BBC Good Food Magazine

BBC Good Food Magazine is the most popular and best selling food magazine in the British Isles. Novice cooks and chefs alike snap it up off the newsstands every month to pore over the glossy food photos, read about food issues and the latest trends and to find recipes for fast and slow foods.

Food-writer Angela Nilsen has contributed to the magazine for many years and has won both the Glenfiddich Cookery Writer Award and the Guild of Food Writers’ Cookery Journalist of the Year Award for her work on the ‘Ultimate’ series in BBC Good Food Magazine.

In this column Angela set out to find the ultimate recipe for many classic dishes. Through a mixture of research and trial and error she arrived at what she considers to be the foolproof version of many old favourites. Through a combination of her own research, testing and fine-tuning techniques, as well as consultation with distinguished chefs and writers for their insider tips and advice, Angela has come up with 50 definitive recipes. From making the perfect French Omelette with Raymond Blanc, to Apple-Pie inspiration with Gordon Ramsay, Angela has explored endless possibilities in her search for success, including the tastiest Fish Cakes (with a little help from Rick Stein) and a rich Thai Green Chicken Curry. She enlists the help of Gennaro Contaldo in creating the creamiest ever Spaghetti Carbonara and brunch expert Bill Granger for softly Scrambled Eggs. Even soups and salads prove a challenge, but Angela ends the debate once and for all on the likes of French Onion Soup and Caesar Salad, and kneads the ideal loaf of bread with baker Dan Lepard. Marshmallowy Meringues come with the aid of Mary Berry, the Aga Queen, and perfected recipes for Vanilla Ice Cream and Lemon Meringue Pie bring Angela’s journey to a delicious end.

It contains 50 definitive recipes and gives the background to every recipe, the testing, the discussions, the problems she faced – and then explains exactly how to make the best ever version with tips, hints and step-by-step photographs. So whether you are a novice or a practised cook, this book will earn its place on your kitchen shelf. 

Here are some of the ultimate recipes for you to try, but you’ll need to seek out the book to read about Angela’s journey to reach the ‘ultimate’.

The Ultimate Recipe Book by Angela Nilsen – published by BBC Books

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 4
Ready in 25-35 minutes

100g/4oz pancetta
50g/2oz Pecorino cheese
50g/2oz Parmesan
3 eggs, preferably organic
350g/12oz spaghetti (De Cecco is very good)
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
50g/2oz unsalted butter

1. Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Finely chop the pancetta, having first removed any rind. Finely grate both cheeses and mix them together. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, season with a little freshly grated ground black pepper and set everything aside.

2. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the boiling water, add the spaghetti and when the water comes back to the boil, cook at a constant simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until al dente (just cooked).

3. Squash the garlic with the blade of a knife, just to bruise it. While the spaghetti is cooking, fry the pancetta with the garlic. Drop the butter into a large wide frying pan or wok and, as soon as the butter has melted, tip in the pancetta and garlic. Leave these to cook on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the pancetta is golden and crisp. The garlic has now imparted its flavour, so take it out with a slotted spoon and discard.

4. Keep the heat under the pancetta on low. When the pasta is ready, lift it from the water with a pasta fork or tongs and put it in the frying pan with the pancetta. Don’t worry if a little water drops in the pan as well (you want this to happen) and don’t throw the rest of the pasta water away yet.

5. Mix most of the cheese with the eggs, keeping a small handful back for sprinkling over later. Take the pan of spaghetti and pancetta off the heat. Now quickly pour in the eggs and cheese and, using the tongs or long fork, lift up the spaghetti so it mixes easily with the egg mixture (which thickens but doesn’t scramble) and everything is coated. Add extra pasta-cooking water to keep it saucy (several tablespoons should do it). You don’t want it wet, just moist. Season with salt, if needed.

6. Use a long-pronged fork to twist the pasta onto the serving plate or bowl. Serve immediately with a little sprinkling of the remaining cheese and a grating of black pepper. If the dish does get a little dry before serving, splash in some more hot pasta water and the glossy sauciness will be revived.

Fish Chowder

Serves 4 as a light lunch or supper (easily halved)
200g (7oz) packet lardons
1 large knob of butter 
2 leeks (about 350g/12oz), thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Small pinch of crushed dried chillies
2 bay leaves
650g/1lb7oz potatoes, Desiree are good, peeled and sliced thickly (about 5mm/¼ inch) thick (Angela recommends a floury/waxy variety of potato that would release starch to thicken the chowder, but would also hold its shape)
700ml/1¼ pints fish or chicken stock (from a good-quality cube or powder is fine)
450g/1lb skinless haddock (the fish should be a firm and lean variety)
150ml (5fl.oz) carton single cream
Roughly chopped fresh parsley for scattering

1. Heat a wide deep sauté pan. Tip in the lardons and fry until they have released their fat and have started to crisp. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, putting to one side for later.

Drop the knob of butter into the pan and, as it sizzles, add the leeks, thyme, chillies and bay leaves and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until starting to soften, but still bright green.

2. Tip in the potatoes, fry for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, then pour in the stock (it should just cover them). Boil over a high heat for 10 minutes, uncovered, until they are almost cooked through.

(No need to stir as the potatoes may break up). As they boil, their starch will be released and start to thicken the liquid.) 

3. Lay the whole fillets of fish on top of the potatoes so they are immersed as much as possible in the stock. Cover and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let sit, still covered, for 5 minutes so the fish can finish cooking gently. Pour in the cream and shake the pan (rather than stir) so it mixes in, as you don’t want to break up the potatoes and fish. Season with pepper – you may not need salt, depending on the stock you have used. The chowder can now rest for an hour or overnight in the fridge, which gives the flavours a chance to develop more. This is called ‘curing’.

