AuthorDarina Allen

Meadowsweet

If you have been meandering along the country roads for the past few weeks, you’ll have seen swathes of fluffy cream flowers along the verges, tiny sweet fragrant blossoms clustered together in irregularly branched cymes.   The plant grows 2-4 foot tall and is called meadowsweet.  The legendary Tudor botanist and herbalist John Gerard called this wildflower that blossoms from the end of June until mid-September ‘Queen of the Meadows’, and described how it ‘delighted the senses and scented people’s houses’. 

It thrives in clammy meadows and ditches and along river banks.  It delights me too and I love it for a myriad of reasons, not only the fact that it comes into season just as the elderflowers fade.  I’ve been using the latter in a myriad of ways but from now until September, it’s the turn of frothy meadowsweet.  It has many medicinal qualities and is known to contain salicylic acid, one of the components of aspirin and has pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.  Herbalists value it for its many medical qualities, bees and hoverflies love it too.

But this is a cooking column so how do we enjoy it in the kitchen.  Well, I’ve been adding to my repertoire of meadowsweet recipes for the past few Summers.  It flavours custard deliciously which can then be churned into meadowsweet ice-cream.  You can imagine how fragrant meadowsweet panna cotta and crème brûlée are – infuse the milk for rice pudding.  It also makes a delicious cordial, lemonade, spritzer or a simple tea.  Strew a few blossoms on the base of a cake tin while making a sponge and/or add some to a lemony icing.  Try flavouring end of season rhubarb compote for a delicious surprise and I’ve had success with both rhubarb and ginger meadowsweet jam plus it also combines well with gooseberry to make a delicious compote. How does meadowsweet gin and tonic sound? Infuse gin for a week or two as you would sloe or damsons. Strain and enjoy.

Keep your eyes peeled for meadowsweet as you drive through the countryside.  Pop it into a vase on your kitchen table, it will perfume the entire kitchen while you decide on delicious ways to enjoy it…

Meadowsweet Tisane

From Spring onwards when the herb garden is full of an abundance of herbs, we make lots of tisanes and herb teas.  All you need to do is pop a few leaves or flowers into a teapot, pour on the boiling water – and allow it to infuse for a few minutes. Infinitely more delicious than the dried herb teabags.

meadowsweet, lemon verbena, rosemary, sweet geranium, lemon balm, spearmint, peppermint…

water

Bring fresh cold water to the boil.  Scald a China tea pot, take a handful of meadowsweet flowers and crush them gently.  The quantity will depend on the strength of the herb and how intense an infusion you enjoy.  Put them into the scalded teapot.  Pour the boiling water over the flowers, cover the teapot and allow to infuse for 3-4 minutes.  Serve immediately in a glass or China teacups.

Meadowsweet Lemonade

3 lemons

225ml (8fl oz) meadowsweet syrup (see recipe)

750ml (1 1/4 pints) water

ice

meadowsweet heads

Juice the lemons.  Add the syrup and water.  Mix and taste.  Add ice and meadowsweet to garnish.

Meadowsweet Syrup

Makes 400ml (14fl oz)

225g (8oz) sugar

300ml (10fl oz) water

10-15 meadowsweet heads

To make the meadowsweet stock syrup: Put the sugar, cold water and meadowsweet into a saucepan.  Bring slowly to the boil.  Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool.  Strain and store in the fridge until needed.

Meadowsweet Gin

It’s great fun to organise a few pals to pick some meadowsweet and have a meadowsweet gin-making party.  Either enjoy it neat or put a measure of damson or sloe gin in a glass, add ice, a slice of lemon and top it up with the finest tonic.

50g meadowsweet (heads)

350g (12oz) granulated sugar

1.2 litres (2 pints) gin

Examine the meadowsweet and shake in case there are any insects.  

Put the meadowsweet into a sterilised glass Kilner jar and cover with the sugar and gin. Seal tightly.

Shake the jar every couple of days to start with and then every now and then for 2-3 weeks by which time it will be ready to strain and bottle. It will improve on keeping so try to resist drinking it for another few months.

Meadowsweet Rice Pudding

A creamy rice pudding is one of the greatest treats on any day of the year. You need to use short-grain rice, which plumps up as it cooks. I loved this irresistible version perfumed with meadowsweet.  Its delicious warm but I love to serve it chilled in Summer with a few fresh berries.   

Serves 6–8

100g (3 1/2fl oz) pearl rice (short-grain rice)

40g (1 1/2oz) sugar

small knob of butter

850ml (1 1/2 pints) milk

20g (3/4oz) freshly picked meadowsweet

To Serve

softly whipped cream and soft dark brown sugar

summer berries, optional

1 x 1. 2 litre (2 pint) capacity pie dish

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

Put the rice, sugar and butter into a pie dish. Bring the milk and meadowsweet to the boil.  Strain using a colander, remove the meadowsweet and pour the fragrant liquid over the rice. Bake for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours approximately (usually the latter but keep checking). The skin should be golden, the rice underneath should be cooked through and have absorbed up the milk, but the rice pudding should still be soft and creamy. Calculate the time so that it’s ready for pudding.  If it has to wait in the oven for ages it will be dry and dull and you’ll wonder why you bothered.

Serve with a dollop of softly whipped cream and a sprinkling of soft brown sugar. 

Meadowsweet Ice-Cream

Makes 1.2 litres (2 pints)

This is wonderfully rich ice-cream, delicious on its own but also irresistible with fresh raspberries, tayberries, boysenberries or Irish blueberries. 

60g (2 1/2oz) meadow sweet flowers (weighted off stalk)

350ml (12fl oz) whole milk

8 egg yolks

110g (4oz) sugar

350ml (12fl oz) rich cream, cold

Place the meadowsweet flowers and milk in a heavy saucepan.   Heat to just below the boiling point and remove from the heat.   Cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes.  Strain through a fine sieve.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.  Add warm milk gradually, stirring constantly until all the milk is added.  Return to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a spoon (170˚- 175˚C).

Pour the cream into a large bowl.  Strain the custard into the cream.  Mix well, then chill thoroughly.

Freeze according to the directions of your ice-cream machine.

Serve alone on chilled plates or with summer berries.

Rory O’Connell’s Meadowsweet Panna Cotta

Meadowsweet is used to flavour the cream for this delectable panna cotta (‘cooked cream’).

Serves 8

Panna cotta

600ml (1 pint) cream

6g (1/4oz) meadowsweet flowers

50g (2oz) caster sugar

2 leaves of gelatine

To Serve

250g (9oz) ripe raspberries

mint leaves

softly whipped cream

8 ceramic, glass or tin moulds, approximately 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) each, brushed with non-scented oil such as sunflower or grape seed

Put the cream and sugar into a stainless-steel saucepan over a low heat, add the meadowsweet flowers.  Slowly bring to the shivery stage – turn off the heat and infuse for 15 minutes or more. 

Cover the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water until pliable, 3-4 minutes.  Pour the meadowsweet cream through a sieve.  Return to the saucepan and add the well-drained gelatine leaves. Stir to dissolve completely.  If necessary, warm the meadowsweet infused cream slightly. Divide the panna cotta between the oiled moulds and chill for at least 3 hours or until gently set.

Serve with fresh berries or a seasonal compote – particularly good with poached apricots.

Rhubarb and Meadowsweet Compote

Meadowsweet is sometimes called mead wort or Queen of the Meadows. It grows in damp places, meadows and sometimes along the roadside.  It flowers from early summer to early autumn.  We use it to flavour panna cotta, ice-cream, custard – here I’m using it to flavour a fruit compote – delicious!

Serves 4

450g (1lb) field rhubarb

450ml (16fl oz) stock syrup (dissolve 175g/6oz of granulated sugar in 300ml (10fl oz) of water and boil for 2 minutes)

4-6 sprigs of meadowsweet

Cut the rhubarb into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces. Put the cold syrup into a stainless-steel saucepan, add the rhubarb and meadowsweet.  Cover, bring to the boil and simmer for just 1 minute, (no longer or it will dissolve into a mush). Turn off the heat and leave the rhubarb in the covered saucepan until just cold.  Remove the meadowsweet, serve with lots of softly whipped cream sprinkled with meadowsweet blossoms.

Summer Pasta

Life without pasta – can you imagine…well I can though I would no longer want to contemplate a scenario where the ‘go to’ pantry ingredient was unavailable. You may not remember when you first tasted pasta – it’s always been in your life but I certainly do – it was in the late 1960’s, soon after I had started in Ballymaloe House kitchen…’Children’s Tea’ was served every evening at 5.30pm – essentially supper. Myrtle loved to cook delicious food that the children loved to eat so the over-picky eaters didn’t miss the junk.
On this occasion, word came from the dining room that one child would only eat spaghetti tossed in butter with a sprinkling of grated Cheddar. What was spaghetti? It certainly wasn’t available in our local village shop at that time so someone was dispatched to Midleton to find a few packets.  I was intrigued… Subsequently spaghetti became a favourite item on the ‘Children’s Tea’ menu.. That child who ate nothing but pasta for the entire stay is now a hugely successful international business man with a penchant for gourmet foods…

Actually, now that I think about it, we may have had macaroni in our village shop in Cullohill in Co. Laois earlier but spaghetti was a new discovery for me.

I keep wondering just how many pasta shapes there are, certainly hundreds, it’s difficult to do an exact count because some have different names in different regions and dialects. Pasta manufacturers and cooks occasionally come up with new shapes or new names for old shapes – the possibilities are endless, depending on who you ask. In food historian Zanin De Vita’s encyclopaedia of pasta, she encountered 1,300 names for pasta which of course takes in both historical and dialect names.

It’s the quintessential ‘handy’ ingredient so today I’ve chosen five of my favourite deliciously fast (dried) pasta dishes for spontaneous Summer meals…
Remember, alphabet pasta – Alfabeto and then there’s are also Stelline (little stars), quadrucci (little squares), puntini (little dotes). Delicious served in a chicken or vegetable broth, maybe add some peas and sprinkle with a dusting of Parmesan and not just for children.
Love the way pasta can be as simple as that or a luxurious main course for a special dinner party.
Try this with lobster, cream and fresh herbs. Could be prawns or scallops either. Also love to just add some delicious fresh vegetables, peas, beans, courgettes, seaweed or wild greens depending on the season or what you can forage from your local Farmers Market. Fettuccini A’lfredo – rich and gorgeous lends itself to seasonal additions but a fruity extra virgin olive oil enhances all pasta dishes.
All pasta starts off fresh whether it’s handmade at home or extruded from a machine in a factory which is then destined to be dried so it last indefinitely ready for us to use at a moments notice.
In this article, I’m concentrating on the latter…



Cheat’s Method of Cooking Dried Pasta

I developed this method of cooking pasta when we taught a ‘Survival’ course for students in bedsits or small apartments with limited cooking facilities.  Italians are usually shocked, but it works brilliantly.

Choose a large deep saucepan; two handles are an advantage for ease of lifting.  To cook 500g (18oz) pasta, use 2 tablespoons of dairy salt or sea salt to 4.5 litres of water.  Bring the water to the boil before adding the salt and the pasta.  Tip the pasta in all at once, stir well to ensure the strands are separate, then cover the pan just long enough to bring the water back to the boil.

Cook for 2 minutes for noodles, spaghetti and tagliatelli, or 4 minutes for penne, small shells etc.  Keep the pan covered.  Then turn off the heat and allow the pasta to continue to cook for the time indicated on the packet.  Test, drain and proceed as usual.

Pasta made by this method is good and does not overcook as easily as pasta made by the conventional method.

Courgetti Carbonara

This is a delicious Summery version from Thomasina Miers. If you can find both yellow and green courgettes, they’ll add a stunning, two-tone colour to an otherwise pale dish.

Serves 4

4 medium courgettes

salt and freshly ground black pepper 

200g (7oz) spaghetti 

3 medium organic, free-range eggs

75g (3oz) grated Parmesan or Pecorino (or a mix) plus extra to serve

100g (3 1/2oz) smoked pancetta cubes 

3 small garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped 

1 handful roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve 

Prepare the courgettes, use a julienne peeled or a sharp knife to peel them into long, fine strips, stopping when the core becomes seedy – you want about 500g (18oz) in total – then set aside and discard the cores.

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs in bowl, season well and stir in the cheese. 

Put a large, wide frying pan over a medium heat and stir-fry the pancetta for five minutes, by which time it will have begun to release its fat.  Add the garlic, continue to cook for another few minutes, until the pancetta and garlic are golden, then remove from the heat.

Once the spaghetti is al dente, return the pancetta to the heat and use tongs or forks to transfer the spaghetti to the pancetta pan, reserving the pasta cooking water.

Add the courgettes to the pan with a big splash of cooking water and stir well for a few minutes, so everything is coated in the garlicky oil.  Remove from the heat and stir in the egg mix until you have a lovely, glossy sauce, adding enough cooking water, a few tablespoons at a time, to get it to a creamy consistency.

Transfer to hot plates, sprinkle with a little extra cheese and the parsley and serve immediately.

Penne or Orecchiette with Tomatoes, Spicy Sausage and Cream

Serves 6

450g (1lb) penne or orecchiette

4.5 litres (8 pints) water

2 tablespoons salt

175-225g (6-8oz) Chorizo or Kabanossi sausage                         

25g (1oz) butter

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

675g (scant 1 1/2lb) fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice or 1 1/2 tins (400g/14oz tin) tomatoes, chopped

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

pinch of chilli flakes

175-300ml (6-10fl oz) cream

2 tablespoons flat parsley, finely chopped

4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)

lots of snipped flat parsley

Bring 4.5 litres (8 pints) of water to the boil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of salt, then add the pasta. Stir well. Bring back to the boil for 4 minutes, cover, turn off the heat and allow the pasta to continue to cook in the covered saucepan until al dente – 9-12 minutes depending on the brand of pasta.

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, add the chopped rosemary and diced tomatoes. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.   Cook until the tomatoes have just begun to soften into a sauce, about 5 minutes approx.  

Peel the casing off the Chorizo or Kabanossi sausage if necessary, then half or quarter each stick depending on size.  Slice into rounds or at an angle as desired.  Add to the pan with the chilli flakes, season lightly with salt (be careful not to overdo the salt as the sausage may be somewhat salty).    Add the cream and chopped parsley, cook, stirring frequently until the cream comes to the boil.  Simmer for 5-7 minutes.   Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

When the pasta is cooked (it should be ‘al dente’), drain and toss with the sauce, add the grated Parmesan. Toss again, check the seasoning.  Sprinkle with flat parsley and serve at once.  

Note: Please omit chorizo for vegetarian option.

