaurants when I was a child. These crêpes are half the bother and can be made for a fraction of the cost.

Serves 6 – makes 12 approximately

Pancake Batter

6oz (175g) white flour, preferably unbleached

a good pinch of salt

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range

scant 15fl oz (450ml) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed

3-4 dessertspoons melted butter

Orange Butter

6oz (175g) butter

3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind

6oz (175g) icing sugar

freshly squeezed juice of 5-6 oranges

8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crêpe pan

First make the batter.

Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. 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 crêpes stir in 3-4 dessertspoons (6-8 American tablespoons) melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the crêpes 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.

Make the crêpes in the usual way.

Heat the pan until quite hot.  Grease the pan lightly with butter and pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly.

* A small ladle can also be very useful for this, loosen the crêpes around the edge, flip over with a spatula or thin egg slice, cook for a second or two on the other side, and slide off the pan onto a plate. The crêpes may be stacked on top of each other and peeled apart later.  The greasing of the pan is only necessary for the first two or three pancakes.

They will keep in the fridge for several days and also freeze perfectly. If they are to be frozen it’s probably a good idea to put a disc of silicone paper between each for extra safety.

Note: If you have several pans it is perfectly possible to keep 3 or 4 pans going in rotation. Only necessary if you need to feed the multitudes.

To Serve

Melt a blob of the orange butter in the pan, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and toss the crêpes in the foaming butter. Fold in half and then in quarters (fan shapes). Serve 2 or 3 per person on warm plates.  Spoon the buttery orange juices over the top. Repeat until all the crêpes and butter have been used.

Note: A tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of orange liqueur eg. Grand Marnier or Orange Curacao is very good added to the orange butter if you are feeling very extravagant!

Myrtle Allen’s Crêpes Suzette from the Ballymaloe Cookery School

Serves 4

50g (2oz) flour

1 tablespoon oil

1 organic egg

1 organic egg yolk

2 teaspoons orange curaçao

150ml (5fl oz) milk

Orange Butter

225g (8oz) large ripe oranges

75g (3oz) softened butter

75g (3oz) castor sugar

To Finish

castor sugar

brandy

curaçao

Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre.  Pour in the oil, egg, egg yolk and curaçao.  With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, stir in the egg mixture and gradually bring in the flour. Beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. Leave aside for 30 minutes. 

Next make the orange butter. 

Grate the rind of the oranges very carefully so as not to penetrate the white.  Add to the butter and sugar.  Cream vigorously until smooth.

Put a frying pan on a high heat.  Melt about 15g (1/2oz) orange butter in the pan.  When the butter is bubbling, pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly, swirling the batter around to get it even.  Loosen the crêpe around the edge, flip over with a spatula, cook for a second or two on the other side.  Fold into a fan shape and slide onto a hot plate. Repeat with the remaining pancakes. Sprinkle them with castor sugar.  Return the pancakes to the pan, pour over a little brandy and curaçao.  Set alight, keeping your face away from the flames.  Tilt the pan and spoon the juices over the pancakes until the flame subsides.  Serve immediately on hot plates.

Dutch Pancakes

Love this version of the famous Dutch baby which I enjoyed at Reynard restaurant in the Wyeth Hotel in Brooklyn.

Makes 4 

3 free range eggs

175ml (6fl ozs) milk

75oz (3oz) all-purpose flour

salt to taste

3/4 tablespoons clarified butter

Topping

4 slices cooked ham or 8 slices of crispy bacon

75-110g (3-4ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated

maple syrup (optional)

2 teaspoon thyme leaves

freshly ground pepper


We use a 25.5cm (10 inch) cast iron pan 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. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add a slice of cooked ham or slices crispy bacon 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.

Buckwheat Pancake with Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 6

Buckwheat Batter

1 oz (25g) butter

2 1/2 ozs (65g) buckwheat flour

2 ozs (50g) plain white flour

1 large free range egg

6 fl ozs (175ml) milk

4 fl ozs (110ml) cold water

a pinch of salt

2 tablespoons sugar

To Serve

best quality organic chocolate and hazelnut spread

toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Maldon sea salt (optional)

First make the batter.

Melt the butter on a low heat – cool.  Sieve both flours and a pinch of salt into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre, add an egg, gradually whisk in the milk and water drawing in the flour from the outside.  Finally whisk in the melted butter. Cover and allow to rest for 15- 30 minutes.

Heat a non-stick pan on a high heat.  Pour in a small ladle-full of batter just enough to cover the base of the pan.  Cook for about a minute, flip over and cook for a further 30-45 seconds.  Slide onto a hot plate.

Spoon a couple of generous tablespoons of chocolate spread onto the centre.  Fold in the four edges, once, twice to form a square with chocolate in the centre.  Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts and a few flakes of Maldon sea salt. 

Bill Granger’s Ricotta Hotcakes with Honeycomb Butter

Serves 6-8

150g (5oz) ricotta

175mls (6fl oz) milk

4 eggs, separated

110g (4oz) plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

a pinch of salt

50g (2oz) butter

To Serve

banana

honeycomb butter, sliced (below)

icing (confectioners) sugar for dusting

Garnish

extra honeycomb, if available

Place the ricotta, milk and egg yolks in a mixing bowl and mix to combine. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add to the ricotta mixture and mix until combined.

