ArchiveNovember 2020

Get Ahead of Christmas..

My heart goes out to all who are hoping against hope that travel restrictions will be lifted so children, grandchildren and dear friends can make it home for Christmas. We’re all craving a time when we can sit round the kitchen table together and enjoy a meal and maybe a little singsong without worrying about social distancing. It truly is heart breaking…..

So let’s keep positive and try to focus on happier times. None of us can predict what’s ahead so let’s plan regardless. Pour yourself a glass of something delicious to sip on, make a soothing pot of tea. Grab a pad and write some lists, plan a week of delicious Christmas meals and treats. Then tick off what can be made ahead and frozen or pickled, so if all goes well you can spend as much precious time with the loved ones you’ve been yearning to see.

In the worst case scenario, you can enjoy some delicious comforting food after Christmas. There are so many good things that can be happily be made ahead without suffering in any way. I’ll be making lots of soups and freezing them in recycled containers. Quarter, half and one litre milk cartons work brilliantly, stack neatly in the freezer and can be defrosted quickly. I’m loving root vegetable soups at present. Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup with Parsley Oil costs just pennies to make. I’m also loving Jerusalem Artichoke soup with Avocado and Crispy Croutons, Celeriac and Hazelnut Soup……Curried Parsnip Soup is a favourite as is the combination of Parsnip and Fennel Soup.

Recipes for both Bread Stuffing and Potato Stuffing freeze perfectly and will be brilliant to stuff a chicken, pheasant, turkey, goose and duck. Apple sauce and Red Cabbage complete that meal but the pièce de résistance is this All in One Christmas Dinner on a Dish – This recipe dates back to the time when the United Hunt held its annual ball in Ballymaloe every year before Christmas. They wanted the whole works so my mother in law, Myrtle devised this delicious version which we prepared ahead and reheated. It became such a favourite that it was requested every year. It’s definitely a bit of a mission to make and you’ll need to cook the turkey and ham separately. Meanwhile make a creamy mushroom filling with lots of fresh herbs and then a creamy sauce to coat the lot.

The end result is an unctuous “Turkey and Ham Sandwich” that reheats deliciously in 10-15 minutes on the day.

You’ll need something fresh tasting to flit across the tongue after that deeply satisfying meal. Who wouldn’t love a clean and fresh tasting citrusy Tangerine Sorbet or Compote of Pears with Saffron to round off a Christmas feast.

Have a wonderful joyful Christmas counting our blessings.

Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup with Parsley Oil

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

150g (5oz) rindless streaky bacon cut in 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

110g (4oz) onions, chopped

110g (5oz) potatoes, diced

350g (12oz) swede turnips, diced

salt and freshly ground pepper

900ml (1 1/2 pints) homemade chicken stock

cream or creamy milk to taste

Parsley Oil

50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

50g (2oz) parsley, chopped

Garnish

fried diced bacon

tiny croutons

flat parsley sprigs or coarsely chopped parsley

First make the Parsley Oil.

Whizz the parsley with the olive oil until smooth and green.

Next make the soup.

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the oil.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked.  Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary. 

Serve with a mixture of crispy bacon, tiny croutons and chopped parsley sprinkled on top

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Crispy Croutons

Serves 8-10

50g (2oz) butter

560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped

1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) creamy milk approx.

Garnish

freshly chopped parsley

crisp, golden croutons

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

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with chopped parsley and crisp, golden croutons.

Note: This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required.

Celeriac and Hazelnut Soup

Serves 6

425g (15oz) celeriac, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

110g (4oz) onions, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

150g (5oz) potatoes, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

40-50g (1 1/2-2oz) butter

1.1L homemade chicken stock, vegetable stock or water

salt and freshly ground pepper

100-225ml (3 1/2 – 8fl oz) creamy milk (optional)

Garnish

2 tablespoons hazelnuts, skinned, toasted and chopped

a few tablespoons whipped cream

sprigs of chervil or flat parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan; when it foams, add the potatoes, onions and celeriac and toss them in the butter until evenly coated.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid, and sweat over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not coloured.  Discard the paper lid.  Add the hot chicken stock and cook until the celeriac is soft, about 8-10 minutes.  Liquidize the soup; add a little more stock or creamy milk to thin to the required consistency.  Taste and correct seasoning.

To prepare the hazelnuts: Put the hazelnuts into an oven, 200°C/gas mark 6, on a baking sheet for about 10-15 minutes or until the skins loosen.  Remove the skins by rubbing the nuts in the corner of a tea towel.  If they are not sufficiently toasted, return them to the oven until they become golden brown.  Chop and keep aside to garnish.

Serve the soup piping hot with a little blob of whipped cream on top.  Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts and a sprig of chervil or flat parsley.

Curried Parsnip Soup with Parsnip Crisps

A fantastic recipe which transforms parsnip soup to a gourmet meal.

50g (2oz) butter

110g (4oz) chopped onion

1 clove garlic, crushed

375g (13oz) parsnip, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 – 1 teaspoon curry powder

1.1L (2 pint) chicken stock or vegetable stock

150ml (5fl oz) creamy milk

Garnish

crispy croutons or parsnip crisps (see below)

snipped chives or parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the onion, garlic and parsnip, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss until well coated.  Cover and cook on a gentle heat until soft and tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the flour and curry powder and gradually incorporate the hot chicken stock.  Simmer with the lid on until the parsnip is fully cooked, liquidize, taste and correct the seasoning, add creamy milk to taste (the soup should not be too thick).   Serve with crispy croutons and sprinkle with finely chopped chives or parsley. 

Parsnip Crisps

Serves 6 – 8

1 large parsnip

sunflower oil

salt

Heat good quality oil in a deep fryer to 150°C/300°F.

Scrub and peel the parsnips.  Either slice into wafer thin rounds or peel off long slivers lengthways with a swivel top peeler.   Allow to dry out on kitchen paper.

Drop a few at a time into the hot oil, they colour and crisp up very quickly.  Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Fresh Herb Stuffing

This quantity is for a 12lb turkey or 3 chickens, pheasant or guinea fowl.