4. To serve, scatter the lardons over. Warm the chowder gently, being careful not to let it boil. Lift the fish and potatoes out with a slotted spoon, letting the fish break into very big chunks as you do so. Pile them both in the centre of wide shallow bowls or plates. Spoon the liquid around and scatter with the chopped parsley.

Roast Chicken

Serves 4
1 lemon
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1.6-1.8kg/3½-4lb organic chicken, the best you can afford
Sprigs of bay leaves, or bunch of fresh tarragon
25g/1oz butter, and a bit extra to butter the tin
Wedges of red onion and/or carrot if you don’t have a rack, or 
1 large red onion, peeled and cut in thick wedges for optional gravy

1.Heat the oven to 190C/fan oven 170C/gas 5. Halve the lemon and prick all over many times with a skewer or toothpick – this releases the juices and adds fragrance to the chicken as it roasts. Push the onion and lemon into the cavity of the chicken, along with the bay or tarragon. Keep the other sprigs for garnish.

2.Melt the butter in a small pan or more quickly in the microwave and brush the chicken all over with a pastry brush, including the parts where the thighs meet the body of the bird. Season liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper.

3.Now you have a choice. If you have a rack, sit the bird on that, on its side, propped up with balls of foil if the rack is flat. If not, put a few chunks of carrot, red onion or both on the bottom of a buttered roasting tin (choose one that the bird will fit into snugly) and sit the chicken on them.

4. Roast for 20 minutes on the first side. Then, if the bird is on a rack, scatter the red onion underneath if you want to make the gravy (see below).

Turn, then baste with some of the juices and roast for 20 minutes on the other side. A clean tea towel makes it easier to hang on to the bird for turning. Turn the chicken breast-side up, keep the wings tucked under and baste again. Discard any foil and roast for another 30-40 minutes until really golden. To test whether the chicken is cooked, push a skewer into the fleshiest part and if the juices are clear, rather than pink, it is done. Or give the legs a bit of a tug – the chicken is done if they wiggle and move away from the body easily. If not, roast a bit longer.

5.Lift the chicken out of the oven and leave it to relax, loosely uncovered with foil, for 10-15 minutes. Sit it on your best platter and tuck a few bay sprigs in the cavity.

Simple creamy gravy – 

Angela Nilsen says she ‘picked up a great tip for a quick gravy from food writer Jeni Wright.’ Scatter a red onion, in wedges, in the bottom of the roasting tin for the last 50 minutes. Remove the chicken from the tin and, while it rests, tip a 250g carton of crème fraiche into the tin with the onion and juices and heat through, stirring. If you want to make it go further, pour in some stock.

Crème Brûlée

Serves 4
2 cartons double cream, 1 large (284ml) plus 1 small (142ml)
100ml/3½ fl.oz full-fat milk
1 vanilla pod
5 egg yolks, preferably organic
50g/2oz golden castor sugar, plus extra for the topping

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Sit four 175ml/6fl.oz ramekins in a deep roasting tin at least 7.5cm/3in deep (or a large deep cake tin), one that will enable a baking tray to sit well above the ramekins when laid across the top of the tin. Pour the two cartons of cream into a medium pan with the milk. Lay the vanilla pod on a board and slice it lengthways through the middle with a sharp knife to split it in two. Use the tip of the knife to scrape out all the tiny seeds into the cream mixture. Drop the vanilla pod in as well, and set aside. 
Put the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk for 1 minute with an electric hand-whisk until paler in colour and a bit fluffy. Put the pan with the cream on a medium heat and bring almost to the boil. As soon as you see bubbles appear round the edge, take the pan off the heat. 
Pour the hot cream into the beaten egg yolks, stirring with a wire whisk as you do so, and scraping out the seeds from the pan. Set a fine sieve over a large wide jug or bowl and pour the hot mixture through to strain it, encouraging any stray vanilla seeds through at the end. Using a big spoon, scoop off all the pale foam that is sitting on top of the liquid (this will be several spoonfuls) and discard. Give the mixture a stir. 
Pour in enough hot water (from the tap is fine) into the roasting tin to come about 1.5cm/ 5/8 inch up the sides of the ramekins. Pour the hot cream into the ramekins so you fill them right up to the top (its easier to spoon in the last little bit). Put them in the oven and lay a baking sheet over the top of the tin so it sits well above the ramekins and completely covers them, but not the whole tin, leaving a small gap at one side to allow air to circulate. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the mixture is softly set. To check, gently sway the roasting tin and if the crème brûlées are ready they will wobble a bit like jelly in the middle. Don’t let them get too firm. 
Lift the ramekins out of the roasting tin with oven gloves and set them on a wire rack to cool for a couple of minutes only, then put in the fridge to cool completely. This can be done overnight without affecting the texture. 
When ready to serve, wipe round the top edge of the dishes, sprinkle 1½ teaspoons of caster sugar over each ramekin and spread it out with the back of a spoon completely. Spray with a little water using a fine spray (the sort you buy in a craft shop) to just dampen the sugar, then use a blow torch to caramelize it. Hold the flame just above the sugar and keep moving it round and round until caramelized. Serve when the brûlée is firm, or within an hour or two. 

Foolproof Food

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 36-40, depending on size
So much nicer than any you buy and really quick and easy to make. You can keep some dough in the fridge or freezer.
Try to get really good quality chocolate chips – its worth the difference

225g (8 oz) butter
200g (7 oz) brown sugar
165g (6 oz) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
340g (12 oz) plain white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
150 g (5 oz) chocolate chips
100 g (3½ oz ) chopped nuts - hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
Cream the butter, add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the egg bit by bit, then the vanilla essence.

Mix the dry ingredients together and fold them in. Lastly, add the chocolate chips and the chopped nuts.