Place the egg whites in a clean dry bowl and beat until still peaks form. Fold egg whites through batter in two batches, with a large metal spoon.

Lightly grease a large non-stick frying pan with a small portion of the butter and drop 2 tablespoons of batter per hotcake into the pan (don’t cook more than 3 per batch).

Cook over low to medium heat for 2 minutes, or until hotcakes have golden undersides. Turn hotcakes and cook on the other side until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and quickly assemble with other ingredients.

Slice one banana lengthways onto a plate, stack 3 hotcakes on top with a slice of honey comb butter. Dust with icing sugar.

A few chunks of honeycomb are a delicious extra treat.

Note: hotcake batter can be stored for up to 24 hours, covered with a plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

Honeycomb Butter

225g (8oz) butter, softened

100g (3 1/2oz) honeycomb

2 tablespoons honey

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Shape into a log on a plastic wrap, roll, seal and chill in a refrigerator for 2 hours. Store leftover honeycomb butter in the freezer – it’s great on toast.

Best Ever Cornmeal Pancakes with Butter and Maple syrup

Inspired by pancakes enjoyed at Chez Ma Tante in Brooklyn, NY

Makes 8 pancakes

170g (6oz) White flour

170g (6oz) Bramata Polenta meal

2 tablespoon Castor sugar

1 egg and egg yolk

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoon baking powder

10 fl ozs milk

8 fl ozs of clarified butter

To serve

Butter & Maple syrup

Put the flour, cornmeal and castor sugar into a bowl

Whisk the eggs together; add the salt and baking powder

Stir the wet ingredients plus 2 tablespoons of melted butter, with a wooden spoon

Don’t beat the mixture; it can still be slightly lumpy

Heat a heavy cast iron pan over a med – high heat for 4 – 5 minutes

Pour in a generous 1/8 inch of clarified butter, allow to heat through

Pour about 2 ½ fl oz of batter into the pan for each pancake

Allow some space between each one, cook for two or three minutes on that side or until bubbles rise and burst and the edges start to crisp

Flip over carefully & continue to cook on the other side until both sides are nicely brown and crisp at the edges

Serve immediately on warm plates – 2 per person with a pat of butter on each and a little maple syrup drizzled over the top.

Top Tips – Pancakes

  • Have your pan hot enough.
  • Add a few tablespoons of melted butter to the batter.
  • No need to grease the pan between crepes
  • Use half milk, half water for lacier pancakes

Blood Orange Season

The new seasons blood oranges have arrived, they’ve been trickling into the shops ever since Christmas – such joy. I long for their delightful fresh taste after the rich food of the festive season. Their sweet, tart flavour flits across the tongue and brightens so many of my February dishes. The season is short, just like the marmalade oranges from Seville and Malaga, but these oranges with their rose blushed rind and red tinted flesh, come from Sicily, Spain and Malta. They thrive in Mediterranean climates and are now grown widely in Florida, Texas and Arizona in the U.S. I love the way they come wrapped in tissue paper like all oranges used to years ago.

Every time I peel or slice a blood orange, it’s a surprise. . . Will the flesh be flecked with red or will it be pale crimson or a deep magenta? Depends on the type, I now know that there are three main varieties and several crosses. From Sicily, Moro with a warm red blush on the rind, and Tarocco, the most colourful of all comes also from Sicily but from a different area. Sanguinello, native to Spain is the sweetest and continues to fruit into May. I wondered how blood oranges came about, well apparently Anthocyanin is the polyphenol responsible for the colour and although it’s also in many fruit and flowers its unusual in citrus fruit.

Chrysanthemin, the main component, is rich in antioxidants and is associated with improved cardio vascular health, type 2 diabetes and obesity. They are a super-rich source of vitamin C but also contain fibre, vitamin A, folate and potassium.

What’s not to like about a fruit that combines the nutrients of fruits and berries in one delicious package.

Let’s start with breakfast – I love a glass of OJ, freshly squeezed, moments earlier but rosy blood orange juice is even more special.

When I say freshly squeezed juice I don’t mean a container from the supermarket or a bottle labelled freshly squeezed. There’s the world of difference in flavour and nutrients and the supermarket version may well have added sugar and several other stabilizers and additives. Treat yourself to an electric citrus juicer, they are relatively inexpensive and are likely to last over a decade in a domestic situation. Even small children can learn to squeeze their own juice, a brilliant way to ward off winter colds and flus. (Dry the peels, they make brilliant firelighters).

We love to use the juice for homemade lemonade, sodas, spritzers or topped up with prosecco to make a zingy blood orange mimosa. Blood orange juice makes brilliant sorbets or granita on its own or posh it up with a dash of Campari.

Blood orange marmalade is also gorgeous as is blood orange curd.

We use them in a variety of starters & winter salads, It marries deliciously with shaved fennel, mozzarella, toasted nuts, fresh mint. . . .