170g (6ozs) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16ozs) approx. soft breadcrumbs made from good bread.  (check that the bread is non GM) (or approximately 1lb 4ozs of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper

Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., on a low heat, then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to get quite cold.  If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing.  Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end, or you may decide to do a different stuffing.  Either way tuck the remaining neck flap underneath the bird and secure with the wing tip.

 Traditional Potato Stuffing (for goose or duck)

25g (1 oz) butter

150g (5oz) chopped onions

150g (5oz) cooking apples e.g. Bramley Seedling, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon each thyme and lemon balm

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

300g (10oz) potatoes

1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind

salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan.  Add the onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes; add the apples, herbs and orange juice.  Cook covered until the apples are soft and fluffy.  Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in their jackets until cooked, peel, mash and add to the fruit and onion mixture.  Add the orange rind and seasoning.  Allow it to get quite cold before stuffing the turkey.

Bramley Apple Sauce

Make ahead and freeze in tubs to serve with Roast Duck, Goose or Pork.

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

1-2 dessertspoons water

2 ozs (50g) 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.

Red Cabbage

Serves 8 – 10

1 lb (450g) red cabbage (Red Drummond if possible)

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

1 tablespoon approx. wine vinegar

4 fl ozs (120ml) water

1 level teaspoon salt

2 heaped tablespoons approx. sugar

Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. Examine and clean it if necessary. Cut in quarter, remove the core and slice the cabbage finely across the grain. Put the vinegar, water, salt and sugar into a cast iron casserole or stainless steel saucepan. Add the cabbage and bring it to the boil.

Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and cut into quarters (no smaller). Lay them on top of the cabbage, cover and continue to cook gently until the cabbage is tender, 30-50 minutes approx. Do not overcook or the colour and flavour will be ruined. Taste for seasoning and add more sugar if necessary.

Serve in a warm serving dish.

Note: Some varieties of red cabbage are quite tough and don’t seem to soften much, even with prolonged cooking. Our favourite variety, Red Drummond, gives best results.

United Hunt Turkey

A Christmas Dinner on a Platter 

Serves 30

1 x 12-14 lbs (5.5-6.5kg) free range turkey, preferably a bronze turkey

1 x 8-10 lbs (3.4-4.5kg) ham or loin of bacon, (unsmoked, soaked overnight in cold water if salty)

chicken or turkey stock

dry white wine

2 carrots

1 large sliced onion

2 sticks celery

bouquet garni

a few peppercorns

50g (2oz) chopped parsley

2 tablespoons other fresh herbs, eg. tarragon, thyme, chives, lemon balm

3-4 egg yolks

600ml (1 pint) cream

85g (3oz) roux

Duchesse potato made with 5.5-6.5kg (12-14lb) potato, for piping around the dishes

Mushroom with fresh herbs and cream

85-100g (3-4oz) butter

1.2kg (2½lb) sliced mushrooms

180 ml (6fl.oz) cream

4 tablesp. fresh herbs, eg. parsley, thyme, chives

425g (15oz) onions, finely chopped

Roux as needed (equal quantities of melted butter and flour cooked together for 2 – 3 mins)

lemon juice

salt and freshly ground pepper

3 – 4 serving platters

Cover the ham with cold water, bring it slowly to the boil and discard the water, cover again with hot water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the ham is cooked, 2½ hours approx. (calculate 20 minutes to 450g (1lb) as a rough guide). The skin will peel off easily when the ham is cooked.

Meanwhile, season the turkey and put it into a large saucepan with about 12.5-15cm (5-6 inches) of water or chicken stock and white wine.  Add 1 large sliced onion, 2 sticks of celery, 2 large carrots cut in chunks, a bouquet garni and a few black peppercorns. Bring to the boil, cover closely and simmer for 2 hours approx. either on top of the stove or in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.

While the turkey and ham are cooking, prepare the mushrooms. Melt the butter in a wide heavy bottomed saucepan.  When it sizzles add the chopped onions, cover and sweat over a low heat until soft but not coloured. Meanwhile in a hot frying pan, fry off the mushrooms a few at the time in a little butter, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add them to the softened onions. Add more butter if necessary, but never too much, add the freshly chopped herbs, cream and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste for seasoning. Bring to the boil and thicken with enough roux to thicken lightly. Set the mushroom a la crémè aside until you are ready to assemble the dish.

When the turkey is cooked the legs will feel loose in their sockets, remove it from the casserole and de-grease the cooking  liquid. Bring it to the boil and reduce by half. Add 300-450ml (10-15fl.oz) cream, I know that sounds shocking but this recipe makes 30 helpings and you are not going to eat it all yourself!  Bring back to the boil and thicken to a light coating consistency with roux. Taste for seasoning.

Skin the turkey, the skin from a poached turkey is soft rather than crisp, so I don’t use it in this dish. Chop up the brown turkey meat from the legs and the white meat from the wings into smallish pieces and mix with the mushroom a la créme. Add 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 dessertspoon thyme, chives and lemon balm if available.

Spread a layer of the creamy sauce on the serving dishes. Carve a nice slice of bacon or ham for each serving and place at regular intervals on top of the sauce. Spoon some of the brown meat and mushroom mixture on top. Carve the turkey breast into thin slices and place 1 slice per serving on top of the mushrooms and ham, making individual complete sandwiches.

Whisk 3-4 egg yolks with 150ml (5fl.oz) cream to make a liaison, blend well and stir this into the remainder of the cream sauce. (It should be a coating consistency.) Coat the pieces of turkey with this sauce.  Cool and refrigerate.   If serving on the day, pipe a generous border of Duchesse potato all around the edge of the dishes. Cool the dishes quickly, cover and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Reheat in a moderate oven 180C-190C/350-375F/regulo 4-5, for 30 minutes approx. until it is bubbling and golden on top. If necessary, flash under the grill to brown the edges of the Duchesse potato.

Garnish with generous sprigs of flat leaf resh parsley and serve.

Top Tip:

If freezing the dishes with a potato border around the edge, freeze first and then cover tightly with strong cling film to prevent the potato from getting squashed.

However, for best results, freeze without the potato, but pipe it on just before reheating.