Divide the mixture into 7g (¼ oz) pieces, for teeny weeny pieces, or 30g (1oz) for medium sized or 55g (2oz) for American style cookies onto baking sheets. Remember to allow lots of room for spreading. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, depending on size. Cool for a few minutes on the tray and then transfer to wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

Hot Tips

Failte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority

Will be running a series of continuing professional development programmes in all areas of tourism and hospitality in 2007 – courses are run nationwide – for details of courses in each area – Cork 021-4313058 Dublin 01-8847766  Galway 091-561432  Midlands 01-8847766

Spains Gastronomic Summit

The Gastronomic Summit in Spain, called Madrid Fusion has now become an annual affair. This year was the fifth and arguably the most spectacular so far. Spain’s avant-garde chefs are now generally considered to be leading the way in what has become known as molecular gastronomy!  

The ‘high priest’ of this movement is Ferran Adria, the brilliant young chef whose restaurant El Bulli has become a place of pilgrimage for chefs, food lovers and ‘restaurant collectors’ all over the world. To secure a booking in the restaurant is the equivalent of a win in the lotto. Rumour has it that El Bulli is booked solid for four or five years.

My first encounter with Adria was at Tasting Australia in 2004. He dazzled the crowd with his alchemy, when he made jellies, foams, mousses, soufflés and I can’t remember what else with water alone. He told us about his laboratory and his new toys. To produce this sort of alchemy there are a number of ‘must have toys’ – Pacojet, Thermomix, Dehydrator, and a variety of solutions including liquid nitrogen,

Ferran has inspired and thrilled a whole generation of chefs. To me he was like an over-excited little boy with a new chemistry set – no mention of flavour, it was all about tricky new textures and garnishes – smacked of the emperor’s new clothes.

But that was before I tasted his food, I still haven’t been to El Bulli but I’ve tasted some of his signature dishes at the drinks party he hosted at the Casino de Madrid.

The first realization is that nothing is ever as it seems. A green olive on a tiny plate is in fact a little bubble of olive juice that bursts in your mouth with a delicious essence of olive.

A meltingly tender mussel is suspended in another bubble with a whiff of fresh lime juice. What looks like fish roe turns out to be little beads of lychee juice which have been made by injecting little droplets of a lychee solution into liquid nitrogen through a syringe. A gin and tonic sorbet is made in seconds with dry ice, an oyster on the half shell has a tiny pearl of liquid smoky bacon flavour….. these are just a few of the temptations!

This is not the kind of food that you or I will be doing anytime soon, but as with nouvelle cuisine I’m sure that many of the techniques will be absorbed into the mainstream chef’s repertoire, some will filter down into the keen cook’s kitchen. This year the theme of the conference was Produce. Some chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, UK ‘s most famous proponent of molecular gastronomy ignored the brief and went on a flight of fancy about recreating the childhood memories of a ‘kid in a candy shop’.

The movers and shakers from all over the world were there. Tetsuya Wakuda from Sydney, less of a revolutionary but a true genius in the kitchen.

Seiji Yamamoto, a brilliant young chef from Japan has been applying avant garde techniques to create exciting textures and sensational flavours in his kitchen for several years. For the finale of his demonstration he created a link between creative gastronomy and the latest communication technology – an edible menu on a plate which reads over the latest generation of mobile phone, this was definitely a glimpse of the future.

For those of you who might be going to Tokyo sometime soon book well ahead at Nihonryori/ryugin.

Also thinking well outside the box are Spanish chefs Dani Garcia and Angel Leon. Dani has become famous for his ‘nitrogen cuisine’ and his 21st Century interpretation of Andalusian dishes. Dani has many Irish fans of his restaurant Caluma in Marbella. 

Chef Angel Leon, the Prince of Tides, spends almost as much time in the sea as in kitchen and laboratory. Angel has invented a process for using fish scales and fish eyes to enhance the flavour of his food. His latest work in association with the University of Cadiz is on a micro filter algae for broths. These chefs and the growing number of acolytes all have laboratories beside their kitchens and many are linking up with food scientists and technology whizz kids, to go places where chefs have never travelled before.

Charlie Trotter, US super chef from Chicago presented his creations amidst many references to his new book on spa cuisine.

Trotter who has virtually every gastronomic accolade in the US is an outspoken advocate of the use of the freshest sustainable organic ingredients. He uses only naturally raised free range meat and game and line-caught seafood and has banned the use of foie gras in his menus.

Fellow chef Dan Barber has a similar social and moral philosophy at his restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills just north of New York City. The restaurant is in the centre of an organic farm which grows much of the produce for the restaurant. I haven’t eaten at Blue Hill yet but it is high on my wish list – just 45 minutes on the Hudson River Line train from Grand Central Station in New York.  

None of these chef’s recipe are easily reproduced at home so here are some other delicious and more familiar dishes from Spain.

Jago’s Tortilla de Patatas

This recipe was given to us by Jago Chesterton from Huelva in the South of Spain when he was a student at the school.
In Spain you must understand, Tortilla is not just a dish it’s a way of life. Tortillas or flat omelettes not to be confused with the Mexican tortilla which is a flat bread, are loved by Spaniards and tourists alike. You'll be offered them in every home, in the most elegant restaurants and the most run down establishments - no picnic would be complete without a tortilla and every tapas bar will have appetising wedges of tortilla on display. People even eat it at the cinema. 
Tortilla de Patatas sounds deceptively simple but its not as easy to make to perfection as you might think.
Serves 6-8

8-9 eggs, free range and organic
14ozs (400g) diced potato (1.5cm)
6ozs (175g) diced onion
3fl oz (75ml) extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper

The secret of success is to use enough oil. Put a generous (2.5cm) 1 inch of olive oil into a frying pan. Fry the potatoes and onions in the hot oil for about 5-7 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and cook until the potatoes are golden on the outside and soft in the middle. Drain off the excess oil from the potatoes. 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add a teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the potato and onion mixture. Put 2 tablespoons of oil back into the pan, when it begins to sizzle pour in the egg mixture then lower the heat, when the egg begins to cook, loosen around the edge continue to cook shaking the pan occasionally. When the tortilla is well set and golden underneath, cover the pan with an oiled plate and turn it out, be careful not to burn your hand. Add a little more oil to the frying pan if necessary. Slide the tortilla back in cooked side uppermost. Cook until firm but still slightly moist in the centre. Serve hot or at room temperature cut into wedges.