Summery Fettuccine all’Alfredo

There actually was an Alfredo, in whose Roman restaurant this lovely dish became famous.  In Italy home-made – better still, hand-made pasta is essential, cooked very aldente and good-quality fresh double cream but one could use dried pasta (340g-450g/¾ – 1lb) in an emergency. This original recipe came from the late Marcella Hazan its rich and gorgeous on its own and can be the base for numerous seasonal additions.

Serves 5-6

Pasta Dough

300g (10oz/2 1/2 cups) “00” flour

25g (1oz) semolina flour

pinch of salt

1 large egg and 3-4 large egg yolks, preferably free range

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cold water

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) double cream

45g (1 3/4oz/1/3 stick) butter

salt

65g (2 1/2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

freshly ground pepper (4-6 twists of the mill)

a very tiny grating of nutmeg

First make the pasta.

Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the centre, add the eggs (no need to whisk the eggs), oil and water. Mix into a dough with your hand. The pasta should just come together but shouldn’t stick to your hand – if it does add a little more flour.  (If it is too dry, add a little extra egg white being careful not to add too much.)  Knead for 10 minutes until it becomes elastic. It should be quiet pliable, wrap in clingfilm and rest in fridge for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough in half and roll out one piece at a time into a very thin sheet, keeping the other piece covered. You ought to be able to read the print on a matchbox through the pasta.  A pasta machine or long thin rolling pin is a great advantage but you can manage perfectly well with an ordinary domestic rolling pin. 

Cut into strips, 1/8 inch (3mm) wide.

Choose an enamelled cast-iron pan, or other flameproof dish that can later hold all the cooked fettuccine comfortably.  Put in 150ml (5fl oz/1/2 cup) of the cream and all the butter and simmer over medium heat for less than a minute, until the butter and cream have thickened.  Turn off the heat.

Bring 8 pints (4.8 litres/20 cups) of water to the boil.  Add 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of salt, then drop in the fettuccine and cover the pot until the water returns to the boil.  If the fettuccine are fresh, they will be done a few seconds after the water returns to the boil.  If dry, they will take a little longer.  (Cook the fettuccine even firmer than usual, because they will be cooked more in the pan.)  Drain immediately and thoroughly when done, and transfer to the pan containing the butter and cream.

Turn on the heat under the pan to low, and toss the fettuccine, coating them with sauce.  Add the rest of the cream, all the grated cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Toss briefly until the cream has thickened and the fettuccine are well coated.  Check seasoning.  Serve immediately from the pan, with an extra bowl of grated cheese.

Variations

Fettucine with Courgettes and Zucchini Blossoms

Follow the master recipe, adding 450g (1lb) of sautéed courgettes with the hot drained fettuccine. Garnish with torn zucchini blossoms.

Fettucine with Broad Beans

Follow the master recipe, adding 450g (1lb) of lightly cooked and shelled broad beans or 225g (8oz) freshly cooked peas with the hot drained fettucine.

Fettucine with Red Pepper and Rocket

Follow the master recipe, adding some strips of roasted red pepper and a few rocket leaves with the hot drained fettucine.

Fettuccine with Smoked Salmon and Parsley

Follow the master recipe, adding 50-110g (2-4oz) smoked salmon, cut into cubes, and 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) approximately of chopped fresh parsley. Omit the Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Fettucine with Roasted Pumpkin and Rocket Leaves

Follow the master recipe, adding 225g (8oz) of roasted pumpkin, 16 – 24 rocket leaves (depending on size) and a few toasted pine kernels with the hot drained fettucine.

Creamy Bucatini with Spring Onions, Mint and Pistachios


Bucatini is the name of chunky spaghetti but ordinary spaghetti would also be fine.


Serves 6

450g (1lb) bucatini or spaghetti
salt
50g (2oz) butter
450g (1lb) spring onions, both white and green parts, thinly sliced
300ml (10fl oz) cream
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
freshly ground black pepper
100g (3 1/2oz) grated Pecorino
1 teaspoon finely grated organic lemon zest
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
4 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
40-50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 organic lemon

Bring 8 pints (4.5L/10 American cups) of water to a fast rolling boil. Add a generous tablespoon of salt

Cook the pasta in a large pot of well salted (add 2 generous tablespoons of salt per 4.5L (8 pints) of water) boiling water over a high heat until al-dente.

Reserve 225ml (8fl oz) of the cooking water. Drain the pasta well.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over a medium heat, add the sliced spring onions and cook stirring occasionally for 6-7 minutes, or until fully cooked and beginning to brown at the edges.


Add the cream, chopped rosemary, pepper flakes, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow to bubble for 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in the grated Pecorino. Add the pasta and about 110ml (4fl oz) of the reserved cooking liquid, bring back to the boil adding a little more pasta water if necessary.


Sprinkle in the chives and lemon zest. Taste and tweak the seasoning if necessary.

Turn into hot pasta bowl, sprinkle with freshly chopped mint and coarsely chopped pistachio nuts. Grate a little Pecorino and a little more lemon zest over the top and serve immediately.

One Pot/Tray Cooking

While still being super careful, we’re all determined not to waste a second of this outdoor Summer and certainly even those of us who love to cook don’t want to spend any longer than necessary ‘slaving over a hot stove’ of for that matter over a sink-full of washing up.

So here’s the plan, let’s confine our meals to one roasting tin and perhaps a bowl of crunchy lettuces, salad leaves and soft herbs. Once you get on the ‘one tray’ track, it’s like a game.  It’s amazing what combinations you can conjure up – a whole meal on just one roasting tin.

So this week, I’ve got something for everyone – meat and fish lovers, vegetarians, vegans, even a pasta dish, all substantial enough to feed the family.

I’ve chosen a delicious pan roasted cauliflower from Anna Jones new book ‘One Pot, Pan, Planet’. This can be vegetarian or vegan if you choose to use vegan butter. Pine nuts are super expensive now but cashew or pistachios, even almonds work really well here too.
Another delicious vegetarian option might be a chickpea braise with kale and harissa.
For those of you who have my last book, ‘One Pot Feeds All’ (published by Kyle Books), there are a myriad of recipes for one pot, one dish, sheet pan or roasting tin. Roast salmon is cooked in just 8-10 minutes and can feed 15-20 people or how about a whole turbot or a large Summer plaice on a bed of potatoes and slivered fennel with a herb butter.
A great big dish of chicken thighs with potatoes, onions and aioli will also feed the entire family deliciously as will Moroccan lamb chops with tahini and yoghurt – supper in a dish.
How about wrapping up with an irresistible pud, apple and raspberry traybake with sweet geranium sugar.

Let me know which you enjoy most…all save time, wash up and mean you can have maximum fun in the sun…Enjoy

Anna Jones’s Pan-Roasted Cauliflower with Saffron Butter

Cooking vegetables like this (pan roasting) happens a lot in restaurant kitchens but it’s a good thing to do at home too. You get the vegetables going in the pan, building up a bit of colour and texture, then blast them in the oven to cook through; they get some direct heat and char from the hob, then some more mellow-even heat from the oven. I love adding vinegar when I am cooking vegetables and it’s balanced here by the sweetness of the cauliflower, saffron and pine nuts. This recipe is inspired by the brilliant cook, Lela DeMille.

Serves 4

For the Yoghurt

a small bunch of mint and/or parsley, finely chopped

6 tablespoons thick natural yoghurt or vegan yoghurt of your choice

a drizzle of good olive oil

For the Cauliflower

olive oil

1 large cauliflower (about 800g/1 3/4lb), florets separated and stalks finely sliced

50ml (2fl oz) white wine vinegar

a good pinch of saffron strands (or 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric)

50g (2oz) butter or vegan butter, cubed

a small bunch of parsley and/or coriander, roughly chopped

To Serve

4 flatbreads

a good pinch of sumac or Aleppo chilli

150g (5oz) pine nuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 220°C/(200°C Fan)/Gas Mark 7.

Mix the mint and/or parsley and yoghurt in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, stir in a splash of olive oil, then set aside.

Heat a large oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat, add a good glug of olive oil, then add the cauliflower in a single layer (you may need to cook it in a few batches). Once all your cauliflower is browned on both sides (this will take about 10 minutes), put the lot back into the pan and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the stalks are soft and the florets crisp.

Remove the pan from the oven using an oven glove, then put it back on the hob over a medium heat, add the vinegar and saffron or turmeric then reduce the vinegar for about 2 minutes. Take off the heat, add the butter, toss the cauliflower in it to create a thick and glossy sauce, then stir through most of the parsley and/or coriander.

Spoon the yoghurt into a shallow serving bowl and use the back of a spoon to swirl it over the bottom, then tumble the buttery cauliflower in. Finish with the last bit of parsley, the pine nuts and some sumac, and serve with flatbreads.

Anna Jones’s Quick Chickpea Braise with Kale and Harissa

This is a meal in a pan, a pan full of all the things I want to eat on a cold weeknight and there is little more comforting than that. Most greens would work here in place of the kale. Jarred chickpeas are my choice – always. If you don’t have preserved lemons, the zest of an unwaxed lemon will do fine.

Serves 4

olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

2 big handfuls of kale (about 200g/7oz), leaves roughly chopped, stems shredded

1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric

1 preserved lemon

1 x 400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes

2 x 400g (14oz) tins chickpeas or a 660g (1lb 7oz) jar

a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

To Serve

4 tablespoons plain yoghurt of your choice

1 tablespoon harissa

tahini for drizzling

4 flatbreads

Put a little oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and cook over a medium heat for five minutes.

Once the onions have had five minutes, add the garlic, kale stems (leaves go in later), and turmeric to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.

While that happens cut the preserved lemon in half, remove and discard the flesh, then finely chop the peel. Add this to the pan along with the tomatoes and the chickpeas, including the liquid. If you are using jarred chickpeas you might want to add another 150ml (5fl oz) water here, as there will be less liquid than if you are using two tins.

Cook for about ten minutes, until the tomatoes have thickened and reduced. Add the reserved kale leaves and cook for a few minutes until wilted. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed (the jarred chickpeas are usually already well-seasoned, so be sure to taste first). Stir in most of the parsley.

Ripple the yoghurt and harissa together in a bowl and serve with the braise, a drizzle of tahini, the last of the parsley and some warm flatbreads.

Chicken Supper in a Dish with Aioli

Tumble all of the ingredients together in a bowl, season them well and toss them into a roasting tin for an irresistible one-dish supper.

Serves 8 -10

2kg (4 1/2lb) potatoes, such as Home Guard or Vita Bella (organic)

225–275g (8-9 1/2oz) medium onions, sliced into rings

8–10 large organic, free-range chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks

1 large head of garlic, separated into cloves

1–2 tablespoons sweet or smoked paprika (or a mixture of both)

2 tablespoons chopped marjoram

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 organic lemon

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Serve

3–4 large ripe tomatoes

a dash of balsamic vinegar, to taste

a dash of honey or sugar, to taste

3–4 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley

Aioli (see recipe)

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

Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunky wedges. Put them into a large bowl with the sliced onion rings, chicken pieces and garlic cloves and sprinkle over the paprika, marjoram and plenty of salt and pepper. Drizzle generously with the extra virgin olive oil and squeeze over the lemon juice. Toss thoroughly to coat the potatoes and the chicken in the flavourings. Spread in a single layer over a large roasting tray or a large gratin dish, approx. 35 x 40cm (14 x 16 inch).

Roast for 15–20 minutes, then reduce the heat to a moderate 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for a further 45 minutes or until the potatoes are golden and crisp at the edges and the chicken skin, is sticky and irresistible. Check the chicken is cooked close to the bone; it may take a little longer.

Coarsely chop the tomatoes and place them in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper, balsamic vinegar and honey (or sugar). Stir in the parsley. Sprinkle the tomato mixture over the hot chicken just as it comes out of the oven.

Accompany with the aioli and a salad of organic leaves anointed with an extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice dressing.

For the Aioli

2 organic, free-range egg yolks

1–2 garlic cloves

a pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

250ml (9fl oz) oil, such as sunflower, groundnut or olive oil or a mixture (I use 175ml (6fl oz) groundnut oil and 75ml (3fl oz) olive oil)

2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

*Good to know

If the aioli curdles, it will suddenly become quite thin. If this happens you can quite easily remedy the situation by cracking another egg yolk into a clean bowl and whisking in the curdled aioli, half a teaspoon at a time.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the garlic, mustard, salt and vinegar. Pour the oil(s) into a measuring jug. Taking a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other, carefully drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop, whisking at the same time. Within a minute, you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens, you can add the oil a little faster – but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace.* Once all of the oil has been incorporated, beat in the parsley. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar, if necessary.

Baked Plaice, Turbot or Brill with Potatoes, Fennel and Herb Butter

A very simple ‘master recipe’, which can be used not only for plaice, turbot or brill but also for other flat fish, such as dabs, flounder, sole and lemon sole. Depending on the size of the fish, you can serve this recipe as a starter or a main course. It’s also delicious served with hollandaise sauce, mousseline or beurre blanc in place of the herb butter.

Serves 2

450g (1lb) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

175g (6oz) onions, thinly sliced

1/2 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1 x 1–1.75kg (2 1/4 – 3 3/4lbs) fresh plaice, turbot, brill or other flat fish on the bone

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Herb Butter

110g (4oz) softened butter

4 teaspoons finely chopped mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chives, fennel and thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

Toss together the thinly sliced potatoes, onions and fennel in a bowl. Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and spread evenly on an approx. 30 x 50cm (12 x 20 inch) baking tray. Bake for 5 minutes while you prepare the fish.

Turn the fish on its side and remove the head if you wish; I prefer to leave the fish whole. Wash the fish and clean the slit by the head very thoroughly. Using a sharp knife, cut through the skin right around the fish, just where the ‘fringe’ meets the flesh. Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.

Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and lay on top of the partly cooked vegetables. Bake for 17–20 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the fish is cooked. To check if the fish is cooked, lift the flesh from the bone at the head: once it is ready, it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no traces of pink.

To make the herb butter, mix the softened butter in a little bowl with the herbs.

Just before you are about to serve, catch the skin down near the tail of the fish and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if it hasn’t been properly cut). Bring to the table and serve from the dish or lift the two fillets onto a hot plate and coat with the herb butter. Raise the tail and carefully lift the bone off the remainder of the fish. Break at the head and put aside. Carefully lift the remaining two fillets onto the plate. Coat with the herb butter and surround with the potatoes, onions and fennel, which should be deliciously charred at the edges. Serve immediately.

Moroccan Lamb Chops with Tahini and Yoghurt on a roasting tray

Simple, delicious and easy to do.  Swap out the spices with chopped rosemary for another version. 

Serves 8 or 4 very hungry guests.