Roux

110g (4oz) butter

110g (4oz) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally.  Use as required.  Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred.  It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

Duchesse Potato

Serves 4

900g (2lbs) unpeeled potatoes, preferably Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

300ml (10fl ozs) creamy milk

1-2 egg yolks or 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk

25-50g (1-2oz) butter

Scrub the potatoes well. Put them into a saucepan of cold water, add a generous pinch of salt, bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for ‘old’ potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put on to a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked. Peel immediately by just pulling off the skins, so you have as little waste as possible, put through a ricer or mouli legume while hot. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes into the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade).

While the potatoes are being peeled, bring about 300ml (10fl oz//1 1/4 cups) of milk to the boil. Beat the eggs into the hot mashed potatoes, and add enough boiling creamy milk to mix to a soft light consistency suitable for piping, then beat in the butter, the amount depending on how rich you like your potatoes. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Note: If the potatoes are not peeled and mashed while hot and if the boiling milk is not added immediately, the Duchesse potato will be lumpy and gluey. If you only have egg whites they will be fine and will make a deliciously light mashed potato also.

Tangerine Sorbet

The quantity of ice below is enough to fill 10-18 tangerine shells. Clementines, mandarins or satsumas may also be used in this recipe – Deliciously refreshing after a rich Christmas feast.

Serves 10-12, depending on whether people eat 1 or 2

Syrup

175g (6oz) sugar

juice of 1/4 lemon

150ml (5fl oz) water

20-28 tangerines

juice of 1/2 lemon

icing sugar (optional)

Garnish

Lemon Verbena or bay leaves

First make the syrup. Heat the first three ingredients over a low heat, until they are dissolved together and clear. Bring to the boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes, Cool. Grate the zest from 10 of the tangerines, and squeeze the juice from them. Cut the remaining tangerines so that they each have a lid. Scoop out the sections with a small spoon and them press them through a nylon sieve, (alternatively, you could liquidize the pulp and then strain). You should end up with 1 1/4 pints (750ml/generous 3 cups) juice. Add the grated zest, the lemon juice and the syrup to taste. Taste and add icing sugar or extra lemon juice, if more sweetness or sharpness is required. Freeze until firm.

Chill the shells in the fridge or freezer, fill them with the frozen water ice. Replace the lids and store in the freezer. Cover with cling film if not serving on the same day. Serve on a white plate decorated with vine leaves or bay leaves.

Make the sorbet in one of the following ways.

1.        Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed.

2.        Pour the juice into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezing compartment of a refrigerator. After about 4-5 hours when the sorbet is semi-frozen, remove from the freezer and whisk until smooth, then return to the freezer. Whisk again when almost frozen and fold in one stiffly-beaten egg white. Keep in the freezer until needed.

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

Pears Poached in a Saffron Syrup

This delicious compote will keep for 1 ½ to 2 weeks in a covered container in your fridge. Serve icy cold….

Serves 4

200 g (7oz) sugar

450ml (15fl oz) water

6 whole cardamom pods

1/4 teaspoon good quality saffron (the threads)

45 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 firm pears

Put the sugar, water, lightly crushed cardamom pods, saffron and lemon juice into a shallow, wide pan: we use a stainless steel sauté pan. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile peel the pears, half and core them. As you cut them put then into the simmering syrup cut side uppermost.

Cover with a paper lid and the lid of the pan, cook gently for 20-30 minutes, spooning the syrup over them every now and then. Carefully take the pears out and arrange them in a serving dish in a single layer, cut side downwards. Pour the syrup over the pears or reduce first (see below). Serve chilled with some of the juice.

This compote keeps for several weeks covered in the fridge.

Tip: For a most concentrated flavour the syrup may be reduced a little after the pears have been removed to a serving dish. Be careful not to cook it for too long, or the syrup will caramelize.

The Joy of Food by Rory O’Connell

‘The Joy of Food’, Rory O’Connell’s excellent third book was published by Gill Books at the beginning of October. My signed copy arrived in the post, beautifully wrapped with a limited edition linen tea towel from Stable. That’s the gorgeous shop in Westbury Hall, off Dublin’s Grafton Street where I want to buy absolutely everything in the shop. The package also included several post cards of Rory’s line drawings that illustrate the pages of this enchanting book. All so beautifully chic and stylish.

I know what you’re thinking – Well, She would say that wouldn’t she? After all, Rory is Darina’s brother who co-founded the Ballymaloe Cookery School with her in 1983… True, but many of you who have been watching the accompanying series, The Joy of Food on RTE, will have realised that Rory is an exceptional talent….A curious chef with his own unique style, who not only loves to cook but also loves to share his knowledge, making him a much-loved teacher here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork.

For me, as his older sister, it’s a trip down memory lane, an extra fascinating element. We were both brought up in the little village of Cullohill in the rural midlands of Co.Laois by a mother (our Dad died when I was 14) who loved to cook yummy meals for us every single day. Simple but truly delicious comforting food, vegetables and fruit and berries from the kitchen garden. Chickens and eggs from our own hens, milk from the Kerry cow, meat from the local butcher, wild food in season…..This was our norm and was unquestionably where we learned to cook but also to appreciate the magic of food and its ability to enhance both our family life and the experience of friends and the students we share with.

The evocative introduction to the chapters in this new book gave me an even  deeper insight into my brothers psyche, his passion for good food, and superb ingredients in season. Memories of family picnics, foraging expeditions up Cullohill ‘mountain’ to gather hazelnuts, the importance of laying a beautiful table and lighting a candle, even when dining alone. Read about the difference a little bunch of flowers makes, I also loved his homage to the pestle and mortar, his musings on the joy of owning a few hens and was intrigued to read how much Jane Grigson’s book ‘Good Things’ meant to him because it’s my favourite too.

It’s packed with delicious sounding recipes, special tips and insight into how to use some less familiar ingredients e.g. sumac, perilla, shiso…..

I’ve chosen a few of my favourite seasonal recipes to tempt you. Don’t miss the Pantry and Preserving section towards the end of the book – a personalised copy would make a brilliant Christmas present.

Eggs stuffed with Mayonnaise and Nasturtium

Serves 4

4 eggs

3 tablespoons Homemade Mayonnaise

2 tablespoons finely chopped nasturtium leaves and flowers

2 green olives, stoned and halved or quartered

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To decorate

8-16 small nasturtium leaves

8 nasturtium flowers

8 slivers of green olive (2 olives will easily yield this)

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and add a good pinch of salt. Drop in the eggs carefully and boil for exactly 10 minutes. Remove immediately and chill in cold water.