Spanish Almond Cake

From Rachel’s Favourite Food by Rachel Allen
This is great warm or cold and keeps for ages, probably more than a week if you didn't keep having a slice! It's so good with a cup of coffee or tea. It's also delicious with a ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon put in at the start or the grated rind of 1 lemon or 1 small orange. Also fabulous with ice cream, poached fruit, etc.
Serves 6-8

3 eggs, separated
5½oz (150g) ground almonds
5½oz (150g) caster sugar
1 dessertspoon icing sugar, for dusting at the end

You will also need a 7 inch (18cm) springform cake tin

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

Butter the sides of the springform cake tin and cut a round of greaseproof paper to line the base. Separate the eggs and put the yolks into a medium bowl. Add 4½oz (130g) of the sugar and beat until slightly pale in colour. Add the ground almonds and mix to combine. In another bowl whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then add the remaining ¾oz (20g) of sugar and continue whisking the mixture until it forms stiff peaks and is nice and glossy. Stir one-third of the whisked egg whites into the almond mixture, then carefully fold in the rest in two batches, not knocking out any air. Pour the cake batter into the tin and place in the centre of the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre (too high up in the oven and the top gets too brown). When cooked, let it sit for a few minutes in the tin, then remove and cool slightly on a wire rack. Sieve some icing sugar over the top.


Paella is a fantastic dish to make for large numbers of people. In Spain you can buy a gas ring specially for cooking paella on a picnic.
Serves 10-12

6 tablespoons approximately of extra virgin olive oil 
2 large onions, chopped
1 large green pepper, cut into 1cm (1/2inch) cubes
1 large red pepper, cut into 1cm (1/2inch) cubes
8 cloves garlic, sliced
1 free-range organic chicken, jointed and cut into smallish pieces
225g (8oz) organic streaky pork, cut into cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon saffron
1kg (2 1/4lb) paella rice approximately (generous ½ cup per person) 
1.8 – 2.4l (3-4 pints) homemade chicken stock (use more if needed)
1 chorizo sausage, sliced
450g (1lb) frozen peas
450g (1lb) mussels in shells
12 prawns in shells

4 very ripe tomatoes
Flat parsley sprigs and coarsely chopped chives

Paella pan, 46cm (18 inch) approximately

Put lots of olive oil in the paella pan. Add the pork and cook for a few minutes until the fat begins to run. Add the garlic, onions and peppers. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then add the chicken. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Then add the sliced chorizo.

Sauté for 15 minutes, soak a teaspoon of saffron in a cup of warm chicken stock and stir around. Add to the pan. Add the rice, (about ½ cup per person). Add stock to almost cover, stir to blend and then don’t stir again unless absolutely necessary. Add the peas. 
Bring to the boil and simmer really gently for about 20 minutes until the meat is cooked. About 5 minutes from the end of cooking, add the mussels and the prawns in their shells. Continue to cook until the mussels open and the prawns are cooked. Stand over it and move the ingredients around a little. Bring the paella pan to the table. Scatter with lots of flat parsley sprigs and some freshly chopped tomato and chives. Serve immediately directly from the pan. 

Foolproof Food

Adorable Baby Banoffies

Have a few tins of toffee ready in your larder – then this yummy pud is made in minutes.
Makes 8-12

1 x 400g (14oz) can condensed milk
8-12 Gold grain biscuits
3 bananas
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
225ml (8fl oz) whipped cream
Chocolate curls made from about 175g (6oz) chocolate
Toased flaked almonds

8-12 individual glasses or bowls

To make the toffee, put the can of condensed milk into a saucepan and cover with hot water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for three hours. By which time the condensed milk will have turned into a thick unctuous toffee.

Break a biscuit into each glass or bowl. Peel and slice the bananas and toss in the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Top with a little toffee. Put a blob of softly whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and decorate with a few chocolate curls.

Cook’s Book

Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros published by Murdoch Books

Tessa Kiros was born in London to a Finnish mother and a Greek-Cypriot father. The family moved to South Africa when she was four and at the age of eighteen, Tessa set off to travel and learn all she could about the world’s cultures and traditions. She has cooked at London’s The Groucho Club and in Sydney, Athens and Mexico. She lives in Tuscany with her Italian husband Giovanni and their two daughters. “I have collected these recipes over the years. This food is for families, for young people, for old people, for children, for the child in all….. for life. Some are recipes I remember from my own childhood, others are the food I want to cook now for my family.”
Buy this Book from
Sausage and Potato Goulash
This is a great, quick, tasty, meal-in-one that will serve quite a few people or leave you with enough leftovers for the next day. Adults can serve theirs with a twist of pepper. This can be completely prepared in advance and just warmed up to serve. It is important to use good-quality sausages – Italian sausages are also good.
Serves 8

750g (1lb 10oz) good quality sausages
2 tablespoons olive oil
30g (1oz) butter
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1kg (2lb 4oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
250g (9oz) tinned diced tomatoes
A piece of cassia bark or ½ cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Slice the sausages into rounds about 1cm (½ inch) thick. Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy-based pan (cast iron is good) and sauté the onion for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Stir in the paprika, cook for 30 seconds or so and then add the sausages. Continue cooking, stirring fairly often, until the sausages turn golden in places. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, cassia and bay leaf and 500ml (17fl.oz/2 cups) of hot water. Season with salt and bring to the boil.

Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are softened and the soup is thick and stewy. Stir with a wooden spoon from time to time and shuffle the bits at the bottom to make sure they don’t stick. If the potatoes are not quite done after that time, take the pan off the heat and leave it with the lid on for the potatoes to continue steaming. Mix the parsley through and serve hot, or even at room temperature.

Hot Tips

Urru now open in Mallow –
Ruth and Willie Healy have just opened a sister shop of Urru, their very successful Bandon culinary store.
Stocking olive oils and cheeses, Arbutus breads, Bubble Brother Wines, handmade chocolates, Farmhouse cheeses, Glenilen Dairy and Ummera Smokehouse products to mention a few. Urru, Bank Place, Mallow Tel 022 53192 and McSwiney Quay, Bandon Tel 023-54731.

Grow Your Own Veg 
Bored by bags of limp salad? Put off by overpriced tasteless produce? Want to reduce your food miles and pesticide input? The RHS will show you how with Grown Your Own VEG online - this coincides with a new BBC2 and RHS TV series Grow Your Own Veg and a book of the same name.  

La Brea Bakery Café 
Ireland’s first La Brea Bakery Café is now open in Arnotts Department Store, Henry St. Dublin.

Breakfast in Paradise

We’re sitting on the bank of the River Colotepec, where it meets the sea, south East of Puerto Escondido on the Pacific Coast of Mexico.

We drove down a dirt track for over 35 minutes before we came upon a simple palapa thatched with leaves of the royal palm.

A Mexican family restaurant with all four generations helping, Granda seems to be in charge of the grounds, he’s raking leaves off the grass and the sandy floor of the outdoor restaurant. The grandchildren help in the kitchen. The boy and his mother are knee deep in water wandering along by the edge of the river bank scooping up tiny shrimps from underneath the rushes in a large tin sieve. The vertebrae and jaw bone of a whale have been carefully reassembled from the remains of a pilot whale which was beached by the waves.

There are four or five white plastic tables and chairs provided by Coronas the Mexican beer company. The tables are covered with bright plastic oil cloth. Many Mexican cafes and restaurants seem to have their furniture provided by drinks companies.

Apart from one group of locals, we are the only customers on this beautiful morning. Everyone stares at the gringos, all except one little boy sitting under a coconut tree, who is intently reading aloud from the new book he got for Christmas, oblivious of the curious arrivals. The sky is blue, the white sand glistening in the early noon sun. The river is teeming with birds, pelicans, jacanas, vultures and cormorants.

It’s a blissfully peaceful spot. Local fishermen are returning from their dawn fishing expedition, nets slung over one shoulder and fresh catch of blanquitos, frey and cocineros hanging from a stick or string. We watch as they hide their simple fishing tackle in the reeds on the opposite bank. This type of fishing is completely sustainable in this environment.

Further along the beach there are turtle tracks where sea turtles laid their eggs before dawn and covered them with sand before they shuffled back into the sea to begin their journey back to the Galapagos Islands.

An eager youth arrives with pencil and paper to take our order. We order from the orange cardboard menu, sopes with refried beans, queso fresco and avocado. Quesadillas with Oaxacan string cheese and epazote, two red snapper, one cooked ‘naturel’ and one ‘al ajio’ (with garlic). Some of those tiny shrimps and of course, huge glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice and hot chocolate.

Breakfast is cooked on a comal ( a big flat earthware plate) in a simple open air kitchen, over a wood fire on a handmade adobe stove.

I watched the women cook in the open air kitchen, passing their skills from one generation to the next, kneading the masa (corn meal) to make tortillas and then slapping them on the hot comal to cook. Some formed the basis of quesadillas or others called sopes were pinched to give slightly raised edges, which enclose the refried beans and crumbled cheese. These are served with a slice or two of avocado on top. The tiny shrimp like camaroncitos were added to a huevos Mexicana mixture to make special little scrambled egg patties. They fry them in oil on a pan until crisp on the outside and soft and tender in the centre. They were totally delicious and must be an incredibly important source of calcium for the indigenous people who live beside the river. Simple fare, but truly delicious.

A gastronomic experience that memories are made of, to soothe the soul on a miserable February morning in Ireland.

Quesadillas with Tomato Salsa and Guacamole

Quesadillas are one of the favourite snacks in Mexico. On Sundays in Oaxaca there are little stalls on the streets and squares with women making and selling these delicious stuffed tortillas, they flavoured them with an aromatic leaf called Hoja Santa or Epazote, and shredded chicken and fiery tomato sauce.
Serves 4

8 corn tortillas or 4 wheat flour tortillas
4-8 ozs (110g) Mozzarella cheese, grated or a mixture of Cheddar and Mozzarella
2 green chillies, cut in strips (optional)
Tomato and Coriander Salsa (foolproof food)

Heat an iron pan or griddle.
There are two ways of making quesadillas, one resembles a sandwich, the other a turnover.

To make the former, lay a tortilla on the hot pan. Put about 1 oz (30 g) of cheese on one half, keeping it a little from the edge, lay a leaf or two of epazote on top, sprinkle on a few strips or dice of chilli. Fold over the other side, seal. Cook for a minute or two, then carefully turn over.

Serve just as it is or cut into quarters with Tomato and Coriander Salsa and Guacamole and perhaps Frijoles Refritos (Refried Beans).

Quesadillas with Cheese and Zucchini Blossoms
A favourite filling for quesadillas in Oaxaca is simply grated Oaxacan string cheese (mozzarella is our nearest equivalent) and fresh zucchini blossoms. Thinly sliced green chilli is sometimes added for extra excitement!