In fact one of my favourite winter desserts is a simple blood orange salad with frosted mint leaves or even fresh mint leaves if you don’t have the time to frost them. Peel and segment them into a February citrus fruit salad to add extra glam to a mix of oranges, ruby grapefruit, mandarins, clementines, tangerines and kumquats. Now there’s a splendid way to cleanse the palate and cut through the richness of a delicious roast duck supper. I’ll also include a recipe for upside down blood orange tart which I know you’re going to love.

Good to know, blood oranges freeze brilliantly and can be used for marmalade.

Campari and Blood Orange Granita

An irresistible and deliciously non-fattening appetizer. Of course it can be made with juicy oranges any time of the year, but look out for blood oranges from January to March. A non-alcoholic version with blood orange juice alone is also perfectly delicious, as is a Campari and Blood Orange Fizz –  Put a scoop of granite into a tall champagne glass, top up with prosecco or cava.

Serves 10 approximately

1 litre (13/4 pints) blood orange juice or a mixture of blood oranges and ordinary oranges

125ml (4fl oz) Campari

350g (12oz) caster sugar

1 egg white, optional

To decorate

1-2 blood oranges, segmented

Mint leaves

Mix the freshly squeezed orange juice with the sugar and Campari. Stir and taste and add more sugar if necessary. Make the granita in one of the following ways:

1. Pour the mixture into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezer or the freezing compartment of a refrigerator. After about 4-5 hours when the mixture is semi-frozen, remove from the freezer and whisk until smooth; then return to the freezer. Whisk again.

Top Tip: For a lighter texture when almost frozen fold in one stiffly-beaten egg white. Keep in the freezer until needed.

2. If you have a food processor, simply freeze the mixture completely in a stainless steel or plastic bowl, then break into large pieces and whiz up in the food processor for a few seconds. Add one slightly-beaten egg white, whiz again for another few seconds, then return to the bowl and freeze again until needed.

3. Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetière and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed. This method produces a less granular texture which might be called a sorbet rather than a granita.

To serve

Scoop out the granita and serve just as it is in chilled cocktail glasses, white bowls or plates, or garnished with blood orange segments and fresh mint leaves.

Watercress, Blood Orange, Medjool Date and West Cork Mozzarella Salad with Pistachio Nuts

The rich West Cork pasture that the buffalos feed on gives the Mozzarella its quintessentially Irish taste.

A few beautiful fresh ingredients put together simply make an irresistible starter.

Serves 4

2-3 balls of fresh Irish Mozzarella

2 blood oranges

a bunch of fresh watercress

4 Medjool dates, stoned and quartered lengthways

2-3 tablespoons Irish honey

a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

some coarsely ground black pepper

50g (2oz) pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

With a sharp knife remove the peel and pith from the blood oranges, cut one into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices and segment the other.

Just before serving, scatter a few watercress leaves over the base of each plate, slice or tear some mozzarella over the top.  Tuck a few orange slices/segments here and there in between the watercress, mozzarella and dates.   Drizzle with honey and really good extra virgin olive oil.  Scatter with pistachio nuts. Finally add a little coarsely ground fresh black pepper and serve.

Roast Chicken Salad with Fennel, Blood Orange and Pistachio

Serves 8

1 freshly roasted organic chicken

3-4 blood oranges depending on size

2-3 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and fronds reserved

2 tablespoons of Forum red wine vinegar

6 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

1-2 teaspoons honey

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 little Gem lettuce

2 good fistfuls of watercress and rocket leaves

3 tablespoons shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Rub the breast and legs of the chicken with soft butter, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Insert a spring of thyme or tarragon into the cavity, Transfer to a roasting tin and cook in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 hours depending on size.

Meanwhile, segment the oranges over a bowl and save all the juices as well. 

Trim the fennel fronds and save until later.  Cut the fennel bulbs in half lengthways and slice very thinly.  Add to the oranges in the bowl.  Whisk the vinegar, oil and honey together, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and pour over the oranges and fennel, toss gently.  

Split the little Gem lettuces in half and arrange around a serving plate.  Tuck some watercress and rocket leaves in between the lettuce. Top with the blood orange and fennel salad.  Carve the chicken and the crisp skin into nice little chunky wedges and arrange on top.  Coarsely chop some of the fennel fronds and scatter evenly over the salad with the pistachio nuts.

Blood Orange Salad with Frosted Mint Leaves

Serves 4 – 6

4 Blood Oranges (preferably Sanguinello)

Castor sugar

Mint leaves

Frosted Mint Leaves

Fresh Mint Leaves

Beaten egg white

Castor sugar

Peel the oranges with a serrated knife so as to remove all the outer membrane as well as the peel and pith.

Slice the oranges into ¼ rounds and arrange, overlapping on a plate. Sprinkle with castor sugar, the amount will vary depending on the sweetness of the blood orange.

Chop the mint, sprinkle over the blood orange slices, toss gently, allow to sit for 15 minutes or more. Decorate with frosted mint leaves.


Frosted Mint Leaves

Whizz the egg white gently, just enough to break it up. Using a fine paint brush, brush each leaf on both sides with the egg white. Sprinkle both sides with dry castor sugar and allow to dry out on a sheet of parchment paper. Allow to dry out for several hours. Store in a sealed glass jar.