Peel the eggs and cut them in half lengthways. Remove the hard yolks and place in a sieve over a bowl. Push the yolks through the sieve and then scrape the bottom of the sieve to ensure you have not wasted any. Add in the mayonnaise and chopped nasturtiums and mix well with a wooden spoon. Taste and correct seasoning. I find it is easy to over season stuffed eggs as the eggs have been salted in the cooking and the mayonnaise will have been salted in the making, so proceed with caution.

Use a teaspoon to drop and divide the egg yolk mixture into the hollowed out egg white. You could also use a piping bag fitted with a large plain or star nosel. Decorate each egg with a nasturtium flower and leaf. Finally place the sliver of green olive in a prominent place so that its sharp flavour does not come as a surprise to diners. By now the eggs embellished with flower and leaf should look like the smartest hat ready for the Chelsea Flower show or a day at the races.

Rory O’Connell’s Casserole Roast Pheasant with Jerusalem Artichokes and Indian Spices

Jerusalem artichokes have just come back into season.

Serves 4 -6

2 Pheasants oven ready

20g butter at room temperature

650g Jerusalem Artichokes, scrubbed and sliced in half lengthways

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves

Spice paste

1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, lightly roasted and finely ground

1 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 180°c/ 350°f/ gas 4

Mix all of the ingredients for the spice paste and reserve.

Heat a heavy casserole large enough for the two birds on a gentle heat until quite hot. Dry the skin of the birds and smear the butter over the breasts and legs and place them breast side down in the heated casserole. The breasts should sizzle on contact with the casserole, if they do not, remove and allow the casserole to become hotter. Equally you don’t want to burn the birds so make sure your heat is not too high. Allow the breasts to become a golden brown colour and then remove from the casserole and turn off the heat. Do not wash out the casserole at this point unless it has over-heated while browning the birds. Place half of the artichokes in the casserole and season with salt and pepper. Smear half of the spice paste over the breasts and legs of the birds and also a little into the cavity. Reserve the rest of the spice paste for another use. It will keep covered in the fridge for a week or freezes well. Place the remaining artichokes around the birds, season and cover with a tight fitting lid.

Place the casserole in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Test to see if the birds are cooked by checking to see if the juices are clear between the thigh and the breast. I loosen the leg a little and push in a teaspoon to get some of the juices and then can accurately judge the colour of the juices. If they are a little pink, I usually pop the covered casserole back into the oven for another 10 minutes and test it again.

The dish is now finished and ready to serve with tender artichokes and delicious cooking juices that are the sauce. If you wish you can spoon off the small amount of fatty juices from the surface of the sauce.

I often leave them on the sauce. Carve the birds on to hot plates or a serving dish. Surround with the artichokes and pour over the bubbling hot juices and a sprinkle of chopped coriander.

Notes; I love to serve simple boiled green cabbage or curly kale with this dish. York is a wonderful variety of winter cabbage.

Rory O’Connell’s Roast Plums with Pomegranate Molasses and Crème Fraiche

Serves 4-6

8 blood plums

110g caster sugar

1 lemon

Pomegranate molasses

Crème Fraiche

Preheat oven to 180°c

Halve the plums leaving the stones intact in some of the halves and place in a close fitting baking dish. With a swivel top peeler, peel 5 strips of peel off the lemon and push in around the plums. Scatter on the sugar and squeeze over the lemon juice. Wet a piece of parchment paper under a tap and then squeeze out the excess moisture. Spread the dampened paper over the dish and down to cover the sides. Place in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes.  Keep a close eye on the plums as the cooking times of plums will vary depending on the ripeness and the variety of plum being used. You want the plums to be perfectly soft but also still holding their shape. There should be beautiful burgundy coloured juices surrounding the cooked plums.

I like to serve the plums still slightly war, though they are also delicious served chilled. If plating them individually, serve with plenty of the cooking juices, a dessertspoon of crème fraiche and a drizzle of the pomegranate molasses. If serving family style, serve the crème fraiche and pomegranate molasses separately and ensure all diners also spoon lots of the delicious cooking juices over the plums.

Rory O’Connell’s Homemade Stem Ginger and Chocolate and Ginger Mendiants

Learn how Rory makes his own stem ginger from The Joy of Food and then make these delicious treats.

225g dark chocolate, 62% cocoa solids

50g stem ginger

Place the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl and sit over a saucepan of cold water. The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water. Heat the water to a simmer and turn off the heat immediately. The chocolate will not be fully melted at this stage but the residual heat in the saucepan will melt the chocolate perfectly. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula. 

Remove the ginger from its syrup and dry well on kitchen paper. Cut into c 3ml dice.

 Lay a sheet of parchment or silicone paper on a baking tray. Spoon small blobs of the melted chocolate on to the paper – about the size of a 2 euro coin. Leave a little space between the chocolate blobs as they will expand slightly. Carefully scatter little dice of the ginger on to the chocolate. Allow to chill and set. 

Peel the mendiants off the paper and serve. 

Rory O’Connell’s Ginger, Lemon and Turmeric Cake

175g butter at room temperature

3 eggs

175g self-raising flour

150g caster sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

30g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

Icing

45g butter at room temperature

55g cream cheese

80g icing sugar

1 teaspoon of finely grated peeled fresh turmeric

2 teaspoons lemon juice

50g stem ginger, chopped into 1/3 cm dice

1 x 22cm cake tin

Preheat oven to 180°c. 

Brush the cake tin with a little melted butter and line the bottom with a disc of parchment paper. Dust the sides of the tins with a little flour and tap the tins to remove any excess. 

Place the butter, eggs, flour, sugar, lemon zest and ginger in a food processor. Using the pulse button, process the ingredients very briefly to achieve a creamy consistency. This may take as little as twenty seconds. Ensure that all of the flour from the base and sides of the processor are amalgamated evenly into the mixture.

Spread the mixture into the lined tin as evenly as possible. Place in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until the cake is risen, richly coloured and just barely starting to come away from the edges of the tin. Test that the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the cake and retracting it. The skewer should come out of the cake clean.