8 centre loin lamb chops

4 teaspoons roasted and freshly ground cumin or 2 teaspoons roast and freshly ground cumin and 2 teaspoons roast and freshly ground coriander seeds

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1kg (2 1/4lb) potatoes, cut into chunks

500g (18oz) onion, sliced into thick rounds

8 whole garlic cloves

75ml (3fl oz) tahini

75ml (3fl oz) natural yoghurt

25g (1oz) sesame seeds and sunflower seeds

To Serve

sprigs of fresh mint and coriander

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

Dry roast the cumin and coriander separately on a dry pan over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, grind in a pestle and mortar and mix.

Sprinkle each lamb chop on both sides with the spice mix.

Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in the roasting tin on a high heat.  Brown the lamb chops on both sides for 3-4 minutes.  Remove to a plate, add the potato chunks to the pan, adding a little more oil if necessary.  Toss until they start to brown, add to the lamb.  Lay the thick onion slices on the base of the tin in a single layer.  Cook for 1-2 minutes or until they start to brown.  Flip over, add the garlic cloves, then spread the lamb chops and potato chunks on top.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Roast in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the lamb is cooked and the potatoes are browning at the edges.

Drizzle with tahini and yoghurt, sprinkle with the seeds.  Scatter with sprigs of fresh mint and coriander.  Serve accompanied by a green salad.

Apple and Raspberry Traybake with Sweet Geranium Sugar

You’ll find yourself reaching for this recipe over and over again. Here I use apple and raspberries with sweet geranium, but I also love it by substituting blackberries for the raspberries, green gooseberries and elderflower, or plums. I enjoy arranging the raspberries and apples in neat lines, but if you are super busy just sprinkle them over the top of the sponge base.   

Serves 10-12

8–12 lemon geranium leaves (Pelargonium graveolens)

3–4 cooking apples, such as Bramley Seedling or Grenadier

150g (5oz) raspberries

25g (1oz) caster sugar

crème fraîche or softly whipped cream, to serve

For the Sponge Base

225g (8oz) softened butter

175g (6oz) caster sugar

275g (9oz) self-raising flour

4 organic, free-range eggs

Sweet Geranium Sugar

2-4 sweet geranium leaves

50g (2oz) caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3.

Line the base of a 33 x 23 x 5cm (13x 9 x 2 inch) cake tin, or a 25.5cm (10 inch) sauté pan or cast-iron frying pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over the sides. Arrange 6–8 sweet geranium leaves over the base – these give the sponge a haunting lemony flavour.

To make the sponge base, combine the butter, sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Whizz for a second or two, then add the eggs and stop as soon as the mixture comes together. Spoon the mixture over the base of the tin as evenly as possible (over the sweet geranium leaves).

Peel the apples. Cut into thin slices and arrange on top of the sponge in three lines. Arrange a line of raspberries in between each row. Sprinkle 25g (1oz) of caster sugar over the top and bake for about 50 minutes.

Meanwhile make the sweet geranium sugar.

Whizz 2–4 sweet geranium leaves with the caster sugar in a food processor. Spread over a baking tray and set aside at room temperature to dry out.

Once it is fully cooked, the centre of the cake should be firm to the touch and the edges slightly shrunk from the sides of the tin. Serve in the tin, sprinkled with the sweet geranium sugar. Alternatively, leave to rest in the tin for 4–5 minutes before turning out. Serve with crème fraîche or softly whipped cream.

Summer Salads Part 2

It seems that you really loved those Summer Salads in my column of several weeks ago so here as promised are a few more combinations to add to your repertoire.  Pile your salads high and tuck in and enjoy.

For those of us who love to garden and grow some of our own food, this is the most fantastic time of the year.  Problem is, there are scarcely enough meal slots to enjoy all the produce. 

I’m crazy about beetroot – we’ve got a glut of gorgeous tender beets at present, so we’ve been enjoying it in every shape and form, roast, boiled, pickled, made into crisps, and of course in both hot and cold soups.  This Beetroot, Almond and Mint Leaf salad has been getting an enthusiastic response.  If you don’t have pomegranate molasses, buy a bottle whenever you find it but meanwhile, substitute runny honey and lime juice.

Swiss chard is another brilliant vegetable that provides double value for money and keeps on giving…Of course, it’s delicious cooked simply or in a gratin but how about combining it with a tahini dressing, some fat juicy raisins and toasted cashew nuts.  I particularly love it with a sprinkling of paprika and warm flat breads.

Several of our teachers and gardeners go out fishing on these Summer evenings.  We’ve been getting some gorgeous fresh pollock and mackerel and an occasional turbot.  We love to hot-smoke the fish in a biscuit tin over a gas jet – super simple and combine it with the first of the new season’s marsh samphire and some roast red and yellow peppers.  This was a huge hit when Rory O’Connell first served it at a Long Table Dinner in the greenhouses pre-Covid….

If you’d like to make it more substantial, add some cooked and diced, preferably, warm potatoes and serve with a dollop of homemade mayonnaise.  We also love this mackerel niçoise salad – a celebration of Summer in a dish.  Here too is a recipe for bhelpuri, one of my favourite Indian street food combos.  A delicious melange of mango, red onion, spices, chutneys, crunchy puffed rice, sev and peanuts with a tamarind dressing.   

And last but not least for this week, a salad to showcase a few of the white peaches that grow along the south facing wall of the Green dining room here at the cookery school – we are inordinately proud of our home-grown stone fruit, not all of them look picture perfect but even the wonky ones are delicious in salads.  Try this combination but we also love them with blanched French beans and roasted almonds, a sprinkling of chives and a lime dressing, this recipe was inspired by a past student, Thomas Straker – follow him on Instagram: @thomas_straker

He’s got lots of really scrummy ideas in 60 second videos.

Those of you who have my Grow Cook Nourish, book published in 2017 by Kyle Books will find lots of inspiration in there too with 500 recipes to make the most of the Summer harvest from your own garden or the Farmers Market.  This is about all I can squash into this column but there’s so much more…Just one of these salads make a delicious Summer lunch and several can also be served as a starter. 

Enjoy…

Beetroot, Almond and Fresh Mint Leaf Salad

We’re crazy about beetroot and continue to dream up new ways to enjoy them.  This is a particularly delicious combination.  Serve it as a starter or as part of a mezze.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons blanched, unskinned almonds or roasted Marcona almonds

450g (1lb) cooked beetroot (see below)

2 tablespoons shredded mint leaves

2 tablespoons fresh pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate Dressing

1 large pomegranate

1 tablespoon Forum Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar or a good red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

If using blanched almonds, roast them in the oven at 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  Remove and leave to cool, then roughly chop.

Peel and slice the beetroot into wedges. 

To make the pomegranate dressing, cut the pomegranate in half and juice on a citrus juicer. Alternatively, remove the seeds and discard any bitter skin or white pith.  Put the seeds in a nylon sieve and press them with the back of a spoon to extract all the juice, discarding any skin or hard seeds.   Put the juice and the remaining dressing ingredients into a jam jar with a lid, season with salt and pepper and shake well. 

Pour the dressing over the beetroot, then scatter over the almonds, mint and pomegranate seeds.  Mix gently, taste and serve.

How to Cook Beetroot

Leave 5cm (2 inch) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the ‘tail’.  Save the stalks and young leaves.   Hold the beetroot under a running tap and wash off the mud with your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer on the hob or cook in the oven (230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8), for 1-2 hours depending on size. Beetroot are usually cooked if the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger.  If in doubt, test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.

From Grow, Cook, Nourish published by Kyle Books

Warm Smoked Pollock with Roast Peppers and Marsh Samphire

Marsh Samphire is in season from mid to late summer.   Failing that, blanched and refreshed French beans work well.  I also love to use raw or blanched purslane to samphire when in season.  My brother Rory O’Connell first served this at a Long Table Dinner in the greenhouse, where it was a huge hit.

Serves 8 as a starter

450g – 700g (1 – 1 1/2lbs) pollock, skin on

2 red and yellow peppers

110g – 160g (4-5 1/2oz) marsh samphire

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

You don’t need any special equipment to hot-smoke fish – even a biscuit tin will do the job.

Lay the fish fillets flesh-side up on a tray, then sprinkle the unskinned Pollock with salt as though you were seasoning generously.  Leave for at least an hour but not more than 3 hours.  Dry the fillets with kitchen paper, place on a wire rack and leave to dry in a cool, airy place for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F/Gas Mark 9.

Put the peppers on a baking tray and bake for 20-30 minutes until the skin blisters and the flesh is soft.

Alternatively, put a wire rack over a mild gas flame and roast the peppers on all sides. When they are charred, remove.  When roasted, put the peppers into a bowl and cover with an upturned plate for a few minutes – this will make them much easier to peel. Peel, deseed and cut into strips.

To smoke the Pollock, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sawdust (we use apple wood) on the base of a rectangular biscuit tin or smoking box.  Put a wire rack into the tin and lay the fish, flesh-side up on top.  Put the box on a gas flame over a high heat for a minute or so until the sawdust starts to smoulder.  Cover the box with a lid or tightly with tin foil, then reduce the heat and smoke for 6-7 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave to sit, unopened, for 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, put the samphire into a saucepan of boiling water (not salted), return to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until tender.  Drain off the water (refresh in cold water if serving later). Toss the samphire in extra virgin olive but do not add salt because samphire has a natural salty tang.

To serve, divide the smoked pollock into nice flaky pieces, arrange on a serving platter with strips of red and yellow pepper and sprigs of samphire on top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground pepper and a few flakes of sea salt.

Serve with homemade mayonnaise.

From Grow, Cook, Nourish published by Kyle Books

Swiss Chard with Tahini, Yoghurt, Cashew Nuts and Crisps

Chard is such a brilliant vegetable, it’s another brassica that gives double value for money and keeps on giving.  The currants, sultanas or raisins add an appealing sweetness here.  Spinach, plus the stalks, may be substituted in this recipe.

Serves 4

1.3kg (3lbs) Swiss chard

25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra to serve

40g fresh (1 1/2oz) cashew nuts or almonds, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, very thinly sliced

4 tablespoons currants, sultanas or raisins

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

sweet paprika, vegetable or potato crisps to garnish (optional)

flatbread or pitta, to serve

Tahini and Yoghurt

50g (2oz) light ‘untoasted’ tahini paste

50g (2oz) thick natural yoghurt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

a little honey, if necessary

First make the Tahini sauce.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl with 2 tablespoons of water, season with a pinch of salt and whisk until smooth.  Taste and add a little honey, if necessary.  Set aside.

Separate the green chard leaves from the white stalks.  Cut both into 2cm (3/4 inch) wide slices but keep them separate.  Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to the boil, add the chard stalks, simmer for 3-4 minutes, then add the leaves and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and squeeze the chard well until it is completely dry.

Next, put the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat.  Add the nuts and toss them in the pan for about 2 minutes until golden.  Add the garlic and dried fruit and toss until they begin to turn golden.  Return the chard to the pan and toss until warm.  Season to taste. 

Serve the chard with some of the tahini sauce on top.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, scatter with vegetable or potato crisps and a sprinkle of paprika.  Serve with freshly cooked flatbread or pitta.

From Grow, Cook, Nourish published by Kyle Books

Peach, Gorgonzola and Watercress Salad

A gorgeous summer starter salad – made in minutes. A super way to use really ripe peaches. I find the combination of peaches and watercress irresistible. Here, one also has the saltiness of the blue cheese and freshness of the spring onions.

Serves 8

4 ripe peaches or nectarines

2–3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon

juice and a little honey, sprinkled over the peaches to stop them discolouring

small watercress or rocket leaves

225g (8oz) blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola, Crozier or Wicklow Blue

110g (4oz) walnut halves, coarsely chopped

4 scallions or spring onions, thinly sliced

For the dressing

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

6 tablespoons walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

1 teaspoon wildflower honey

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the dressing. Whisk all the ingredients together in a little bowl with a fork. Season to taste.

Choose perfectly ripe peaches or nectarines. Slice in 6–8 pieces and sprinkle with freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey if not serving immediately. Scatter a few watercress sprigs or rocket leaves on each plate, tuck a few peach slices in here and there, crumble some Gorgonzola or other blue cheese over the top. Drizzle a little dressing over the salad, sprinkle some toasted walnuts and thinly sliced

scallions or spring onions over the top. Serve immediately.

From Grow, Cook, Nourish published by Kyle Books

Salade Niçoise

This is the quintessential French salad and makes a wonderful Summer lunch. Some versions include crisp red and green peppers, and some omit the potato for a less-substantial salad.  All the many varieties of green beans can be included.

Serves approx. 8

8 medium new potatoes, such as Pink Fir Apple, cooked but still warm

3–4 ripe tomatoes, quartered

110g (4oz) runner beans, topped and tailed and cut into approx. 5cm (2 inch) lengths, blanched and refreshed

pinch of granulated sugar

1 dessertspoon chopped chives

1 dessertspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 dessertspoon annual marjoram or thyme

1 crisp lettuce (optional)

3 hard-boiled organic eggs, quartered

12 black olives

1 teaspoon capers (optional)

1 x 50g (2oz) can anchovy fillets and/or 2 x 100g (3 1/2oz) cans tuna

8 tiny spring onions

Ballymaloe French Dressing (see recipe)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the new potatoes into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices and toss in some Ballymaloe French dressing while still warm. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss the tomatoes and beans in some more dressing, season with salt, pepper and sugar and sprinkle with some of the chopped herbs. 

Line a shallow bowl with lettuce leaves, if using, and add the potatoes.  Arrange the remaining ingredient appetisingly on top of the potatoes, finishing off with the olives, capers, if using, and chunks of tuna and/or the anchovies. Drizzle some more dressing over the top.  Sprinkle over the remaining herbs and spring onions and serve.

Vegetarian Salade Niçoise

Omit the tuna fish or anchovies and add strips of roasted red and yellow peppers and chargrilled onions.  

Ballymaloe French Dressing

Makes approx. 150ml (5fl oz)

125ml (4 1/2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients into a small bowl or jam jar. Whisk until the dressing has emulsified. Preferably use fresh but it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Whisk to emulsify before using.

From Grow, Cook, Nourish published by Kyle Books

Bhelpuri from Kricket

Every street stall in Mumbai has its own take of bhelpuri but this version comes from Kricket in London – it’s a signature dish on their menu which they can’t take off.