Fundido con chistora

Artisan meat curing wizard Fingal Ferguson, makes a delicious chistora, a thin chorizo sausage, which I use for this recipe.
Serves 4

4 earthenware dishes (terracetta) 4½in (11.5cm) wide x 2in (5cm) deep
8oz (225g) cheese - Quesa fresca or Mozzarella
5oz (150g) chistora

Preheat the oven to 275C/500F, gas 9

Slice the chistora into 1inch (2.5cm) lengths.
Divide the grated cheese and chistora between the dishes
Place in the preheated oven for 6 minutes.
As soon as the cheese is melted, serve immediately with lots of hot crusty bread.

Duck Tacos

Serves 6 approx
2 roast duck legs or confit
12 small tortillas
Finely chopped fresh coriander

Remove the meat and crispy skin from the bone, chop in small pieces, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Warm the tortillas, wrap in a cotton napkin and keep warm.

Put a little mound of seasoned duck on each plate or do a communal bowl.
Serve guacamole, finely chopped onion and freshly chopped coriander as an accompaniment, so each diner makes up their own tacos.

Mexican Scrambled Eggs – Huevos a la Mexicana

Chiolita showed me how to make this favourite Mexican breakfast dish. One mouthful transports me back to Oaxaco - one of the most magical places in the world.
Serves 4

1½ ozs (45g) butter (in Oaxaca they would use lard)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-3 chillies - depending on how much excitement you would like in your life!
1 very ripe tomato, chopped
8 free-range eggs
2 teasp. salt

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, cook the onion and chilli until the onion is soft but not coloured, add the tomato and cook gently for a few more minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the salt until well mixed, add them to the saucepan and scramble, stirring all the time until cooked to your taste, serve immediately.

Huevos Camaroncitos

Ingredients as above plus 4oz (110g) tiny cooked camaroncitos or tiny peeled cook shrimps.
Makes 12

6 soft rolls
Refried beans
Oaxacan string cheese or Mozzarella
Tomato salsa – pico de Gallo

Split the fresh rolls.
Spread each one with warm refried beans. Top with cheese and pop under the grill or into a hot oven until the cheese melts.
Serve with Tomato Salsa and Guacamole.

Foolproof Food

Tomato and Coriander Salsa

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 pangrilled meat to a piece of sizzling fish. Best in Summer and early Autumn when tomatoes are ripe and juicy.
Serves 4-6

4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½-1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
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.

Cooks Book

Food Adventures - introducing your child to flavours from around the world
By Elizabeth Luard & Frances Boswell, published by Kyle Cathie

Elizabeth Luard is a multi-award-winning cookery writer whose previous books include Flavours of Andalucia, Sacred Food, The Latin American Kitchen and the Food of Spain & Portugal. Frances Boswell made her name as food stylist and food editor for Martha Stewart’s Living, she is also Elizabeth Luard’s daughter in law.

In most societies around the world, even quite young babies join the grown-ups at table, perched on a parent’s or grandparent’s knee, eating what the grown-ups eat – fresh, nutritious food in a child-friendly form. No need for smiley faces on the pizza; babies and small children are naturally adventurous. 

In 100 recipes from all over the globe, this book takes us from first spoonfuls to first schooldays, exploring and adapting the dishes that children are encouraged to try as soon as they’re old enough to sit up and take notice of what’s on the plate. 

It provides recipes which can be prepared by busy parents everywhere, using readily available ingredients and no great culinary skills. Dishes – mostly simple, some a little more sophisticated – are chosen not only because they look and taste good, but because they are the food children actually like to eat.

Food adventures are, after all, not just for babies – they are the starter for a whole new lifetime of enjoyable food.

Avocado with Tortilla Crisps and Black Beans –

Guacamole con nachos y frijoles
From Food Adventures by Elizabeth Luard and Frances Boswell

Mexico is where avocados come from and guacamole is the Aztec word for something mashed up. Avocados are a miracle foodstuff: they contain just about everything a person needs to keep body and soul together – particularly when eaten with maize-flour tortillas, the bread of the Aztecs. They’re high in protein, rich and fibre and carbohydrates, well endowed with all essential vitamins and minerals, and better still for babies, they’re easily digested. High levels of copper and iron in easily assimilable form make them good for anaemia. What more can anyone ask?

Combined with other things that taste good – shredded chicken, beans, fresh white cheese, a few slivers of fiery green chilli – this dish is an adventure in flavours as well as a complete meal in itself.

If your avocados are hard, wrap them in newspaper and store in a warm place for 3-4 days to ripen. Store ripe avocados wrapped in paper in the salad compartment of the fridge: if you keep them in the fridge in a plastic bag, they spoil as soon as they meet the air.
Serves 2 children and 2 adults

For the guacamole
2 large, perfectly ripe avocados
Juice of 2-3 limes or 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
½ teaspoon of sea salt
1-2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped

For the nachos
8 small maize-flour tortillas (or 4 large wheat-flour tortillas)
Oil for shallow frying

For the accompaniments
About 200g shredded cooked chicken
About 175g fresh, crumbly white cheese (Mexican queso fresca or Greek feta)
500g ready-cooked black beans

Halve the avocados, remove the stones, scoop out the flesh and mash roughly with a fork – don’t puree. Fork in the lime or lemon juice, chopped coriander and salt. You can add the chilli to the mash, or provide it on the side for people to stir in their own to taste.

Cut the tortillas into triangles – known in Mexico as nachos, these are the most convenient for scooping. For a tostada, leave the tortilla whole (makes a great edible plate); for chilaquiles, cut into strips (good for adding to soups); for totopos, cut into squares (good for salting and nibbling). Heat a depth of about 2cm oil and drop in the nachos, a few at a time, wait till they crisp and take a little colour (maize-flour tortillas take longer than wheat-flour), then turn to gild the other side.