Place the cake still in the tin on a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes before carefully removing from the tin and replacing on the wire rack.

To make the icing, place the butter, cream cheese and sieved icing sugar in a bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon until a creamy and fluffy consistency is achieved. Add the turmeric and lemon juice and mix in gently. Chill the icing until you are ready to ice the cake. 

When the cake has completely cooled, remove the parchment paper and place on a flat serving plate. Spread the icing over the top of the cake achieving a gentle and swirly finish. Scatter the diced stem ginger over the icing as evenly as possible.

Serve the cake with crème fraiche or softly whipped cream.

Edible Christmas Gifts

Who knows what kind of Christmas we’ll have this year. Will we be able to get together and celebrate with our family and loved ones or will we be forced to wish our children, grandchildren and grandparents a Happy Christmas through tears of loneliness on Zoom?

The answer is in the lap of the God’s at present so let’s use the intervening weeks having fun, making edible Christmas gifts. If necessary they can be beautifully ribboned and wrapped and couriered a few days ahead.

There are so many options, I could write five or six columns without running out of ideas. There’s still time to make lots of chutneys, pickles and relishes. I particularly love this Red Pepper, Tomato and Lemongrass Chutney.

The last of the Summer tomatoes refuse to ripen as the days get dramatically shorter so we have lots of green under ripe tomatoes, can’t bear to waste even one. We’ve been really enjoying them sliced and fried in a corn meal coating as they do in the US, with a dollop of Remoulade sauce but for the purpose of this article how about the more unusual and super delicious Jane’s Green Tomato Jam as opposed to the more predictable chutney. It’s equally great with goats cheese, cold meat or slathered on scones.

This Beetroot and Ginger Relish is another winner. Particularly good with pate’s or coarse terrines as is Confiture d’oignons or Onion Marmalade. All of these keep for months. I’d pot them in small rather than large glass jars or better still keep an eye on local charity and junk shops for earthen ware jars which add an extra dimension to your pressies.

We’re bang in the middle of the citrus fruit season. Kumquats are back in the shops, time to make a few jars of luxurious Kumquat Marmalade, the most delicious of all.

I found some Bergamots on Rebel Organics stall at the Midleton Farmer’s Market last week so we made a batch of Bergamot marmalade, deliciously tart and bitter. I also found green Verdelli lemons, a new one on me so I’ll experiment with those during the week.

Sweet sauces also make great little pressies. Why not try, Dark Chocolate sauce, a Butterscotch sauce and a Salted Caramel – now wouldn’t those three make a cute little hamper and maybe add an Irish Whiskey Sauce for good measure.

That’s probably enough to keep you and your family having fun in the kitchen for this week. The less than enthusiastic cooks can help with the labelling and wrapping, perhaps they can source some ribbons and pretty twines. Jar covers, can be as simple as newspaper, parchment or fancy wrapping paper. Sprigs of rosemary tucked into the twine look great and last well. Keep a good look out for little baskets and containers to pack your goodies into. More ideas next week. Meanwhile, have fun…

Red Pepper, Tomato and Lemongrass Chutney

Makes 3–5 jars, depending on size

225g (8oz) onion, finely chopped

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

450g (1lb) very ripe red peppers, seeded and diced

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon allspice

1⁄2 teaspoon mace

1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg

1⁄2 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated

1 stalk of lemongrass, finely chopped

450g (1lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

110g (4oz) raisins

1 garlic clove, chopped

225g (8oz) white sugar

150ml (1⁄4 pint) white wine vinegar

Sweat the onions in the olive oil in a stainless-steel saucepan. Add the peppers, salt, spices, grated ginger and lemongrass. After 10 minutes, add the tomatoes, raisins, garlic, sugar and vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for about 11⁄2 hours, until it looks thickish. Pour into sterilised glass jars, cover with non-reactive lids and store in a cool, dry place.

Janie’s Green Tomato Jam

A change from Green Tomato Chutney, delicious on toast as well as drizzled on goats cheese or mozzarella.

Makes 2 small jars

500g (18oz) green tomatoes

450ml (16fl oz/2 cups) water

300g (10oz/1 1/4 cups) granulated sugar

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Wash and slice the tomatoes (no need to peel), and place in a large pan with the water. Bring to the boil then simmer covered for 50-60 minutes until tender. Add remaining ingredients and dissolve sugar over gentle heat, stirring occasionally.

Boil rapidly for 10 –12 minutes or until setting point is reached.

Beetroot and Ginger Relish

Serve with coarse terrines, pâtés and cheese.

Makes 4 jars (yields 500ml (18fl oz) approximately)

Serves 8 – 20 depending on how it’s served

225g (8oz) onion, chopped

45g (1 1/2oz) butter

3 tablespoons  sugar

450g (1lb) raw beetroot, peeled and grated

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

25ml (1fl oz) sherry vinegar

120ml (4 1/2fl oz) red wine

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sweat the onions slowly in the butter for 5-6 minutes until very soft.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook gently for 30 minutes.  Serve cold.

This relish is best eaten within 6 months.

Onion Marmalade  – Confiture d’Oignons

Once again, delicious with pâtés and terrines.

Makes 450ml (16fl oz)

675g (1 1/2lb) onions

50g (2oz) butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

150g (5oz) castor sugar

7 tablespoons sherry vinegar

250ml (9fl oz) full bodied red wine

2 tablespoons crème de cassis

Peel and slice the onions thinly.  Melt the butter in the sauté pan and hold your nerve until it becomes a deep nut brown colour – this will give the onions a delicious rich flavour but be careful not to let it burn. Toss in the onions and sugar, add the salt and freshly ground pepper and stir well. Cover the saucepan and cook for 30 minutes over a gentle heat, keeping an eye on the onions and stirring from time to time with a wooden spatula.

Add the sherry vinegar, red wine and crème de cassis. Cook for a further 30 minutes uncovered, stirring regularly. This onion jam must cook very gently (but don’t let it reduce too much).

Kumquat Marmalade

A read luxury, my favourite marmalade of all.