Serves 4

4 tablespoons natural yoghurt

caster sugar to taste

100g (3 1/2oz) store-bought bhelpuri mix

1/2 red onion finely diced

1 green raw mango finely diced

4 tablespoons Coriander Chutney (see recipe)

4 pinches chaat masala

4 tablespoons Tamarind & Date Chutney (see recipe)

80g (3 1/4oz) store-bought sev

a small handful of coriander or finely chopped coriander leaves

For the coriander chutney 

500g (18oz) fresh coriander, stems and leaves

200ml (7fl oz) vegetable oil

a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger root

4 garlic cloves peeled

2 green chillies

6 tablespoons lemon juice

caster sugar to taste

sea salt to taste

For the tamarind and date chutney (Makes 900g)

500g (18oz) tamarind paste

2 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

2 fresh Indian bay leaves

300ml (10fl oz) water

2 tablespoons Kashmiri red chilli powder

4 tablespoons date purée or a handful of fresh dates

200g (7oz) jaggery or caster sugar

Make the coriander chutney. Blitz the coriander in a food-processor with the oil, ginger, garlic and green chillies until it forms a fine paste. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with sugar and salt. Store in sterilised jars in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Make the tamarind and date chutney. Boil all the ingredients in a large heavy-based saucepan over a low heat for about one hour, until well blended and thick. Set aside to cool. If you have used fresh dates, you may need to blitz the chutney in a blender until smooth. Once cool, store in sterilised jars in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Beat the yoghurt in a bowl and sweeten to taste with sugar. Set aside until ready to serve.

Put the bhelpuri mix in a bowl, add the onion and mango, along with the coriander chutney and chaat masala. Mix well.

Spoon the mixture into mounds on four serving plates, then generously spoon over the yoghurt and tamarind and date chutney, leaving some yoghurt visible. Sprinkle the sev, and top with the fresh coriander. Serve immediately as it will become soggy very quickly.

From Kricket: An Indian Inspired Cookbook by Hugh Johnson published by Hardie Grant

Flavours of Greece

Recipes
  1. Chicken Avgolemono Soup
  2. Mani Pork Souvlaki (Kebabs)
  3. Tsatsiki (Yogurt and Cucumber Salad) Variations of this crisp refreshing salad are popular throughout an area stretching from northern India to the Balkans and Greece. In the Greek version, large amounts of garlic and flat leaf parsley are used or, better still, fresh mint which gives a light fragrant flavour. Serve tsatsiki as soon as possible after preparing or it will become watery. Serves 4 1 large cucumber, peeled 1/2 tablespoon sea salt, or more to taste 300ml (10fl oz) yogurt 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice freshly ground white pepper to taste 2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped (to taste) 5 tablespoons fresh mint leaves or coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley or 2 tablespoons dried mint, crushed Using a knife, food-processor or mandoline, slice the cucumber into julienne (matchsticks). Sprinkle with salt and set aside in a colander for 1 hour to drain. Combine the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and garlic in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Just before serving, beat the yogurt sauce with a wooden spoon until smooth. Tear the mint leaves into small pieces. Dry the cucumber by gently squeezing it between paper towels, don’t worry if the cucumber bruises – it is more important to avoid a watery salad. Combine with the yogurt mixture and mint, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
  4. Grilled Kephtedes (Spicy Beef and Lamb Patties)
  5. Peppered Dried Figs
  6. Fragrant Apricot Ice Cream

Just longing to jump on a plane and spend a few days in Greece or puttering around the Aeolian Islands. Imagine those clear skies and azure blue seas and little tavernas by the seas with spanking fresh grilled fish, sizzling saganaki, a freshly chopped Greek Salad – gorgeous sunny Summer food. I’ve never been to Greece in Winter but I also love those rich bean soups, lamb and beef stifados, and an occasional pork or wild boar and butter bean stew….

Closest, I’ll come to that in the near future is a trip down memory lane with Rosemary Barron’s ‘Flavours of Greece’, originally published in 1991 but it has never gone out of print and has recently been republished by Grub Street.
Many books have been written on Greek food since then but Rosemary’s book is still considered to be the most authentic and authoritative collection of Greek recipes.
In the 1980’s, Rosemary owned a cooking school in a 450 year old village house on the island of Crete, the first of its kind in Greece and described by Vogue as one of the best cooking schools in Europe.
Her recent courses on Santorini explore the foods and flavours of Greek antiquity – contact her at rosemary.barron@googlemail.com 

Greek Summer dishes are just the sort of food I am loving at present. A selection of mezze to set taste buds tingling.

Mezze can be a simple or an elaborate selection, so easy to put together – 5 to 25 dishes…marinated Kalamata olives, chunks of feta or kefalotiri cheese, radishes, toasted salted almonds, taramasalata, hummus, broad beans, aubergine in many guises, spanakopittas (little filo pastry pies) stuffed with meat, vegetables or cheese, peppered figs, dolma wrapped in grape leaves, octopus, smoked eel, tiny fried fish….serve with lots of pitta or flat bread and a glass of crisp Greek wine. I’m also dreaming of Avgolemono – a delicate and comforting chicken and rice soup, light and refreshing for Summer evenings.  I can virtually smell Souvlaki – chunks of pork marinated with juniper and coriander, a dash of red wine and lots of garlic and oregano charring over the charcoal… 
Grilled Kephtedes (spicy beef and lamb patties) are also irresistible with a dollop of Tsatsiki and of course a Greek Salad – chunks of sweet ripe tomato, cucumber and spring onion dressed with gutsy Greek olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and lots of 

Follow with a platter of deliciously ripe fresh Summer fruit and berries on a bed of fig or grape leaves served with some Mizithra cheese and Hymettus honey – divine.

Simple as it sounds, it can be very difficult to reproduce here in Ireland when it’s so difficult to find ripe figs and stone fruit in Summer but a platter of ripe fresh local berries would be sublime if you can find them. Watch out, despite what you might think, Driscoll’s fruit doesn’t come from Skibbereen, it comes all the way from a humongous farm in California!  Try to find Irish Summer berries….

Chicken Avgolemono Soup

A traditional favourite in Greek homes and tavernas, avgolemono soup has its origins back in antiquity. It’s a most delicious and refreshing soup – light, nourishing and elegant enough to serve at a dinner party. My version is based on a rich chicken stock enhanced with saffron, which gives a delicate but distinctive flavour. The addition of rice makes a more substantial soup.

Serves 6-8

1.6 litres (2 3/4 pints) rich chicken stock
50g (2oz) short-grain rice (optional)
4 eggs, separated
juice of 2 large lemons
sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

For serving
2 tablespoons finely-chopped flat leaf parsley

Bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan. (If using rice, add to the stock, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked).

Five minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl with a wire whisk or electric mixer until stiff. Whisk in the egg yolks, add the lemon juice and whisk for 1 extra minute. Hold a ladleful of the hot soup broth about 30xm (12 inches) above the bowl and slowly add it to the eggs and lemon juice, whisking constantly. (This trick helps prevent curdling the egg mixture, because by the time the broth reaches the bowl, it is hot but not boiling). Off the heat, whisk the egg and lemon juice sauce into the soup. Do not return the soup to the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with the parsley and serve at once.

Darina’s Tip: Once the egg and lemon juice is added, the soup must not be reboiled otherwise it will curdle.

From ‘Flavours of Greece’ by Rosemary Barron published by Grub Street

Mani Pork Souvlaki (Kebabs)

Serves 6

During the period when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire the Muslim occupation naturally discouraged the eating of pork. This did not, however, deter them, rebellious inhabitants of the isolated and mountainous Mani region at the southern tip of the Peloponnese, who continued to raise pigs throughout the centuries of occupation and developed a long tradition of pork cookery. This is a simple and easy-to-prepare dish but, what it lacks in sophistication, it more than makes up for it in flavour. The meat is marinated in a blend of coriander, juniper berries and mustard, grilled with perfumed bay leaves and garnished with fresh coriander.

1.2kg (2 1/2lbs) boneless lean pork from the tenderloin or leg
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
6 juniper berries
3 tablespoons aged red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
115ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
18 bay leaves, each broken in half
1 tablespoon honey
cracked black pepper and coarse-grain sea salt to taste

For serving
coarsely chopped fresh coriander or watercress or purslane sprigs
lemon wedges

Tsatsiki (see recipe)

Cut the meat into 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes and trim off any fat and sinew. Pound the coriander seeds and juniper berries in a small mortar until crushed and well mixed. Combine with the vinegar and mustard in a small bowl, and whisk in the olive oil. Combine the meat and marinade in a non-reactive bowl, mix together with your hands and cover. Set aside for 2-3 hours.

Prepare the fire (barbecue).

Remove the meat from the marinade and thread alternatively with the bay leaves onto 6 skewers. Whisk the honey into the marinade and baste the meat liberally with this sauce, then sprinkle it with pepper.

Set a grill rack 10cm (4 inches) above the hot coals and lightly brush with olive oil. Grill the souvlakia until lightly browned on all sides, then raise the grill 5cm (2 inches). Grill 10-15 minutes longer, basting frequently or until the souvlakia are cooked.

Arrange on a warm platter, sprinkle with salt, pepper, fresh coriander and surround with the lemon wedges.

Tsatsiki (Yogurt and Cucumber Salad)

Variations of this crisp refreshing salad are popular throughout an area stretching from northern India to the Balkans and Greece. In the Greek version, large amounts of garlic and flat leaf parsley are used or, better still, fresh mint which gives a light fragrant flavour. Serve tsatsiki as soon as possible after preparing or it will become watery.

Serves 4

1 large cucumber, peeled
1/2 tablespoon sea salt, or more to taste
300ml (10fl oz) yogurt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
freshly ground white pepper to taste
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped (to taste)
5 tablespoons fresh mint leaves or coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley or 2 tablespoons dried mint, crushed

Using a knife, food-processor or mandoline, slice the cucumber into julienne (matchsticks). Sprinkle with salt and set aside in a colander for 1 hour to drain.

Combine the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and garlic in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Just before serving, beat the yogurt sauce with a wooden spoon until smooth. Tear the mint leaves into small pieces. Dry the cucumber by gently squeezing it between paper towels, don’t worry if the cucumber bruises – it is more important to avoid a watery salad. Combine with the yogurt mixture and mint, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

From ‘Flavours of Greece’ by Rosemary Barron published by Grub Street

Grilled Kephtedes (Spicy Beef and Lamb Patties)

Spicy beef and lamb patties are a traditional centrepiece for many outdoor parties and village gatherings.  These grilled kephtedes are highly flavoured but simple food, usually served mounded on a platter with an array of colourful garnishes for an eye-catching presentation.  They are good with aubergine dishes, tsatsiki and fried potatoes.

Serves 6

350g (12oz) lean beef, finely minced

350g (12oz) lean lamb, finely minced

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley  

2 tablespoons dried oregano (rigani), briefly pounded in a small mortar

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

75g (3oz) fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon mustard seeds or 1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard

4 tablespoons dry red wine or 2 tablespoons aged red wine vinegar

coarse grain sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil

For serving

2 small red or mild onions, quartered and thinly sliced

1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves coarsely chopped

3 ripe tomatoes, skinned and cut into small dice

1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into small dice

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon sumac or 1 teaspoon paprika and a large pinch of cayenne pepper

watercress sprigs

lemon wedges

Combine the beef, lamb, onion, parsley, oregano (rigani), thyme and breadcrumbs in a large bowl.  Heat the mustard seeds in a small dry frying pan over a low heat until a few pop.  Pulverise them in a mortar or spice grinder.  Mix this powder with the wine and add to the meat, along with salt and pepper.  Knead the mixture for a few minutes, tightly cover, and refrigerate for 1-4 hours. 

Prepare the fire (barbeque).

Moisten your hands with cold water and shape the meat mixture into 12 balls, flattening each one into a 2cm (3/4 inch) thick patty.

Oil a grill rack and place it 10-12cm (4-5 inches) above the hot coals.  Grill the kephtedes, basting frequently with olive oil, for about 8 minutes, until browned and crusty on both sides but still moist and pink in the centre. 

Combine the onion, parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, lemon juice, sumac and salt and pepper to taste and spread this mixture over a platter.  Arrange the kephtedes on top, sprinkle with olive oil to taste and surround with the watercress and lemon wedges.

Note: Sumac, available from Greek and Middle Eastern shops, is the pulverised berry of a piquant herb.   It has a coarse texture, pleasantly tangy acid flavour and a deep auburn colour. 

From ‘Flavours of Greece’ by Rosemary Barron published by Grub Street

Peppered Dried Figs

If possible, use fleshy, juicy organic figs imported from southern Greece for this simple meze and prepare three days ahead for the richest flavour.

24 good-quality, moist dried figs

4 tablespoons cracked black pepper

12-18 bay leaves

Trim the fig stems.  Gently roll each fig in the pepper to lightly coat.

Cover the bottom of a glass jar with a few of the bay leaves or make an overlapping circle of leaves on 2 layers of parchment paper.  Then make alternate layers of fig and bay leaves, finishing with a layer of leaves.  Gently press down on the leaves with the palm of your hand, then tightly cover the jar or pull the edges of the parchment together into an airtight packet.  Store at room temperature for up to 1 month. 

Serve the figs on a bed of bay leaves.

From ‘Flavours of Greece’ by Rosemary Barron published by Grub Street

Fragrant Apricot Ice Cream

Apricots, said to originate in China, are thought to have been brought to Greece by Phoenicians.  In those days they were probably made into creams and sweetmeats, but modern Greeks are more likely to use this ancient flavour in ice creams.  Make this rich ice-cream in early Summer when apricots are ripe and sweet.  Serve it prettily garnished with toasted almonds and small colourful flowers and accompanied by glasses of sweet Samos liqueur.

Serves 6

900g (2lbs) fresh apricots

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

150g (5oz) aromatic honey (such as Hymettus) or to taste

3 eggs, separated

175ml (6fl oz) double cream

2 tablespoons Samos liqueur or apricot ratafia (optional)

For serving

toasted slivered almonds

a few citrus blossoms or borage flowers or other fragrant, decorative flowers

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil.  Drop the apricots into the boiling water, remove the saucepan from the heat, count to 3, then carefully remove the apricots with a slotted spoon.  Peel with a small paring knife, cut each in half and discard the pits.  If they are not quite ripe, bring about 115ml (4fl oz) of water to the boil in a heavy saucepan, add the apricots and simmer for 5 minutes.  Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.  Process the apricots until smooth in a food-processor.  Add the vanilla and most of the honey.  Add the remaining honey to taste and add some of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary to produce a mixture of consistency of double cream.

Place 225ml (8fl oz) of this purée in a non-reactive bowl, tightly cover and refrigerate.  Whisk the egg yolks until thick and pale and gradually add the remaining purée, whisking constantly.  Transfer to a small heavy saucepan.  Heat over a low heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to lightly coat the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes.  Immediately transfer to a bowl.  Let cool. 

Whisk the double cream until slightly thickened and lightly whisk in the cooled custard.  Transfer to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  When the mixture is almost frozen, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks, fold into the custard and freeze until firm.

Add the liqueur to the reserved purée.  Stir in the honey to taste if desired and add some of the reserved juice or water if necessary to give a pouring consistency.