Serve the crisp nachos with the guacamole. On the side for people to choose what they want, offer crumbled white cheese, shredded chicken and black beans – nicer heated and mashed in a little oil, a preparation know as frijoles refritos, re-fried beans.

Hot Tips

East Cork Slow Food Events
‘Overview of Edible Irish Seaweeds’ with Dr Prannie Rhatigan GP, Member of Board of Directors of The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Letrim – at Ballymaloe Cookery School at 7.00pm on Wednesday 24th January. €10 members, €15 non-members, including refreshments.

‘A Celebration Dinner of Local Food’ with Chef Gary Masterson, at Fire & Ice Café, 8 The Courtyard, Main St. Midleton, Co Cork, Monday 29th January, 7.30pm
€45 members, €50 non-members.
Booking essential – for both events call Miriam on 021-4646785,

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group –Meeting on 25th January at 7.30pm at the Crawford Gallery Café –- Passing on the Skills for Growing Your Own Food - Hear about Community Food Initiatives in Sligo/Leitrim from Dr. Prannie Rhatigan. Admission €6 including tea or coffee

Irish Seedsavers, Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare, Tel 061-921866 to book a place

New series of courses starting this weekend –
20 & 21 January and repeated on 3 & 4 February – Woodland Footpath Construction
27 & 28 January – Introduction to Coppersmithing
7 February – Creating an Orchard, 10 February – Hedgerow Maintenance & Management
24 &25 February – Coppice Management & Rural Crafts
All courses 10-4 €60 for 1 day course and €120 for 2 days -10% discount for Seedsaver members. Bring packed lunch and wet gear.

Irish Hospitality Institute Hospitality Management Skillnet - Health and Safety Two-Day Training Module
Clarion Hotel, Cork - Wednesday 24th January & Thursday 8th February – 9.30am-5.30pm
Mullingar Park Hotel, Co Westmeath – Thursday 8th March & Thursday 22nd March – 9.30am – 5.30pm
For HR Managers, Training Managers, Head Chefs and Operations Managers
Contact Sarah Collins, Tel 01-6624790 - email:marketing@ihi .

Skye Gyngell and Petersham Nurseries

2006 produced a raft of terrific cookbooks, some truly inspirational, but for me the most exciting ‘new’ talent to burst onto the culinary scene in the past few years is a wild young thing called Skye Gyngell.

When I say ‘young’, Skye is not exactly a teenager but she’s still got that wonderfully endearing hippy-like quality, the infectious enthusiasm of youth. She is completely passionate about food, real food, slow food, food fresh from the garden. Skye is totally seasonal in her approach and adores her vegetable and herb patch and draws much of her inspiration from it.

Not long before Christmas I went to her restaurant at Petersham Nurseries near Richmond, I can’t remember when I was last so enchanted by a restaurant experience. It’s a 45 minute taxi ride from central London, you can’t get a tube to Richmond but you may find it difficult to get a taxi to take you along the long winding lane beside Richmond Park in South West London . When you arrive, you emerge into what is truly a magical enclave of good taste.

Alongside fabulous plants, trees and shrubs there is antique garden furniture to break your heart and destroy your bank balance, old tools, beautiful containers and a fascinating mix of other enchanting artefacts and accessories sourced by the owners, Gael and Francesco Boglione.

The restaurant is in one of the greenhouses in the nursery, in fact it now spills into several. The eclectic mix of tables and chairs sit on the good earth in the midst of the tumbling plants and beautiful antique objects all for sale. It is the perfect setting for the café.

Skye is Australian by birth, she worked in a number of Sydney’s culinary hot spots, also in Paris and London and is Vogue’s acclaimed food writer. She also writes regularly for The Independent on Sunday. The café at Petersham Nurseries is rapidly acquiring a reputation for superb food in an outstanding setting. In 2005 she gained the restaurant its first award: Time Out’s Best Al Fresco Restaurant Award and early last year it received Tatler’s Most Original Restaurant Award.

We started with a glass of fresh raspberry Prosecco and then a variety of delicious dishes with fresh vibrant flavours. A plate of Mezze included a roasted tomato and red pepper puree, a tangy beetroot puree and a gorgeous unctuous chick pea puree with a salad of fresh and wild leaves, a few slow roasted tomatoes and a fresh lemony goat cheese – delicious original flavours.

Skye Gyngell Teaches at the Ballymaloe cookery school Tel 004420 8940 5230 café Tel 0044 20 8605 3627

‘A Year in my Kitchen’ by Skye Gyngell, published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

Slow Cooked Pork Belly with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and star anise.

This is a deliciously rich and unctuous winter dish. Skye likes to serve it with braised lentils, but it is also very good with lightly cooked Asian greens, such as pak choi.
Serves 6

2kg piece belly of pork (organic, free-range)
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1 tsp cloves
1 red chilli
3cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp chopped coriander, roots and stems
100ml tamari (or soy sauce)
75ml maple syrup
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil

To serve:
Braised lentils

Put the pork belly into a large cooking pot (or pan) in which it fits quite snugly and add cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, then immediately turn off the heat and remove the pork from the pan. Drain off the water and rinse out the pan.

One-third fill the pan with cold water and place over a medium heat. Add the pork, this time along with the spices, chilli, ginger, garlic and chopped coriander roots and stems. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the meat, add some more water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer very gently for 1½ hours until the meat is cooked and very tender. If you have the rib end, the meat will have shrunk back to expose the tips of the bones. With a pair of tongs, carefully remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Turn the heat up under the pan to high and add the tamari and maple syrup. (If you don’t want the sauce to taste ‘hot’, remove the ginger and chilli at this point.) Let the liquid bubble until reduced by half, this will take about 20 minutes. As the sauce reduces, the flavours will become very intense, forming, a rich, dark sauce.