Makes 3 x 400g pots

1 kg kumquats

1¾ litres (56fl oz) water

1¾ kg (3 lb 1oz) sugar

Slice kumquats thinly crossways.  Collect the seeds, put in a small bowl with 250ml (8fl oz) of the water, allow to stand overnight.  Put the kumquats in a larger bowl with the remaining water, cover and allow to stand overnight.

Next day, strain the seeds, save the liquid (this now contains the precious pectin, which contributes to the setting of the jam); discard the seeds.

Put the kumquat mixture into a large saucepan with the reserved liquid from the seeds.  Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, simmer, covered for 30 minutes or until the kumquats are very tender.

Add the warm sugar and stir until fully dissolved.  Bring to the boil and cook rapidly with the lid off for about 15 minutes. Test for a set, put a teaspoon of the mixture on a cold saucer, it should barely wrinkle when pressed with a finger.

Remove the pan from the heat while testing.

Pour into hot sterilised jars. Cover and seal and store in a cool dry place.

Pam’s Bergamot Lemon Marmalade

6 – 8 pots

1kg (2.4lb) un-waxed Bergamot lemons

1 3kgs (3lb/6 cups) granulated sugar

2 1/2 litres (4 1/4 pints/generous 10 1/2 cups) cold water

Scrub the skin of the lemons in warm water with a soft brush. Put into a deep stainless steel saucepan with the water. Cover and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 2 hours until the lemons are soft and tender.

Remove the lemons and allow to cool.  Bring back the liquid to the boil and reduce the liquid to 1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints/3 3/4 cups). 

Heat the sugar in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Mark 4 for 10 to 15 minutes.

Cut the lemons in half, save the pips and tie with the soft membrane in a little muslin bag. Chop the peel and put into a stainless steel saucepan with the reduced juice, liquid and the bag of pips. Put back on the heat, add the sugar, bring to the boil and cook to a setting point – 15-20 minutes. Test for a set in the usual way.

Allow to cool in the saucepan for 15 minutes. Pot into sterilised jars, cool and store in a dark dry cupboard.

Dark Chocolate Sauce

Brilliant to have some chocolate sauce to drizzle over ice cream, profiteroles or on crépes.

Makes 16fl ozs (450mls) – 2 – 3 small jars

8ozs (225g) best quality dark chocolate (semi sweet or bittersweet)

8fl oz (225ml) cream

1 tablespoon dark rum or orange liqueur or strong coffee or ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)

Put the cream in a heavy bottomed, preferably stainless steel saucepan and bring it almost to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. With a wooden spoon, stir the chocolate into the cream until it is completely melted.  It will seem curdled at first but don’t worry, keep on stirring and it will become smooth and glossy.  Add the chosen flavouring if using.   Serve warm or at room temperature.

Butterscotch Sauce

Serves 12 approximately. 

This delicious sauce keeps for months, can be served with any ice-cream, crépes or over sticky toffee pudding.

4oz (110g) butter

5oz (150g) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown sugar)

3oz (75g) granulated sugar

10oz (285g) golden syrup

8fl oz (225ml) cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract.  Put back in the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth. 

Serve hot or cold. 

Note: This sauce will keep for several weeks stored in a screw-top jar in the fridge. 

Salted Caramel Sauce

Once again, salted caramel sauce is irresistible drizzled over crépes, ice cream or bananas and keeps for weeks in a jar in the fridge.

600ml (3x 200g jars)

450g (16oz) caster sugar

125g (4 1/2oz) unsalted whole butter (diced)

250ml (9fl oz) double cream

10g (1/2oz) Fleur de Sel from Brittany (literally flower of the salt, the very mineral and not too salty top layer) or Irish Sea salt

Put the caster sugar into a large pan over a medium heat and stir continuously until it turns into a rich caramel. You need to do this by eye, but aim for a dark mahogany colour. If it is too light, the butter and cream will dilute any caramel flavour and it will lack that slightly burnt sugar taste that makes this sauce so good.

When you are happy with the caramel, very carefully whisk in the cream to stop the cooking. Be really careful not to do it too quickly as the caramel has a tendency to spit. When you have whisked in the cream, add the butter bit by bit until it’s all incorporated and you have a smooth rich caramel.

Allow to cool to 37°C and then stir in the fleur de sel and mix so you get an even distribution. Ed says it is very important to allow the caramel to cool before doing this so that the salt crystals do not dissolve and you then get that lovely crunch.

Irish Whiskey Sauce

We love this sauce to serve with glazed ham or bacon chop, as well as drizzled over crépes or ice cream.

Makes 1 small jar of 230ml (8fl oz)

8 ozs (225g) castor sugar

3 fl ozs (80ml) cold water

3- 4 tablespoon Irish whiskey

4fl ozs (120ml) hot water

Put the castor sugar into a saucepan with water, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves and syrup comes to the boil. Remove the spoon and do not stir. Continue to boil until it turns a nice chestnut-brown colour. Remove from the heat and immediately add the hot water. Allow to dissolve again and then add the Irish whiskey. Serve hot or cold.

Some new cookbooks to add to your list for Christmas

Planning for Christmas?

Wondering how to get some of those pressies ticked off your list early without having to worry about the risk of another pre-Christmas lockdown.

Well how about a great cook book for the foodie or budding cooks and chefs in your life. I’ve recently got lots of new titles, which I am really enjoying, all very different. One of course is ‘The Joy Of Food’ by my brother Rory O’Connell which I love but will write about later.

Meanwhile, let me mention some of the others that particularly appeal to me. One is ‘Towpath’ by Lori de Mori, who has the most enchanting little café in four canal keeper’s stores along the banks of the Regent Canal in East London. Towpath is one of the secret hidden gems in the middle of London, one of the busiest and most sophisticated cities in the entire world. Lori, who trained at Rochelle Canteen and her partner Laura Jackson have a passion for seasonal food.

Towpath opens from Spring to late November. It has become a unique and beloved destination for so many. I totally include myself in the many who dream about whittling away a few hours at a table alongside the canal enjoying the delicious food while watching the swans glide past, the mallard chasing each other and the cootes and waterhens skittering across the water. If I lived in London I would want to ramble along to Towpath every single day, no website, no phone and no Take-Away, such joy and now Lori and Laura her partner share their recipes and the stories.