To serve, spoon the sauce onto chilled plates, place small scoops of ice cream in the centre of the sauce, and sprinkle with the toasted almonds and blossoms.  Serve immediately. 

Note:  You can also freeze this ice cream in the freezer.  Pour the cooled custard into stainless-steel pans and freeze, stirring occasionally, until almost firm.  Whisk the egg whites until they hold firm peaks and fold them into the custard until thoroughly combined.  Freeze until firm. 

From ‘Flavours of Greece’ by Rosemary Barron published by Grub Street

Marjoram

There seems to be considerable confusion between marjoram and oregano.  There are several different forms Common marjoram is a perennial, it re-emerges every year, but annual marjoram has an infinitely superior flavour and is closest to the Greek oregano.  (see photograph).   Annual marjoram, also known as knotty marjoram is closest in flavour to the Greek oregano. 

Summer Salads

Lots of requests for Summer salads so this week I am going to write a short blurb for a change and include the maximum number of gorgeous Summer salads in my column.

But first a few tips…

Delicious as they are, let’s throw out our preconceived notions of traditional salads, and get wildly creative with both dressings and flavour combinations…..

Choose beautiful greens, not just a bag of mixed salad leaves. Seek out crunchy heads of Little Gem, speckled Castelfranco, bitter red chicory, Endive and Radicchio, peppery watercress sprigs, dandelion leaves, pea shoots, crunchy little romanesco florets….

Add lots of soft fresh herbs….  mint, chervil, coriander, basil, tarragon, can’t you just taste the combination.

Kale and Hispi or Savoy cabbage are transformed when sprinkled with flaky sea salt then given a good massage until they are soft and silky. 

Ramp up your dressings….

The classic formula of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid seems so samey…..

To add extra zizz, try a perkier 2 parts oil to 1 part acid, could be wine, cider, sherry or champagne vinegar or freshly squeezed citrus juice…

But let’s get extra adventurous… how about…

Natural yoghurt, lime and harissa….

Grape seed oil, rice vinegar, miso and grated ginger….

Mayonnaise, rice wine vinegar, garlic and gochujang…..

Extra virgin olive oil, cider vinegar and maple syrup…..

Roasting or grilling transforms vegetables like carrots, radishes, broccoli, cabbage or romanesco florets. Be bold, use a high heat for maximum caramelisation and sweetness.

Raddichio, chicory, kale and Romaine are also brilliant grilled. 

Some pickled vegetables – chillies, cucumbers, red onions, grapes, radishes, rhubarb really add extra oomph to a salad.

Think about texture as well as flavour. Add crunchy corn or potato chips, crispy fried onions or shallots or slivered garlic. 

Toasted walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashew nuts or roasted nuts are always a pleasing addition…

Crispy pork scratchings, garlic croutons or chunks of nut brittle can also be a delicious surprise. 

Shaved radishes, scallions, fennel, kohl rabi or beets submerged in cold water with lots of ice will crisp deliciously and can be done several hours ahead.  Add a dice of membrillo for extra sweetness and a little unexpected pop of flavour. 

Slivered chilli, salted anchovies or sardines or grated horseradish or burratta are also brilliant flavour enhancers.

Where to stop…really, the world’s your oyster so throw caution to the wind.  I also love to occasionally finish a salad with a little grating of lemon zest…..

Oaxacan Black Bean Salad with Corn, Avocado and Lime Vinaigrette

We love this perky Mexican salad and make it throughout the year with either fresh or tinned corn.

Serves 6-8

2 x 400g (14oz) tins black beans, rinsed and drained

or 450g (1lb) black beans, soaked overnight and cooked (see recipe)

175-225g (6-8oz) cooked fresh corn or corn niblets

2 red peppers, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated

2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

125g (4 1/2oz) chopped fresh coriander, plus more for garnish

2 ripe but firm avocados, diced (preferably Hass)

Dressing

9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon lime zest

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons sugar

To Serve

tortilla chips

Put the black beans, sweet corn, red pepper, garlic and shallots into a bowl.  Sprinkle the salt and cayenne and chopped coriander evenly over the surface.  Toss gently to combine. 

Mix the extra virgin olive oil with the lime zest and juice.   Add the sugar and whisk to emulsify.  Pour over the salad and toss.  Taste and correct the seasoning and add a little more sugar if necessary to balance the lime.

Just before serving, add the avocado dice, mix gently, being careful not to mash the avocados. Garnish with some more roughly chopped coriander.  Just before serving, fold some tortilla chips gently through the salad or serve as a side.  Serve at room temperature. 

How to cook black beans.

Soak the beans in plenty of cold water overnight. Next day cover with fresh water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes approx. or until just cooked.  Cook more than you need and freeze the remainder for another time.

How to Cook Sweetcorn

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add salt.  Peel the ears of corn, trim both ends, drop into the water.  Cover the saucepan and bring back to the boil, cook for just 3 minutes.

Watercress or Rocket Salad with Manchego, Membrillo and Marcona Almonds

Another gorgeous combination…. the peppery watercress contrasts deliciously with the mild Manchego, crunchy almonds and sweet musky membrillo…

Serves 6

3 fistfuls of watercress or rocket leaves

150-175g (5-6oz) Manchego, diced and slivered

150g (5oz) membrillo, diced

110 (4oz) Marcona almonds, toasted at 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 for 8-10 minutes and slivered lengthwise

Dressing

2 tablespoons, white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 clove of garlic, grated

1 teaspoon runny honey

Whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing.

Put the watercress or rocket into a bowl, drizzle with the dressing, toss lightly with your fingers until each leaf glistens with a light coating of dressing.  Add the cubes of cheese, toss gently and pile onto a shallow plate.  Sprinkle with membrillo, a few shavings of Manchego and toasted, slivered almonds.

Enjoy immediately.

Shaved Summer Roots Salad in an ice bath…

Serves 6

700g (1 1/2lbs) shaved vegetables – multi-coloured radishes, fennel, kohl rabi, white turnip, small crisp cucumber

110g (4oz) of walnuts or 150g (5oz) pistachio nuts

1 tin of anchovy fillets (8-9 fillets)

2 large garlic cloves

flaky sea salt

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

50 (2oz) Parmesan

freshly ground black pepper

chive and marigold petals if available

Slice the vegetables as thinly as possible on a mandolin.  Put into a bowl of iced water.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. 

Roast the walnuts or pistachios until deep golden brown (8-10 minutes), shaking the tray occasionally.  Allow to cool and chop or crush coarsely.

Next, make the dressing

Mash the anchovies, add the garlic and pound in a pestle and mortar.  Transfer to a small pan.  Drizzle in the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat until the garlic looks toasty, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice, walnuts or pistachios. Taste, transfer to a jar.

Just before serving, drain the crisp vegetables really well.  Dry in a salad spinner.  Transfer to a bowl, add the dressing and half the freshly grated Parmesan.  Toss, taste and correct the seasoning.  Pile

onto a platter….

Sprinkle with the remainder of the Parmesan and scatter with chive and marigold petals if available. 

Roast Carrots with Labneh, Pistachio and Watercress

This salad is a game changer, inspired by a dish I enjoyed during my last visit to New York…

Serves 6

600g (1 1/4lbs) whole young carrots

4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

a generous tablespoon of honey

1 teaspoon cumin, roasted and coarsely ground

1 teaspoon coriander, roasted and coarsely ground

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1-2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper

75-175g (3-6oz) Labneh (see recipe)

watercress or rocket leaves

50-75g (2-3oz) pistachio nuts, very coarsely chopped

sea salt flakes

extra virgin olive oil

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

Scrub the carrots, dry, split in half lengthwise, if too big.  Put into a large bowl.  Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and honey.   Mix the roast and coarsely ground cumin and coriander together.  Sprinkle over the carrots.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss gently to coat evenly.  

Spread out in a roasting tin.   As soon as you put the trays into the oven reduce the heat to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Roast for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until the carrots are almost tender and caramelised at the ends and edges.

Remove from the oven.  Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper and toss.

To Serve

Put a few watercress springs on a plate.  Top with 3-5 pieces of roast carrot.  Add a few blobs of labneh and scatter with a sprinkling of coarse pistachio nuts, a few flakes of sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Serve soon, best when the carrots are still slightly warm. 

Soft Yoghurt Cheese – Labneh

This thick, creamy, soft cheese from the Middle East is so easy to make and so wonderfully smooth that your friends will be mightily impressed if you produce it for a dinner party. This is an old recipe. I believe that dairy items like these were once made everywhere in Europe and elsewhere over many centuries and then forgotten at some stage, probably during industrialisation, so I have borrowed from those places where the traditions survived. Labneh is a real treat and an easy way to dabble in cheesemaking. It is also much-loved by children and is a good way for you to pass on your knowledge of old skills to them. It can be used for sweet or savoury dishes.

Use whole-milk yogurt for a creamier cheese – this can be made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk. You can also use commercial yogurt.

Makes 500g (18oz) labneh approx.

1kg (2 1/4lb) natural yoghurt

Line a strainer with a double thickness of sterilised cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl. Pour in the yogurt. Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth to make a loose bundle and suspend this bag of yogurt over a bowl. Leave it in a cool place to drip into the bowl for 8 hours. Then remove the cheesecloth and put the labneh in a bowl. Refrigerate overnight, and store until needed in a covered glass or plastic container. The liquid whey that has drained off can be fed to pigs or hens.

Note

The labneh should be like softly whipped cream.  If thicker, simply stir back in some whey. 

Pan-grilled Summer Steak Salad

This salad always gets a brilliant reaction – everyone loves it. Omit the steak for a meat free version.

700-900g (1 1/2 – 2lbs) sirloin or fillet steak (at least 4.5cm/1 3/4 inch thick)

1 red onion pickled (see below)

8-10 sweet ripe cherry tomatoes

2 firm but ripe avocados

1 Romaine or 3 Little Gem lettuces

extra virgin olive oil

rocket and watercress sprigs

12 scallions or spring onions

110-175g (4-6oz) mild blue cheese (Gorgonzola, Crozier Blue or St. Agur)

Caesar Dressing (see recipe)

Season the steak generously on both sides with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for at least an hour. Make the pickle red onions as per the recipe below.

Cut the Romaine into sixths lengthwise or the Little Gem into quarters. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half around the equator. Season with salt, pepper, sugar, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Make the Caesar dressing (see recipe).

Preheat a BBQ or a pan-grill on a high heat. Pat the steak dry with kitchen paper. Drizzle the steak with extra virgin olive oil. Sear the meat well on both sides and along the fat. Reduce the temperature and cook until medium rare. Transfer to a plate and allow to rest while you sear the Romaine or Little Gem on all sides. Clean the grill first, then drizzle the salad with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Sear the lettuce chunks on a high heat until nicely charred on all sides. Transfer to a serving plate. Scatter with rocket and watercress sprigs.

Toss the spring onions in a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and sear on the heat. 

Cut the steak into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices across the grain. Scatter over the salad with the tomatoes, pickled red onions, avocado wedges, and crumbled blue cheese. Finely chop with charred spring onions and scatter over the salad along with some flaky sea salt and a few grinds of freshly cracked pepper. Serve with Caesar dressing and tuck in immediately while the steak is still warm.

Pickled Red Onions

450g (1lb) red onions, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin

225ml (8fl oz) white vinegar

110g (4oz) sugar

pinch of salt

3 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick, broken

1 dried red chilli

Bring the white vinegar and sugar to a simmer with a pinch of salt and 3 whole cloves, broken cinnamon bits, dried chili, etc. Add the onions to the simmering liquid one-third at a time. As soon as the onions are pink and wilted, lift them out into a clean jam jar. Continue until all onions have been wilted. Cover the onions in jars with the brine. The onions should be pink and crunchy. Store in the fridge when cool.

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 x 50g (2oz) tin anchovies

1 clove garlic, crushed

a generous pinch of English mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil

50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

50ml (2fl oz) cold water

You can make the dressing in a food-processor, but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together.  As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

Note: The remaining dressing will keep covered in a fridge for several days.

World Microbiome Day

Celebrate World Microbiome Day on June 27th.
In our crazy world, many of us know far more about the lives of celebrities than we do about the source of the food we and our families eat.  Nonetheless, we have become increasingly paranoid, can’t eat this, can’t eat that…meanwhile in supermarkets, free-from and supplement aisles are gaining more space…

For the past year and a half, we’ve lived in a climate of fear. Covid-19 has made us even more paranoid about bacteria, microbes, viruses….
We sanitize from morning until night, carry little phials in our handbags and worry endlessly that there are bacteria waiting to pounce everywhere we go…Scientists and microbiologists are becoming ever more concerned. In our sanitizing frenzy, we have also eliminated many beneficial bacteria that help to protect us. Consequently, the pathogenic bacteria are becoming stronger and stronger because nature always triumphs in the end

Humans have co-evolved with microbes, bacteria, virus, fungi, archaea…since time began.  They are everywhere, on plants and animals, in water, soil, food and all over us humans.  Most are beneficial, a few are pathogenic.  They are also in the soils and oceans of the world, on every surface, there are trillions on the human body, on our skins in our mouths and 90-95% reside in our gut microbiome.   In Ayurvedic and Chinese healing traditions, the dialogue between the gut and the brain has long been recognised, however Western medicine failed until relatively recently to appreciate the complexity of how the brain, gut and microbiome communicate with each other.

Scientific study of the gut microbiome is relatively new.  A growing body of research worldwide, with much done in UCC in Cork, has proved beyond any doubt that the biodiversity of our gut microbiome, has a profound impact not just our physical but also on our mental health.

The invisible world of microbes is a fascinating one, filled with untapped potential, microbiologists say that much has still to be understood. 

But here’s a taste of what they’ve discovered so far:  

  • Marine microbes produce most of the oxygen we breathe and can absorb as much carbon dioxide as plants do on land.
  • Microbes in the soil fix nitrogen – changing it from a gas in the atmosphere to a form in the soil that plants can use to grow.
  • Some microbes even have the capacity to break down methane gas, helping to slow climate change.
  • In our homes, composting microbes help us recycle our green waste (plants, vegetables, fruits) and recover nutrients to enrich the soil in our gardens.
  • Up to a third of the food we consume is produced by microbes. We can use microbes to extend the shelf-life of our foods and prevent food waste by fermenting foods at home.
  • At a larger scale, microbes can contribute to the circular economy by converting waste (e.g. food production waste) into fuel and thus provide new and sustainable opportunities for the food and feed production.