Upside Down Blood Orange Cake

Serves 8

270g(9 ½ oz) butter

130g (4½ oz) pale brown sugar

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3-4 medium sized blood oranges,

125g (4 ½oz) medium cornmeal

65g (2½ oz) plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking Powder

Pinch of salt

200g (7oz) castor sugar

4 large organic eggs

Scant 75mls (3floz) sour cream or crème fraiche

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 x 10” sauté or frying pan or 9 inch cake tin (not one with a  removable base) greased. 

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) degrees.

Melt 45g (1 ½ oz) of butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Add the soft brown sugar and lemon juice; stir until the sugar melts. Scrape the mixture into the base of the greased tin.

Grate ½ teaspoon blood orange zest. Cut away the rind and all the pith. Slice each orange, crossways into ¼ inch thick rounds. Flick out the seeds. Arrange the orange slices on top of the brown sugar mixture in a single close layer.

Whisk together, the orange zest, cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cream together the remaining butter with the castor sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, add the sour cream and the vanilla extract then fold in the dry ingredients. Spread evenly over the orange slices in the tin.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cake is fully cooked and a and golden brown, approx. 50 – 60 mins.

Cool in the tin for 10 – 15 minutes. Loosened around the edges with a knife and invert onto a plate so the slightly caramelized orange slices are on top. Serve warm or at room temperature with slightly whipped cream

Giorgio Locatelli’s, Sicilian Orange and chocolate cake

from ‘Made at Home’

This is a very simple cake. You can use any really juicy oranges, but Sicily is famous for its blood oranges, which are planted mainly over the plain of Catania and on the slopes of Mount Etna, so if you can find blood oranges in season this cake is even better. Most Sicilian orange cakes are glazed with orange syrup, but I really like the extra dimension that comes from covering it with a crisp casing of dark chocolate.

Makes 1 x 24cm Cake

250g softened unsalted butter cut into cubes, plus a little extra for greasing the tin.

250g caster sugar

Zest of 5 oranges or blood oranges (preferably Sicilian)

5 organic eggs

250g self-raising flour sifted

For the glaze

200g dark chocolate (we use 62% Valrhona)

150ml whipping cream

20g liquid glucose

Preheat the oven to 160 ˚c / gas mark 3

Grease a 24cm round cake tin, with a removable base, with a little butter and line with baking paper.

In a bowl using a wooden spoon, or in a food processor, cream the butter, sugar and orange zest in a bowl until pale and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs in one by one, then fold in the flour a little at a time, very gently until it is all incorporated

Spoon into the cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 40 mins, until golden and springy on top

Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Better still put it in the fridge once it has cooled down, so that when you cover it with the chocolate glaze it will set really quickly.

To make the glaze, have pieces of chocolate ready in a bowl. Pour the cream and glucose into a pan and bring to the boil, then take off the heat and whisk into the chocolate

Allow to cool for about 15 minutes until just warm enough to touch (if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 35 ˚c)

Spread over the top and sides of the cake with a spatula

Traditional Irish Black Pudding

The food scene in Ireland has changed out of all recognition during the past few decades, Dublin is absolutely rocking, Galway too, Cork also has more and more star attractions. Good Day deli in the Nano Nangle Centre continues to garner fans, St Francis Provisions, a San Francisco inspired café in Kinsale has everyone talking. Put Franks and Daddy’s in Dublin on your list as well as Tartare in Galway.

All of the hottest places are really celebrating local produce and incorporating seasonal and foraged foods into their menus. Seaweed is everywhere, in bread, soups, stews, drinks, as are ferments and pickled kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir. The artisan sector continues to grow and flourish and theres a growing confidence which encourages creativity both in the food and drink area and a growing realisation and pride in our traditional food culture. There can be no meaningful future without a connection to our past, so the strap line might be  “Respecting the past – building the future”

A current concrete example might be the inaugural Post Grad Diploma in Irish Food Culture at UCC spearheaded by food historian Regina Sexton whose Ted Talk entitled ‘Are we brilliant or what?’ You must google. . . .

Some time ago I launched National Black Pudding day at the Samhain Festival in Kells in Co Meath. Local artisan butcher Hugh Maguire (aka the Smokin Butcher) demonstrated how to make traditional black pudding with fresh pigs blood to a packed auditorium in the Headfort Arms Hotel. See Hot Tips. . . ..

Regina Sexton introduced us by putting black pudding making in its historical context, I reminisced and shared my memories of killing the pig and making black and white puddings with my great aunt Lil on a farm in Co Tipperary in the late 1950’s, I reminisced about the fun I had, washing out and scraping the intestines under the spring water from the pump in the yard, , helping to mix the pudding and fill it into the natural casings. How fortunate was I to catch the end of an era and to taste the pudding and to realise how different, more delicious and crumbly puddings are made from fresh pigs blood rather than imported dried beef from Spain and Belgium.

Fresh blood puddings are an integral part of our traditional food culture. Its also interesting to remember that every civilization around the world knew the value of fresh blood sausage both in nutritional terms and as a gourmet product, France has Boudin Noir, Spain, Morcilla, Portugal, Morcela, Germany Bratwurst, Sweden & Denmark, blodkorv, Tibet has Gyuma Ngoe Ma flavoured with Sichuan peppercorns – All have fresh blood as a base.