Next up, Neven Maguire’s ‘Mid Week Suppers’. For many, Neven is Ireland’s most trusted and best loved chef. He writes a weekly column in the Irish Farmer’s Journal where he has a loyal and devoted following. His restaurant, Macnean’s in Blacklion is permanently booked out. Yet, he finds time to do regular cooking videos from his home kitchen to encourage people to cook nourishing food for family and friends during the pandemic. Exciting Midweek Meals to share around the kitchen table.

Another gem –  – ‘Sourdough Mania’ is by passionate self-taught baker and teacher, Anita Šumer. Based in Slovenia she has become an international success and now has over 70,000 followers on Instagram @sourdough_mania.

Sourdough Mania gives us both simple-to-make and more ambitious recipes for more festive occasions. Every stage is fully illustrated with step by step photography on weighing, mixing, kneading, shaping, scoring and baking. Just what all the Covid-19 sourdough bread bakers are yearning for.

John and Sally McKenna’s latest book is entitled ‘MILK’ and tells the story of Ireland’s dairy producers and the importance of pasture fed cows to the quality and reputation of our milk, butter, cream, yoghurt… ‘MILK’ also looks at the scientific understanding of the liquid and explores its unique cultural power and resonance in the history of Ireland. It features brand new recipes featuring fresh dairy products from the new generation of Irish chefs, Niamh Fox, Takashi Miyazaki, Ahmet Dedc, Darren Hogarty, Mark Moriarty, Caitlin Ruth, Lily Higgins, Clodagh McKenna..

Niamh Fox – Ireland’s Beloved Jambon

(from Milk by John & Sally McKenna published by Estragaon Press)

Niamh Fox cooks like an angel – sadly her restaurant ‘Little Fox’ in Ennistymon closed recently but watch that space…!

Makes 12

2 sheets puff pastry

Roasted red onion:

2 red onions, cut into quarters, then sliced

Splash of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Sprig of thyme, picked

Small sprinkling of brown sugar

Cheesy sauce:

25g butter

25g plain flour

250ml full fat milk

250g cheese, grated (Templegall, Gubbeen, Coolea, a good creamery Cheddar or bits and bobs from your fridge too.) Reserve a little to sprinkle.

Pinch of nutmeg

Pepper and sea salt to taste

200g of the best free-range ham you can get your hands on, cut into little cubes

1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk

To make the caramelised onions: mix together the onions, oil, seasoning and sprinkle with sugar. Pop in an ovenproof casserole, set around 200°C for 30 minutes, then mix and cover and continue to cook for 15 minutes. Allow to cool.

To make the cheesy sauce: melt butter at low heat, stir in the flour and mix well until a dough starts to form. Gradually pour in the milk, mixing really well so that there are no lumps in the sauce. Once all the milk has been added, add the grated cheeses and a pinch of nutmeg, pepper and salt. Mix well until you get a thick cheesy sauce. Add the finely cubed ham to the sauce, allow the mixture to cool.

To assemble the jambon: roll out the pastry, and cut each sheet into 6 squares.

Put a scoop of the cheese mixture in the centre of each square and a little of the caramelised onion, on top. Fold the corners to the centre and make sure they overlap (to avoid the ham and cheese from pouring out of the pastry). Pinch together the edges where needed. Brush the egg mix over the pastry and sprinkle the final bit of cheese on top and repeat for the other squares.

Place on oven tray and bake at 200°C for 15-20 minutes or until golden-brown.

Buttermilk Lemonade

(from Milk by John & Sally McKenna published by Estragaon Press)

Serves 3-4

Juice of 1 lemon

15ml (1 tbsp) caster sugar

500ml buttermilk

Combine the lemon juice and sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Pour in the buttermilk, whisking, so everything is smoothly combined.

Neven Maguire’s Char Sui Pork Ribs with Slaw

(from Neven Maguire’s Midweek Meals, published by Gill Books)

Serve 4-6

2 garlic cloves, crushed

4 tbsp clear honey

3 tbsp light muscovado sugar

3 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp hoisin sauce

3 tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp freshly grated root ginger

1.3-2kg (3lb 5oz – 4 1/2lb) meaty pork ribs

1 litre (1 ¾ pints) water

20g (3/4oz) fresh coriander

For the slaw

100g (4oz) red cabbage, cored and finely shredded

100g (4oz) white cabbage, cored and finely shredded

1 large carrot, grated

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp salt

To Garnish

Spring onion curls (optional)

Mix the garlic in a bowl with the honey, muscovado sugar, soy sauce, hoisin, rice wine vinegar and ginger. Spoon 4 tablespoons of the marinade into the slow cooker (reserving the remainder) and add the ribs. Top up with the water, mixing to combine. Strip the leaves off the coriander and set them aside for the slaw, then put the stalks into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, until the ribs are tender but not falling off the bone.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F/gas mark 7). Line a large baking tray with foil.

Remove the ribs from the slow cooker using a slotted spoon or tongs. Handle them carefully, as the meat will be tender and may start to fall off the bone. Baste with the reserved marinade and lay on the foil-lined tray. Cook in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until starting to crisp on the outside.

Meanwhile, to make the slaw, mix the red and white cabbage with the carrot and reserved coriander leaves. Put the rapeseed oil, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, caster sugar and salt in a screw-topped jar and shake until evenly combined, then use to dress the slaw.

If making the spring onion curls, cut the spring onions into very thin slices, then put in a bowl of ice-cold water to curl. Drain well and lightly pat dry on kitchen paper before using.

Arrange the slaw on plates with the char sui pork ribs and garnish with the spring onions curls (if using).

Neven Maguire’s Pork Tacos al Pastor

(from Neven Maguire’s Midweek Meals, published by Gill Books)

Serves 6-8

1 x 1.8kg (4lb) pork butt roast (ask your butcher for the upper part of the shoulder from the front leg)

1 x 200g (7oz) tin of crushed pineapple in natural juice, drained

1 small onion, chopped

15g (1/2oz) fresh coriander

Juice of 1 small orange

2 tbsp granulated garlic

2 tbsp chipotle paste (or use 1 tbsp smoked paprika and 1 tbsp Tabasco instead)

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

4 tbsp water

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

Small warm soft corn tortillas

Thinly sliced radishes

Fresh coriander leaves

Salsa verde (shop-bought)

Lime wedges

Place the pork in the freezer for about 30 minutes, until it’s firm enough to cut.