But in this article, I will concentrate on how to boost our personal gut microbiome.  World Microbiome Day 2021 focuses on the potential of microbiomes for a sustainable future.  It’s all about biodiversity, the greater the variety of fresh organic food we eat, the more healthy and diverse our gut microbiome becomes.  Once again, it’s not rocket science, gut microbes love real food.  They are totally confused by fake food so let’s cut ultra-processed food totally from your diet and concentrate on sourcing as much seasonal produce as possible with lots of fresh vegetables for roughage.  Nature provides what we need year-round.  Let’s learn how to recognise beneficial and edible food in the wild, incorporate them into our diets.  They carry the antibodies of our area and have maximum nutrients because unlike many other foods they have not been manipulated to produce maximum yield at minimum cost, which is sadly the primary focus in mass food production these days to the detriment of our overall health.  

Biodiversity is the key, eat as wide a range of seasonal and chemical free range of foods as possible.  So, concentrate on boosting your gut-biome.  Local honey, local pastured eggs from organic free-range hens, local organic meat from free-ranging grass fed animals and organic raw milk also boost our microbiome. Fermented foods are another must have, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, water and milk kefir. Try to make your own, they’ll be infinity more complex than most of what you can buy.  Thick unctuous yogurt preferably made from organic milk and collagen rich home-made home broths.  In fact, all real food will stimulate and delight the almost 2kg of microbes in our gut and you’ll feel the better for it both mentally and physically. Keep washing your hands but be careful of over sanitizing, you may well be doing more harm than good.

For World Microbiome Day on June 27th, APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre is hosting Microbiome Friendly Brunch Demonstration – Darina Allen in conversation with John Leech, an APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre, PhD student based in Teagasc Food Research and research officer with MASTER.

This very special online cookery demonstration will cover the following dishes – Water Kefir and Milk Kefir, Yoghurt- Labneh, Honey, Almonds, Porridge, Shakshuka with Sourdough, Granola and Pan Grilled Mackerel Miso. The cookery demonstration will commence at 11am on World Microbiome Day and be available on demand thereafter.

Darina and John will discuss how the various ingredients benefit the microbiome as the cookery demonstration progresses. They will also discuss sustainability – the theme for World Microbiome Day 2021 – and a cause which is high on the agenda for Darina Allen and Ballymaloe Cookery School.


Visit www.apc.ucc.ie for more information, a recipe booklet and a link to book your free tickets via Eventbrite

Ballymaloe Cookery School Homemade Yoghurt

It’s really easy to make your own yoghurt, the end result will depend on the quality of the milk.  We make our natural yoghurt from the rich milk of our small Jersey herd.  First it is boiled, pasteurized and then allowed to cool to lukewarm.  This destroys any unwanted bacteria in the milk which could interfere with the bacterial action of the yoghurt bacillus.

600ml (1 pint) fresh milk

2-3 teaspoons live yoghurt or natural bacillus

Heat the milk to 90°C (194°F) in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Allow to cool to 42°C (107.6°F).  Gently stir or whisk in the yogurt. Leave in the saucepan or pour into a deep terracotta bowl or a wide mouth flask works brilliantly.  Cover and put into a warm draught-free place until set.  This usually takes about 14 hours.  The cooler the temperature, the longer the yogurt will take to set, but too high a temperature will kill the bacillus and the yogurt will not form (over 50°C/122°F).

The simple aim is to provide steady even warmth to allow the bacillus to grow.  Remember to keep back 2 tablespoons of yoghurt as the starter of the next lot.

Yoghurt with Honey, Dates and Almonds

unsweetened natural yoghurt, very cold

runny honey

Medjool dates

thick cream

almonds (with the inner brown skin left on i.e unblanched)

  1. For each person half-fill a pudding bowl or glass with yoghurt.
  2. Stone dates and chop them roughly.  Put a few on the top of each helping of yogurt.
  3. Spoon a good dollop of thick cream over the top, then trickle over 1 teaspoon of runny honey.
  4. Scatter a few more coarsely chopped almonds on top.  Pistachio nuts are also delicious and perhaps a few shredded mint leaves.

Penny Allen’s Milk and Honey Kefir

Milk kefir is a probiotic drink a bit like a slightly effervescent yoghurt.

It is made with kefir grains and milk. The grains can be used again and again and will multiply if well looked after. The grains are not related to cereal grains and neither are they related to water kefir grains. The grains are a bio-matrix made by yeasts and bacteria. There are many ways to enjoy kefir. It can be added to smoothies, used as you would buttermilk, great as a marinade to tenderise meat or add spices to make lassi.

Basic Recipe

1 tablespoon milk kefir grains

250ml (9fl oz) milk

honey to taste, vanilla or spices

Put your grains into a glass jar.

Add the milk and stir gently with a non-metal spoon.

Cover the jar with a clean cloth and put somewhere out of direct sunlight.

Let it sit for 12-24 hours until it reaches the desired sourness.  Stir from time to time. This helps it to ferment evenly. Taste it after 12 hours.

When the kefir has reached the desirable taste, strain the kefir through a plastic sieve into a bowl. You might need to help it through with a plastic spoon. You will be left with the kefir grains in the sieve, ready to be reused. Don’t be tempted to wash them.

You can now make the basic recipe again. As the grains multiply you can make larger batches.

To the strained kefir you can now add something like honey, a vanilla pod or spices to add flavour.

If you want to take a break from brewing kefir just put the grains into a fresh cup of milk and put it in the fridge. This will slow down fermentation for a few days.

Penny Allen’s Basic Sauerkraut

At its basic sauerkraut is chopped or shredded cabbage that is salted and fermented in its own juice.  A preservation method that has existed in one form or another for thousands of years and sailors have carried it on ships to ward off scurvy because of its high Vitamin C content. 

800g (1 3/4lb) of cabbage

Or

500g (18oz) of cabbage plus

300g (10oz) of mixture of any of the following: grated carrot, turnip, celeriac, onion

3 level teaspoons sea salt

1 x 1 litre Kilner jar or similar receptacle

1 x small jam jar to act as a weight inside the lid of the 1 litre jar

Wash the cabbage if it’s muddy. Take off any damaged outside leaves. Quarter the cabbage, core it and then finely shred each quarter.

Mix the cabbage and the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Using your hands, scrunch cabbage and other vegetables with the salt until you begin to feel the juices being released.  Continue for a few minutes. Pack a little at a time you’re your Kilner jar and press down hard using your fist – this packs the kraut tight and helps force more water out of the vegetables.  Fill the Jar about 80% full to leave room for liquid that will come out of the vegetables as it starts to ferment.

Place a clean weight on top of cabbage (a small jar or container filled with water works well).  This weight is to keep the vegetables submerged under the brine. This is the most important thing to get your ferment off to the right start. (Under the brine, all will be fine!)

Sit the jar on a plate just in case some brine escapes while it is fermenting. Place on a countertop and allow to ferment for at least 5 days. Ideally leave it for 10 days to 2 weeks.  As you eat the kraut make sure the remainder is well covered in brine by pushing the vegetables under the brine and sealing well.  It will keep for months, the flavour develops and matures over time. Once you have opened it, it’s best to keep it in the fridge where it will last for months.

Chicken Stock and Broth

This recipe is just a guideline. If you have just one carcass and can’t be bothered to make a small quantity of stock, why not freeze the carcass and save it up until you have six or seven carcasses and giblets, then you can make a really good-sized pot of stock and get the best value for your fuel.

Stock will keep for several days in the refrigerator. If you want to keep it for longer, boil it up again for 5–6 minutes every couple of days; allow it to get cold and refrigerate again. Stock also freezes perfectly. For cheap containers, use large yogurt cartons or plastic milk bottles, then you can cut them away from the frozen stock without a conscience if you need to defrost it in a hurry!

Makes about 3.5 litres (6 pints)

2–3 raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both giblets from the chicken (neck, heart, gizzard – save the liver for a different dish)

1 onion, sliced

1 leek, split in two

2 outside celery stalks or 2 lovage leaves

1 carrot, cut into chunks

a few parsley stalks

sprig of thyme

6 peppercorns

Chop up the carcasses as much as possible. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with about 3.4 litres (7 pints) cold water. Bring to the boil. Skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon. Simmer very gently for 3–4 hours. Strain and remove any remaining fat. Do not add salt.

Broth

Continue to cook for a further hour or so.

Add a tablespoon of wine vinegar which helps to extract even more minerals and helps to breakdown the cartilage and other connective tissues in the bones of the chicken, which helps speed up the formation of gelatine in the stock. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze in convenient containers.

Chicken Broth with Julienne of Vegetables

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) of well-flavoured homemade chicken stock

Julienne

50g (2oz) carrots

50g (2oz) celery

50g (2oz) white turnip

50g (2oz) leeks

flat parsley

4 spring onions, cut at an angle

First, julienne the vegetables.

Peel and cut the carrot, celery, turnip and leek into very thin strips

Heat the broth, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the julienne, bring back to the boil and simmer gently until the vegetables are just cooked, 5-6 minutes. 

Ladle into bowls and scatter with parsley and spring onion.

Father’s Day

The second Father’s Day with a difference is coming up.  At least this year there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s been such a crazy time for so many families and frazzled parents trying to adjust to both dad’s and mum’s working from home. This scenario has certainly brought its challenges.

In virtually every household, there have been highs and lows… tempers have flared from time to time as we all scrambled to adjust to the new reality and tried to seem, in control in the midst of the all the uncertainty and seemingly endless lockdown confusion.  It’s been a serious learning curve for each and every one of us.  Almost everything has changed in our COVID parallel universe.  Many dads have been confronted for the first time with what was hitherto the hidden labour of childcare and housekeeping.

It’s been an eye-opener and a serious behavioural challenge.

During lockdown, some dads had very little access to their children others had a lot more than they bargained for and for the first time discovered the highs and lows of parenting.  The joy of the first smile, first tooth, first steps, potty training…and having to let go of many firmly held parenting resolutions re: online access…it’s been quite the rollercoaster.  In desperation anything to keep them quiet! 

Today we celebrate dads who together with mums have had to rise to the gargantuan challenges of the past year and because we’re only human there were good days and bad days.  I chatted to lots of dads and asked what special treat they would love for Father’s Day.  It was so funny because they all complained that their partners hardly ever made them puddings nowadays.  It was so sweet, each hankered after the nursery puddings of their childhood.  Even though it is June, several wanted steamed puddings, particularly spotted dick and custard. Another wanted a jammy Bakewell tart.  Bread and butter pudding, old-fashioned rice pudding came up too as did queen of puddings, treacle tart and jelly and cream.  A new one on me was something called Manchester tart, which I had never heard of before, apparently a school meals favourite.  Jam and custard featured a lot and of course rhubarb and apple pies.  This apple and custard pie ticks several boxes and Bumble’s ginger roll is an all-time favourite.  

So give Dad a big ‘well-done’ hug and make his day by cooking his absolute favourite pud – the way to everyone’s heart…  

Happy Father’s Day.

Manchester Tart

A delicious ‘new’ discovery for me.  Apparently, it was a favourite school pudding based on an original Mrs. Beeton recipe – it’s delicious.

Serves 8-10

Pastry

175g (6oz) plain white flour

50g (2oz) icing sugar

90g (scant 3 1/2oz) butter, cubed

1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water or 1 small egg

Custard Filling

4 large organic free-range eggs

75g (3oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) custard powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

750ml (1 1/3 pints approx.) whole milk

180g (6 1/4oz) raspberry jam (approx.)

50g (2oz) desiccated coconut

1x 23cm (9 inch) tart tin with pop-up base

First make the pastry in the usual way.  Alternatively, put the sieved flour and icing sugar into a food processor.  Add the diced butter. Pulse until it resembles fine-ish breadcrumbs.  Add the beaten egg yolk and water or egg and pulse again for a few seconds until it begins to come together.  Turn out onto the work top and knead lightly to form a smooth pastry.  Cover and rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.  Roll out thinly, line the flan ring and chill for a further 15 minutes.

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

Line the pastry case with parchment and baking beans.  Cook for 25 minutes or until pale golden brown.  Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.  By then the pastry case should be crisp and fully cooked.

Cool in the tin on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the custard.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar, custard powder, vanilla extract and 50ml (2fl oz) of milk.

Heat the remainder of the milk to the shivery stage.  Whisk into the custard base.  Return to the saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick and smooth.

Spread a layer of jam over the base of the cold tart.  Pour the custard evenly over the top.  Sprinkle with desiccated coconut.  Transfer the tart onto a serving plate.  Chill and serve with softly whipped cream.

Apple Custard Pie

The most delicious apple tart with a ‘built in’ custard topping.

Serves 4

900g (2lbs) Bramley cooking apples

2 or 3 cloves

110g (4oz) caster sugar

350g (12oz) approx. flaky pastry or shortcrust pastry (note different cooking temperatures)

Custard

1 large egg, preferably free range

1 tablespoon sugar

150ml (5fl oz) cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pie dish, 900ml (1 1/2 pint) capacity

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

Peel and core the apples and chop into chunks put into a pie dish and add sugar and the cloves.

Roll the pastry into a sheet 1/8 inch (3mm) thick, cut several thin strips to fit onto the lip of the pie dish. Brush the ‘lip’ with cold water and press the strips of pastry firmly onto the dish. Brush the pastry strips with cold water and then press the lid of pastry firmly down onto the edges, trim off the excess pastry. Flute the edges and scallop with the back of a knife, cut some pastry leaves from the excess pastry, egg wash the pie, decorate with the pastry leaves. Make a hole in the centre and egg wash again.

For flaky pastry.

Bake in a preheated oven 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 15-20 minutes, then turn down the heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Whisk the egg and sugar together then mix in the cream and vanilla extract. Make a hole in the centre of the pie and pour in the custard, put back into the oven for a further 20-30 minutes or until the custard sets and the apple is fully cooked.

For shortcrust pastry.

Bake in a preheated oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes. When the apple is almost cooked (test with a skewer). Whisk the egg and sugar together then mix in the cream and vanilla extract. Make a hole in the centre of the pie and pour in the custard, put back into the oven for a further 20-30 minutes or until the custard sets and the apple is fully cooked.

Sprinkle the pastry with a little caster sugar and serve.

Bumble’s Ginger Roulade

I spent a fun-filled weekend at Strathgarry House in Scotland doing a cooking class with Bumble and her sisters Jeannie Chesterton and Henrietta Thews.  Bumble demonstrated this recipe which we’ve been delighting our guests with ever since.

Serves 8-10

75g (3oz) butter

225g (8oz) golden syrup or treacle

50g (2oz) caster sugar (soft dark if you like)

110ml (4fl oz) hot water

110g (4oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 egg, preferably free-range and organic

300ml (10fl oz) pint softly whipped cream

50g (2oz) chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

icing sugar

Large Swiss roll tin 25.5cm (10 inch) x 38cm (15 inch) lined with silicone paper

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

Barely melt the butter, golden syrup or treacle and sugar with the water.  Mix flour and baking powder and spice together in a bowl.  When the liquids have melted and cooled, add the flour, spice and egg yolk.  Lastly whisk the egg white until they reach a stiff peak and fold gently into the other ingredients.  Pour into the lined Swiss roll tin and bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes (12 minutes works in our ovens).  Remove from the oven, cover with a damp cloth and leave to cool. 