Here in Ireland almost every family butcher would have made their own pudding up to a decade ago, now a mere handful of butchers are making their own fresh blood pudding due to more stringent regulations. However there is a renewal of interest and appreciation among chefs and the general public and a growing realization that traditional black pudding in its many manifestations is an important part of our traditional food culture.

Originally every village butcher had their own secret recipes for both black and white pudding, a dozen or more stalwarts around the country continue the tradition, some fill the mixture into natural casings, others cook it in a tin or mould e.g. Inch House Pudding in Inch , Co Tipperary and Ashe’s  Annascaul Black pudding in Co Kerry .

 Jack McCarthy in Kanturk is passionate about blood puddings and has made several award winning variations on the theme.

Some enthusiastic young butchers are now anxious to learn the skills and are launching traditional black pudding once again to fulfil the growing interest and demand for our traditional blood sausage.

Smoked black pudding with charred onions & Jerusalem artichokes

Serves 8

I love this combination, in fact I’m rather addicted to the Irish smoked black pudding made in the traditional way with fresh blood and natural casings.  The texture is soft and crumbly and totally delicious.

– 4 medium onions, peeled

– extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

– 6–8 medium Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed really well

– 200g piece of smoked black pudding (from The Smoking Butcher)

   or traditional black pudding, skin

   removed and cut into 16 pieces

– 8 sprigs of watercress

– 1 teaspoon Forum Chardonnay vinegar or good-quality white wine vinegar

– flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Apple & HORSERADISH SAUCE

– 300ml apple sauce

– 125ml double cream

– 2–3 rounded teaspoons grated fresh horseradish

Preheat the oven to 250°C/gas mark 9.

Halve the onions and brush the cut side with extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and arrange on an approx. 40 x 43cm roasting tray lined with parchment paper.

Slice the artichokes into 7mm rounds and place in a bowl. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer around the onions.

Roast for 30–35 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and well coloured.

Place the pieces of black pudding in the same bowl, drizzle over 2 teaspoons of olive oil and toss well to coat. Arrange
the black pudding over the roasted vegetables and roast for a further 3–4 minutes until coloured.

To make the sauce, combine the apple sauce and cream in a small pan, bring to the boil and stir in the horseradish.

Place the sprigs of watercress in a bowl and drizzle with the vinegar and 3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil. Toss well to coat.

To serve, divide the dressed watercress between eight plates and arrange half an onion and two pieces of black pudding
on each. Scatter with the artichokes and dollop the sauce here and there.

Black Pudding Sausage Rolls with Bramley Apple Sauce

Who doesn’t love sausage rolls – try these with a twist

Makes 8 – 16 depending on size

Homemade Black Pudding Sausages (see recipe)

450g (1lb) Puff Pastry (see recipe)

Make the sausages; form into rolls, either regular or jumbo size to fit the pastry.

Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 4mm (1/6 inch) thick.  Lay the sausage along the wider side 5cm (2 inch) from the edge.  Brush with egg wash or water.   Fold over the excess pastry, press to seal and cut along the edge.  Flake the edge with a knife or seal with a fork. Brush the top of pastry with egg wash and prick the surface with a fork at 1” (2cm) intervals.  Cover and chill.  Repeat with the remainder.  Before cooking cut into 8’s or 16’s .

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Cook for 20-25 minutes depending on size.  Serve with Bramley Apple Sauce

Ballymaloe Sausage Rolls with Caraway Seeds

Brush the top of the sausage rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with caraway seeds.

Bramley Apple Sauce

1 lb (450g) cooking apples, (Bramley Seedling)

1-2 dessertspoons (2-4 American teaspoons) water

2 ozs (50g/1/4 cup) sugar approx. depending on tartness of the apples

Peel, quarter and core the apples, cut pieces in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast iron saucepan, with the sugar and water, cover and put over a low heat, as soon as the apple has broken down, stir and taste for sweetness.  Serve warm.

12/03/2009 (SH) (9425)

Revised 05/09/2018 (PB)

Ballymaloe Pork and Black Pudding Sausages

Choose traditional Black Pudding. Made from fresh rather than imported dried blood.

Sausages made from 100 percent lean meat may sound good, but for sweetness and succulence one needs some fat. The addition of breadcrumbs is not just to add bulk, it greatly improves the texture, too.

Serves 8

(Makes 16 small or 8 large rolls)

225g black pudding, peeled & crumbled.

450g (1lb) good, fat streaky pork (rindless)

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) mixed fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, rosemary and sage)

60g (21⁄2oz) soft white breadcrumbs (see recipe)

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

1 organic egg (optional – helps to bind – reduce breadcrumbs to 50g/2oz if omitting egg)

dash of oil for frying

50g (2oz) natural sheep or hog casings (optional)

Mince the pork at the first or second setting, depending on the texture you like. Peel the casing from the black pudding, crumble and add to the bowl. Chop the herbs finely and mix through the breadcrumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a

little salt. Whisk the egg, and then mix into the other ingredients thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the

seasoning. Correct if necessary. Fill the mixture into natural sausage casings and tie. Twist into sausages at regular intervals. Alternatively, divide into 16 pieces and roll into lengths to make skinless sausages. Cover and chill.