Meanwhile, to make the marinade, place the rest of the ingredients except the oil and water in a food processor, season generously with salt and pepper and blitz to purée.

Take the pork out of the freezer and place on a chopping board, fat side up. Cut into slices 1cm (1/2in) thick, almost but not quite all the way through. Slather the marinade between each layer, then tie the roast back together with butcher’s string. Place in a shallow non-metallic container and cover loosely with cling film. Place in the fridge overnight to marinade.

The next day, bring the pork back to room temperature, then preheat your slow cooker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If your slow cooker has a sauté option, you can use this; if not, use a large sauté pan on the hob over a medium heat. Heat the oil, then add the pork and cook until lightly browned and sizzling. Place in the slow cooker, fat side up (if you have used a separate pan), along with the juices and the water. Cover and cook on low heat for 7 hours, until the pork is tender.

Remove the pork from the slow cooker and cover with tin foil, then leave to rest for 20 minutes.

When ready to serve, cut the meat up into small pieces and place in a bowl, moistening with some of the juices. Fill the tortillas with the pork, then top with the radishes, coriander and salsa verde. Arrange on plates and serve with the lime wedges.

The Benefits of Sourdough Bakes Explained by Anita Sumer

(from Sourdough Mania by Anita Šumer, published by Grub Street Publishing)

We now know what happens when sourdough ferments and why dough prepared with this leavening agent rises. This section explains why this method of baking is beneficial for our health and a good intestinal flora, and why it tastes incomparably better than bakes made with baker’s yeast.

Easier digestibility

Bakery products prepared with sourdough are already partially digested, because much of the work is done for us by lactic acid bacteria and wild yeast, which partially breaks down the starch.

Reduced gluten content

The longer preparation and fermentation process makes wheat flour more easily digestible by reducing the amount of gluten since lactic acid bacteria break down gliadin and glutenin, which together form gluten. This, of course, does not mean that sourdough bread does not contain gluten at all, but in such a fermented form, it is better for the body and easier to digest.

Useful compounds for the body

In the fermentation process and also during baking, compounds useful for the body are formed: antioxidants, peptides (lunasin, which acts against cancer cells) and various anti-allergenic substances.

Lower glycaemic index

We are familiar with the claim ‘bread is fattening’, which is why bread is generally avoided by people with a tendency to be overweight. The fact that white bread made from ordinary baker’s yeast leads to weight gain is true. However, sourdough products have a lower glycaemic index due to organic acids that react with heat and consequently reduce starch availability. This index is lower for wholemeal bread types and bread made with sprouted grain flour. Sourdough bread is therefore more filling, and instead of two or three slices, one is often enough. However, due to its excellent taste, it is difficult to stop after just one slice!

Bread stays fresh longer

The acetic acid produced by lactic acid bacteria ensures that sourdough products stay fresh and can be kept for longer, do not crumble and age better. Sourdough bread is still good after a few days, especially rye bread, which gains flavour with time. These naturally occurring acids also prevent mould and fuzzy growth on bread.

A softer crumb

Sourdough gives the crumb a more uniform and compact structure, which is preserved for several days after baking; it is also softer, thanks to lactic acid bacteria.

Better taste

Lactic acid bacteria, and to a lesser extent wild yeast, provides a rich, savoury taste and aroma. During the fermentation process, various aromatic compounds are produced that make sourdough products more palatable.

Better use of nutrients and minerals

Cereals contain naturally occurring phytic acid, which prevents the body from absorbing important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. By using a sourdough starter and prolonged fermentation, this acidity is neutralised so our body can use the minerals present in the flour. Rye flour and wholemeal flour contain the most phytic acid.

No time limit

One advantage of baking with sourdough is that you don’t need to stand by the dough while it’s proving as you do with commercial yeast due to its fast reaction. This gives you plenty of time to choose the right time for baking and all the other preparation steps, because wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria have a slow metabolism, so the dough rises slowly. While the microorganisms are active, you can do your household chores, go to work, run errands, sleep…

Towpath’s Olive Oil Cake

(from Towpath by Lori de Mori & Laura Jackson, published by Chelsea Green Publishing)

Serves 12

Butter, for greasing

3 eggs

300g/10 ½ oz caster sugar

175ml/6 fl oz best quality olive oil

180ml/ 6 ¼ fl oz full-fat milk

1 orange, zested and juiced

325g/ 11 ½ oz self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan /350°F/gas mark 4.

Line, butter and flour a 24cm/9 ½ in cake tin.

In a large mixing bowl or mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale yellow. This should take about 5 minutes.

Slowly, in a continuous stream and on a high speed, pour in the olive oil, milk, orange zest and juice. You may need to lower the speed towards the end to prevent the mix from splattering everywhere.

Gently, fold in the flour, until fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

Towpath’s Beetroot Borani

(from Towpath by Lori de Mori & Laura Jackson, published by Chelsea Green Publishing)

We use the last of the season’s beetroot for this delicious thick unctuous soup

Serves 4

8 medium beetroot, washed and scrubbed, boiled until tender, peeled then returned to their cooking water

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon merlot red wine vinegar (or a red wine vinegar with a pinch of sugar added)

2 pinches of sugar (if the beetroot is not that sweet)

200ml/ 7 fl oz Greek or natural yoghurt

75ml/3 fl oz olive oil

160g/5 ¾ oz feta

80g/3oz walnuts, toasted

8 sprigs dill, leaves picked

Best olive oil, to drizzle

Chop the beetroot into chunky dice. Place in a liquidiser with a ladleful of cooking liquid, blitz until thick and smooth – you may need to add in a bit more liquid if it is thicker than the thickest of yoghurts.

Add all the remaining ingredients and blitz until smooth – you are aiming for the consistency of thick yoghurt. Season to taste.

To serve, ladle the borane into a bowl, crumble the feta over the top, scatter with toasted walnuts and sprigs of dill and drizzle with olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve with flatbread or sourdough bread.

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