Turn out onto a sheet of silicone paper which has been dredged with icing sugar.  Fill with softly whipped cream and crystalized ginger and roll up.  Transfer to a serving plate, decorate with a few rosettes of whipped cream and crystallized ginger.

Frosted Ginger Roulade

Bumble’ Top Tip

Bumble discovered quite by accident that the ginger roulade freezes really well. You can pull it out when required and cut into thick slices and put into a gratin dish, sprinkle with Demerara sugar and heat through in a very hot oven for 8-10 minutes – try it, it’s super!

Spotted Dick

Oh my goodness, does this bring back memories or what?!  Serve a steamed pud for an Autumn or Winter dinner party and everyone of ‘our’ age will dissolve into a sepia tinted haze of nostalgia!

Serves 4

75g (3oz) fat yellow sultanas or 75g (3oz) stoned Valencia, Lexia or Muscatel raisins or fat yellow sultanas

110g (4oz) butter, at room temperature

110g (4oz) caster sugar

grated rind of 1/2 unwaxed and organic lemon

2 eggs, preferably free-range and organic

175g (6oz) plain white flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1-2 tablespoons milk

15g (1/2 oz) butter for greasing the pudding bowl

Homemade Custard

1/2 vanilla pod or a few drops pure vanilla extract

300ml (10fl oz) rich milk

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic

1 tablespoon caster sugar

Scant 1 litre /2 pint (6 inch) pudding bowl

Brush the pudding bowl with melted butter.  Press some of the sultanas or seeded and split raisins around the sides.  Cream the butter, add the sugar and lemon rind and beat until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in the flour and baking powder and enough milk to make the mixture just loose enough to drop from a spoon, add the remainder of the fruit.  Spoon into the pudding bowl.  Cover with a pleated piece of double greaseproof paper or foil and tie down.  (The paper is pleated to allow for expansion.)  Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, put in the pudding bowl, the water should come halfway up the sides.  Cover and steam for 2 hours. 

(Check the water level regularly to make sure the water doesn’t boil off).

Meanwhile make the homemade custard.

Put the vanilla pod (if available) into the cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.   Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl.   Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and pour the milk onto the yolks, whisking all the time, (add the pure vanilla extract if using), return to the saucepan.   Stir over a gentle heat until the mixture thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon, careful it must not boil.  Pour into a cold bowl and stir occasionally as it cools.

Treacle Tart

An all-time favourite.  The pastry lattice can be optional for a simpler version.

Serves 8

Shortcrust pastry made with:

225g (8oz) white flour

110g (4oz) butter

1 egg or water or a combination of both

Filling

400g (14oz) golden syrup

150g (5oz) fine fresh white breadcrumbs

2 organic lemons, zest and juice

1 free-range egg, beaten, to use as egg wash

1 x 18cm (7 inch) round tart tin with removable base

First make the pastry.

Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour, rub in with the fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg with 2 teaspoons of cold water and add enough to bind the mixture. But do not make the pastry too wet – it should come away cleanly from the bowl. Flatten into a round and wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Using 150g (5oz) of the pastry (save the rest for the lattice top, cover and chill until needed).  Roll out thinly on a lightly floured worktop and use it to line a 23cm (9 inch) flan tin. Line with kitchen or greaseproof paper and fill to the top with dried beans. Rest for 15 minutes in the fridge.

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

Bake the tart base blind for about 25 minutes or until pale and golden, remove the beans and paper.  Brush the pre-baked tart shell with a little beaten egg and pop back into the oven for 3-4 minutes or until almost cooked. Cool.

Be careful not to overcook because if this pastry gets too brown, it will be bitter, hard and unappetizing.

Place the reserved pastry for the lattice top on cling film and roll out thinly. Egg wash the pastry and set aside to chill in the fridge (the cling film makes it easier to move later). Do not cut into strips at this stage. Do not egg wash the strips once they are on the tart as it will dribble into the treacle mixture.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  Heat the syrup gently in a sauté pan.

When the syrup has melted, add the breadcrumbs, lemon juice and the finely grated zest to the syrup. If the mixture looks too runny, add a few more breadcrumbs.  Cool for a few minutes. 

Pour the syrup mixture into the lined tin and level the surface.

Take the reserved pastry from the fridge and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) wide strips.  Make them longer than the edges of the tart tin. 

Egg wash the edge of the pastry in the tin, lattice the top of the tart pressing each strip down at the edge to create a neat finish.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30 – 40 minutes until the pastry is a deep golden and the filling is set.

Remove the tart from the oven and allow leave to firm up in the tin. Serve warm or cold.

‘Chasing Smoke, Cooking Over Fire Around The Levant’ (Cookbook by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich)

Even if you didn’t know Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, you’d have to be intrigued by this title and bright orange cover.  There are many cookbooks these days so it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd but this one certainly does.

It’s a third book from the ‘Honeys’ who own the much loved London restaurants, Honey and Co, Honey & Smoke and Honey & Spice. 

Where there is smoke, there is fire and this irrepressible couple have been following the trail of smoke all their lives.  They tell me that where there’s fire, food, friendships and memories are made. 

Their own fires burn brightly at their grillhouse Honey and Smoke at the northern end of Great Portland Street in London.  The irresistible smell of aubergines, onions, courgettes and squash charring over coal and wood smoke wafts out onto the street to tempt the passers-by to follow the trail to the source of the delicious smells.

This book takes us across the Levant as Sarit and Itamar visit their favourite cities in Alexandrea, Egypt, Amman, Jordan, Acre, Israel, Adana, Turkey and Thessaloniki in Greece.  They’ve really get a knack for ferreting out the most delicious simple, flavour packed dishes – could be a meal for two or a mouth-watering joyful feast for your family and a few friends.  Perfect timing…exactly the sort of food I want to eat now that we can have a little get together outdoors, lots of fresh air and tantalizing smells.

Sarit and Itamar really are masters of cooking over fire.  I love how they pass on many of the tips and tricks they’ve learned over decades of grilling both at home and in their restaurants – there’s even some rainy day advice.  In Chasing Smoke, they’ve put together a beautiful collection of recipes from all over the Middle East from the most famous grill houses to the humblest roadside kebab houses, even cooking over a circle of stones on the sea shore.

I also learned about balcony cooking, the reality for so many in high-rise apartments but it doesn’t matter where you live, one can cook safely over a little grill and reawaken the hunter gatherer within us all.

It was so difficult to choose just a few recipes.  Here are a few to tempt you and suggestions for cooking in the oven if the heavens open…Enjoy

Chicken Heart Skewers

Many people have never eaten heart, which is a shame as it is easy to cook and has a pleasant, subtle flavour. The heart is a muscle (of course) and benefits from quick cooking over a very high heat to avoid becoming tough or chewy. Strangely enough, these skewers tend to be a favourite with kids, although we are not sure whether they’re more drawn by the idea of the flavour. Finding chicken hearts for sale can sometimes be tricky, but if you ask your butcher nicely, I’m sure they will set some aside. It is a part of the bird that tends to get thrown away, but really it should be celebrated.

Makes 8 skewers (allow 2 per person)

500g (1lb 2oz) chicken hearts
2 tablespoons flaky sea salt
2 litres (3 1/2 pints) very cold water

For the cooking
1 bunch of parsley (about 40g/1 1/2oz)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika (or a pinch of cayenne pepper)
a sprinkle of flaky sea salt

Clean the hearts, removing any white membrane and trimming away viable veins. Mix the salt and water in a large bowl, add the cleaned hearts and leave to soak for 30 minutes to draw out any impurities.

Pick and chop the parsley, mix with the minced garlic and set aside until needed.

Tip the soaked heats into a colander or sieve to drain, then pat them dry with kitchen paper. Thread five or six on each skewer. Stack the charcoal on your BBQ really high to get a good heat. Sear the hearts for 2 minutes on each side on a very hot grill, then dip each skewer in the parsley-garlic mixture before placing on a serving plate. Sprinkle with the salt and paprika (or cayenne) and serve immediately.

To cook without a BBQ
Use a lightly oiled, preheated griddle pan over a really high heat on your stove or hob and cook just as you would on the fire (but without the skewers).

From ‘Chasing Smoke, Cooking Over Fire Around the Levant’ by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich published by Pavilion

Joojeh kebabs – Chicken in yogurt and saffron

Makes 4 large skewers (allow at least 1 per person)

8 large chicken thighs (boneless and skinless) – about 1.2kg (2lb 10oz net weight)

For the marinade
1 onion, peeled (about 150g/5 1/4oz)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 green chilli, halved and seeds removed
2 tablespoons ras el hanout spice mix (see recipe)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
zest from 1 lemon
1 pinch of saffron strands
1 tablespoon rose water
80ml (3 1/4fl oz) water
200g (7oz) goats cheese

Purée the onion, garlic and chilli together in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl, then combine with the rest of the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken thighs and mix really well to cost all over. Leave to marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

When you are ready to cook, use double skewers for each kebab (to keep the thighs as flat as possible) and thread with two pieces of marinated chicken. Keep any remaining marinade to baste the chicken as it is grilling.

Roast over good hot coals to caramelise the marinade and develop the sweetness, turning the kebabs every 5 minutes and brushing with leftover marinade after each turn. The chicken will take about 15-20 minutes to cook through. If your BBQ has a lid, covering it for 5 minutes will help the kebabs cook well without charring too much, however we tend not to do this as we really favour the taste of the charred marinade.

Serve with a small herb salad mixed with orange segments, for a freshness that goes really well with the robust marinade.

To cook without a BBQ
Roast the chicken thighs (no need to skewer them) in a very hot oven (240°C/220°C Fan/Gas Mark 9) for 15-20 minutes, or use a lightly oiled, preheated griddle pan on your store or hob and cook just as you would on the fire.

Ras el Hanout Spice Mix

There are as many versions of this spice mix as there are spice shops in the Middle East.  The literal translation of ras el hanout is ‘head of the shop’, meaning the best the shop has to offer, and can contain up to twenty different spices.  This is our version, which you can make yourself.

60g (2 1/4oz) cumin seeds

60g (2 1/4oz) coriander seeds

90g (3 1/4oz) fenugreek seeds

3 whole cloves

2 dried Persian limes

30g (1oz) whole cardamom pods

20g (3/4oz) dried rose petals

20g (3/4oz) curry leaves

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon ground white pepper

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon amchoor (mango powder)

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

Heat your oven to 190C/170°C fan/Gas Mark 5.

Place the cumin, coriander, fenugreek, cloves, dried limes and cardamom pods on a baking tray.  Roast for 5 minutes, then add the rose petals and curry leaves and roast for another 3 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool before using a spice grinder to grind to a powder.  Mix with the pre-ground spices.  Store in a dry, airtight container, ideally in the freezer.  This will keep for up to 6 months, but I always think you should try to use it within 2 months to get the flavour at its best. 

From ‘Chasing Smoke, Cooking Over Fire Around the Levant’ by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich published by Pavilion

Pork Chops with Spiced Butter


This invariably ends up being a staple dinner when we are on holiday. We buy a couple of chops and a local spice mix, light a small BBQ in the garden and cook this just for the two of us.

Serves 2

2 large potatoes
2 large pork chops on the bone
juice of 1 lemon

For the spiced butter
50g (2oz) butter (or ghee)
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (pimento)
a pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt

Build a BBQ and let it settle to nice hot embers. Wrap the potatoes in foil and pop them in the coal about 45 minutes before you want to eat.

Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the spices, oregano, olive oil, lemon zest, garlic and salt. Remove from the bear and leave to infuse for 5 minutes.

Brush the chops on one side with the spiced butter and lay them buttered-side down on the BBQ. Grill for 5 minutes, brushing butter on the top (previously unbuttered) side of the chops as they cook. Flip them over to grill for 5 minutes on the other side, again brushing the top side with butter. Remove to a plate.

Pull the softened potatoes from the embers and leave to cook for a few minutes until you can easily unwrap them. Slit them down the middle and pour the rest of the seasoned butter over them. Serve with the chops and drizzle the lemon juice all over.

To cook without a BBQ
Bake the potatoes in a hot oven (220°C/200°C Fan/Gas Mark 7) for 45-60 minutes until soft. Use a preheated griddle pan on your stove or hob and cook the chops just as you would on the fire.

From ‘Chasing Smoke, Cooking Over Fire Around the Levant’ by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich published by Pavilion

Fire-top knafe

There aren’t many Middle Eastern recipes for sweet things cooking on the fire.  The tradition is only to serve fresh or dried fruit to end a meal or maybe tiny, very sugary baklavas, mini doughnuts or halva, if you want to spoil your guests.  Fire-top knafe is an exception to this rule.  This combination of desiccated kadaif pastry, stringy cheese, rich syrup and a hint of smoke was celebrated in Jordan more than in any other place we visited.  I didn’t understand why the pastry was desiccated until I got back to London, started experimenting, and jammed one mincer after another with fresh pastry.  The heat in Jordan dries the pastry, making it brittle and requiring a new method to make it delicious again.  You will need to open a packet of fresh kadaif pastry and leave it on a try in a warm room for a day or two to dry out completely.  You can make the sugar syrup and kadaif crust in advance, so you just need to prepare the filling and cook this on the day of serving.

Fills a 28cm (11 inch frying pan) (or a knafe pan, if you own one)

Sugar Syrup

400g (14oz) granulated sugar

230ml (8 1/4fl oz) water

a squeeze of lemon juice

2 teaspoons orange blossom water (you can use more or less, to taste)

For the crust

375g (13oz) kadaif dough, air-dried until crisp

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) sugar syrup (the rest is poured over the cooked knafe)

45ml (1 1/2fl oz) water

100g (3 1/2oz) melted ghee

For the filling

250g (9oz) fresh Mozzarella

250g (9oz) hard Mozzarella (the stuff you can grate)

To cook and serve

30g (1oz) melted ghee to brush the pan

ground pistachios to garnish (optional)

Combine the sugar, water and lemon juice for the syrup in a medium saucepan, set on the BBQ over a high heat and bring to the boil.  Move to a low heat and let it simmer very gently for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the orange blossom water.  You could, of course, prepare this on the stove if you prefer. 

Break up the dried kadaif pastry, then mince in a meat mincer or grind in a coffee grinder until you have a fine powder.  Place in a bowl, pour over 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of sugar syrup, the water and the ghee, and mix until the pastry is well-coated and resembles cooked couscous.  Bake in the oven at 170°C/150°C Fan/Gas Mark 3-4 for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until dry and crumb-like, but still pale.  Allow to cool and store in an airtight container until needed.