Homemade sausages are best eaten fresh but will keep refrigerated for 2–3 days.

When ready to eat, fry gently on a barely oiled pan on a medium heat until golden on all sides. These sausages are particularly delicious served with Bramley Apple Sauce

(see recipe) and Potato Cakes (see recipe).

Note

For breakfast sausages, you may want to omit the herbs and garlic.

24/01/2020 24069 (DA/TV)

Boudin Noir with Golden Delicious Apple Sauce

Irish black pudding is entirely different but also married well with both pommes puree and Golden Delicious Sauce, plus maybe a drizzle of grainy mustard and cream.

Boudin Noir is available from ‘On The Pigs Back’ in Corks English Menu

Serves 4

Golden Delicious Apple Sauce

450 g Golden Delicious Apples

1-2 dessertspoons water

25g approx. sugar

olive oil

4 pieces boudin noir 10-12.5cm long

Pommes de Terre Purée

Serves 6-8

900g old potatoes

110ml approx. hot milk

50g butter

1-2 egg whites

salt and freshly ground pepper

Curly or flat leaf parsley to serve

First make the Golden Delicious Apple Sauce.  Peel, quarter and core the apples; cut the pieces into two and put them in a stainless or cast-iron saucepan with sugar and water.  Cover and cook on a very low heat until the apples break down into a fluff.  Stir and taste for sweetness. 

To make the Pommes de Terre Purée. 

Boil the potatoes still in their jackets in a little boiling salted water. Peel immediately while hot, put through a ricer, beat in the boiling milk, egg whites and lots of butter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

The potato purée should be light and fluffy.

Brush the slices of boudin with extra virgin olive oil.  Cook gently on a pan on a low to medium heat, turning constantly until heated through. 

To serve

Spoon a generous helping of hot fluffy pommes de terre purée onto a hot plate, top with a piece of boudin and a dollop of hot Golden Delicious Sauce.

Serve hot, maybe sprinkled with a little snipped parsley.

Scallion & Black Pudding Champ

Serves 4-6

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions with a blob of butter melting in the centre, add the butter just before serving so it melts into the centre. ‘Comfort’ food at its best.

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g

chopped chives

110g (4oz) Traditional Black Pudding or smoked black pudding peeled

350ml (10-12fl oz) milk

50-110g (2-4oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chopped chives.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse. Add the crumbled black pudding.  Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions, beat in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  Scallion mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with parchment paper while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin and add the lump of butter just before serving.

Scallion and Black Pudding Potato Cakes

Shape leftover scallion and Black Pudding mash into potato cakes, cook until golden on both sides in clarified butter or butter and oil. Serve piping hot.

Jane Grigson’s Sussex Pond Pudding

Recipe from English Food by Jane Grigson

Yet another delicious steamed pudding. I cant get enough of these comforting puds these days.

The best of all the English boiled suet puddings. In the middle the butter and sugar melt into a rich sauce which is sharpened with the juice from the lemon. The genius of the pudding is the lemon. Its citrus bitter flavour is a subtlety which raises the pudding to the highest class – this one is iconic among foodies.

When you serve it, make sure that everyone has a piece of lemon, which will be much softened by the cooking, but still vigorous.

Once when I had no lemons, I used a couple of small limes, which were equally successful. The name of the pudding refers to the sauce, which runs out of it, when it is turned on to a serving dish and provides it with a moat of buttery brown liquid.

8 oz self-raising flour

4 oz chopped fresh beef suet (ask your local butcher)

4 oz cubed butter

Milk and water

4oz Demerera sugar

1 large organic lemon

2 pint pudding bowl

Softly whipped cream

Mix the flour and suet together in a bowl. Make into a dough with milk and water, half and half; ¼ pint should be plenty.

The dough should be soft, but not too soft to roll out into a large circle. Cut a quarter out of this circle, this will be used later as the lid of the pudding.

Butter the pudding basin lavishly. Drop the three-quarter circle of pastry into it and press the cut sides together to make a perfect join.

Put half the butter, cubed into the pastry, with half the sugar.

Prick the lemon all over with a skewer, so that the juices will be able to escape, then put it on to the butter and sugar. Add the remaining butter, again cut into cubes, and sugar.

Roll out the pastry which was set aside to make a lid. Lay it on top of the filling and press the edges together so that the pudding is sealed in completely. Cover the bowl with a piece of parchment paper with a pleat in the middle. Tie it in place with a cotton string, and make a string handle over the top so that the pudding can be lifted out easily.

Put a deep saucepan of water on to boil, lower the pudding into it; the water must be boiling and it should come halfway, or a little further up the bowl.

Cover the saucepan and leave to boil for 3 – 3 ½ hours. If the water gets low replenish it with boiling water.