Drain the fresh Mozzarella and roughly tear apart.  Place in a bowl, roughly grate in the hard Mozzarella and stir to combine.

Brush the base of your frying pan (or knafe pan) with the ghee.  Set aside 4 tablespoons of the toasted pastry crumbs and press the rest into the base of the pan to form a crust.  Spread the cheese mixture over the crust, leaving a 1cm (3/8 inch) border uncovered around the edge.  Set the pan over a mellow, low heat and cook for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan every 2 minutes, until the outermost edge of the crust turns deep golden brown and the cheese has started to melt.  Sprinkle the reserved crumbs over the melting cheese layer, cover, remove from the heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes.  Then take a large plate that can easily fit the diameter of the frying pan and place it on top.  Very carefully, holding the two together, flip them over so the knafe is on the plate.  The cheese will now be the base, and the crispy crust will be on top.  Douse with all the remaining sugar syrup, sprinkle with pistachios (if you wish) and serve hot.

From ‘Chasing Smoke, Cooking Over Fire Around the Levant’ by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich published by Pavilion

World Oceans Day

Have you watched Seaspiracy on Netflix?  I watched it recently and am still reeling from it.  I reckon to know a little about the crisis in the world’s oceans but I had no idea just how shockingly serious the picture is nor did I fully realise that the future of mankind depends even more on the state of the seas and fish stocks than on what happens on land. 

I now understand that the ocean absorbs over 90 percent of the heat that enters the atmosphere, it provides over half of the oxygen we breathe, it supplies over 3 billion people with 20 percent of their daily protein needs, it enables global trade and transport, and provides healthy food and a livelihood to millions, if not billions of people. Without the ocean, humans could not exist on Earth.

I’m trying to pick up courage to watch David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series and Seaspiracy again so I can try to glean some hope from the depressing facts.  It’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that we should not be eating any fish or shellfish at all but life is rarely black and white…It’s a very challenging  time for the fishing industry with Brexit, fish quotas and EU policies…fishing is worth over €1 billion  to the Irish economy and employs 16,000.

Local communities around the world rely on fishing for their livelihoods, the skills have been handed down in many families through the generations.  My preferred option is day boat fish but there are few enough day boats still fishing around our coasts for a variety of reasons.

The bigger boats can go further out and stay longer at sea.  They target the fish shoals with sophisticated technology.  The ‘unintended’ consequences often result in copious amounts of by-catch and decimation of the ocean floor and breeding grounds.  Many species have been overfished almost to the point of extinction which impacts on many other species and habitats in the complex web.

As consumers, we really want to source ‘sustainable’ fish.  According to Ali Tabrizi in Seaspiracy, this area also appears to be problematic with many unanswered questions.

n 1987, the then Prime Minister of Norway, Harlem Brundtland defined sustainability as ‘Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ which could be parsed into ‘balancing the needs of today with the needs of tomorrow’.  Marine ecologist and fisheries biologist Bryce D. Stewart from the University of York, strongly disputed that sustainable fisheries don’t exist.  He maintains that 65.8 percent of fish stocks are harvested sustainably and that 78.7 percent of all landings of marine fisheries come from biologically sustainable stocks. However, this doesn’t mean there are no problems; approximately 34 percent of fish stocks are now overfished and this proportion has increased from only 10 percent in 1990.

So, let’s do our best to seek out non-threatened species and strive to support our local fishing communities.   Be prepared to pay more for day boat fish if you are fortunate enough to source it.

So what species are sustainable in Irish waters?

Look out for hake, rock salmon, sometimes called coley or saithe and mackerel.  There’s also lots of squid which can be either tossed in the pan for seconds or else cooked long and slowly to melting tenderness.  Squid also makes delicious fish cakes.  Prawn stocks are healthy in some areas as is monkfish but for more detail check out the Marine Institute website – it’s a very large file but scroll down to Table 3 on Page 19 for a summary – red, green or white indicates the MSY of the species (Max Sustainable Yield). 

Meanwhile, here are some of my favourite fish recipes, eat them slowly and enjoy every morsel.

Hot-Smoked Mackerel Tostadas

These tostadas are delicious combining the smoky flavour of mackerel and chipotle, lightened with a vibrant, citrusy tomato salsa and finished with a slice of creamy avocado and a sprinkling of deep-fried shallots.

Serves 4

8 x 10cm (4 inch) corn tortillas

300g (10oz) hot-smoked mackerel fillet (look out for Frank Hederman’s smoked mackerel at Midleton Farmers Market or online)

1 x fresh Tomato Salsa (see recipe)

1 cos lettuce, shredded

For the deep-fried shallots (optional)

4 shallots, finely sliced

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) olive oil or vegetable oil for frying

To Serve

Chipotle Mayonnaise (see recipe)

1 avocado sliced

freshly squeezed lime juice (optional)

Fry or bake the tortillas until crisp and golden.

To make the crispy shallots, pour the olive oil into the frying-pan and heat until it is shimmering.  Add the shallots and shallow fry them until they are crisp and golden, trying not to burn them.  Fish out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper to absorb the oil (you can keep the oil and re-use it for frying). 

Flake the hot-smoked mackerel with a fork and mix into the fresh tomato salsa. 

Spread each tostada generously with chipotle mayonnaise and top with shredded lettuce.  Spoon over the hot-smoked mackerel salsa and top with a slice of avocado.  Squeeze over a little lime juice and if you like and sprinkle with deep-fried shallots.

Variation

This is delicious with any type of smoked fish and also with very fresh raw mackerel, cut as for sushi.

Tomato and Coriander Salsa

Bestin Summer and early Autumn when tomatoes are ripe and juicy.

This sauce is ever present on Mexican tables to serve with all manner of dishes. Salsas of all kinds both fresh and cooked have now become a favourite accompaniment to everything from pan-grilled meat to a piece of sizzling fish.

Serves 4-6

4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon red or white onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2-1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped Jalapeno or Serrano

1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

squeeze of fresh lime juice

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.

Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Chipotle Mayonnaise

225ml (8fl oz) homemade Mayonnaise (see recipe)

1 1/2 tablespoons puréed chipotle chillies in adobo

juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon chopped coriander

pinch of salt

Make the mayonnaise in the usual way (see recipe).

Add the chilli adobe, lime juice and coriander.

Mayonnaise

I know it is very tempting to reach for the jar of ‘well-known brand’ but most people don’t seem to be aware that Mayonnaise can be made even with a hand whisk, in under five minutes, and if you use a food processor the technique is still the same but it is made in just a couple of minutes. The great secret is to have all your ingredients at room temperature and to drip the oil very slowly into the egg yolks at the beginning. The quality of your Mayonnaise will depend totally on the quality of your egg yolks, oil and vinegar and it’s perfectly possible to make a bland Mayonnaise if you use poor quality ingredients.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) oil (sunflower or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil and 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

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

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

Pan-grilled Mackerel with Green Gooseberry Sauce

This is a master recipe for pan-grilling fish.

The simplest and possibly the most delicious way to cook really fresh mackerel.  I love a pat of simple parsley or herb butter melting over the top but I’ve been enjoying them with the first of the green gooseberries – they cut the richness of the mackerel deliciously.

Serves 1 or 2

2-4 fillets of very fresh mackerel (allow 175g (6oz) fish form main course, 75g (3oz) for a starter)

seasoned flour

small knob of butter

Garnish

parsley

Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on that side before you turn them over. Continue to cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with a little bowl of green gooseberry sauce.  Garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley or with some gooseberry leaves if available.

Green Gooseberry Sauce

Use the tart hard green gooseberries on the bushes at the moment, they make a delicious sauce.

275g (9 1/2oz) fresh green gooseberries

approx. 175ml (6fl oz) stock syrup to cover made with 110ml (4fl oz) of water and 75g (3oz) of sugar boiled together for 2 minutes

a knob of butter (optional)

Top and tail the gooseberries, put into a stainless steel saucepan, barely cover with stock syrup, bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit bursts.  Taste.  Stir in a small knob of butter if you like but it is very good without it.

Carpaccio of Mackerel with Ginger and Sesame Dressing

Love this recipe kindly shared by Ruairi de Blacam from Inis Meáin Suites.

This dressing makes a lot and keeps well.  It is also delicious with noodles or pan-grilled fish.  It is only worth doing this dish if the mackerel is super fresh, less than 5 hours out of the sea.  Ruairi makes a large batch of the dressing and uses it with many fresh fish and for a seaweed salad.  Store the dressing in a glass jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks or make less.    

Super fresh mackerel filleted – 1 mackerel serves 2 as a starter

Ginger Sesame Dressing

600ml (1 pint) sesame oil

600ml (1 pint) sunflower oil

150ml (5fl oz) soy sauce

75g (3oz) garlic, grated

100g (3 1/2oz) ginger, grated

150g (5oz) sesame seeds toasted

Optional

spring onions, thinly sliced at an angle

coriander leaves

Fillet the spanking fresh mackerel and remove all the bones.  Slice each fillet into 3mm (1/8 inch) thick slices, arrange in a circle on a chilled plate.  Spoon a little dressing over each portion.  Sprinkle with thinly sliced spring onions and coriander seeds.

Spicy Haddock and Squid Cakes with Thai Dipping Sauce

Curry Paste can vary in intensity, so be careful and add more or less as needed.

Serves 4 as a starter

2cm (3/4 inch) cube fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 garlic cloves, roughly crushed

1 large bunch of fresh coriander, roots attached, roughly chopped

1-2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste

250g (9oz) fresh haddock fillet, skin and bone free cut in cubes

250g (9oz) squid, cleaned and roughly chopped

freshly squeezed juice of a lime

1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons) fish sauce (Nam pla)

lime wedges to serve

sunflower oil for frying

To Serve

Thai Dipping Sauce (see recipe)

Arjard (Cucumber Salad) (see recipe)

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the ginger, garlic, coriander and curry paste into a food-processor.  Whizz until the mixture is very well processed.  Stir and re-blend if necessary.

Next add the fresh haddock, squid, lime and fish sauce.  Pulse – the mixture should not be completely smooth.

Heat oil in a deep fry or about 5cm (2 inches) in a deep frying pan, cook a little piece to check the seasoning.  Divide the mixture into patties roughly 4cm (1 1/2 inches) in diameter. The mixture will make 14-16.

Deep fry the fish cakes in batches of about six for 3-4 minutes until golden.  Drain well on kitchen paper and keep warm while you cook the rest.

Serve with Thai Dipping Sauce, a wedge of lime and maybe a few fresh coriander leaves.

Thai Dipping Sauce

A version of this sauce is ever present on restaurant tables in Thailand and Vietnam. A great dipping sauce to use with grilled or deep-fried meat or fish and of course spring rolls.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons Nam pla, fish sauce

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

3 tablespoons warm water

2 tablespoons sugar or more to taste

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 red or green chilli (to taste)

Put the fish sauce, freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice, sugar and 3 tablespoons of warm water into a jar, add the crushed garlic. Mix well and pour into 4 individual bowls. Cut the chillies crossways into very thin rounds and divide them between the bowls.

For the Arjard (Cucumber Salad)

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthways

1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced into rings

1 green chilli, deseeded and sliced into rings

4 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons water

6 tablespoons malt vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cucumber, quartered lengthways and thinly sliced

Put all the ingredients except the cucumber in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3–5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cold, pour the marinade over the slices of cucumber and set aside to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Hake or Haddock with Piperonata and Buttered Crumbs

Piperonata sounds very grand but it’s really just a pepper, tomato, onion and basil stew, gorgeous with fresh fish. 

A crunchy topping in a creamy sauce is always tempting.

Serves 6-8

1.1kg (2 1/4lbs) hake, ling, haddock, grey sea mullet or pollock

salt and freshly ground pepper

15g (1/2oz) butter

Piperonata (see recipe)

Mornay Sauce

600ml (1 pint) whole milk

a few slices of carrot and onion

3 or 4 peppercorns

a sprig of thyme and parsley

50g (2oz) approx. Roux

150-175g (5-6oz) grated Cheddar cheese or 75g (3oz) grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon mustard preferably Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground pepper

Buttered Crumbs

25g (1oz) butter

50g (2oz) soft, white breadcrumbs

900g (2lbs) mashed potato (optional)

First make the Piperonata (see recipe), while it’s cooking make the Mornay sauce. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with a few slices of carrot and onion, 3 or 4 peppercorns and a sprig of thyme and parsley. Bring to the boil, simmer for 4-5 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes if you have enough time.

Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a light coating consistency. Add the mustard and two thirds of the grated cheese, keep the remainder of the cheese for sprinkling over the top. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Add the parsley if using.

Next make the Buttered crumbs. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool.

Skin the fish and cut into portions: 175g (6oz) for a main course, 75g (3oz) for a starter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Lightly butter an ovenproof dish, coat with the Mornay sauce.  Put a layer of Piperonata on the base of the dish.  Lay the pieces of fish on top. Top with another layer of sauce. Mix the remaining grated cheese with the buttered crumbs and sprinkle over the top. Pipe a ruff of fluffy mashed potato around the edge if you want to have a whole meal in one dish.

Cook in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 25-30 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and the top is golden brown and crispy. If necessary flash under the grill for a minute or two before you serve, to brown the edges of the potato.

Note: Haddock with Piperonata and Buttered Crumbs may be served in individual dishes. Scallop shells are very attractive, are completely ovenproof and may be used over and over again.

Piperonata

This is one of the indispensable trio of vegetable stews that we always reckon to have to hand. We use it not only as a vegetable but also as a topping for pizzas, as a sauce for pasta, grilled fish or meat and as a filling for omelettes and pancakes.

Serves 8-10

2 tablespoons olive oil

225g (8oz) onion, sliced

a clove of garlic, crushed

2 red peppers

2 green peppers

6 large tomatoes (dark red and very ripe) (use tinned if fresh are out of season)

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

a few leaves of fresh basil

Heat the olive oil in a casserole, add the onion and garlic, toss in the oil and allow to soften over a gentle heat in a covered casserole while the peppers are being prepared. Halve the peppers, remove the seeds carefully, cut into quarters and then cut the pepper flesh into 2-2 1/2cm (3/4 – 1 inch) squares.  Add to the onion and toss in the oil; replace the lid and continue to cook.

Meanwhile peel the tomatoes (scald in boiling water for 10 seconds, pour off the water and peel immediately). Slice the tomatoes and add to the casserole, season with salt, freshly ground pepper, sugar and a few leaves of fresh basil if available. Cook until the vegetables are just soft, 30 minutes approx.

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.

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