To serve, put a deep hot dish over the bowl after removing the lid and quickly turn the whole thing upside down: it is a good idea to ease the pudding from the sides of the basin with a knife first. Serve immediately with softly whipped cream

Royal Cuisines Festival in India

On a recent trip to India I was invited to attend the Inaugural Royal Cuisines Festival in Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. From the middle of the 19th Century until 1947 when there were 150 princely states, tikanas and jagers in Central India, can you imagine the richness and diversity of the food culture.

The Madhya Pradesh Tourism association created this colourful festival to highlight the heritage and food culture of the province and share the flavours that were hitherto only accessible to those who were guests of the royal families. Many of these recipes are still jealously guarded within families and in some cases known only to the cooks. 10 royal families accepted the invitation of the Tourism Minister Surendra Singh Baghel, to participate. The event was held at the Minto Hall Palace, the former home of the assistant viceroy of India and launched by the first minister of Madhya Pradesh in the midst of a media frenzy.

Field kitchens were set up behind the palace where the royal couples watched over their chefs and students from the Bhopal Institute of Hotel Management while they prepared their dishes. Ravi Pratap Singh Ranawat from the Sarwaniya Royal family was preparing an intriguing family speciality called Chicken Sula. First the chicken was marinated overnight, then it was covered in a secret masala spice mix, then cooked and wrapped in overlapping chapatti and tied into a parcel before being cooked in a pit in the ground. Ravi was adamant that the recipe was secret but the Royal house of Garha in the nearby kitchen was equally adamant about the importance of sharing so the recipes and techniques would be passed on to the next generation. He told me that recipes had been lost in the past because they had ‘died with the cooks’, who have refused to share their legacy. Many of the royal families are now impoverished but some like the Holkar Royal family of Indore and Maheswar has embraced the hospitality business and have restored some of their palaces, as with Ahilya Fort, on the banks of the River Narmada in Maheswar. Prince Richard Holkar, a descendent of Queen Ahilya Bai who ruled from 1755 to 1795. Richard, a superb cook, divides his time between India and his second home in Paris. His cooking maintains the authenticity of the Holkar flavours using beautiful fresh produce from his organic farm and gardens. Guests come from all over the world and return over and over again to this hidden gem well off the beaten track. His chef Krishna, cooked three dishes, stuffed baby aubergines, Batteyr Survedar Quail Curry and Rosso Golla Espresso, Krishna was super excited when the first minister Kamal Nath personally complimented him on the Quail Curry and asked for a tiffin box of it to take home.

Students from the Bhopal school of hospitality were honoured to have the opportunity to participate in the event, they were stirring huge metal kari’s of masala, making chapatti on a stone in the gardens and most exciting for them was having their photos taken with Indian celebrity chef, Harpal Singh Sokhi in his turquoise and orange turban. I did so many spontaneous interviews for Indian TV and my photo appeared in several Indian newspapers.
In most people’s mind, the city of Bhopal, where the festival was held, is firmly connected to the Union Carbide Tragedy of 1984, when a gas leak was responsible for the deaths of over 15,000 people. The incident understandably decimated the tourist industry both in the city and surrounding area. This was my first visit, to what is a truly beautiful city, built around two large lakes with two outstanding museums, the Tribal Museum and the Museum of Man as well as an unforgettable Chowk (bazaar).

The Royal Cuisines Festival was a brilliant excuse to visit, otherwise I might never have gone, but if you are planning a trip to India, add Bhopal to your itinerary, it won’t be inundated with tourists. Meanwhile here are some of the recipes from the Royal Cuisines Festival.

Small Stuffed Baby Aubergines

Sounds like it could be a bit of a fiddle to make but once again the end result is super delicious.


Serves 12

1 kg (2 1/4lbs) small black aubergines, the size of a really large egg

350g (12oz) finely chopped onion

350g (120z) finely chopped tomato

4 tablespoons ground fresh ginger,

4 tablespoons ground garlic.

1 teaspoon whole cumin seed

125ml (4floz) vegetable, groundnut or sunflower oil

3 teaspoons turmeric powder

3 teaspoons red chili powder, medium heat

3 teaspoons garam masala

3 tablespoons coriander powder

100g (31/2oz) fresh green coriander

2 tablespoons Mango powder (Amchoor)

2 teaspoons salt

3 Indian dried bay leaves or 1 fresh

Cut the aubergines, from the bottom to the top in a cross. The aubergines should not come apart. Steam them for 10 minutes, untill they are half tender.

Masala stuffing for the aubergines:

Heat the oil.  When nice and hot, add cumin seed , bay leaf and finely chopped onion. Sauté, stirring till the onions become light golden brown. Add ground Ginger and Garlic. Reduce heat to medium and  Sauté till the masala and oil separate, adding a little water from time to time to prevent sticking cook. About 10 minutes. Add chopped tomato and cook for 5-7  minutes,  till the tomatoes are well melted. Check the seasoning and add more salt if required. Raise the heat, and add the rest of the ingredients,  except the garam masala, and sauté  till the liquid from the tomatoes is largely gone. Add the garam masala.

To assemble the dish, insert as much of the masala as you can into the cut aubergines. Add the stuffed aubergines and half a cup of boiling water to the remaining masala, and cook, covered, over medium heat, till the aubergines are meltingly tender. The masala should not be runny. Serve in a large platter and garnish with the green coriander leaves.

Quail Survedar (Maharaja YeshwantRao Holkar’s favourite).

This quail dish was one of the stars of the Royal Festival, do try it. You can source Irish quail in Coolnafearagh in Monasterevin (quailireland@gmail.com)

Serves 10 (1 quail per person)

1 kg quail (about 10 quails)

6 tablespoons clarified butter

2 tablespoons onion paste

2 tablespoons garlic paste

2 tablespoons ginger paste

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

20 cashew nuts

450mls (16floz) coconut milk

Heat the clarified butter in a pan on a medium heat. Add onion, fry till translucent.  Add ginger, garlic, salt, poppy seeds and turmeric powder, Stir fry, adding water from time to time, till the sharp smell of the masala (spice mix) is gone and the oil separates and  masala comes together in the pan. This is an essential cooking technique for Indian masalas. This will generally take 10 minutes or so. The masala should neither boil nor fry.

Add the freshly ground black pepper, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and add the quail and the cashews. Stir, and sauté for 5 minutes ensuring the masala coats the quail,

Add coconut milk. Check the salt. As soon as it starts to bubble reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. There should be a good quantity of gravy. If necessary add more coconut milk. The quail will be done when, with a gentle tug, the leg and thigh will come away from the body.

Serve with smoked pomegranate riata and spinach with yoghurt.

Smoked Pomegranate Raita

Serves 12

1.5 litres (2.4 pints) whisked Greek style yoghurt

4 tablespoons roasted cumin seed

2 tablespoons Sea Salt

12 cloves

3 small pieces Charcoal (like for a barbeque)

350g (12oz) pomegranate Seeds

2 tablespoons finely chopped green coriander

1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)

Heat three walnut size pieces of charcoal on a gas jet, until glowing reserve.

Toast, the cumin seed in a dry pan until fragrant.

Roughly crush the cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar and set aside.

In a serving bowl whisk the yoghurt till smooth. Add toasted cumin seed and salt. Mix thoroughly. Check the seasoning.

Prepare a piece of tinfoil large enough to cover the serving bowl tightly. Shape a smaller piece of tinfoil to hold the charcoal. Put the small piece of foil into the middle of the yoghurt. Put the burning charcoal in the tinfoil.

Put the cloves on the burning charcoal. Drizzle the ghee (clarified butter) over the hot charcoal, taking care not to smother the coals. The coals will start to smoke. IMMEDIATELY cover the bowl tightly with large piece of tinfoil to form a tight fitting lid. Don’t let the smoke escape!! Let this sit for about half an hour. The longer it sits the more smokey and clovey the flavour.

Remove the foil and the coals. Add the pomegranate and the chopped coriander to the yoghurt, stirring well. Serve at room temperature.

Ahilya Fort Spinach with Yoghurt

A superb spinach dish made from freshly picked leaves from the Ahilya Fort organic vegetable gardens.

Serves 6

500g (10oz) natural yoghurt

1 tablespoon rice flour

15 cloves roughly crushed in a mortar

8 tablespoons clarified butter

2 teaspoons ginger paste

2 tablespoons garlic paste

50g (2oz) onion, separated into rings

500g (10oz) spinach, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh cinnamon powder

10 green cardamom (seeds only) crushed in a mortar

2 teaspoons salt

Add rice flour to the yoghurt and hang it for 4 hours in a muslin bag and allow to drip. The result should be thick but pourable.

Toast the cloves until fragrant. Heat 2 tablespoons clarified butter in a pan and cook the ginger and garlic paste together for 10 minutes on a low heat, stirring until the oil and the masala separate. Add 4 tablespoons of clarified butter to a hot pan and fry the onion until light brown. Turn the heat down to medium and add in the cooked garlic and ginger paste, spinach and salt. Mix well, the spinach will release a lot of liquid which should be cooked back into the mixture.
When the mixture is cooked and dry add the yoghurt, cinnamon and cardamom, mix well and remove from the heat. The consistency should be like heavy yoghurt, if it is too dry add a little milk.

Heat the remaining clarified butter and add the toasted crushed cloves until fragrant. Add to the yoghurt and spinach mixture and mix well. If necessary, this is best re-heated in a warm oven or a very low flame stirring. High heat will curdle the dish.

Srikhand

Serves 8-10

2kg (4 1/2lb) thick homemade yoghurt or Greek yoghurt

generous pinch of saffron strands

1 tablespoon warm water

1/4 teaspoon roughly crushed green cardamom seeds

175g (6oz) caster sugar

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachio nuts

muslin

Put a square of muslin into a bowl.  Pour in the yoghurt, tie the ends and allow to drip overnight (save the whey to make soda bread).  Transfer the dripped yoghurt into a clean bowl.  Infuse the saffron in a tablespoon of warm water in a small bowl.  Stir into every last drop into the yoghurt.  Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods.  Crush lightly, add to the yoghurt with the caster sugar, mix well.  Turn into a serving dish.  Chill.  Sprinkle the top with roughly chopped pistachio nuts and serve.  Delicious on it’s own but also memorable with Summer berries.

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