In the meantime, slice the pork belly into individual servings – one rib should be enough per person. Season the ribs with a little salt and pepper. Place a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat and add the oil. Heat until the pan is starting to smoke, then add the pork ribs and brown well on both sides until crunchy and golden brown on the surface. Strain the reduced liquour.

To serve, lay a rib on each warm plate (or soup plate) and spoon over the reduced sauce and warm braised lentils. Serve at once.

Braised Oxtail with ginger, five spice and garlic

‘I love slow-cooking cheaper cuts of meat and oxtail has a fantastic ability to absorb the wonderful aromatic flavours in this recipe. The result is a sticky, fragrant and beautifully rich meat dish that literally melts in your mouth. A sweet potato puree works really well with this dish or, if you want something a little gentler, steamed rice would be perfect.’
Serves 3-4

1kg oxtail, cut into large pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Bunch of coriander, washed
1 tbsp Chinese five spice powder (preferably freshly prepared)
2 x 400g cans good quality chopped tomatoes
1 litre chicken stock
50ml fish sauce
50ml tamari (or soy sauce)
75ml palm sugar or 5 tbsp maple syrup

Put the oxtail into a large pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, then pour off the water. Rinse the oxtail thoroughly under cold running water and set aside to drain.

Place a large cooking pot or flameproof casserole over a medium heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the onions, ginger, chillies and garlic. Turn the heat to low and sweat gently for 10 minutes or until the onions become translucent.

Meanwhile, separate the coriander leaves from the stems and set aside for garnishing if you like. Finely chop the root and stems and add these to the pan with the five spice powder. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes to release the beautiful aromatic flavours.

Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer, then return the oxtail to the pan, ensuring that the pieces are fully submerged. Braise very gently for 1½ hours or until the oxtail is really soft and sticky.

Add the fish sauce, tamari and sugar or maple syrup. Turn up the heat just slightly and continue to cook for another 20 minutes or so. Taste and adjust the seasoning and flavours a little if you need to. Serve piping hot, garnished with coriander leaves if you so wish.

Sautéed Savoy Cabbage with Chilli and Garlic Oils

Savoy cabbage is a lovely, vibrant winter vegetable that works really well with slow-cooked dishes and vegetable purées, as well as simple grilled white fish
Serves 4

1 medium Savoy cabbage
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp Chilli Oil – see below
1 tbsp Garlic Oil – see below
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1½ tbsp very finely chopped curly parsley

To finish
1 medium red chilli, finely shredded
Or a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, plus 1 tablesp very finely chopped curly parsley

Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage, retaining those that you can as the dark outer leaves are really beautiful when cooked. With a sharp knife, remove the fibrous central core of the outer leaves and then slice the leaves crossways into fine ribbons. Slice the rest of the cabbage in half lengthways and similarly cut into ribbons (there is no need to remove the core as it is quite tender).

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a very generous pinch of salt. Plunge the cabbage into the boiling water and allow to return to the boil. Immediately tip the cabbage into a colander, drain well, then place in a warm bowl.

Drizzle the chilli and garlic oils over the cabbage and add the lemon zest and chopped parsley. Toss to mix, then taste and add a little seasoning if needed. For an extra kick, scatter over some shredded red chilli. Alternatively, add a generous squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped parsley and a good grinding of pepper. Serve straight away while piping hot!

Chilli Oil

Skye says ‘I use this oil to give a dish a gentle kick, not an intense overwhelming heat. I therefore use the large red chillies, which are fairly mild in flavour, and always remove their seeds.

To prepare, halve 4 large chillies lengthways and remove the seeds. Slice lengthways into very fine strips, then cut across into tiny squares (almost mincing the chillies). Place in a bowl, add a pinch of sea salt and then pour over 200ml olive oil. Use within 1 or 2 days.

Garlic Oil

I am drawn to strong, clean flavours in food and love the gutsy punch of chopped raw garlic. I’m not afraid to throw raw garlic on to many dishes, especially if its rawness is slightly tempered by a really good quality olive oil. I often fold a spoonful or two of garlic oil into lemon mayonnaise or flavoured yoghurt to give it a kick. And a bowl of borlotti or white beans really comes alive if you stir in a spoonful or two just before eating.

To prepare, peel 10 garlic cloves, chop them very finely and place in a bowl with a good pinch of sea salt. Pour over 200ml extra virgin olive oil and stir to combine. Use the oil immediately, or within a day or two.

Blood Orange and Rosemary Jelly

A lovely, light, palate-cleansing dessert, this is jelly as it should be …wobbly, cool and not too sweet. Blood oranges are one of my favourite things. These beautiful, blackberry-scented jewels are usually around from December to March, but they are at their best during January and February – just when winter seems almost too barren to bear. You will need about 10 oranges to obtain the amount of juice you need, depending on their size. As the flesh of blood oranges varies in colour and pattern, so will the depth of colour of this jelly.
Serves 4

600ml freshly squeezed blood orange juice
100g caster sugar
3 rosemary sprigs
3½ sachets of leaf gelatine (or 11g sachet powdered gelatine)
Sunflower (or other neutral flavoured) oil, to oil

To serve
Blood orange slices and a little freshly squeezed juice

Put the orange juice and sugar into a saucepan. Lay the rosemary sprigs on a board and bruise to release their flavour by pressing them firmly with the handle of your knife, then add to the saucepan. Immerse the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water and leave to soften for about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, place the saucepan over a gentle heat to dissolve the sugar. As the juice begins to warm through, it will take on the flavour of the rosemary. When the sugar has completely dissolved and the juice comes just to the boil, take off the heat. Remove the gelatine from the cold water and squeeze to remove excess liquid, then add to the hot orange juice and stir to dissolve. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, to remove any pithy bits and the rosemary.

Lightly oil 4 individual pudding bowls and pour in the jelly. Allow to cool completely, then place in the fridge to set – this will only take 1 or 2 hours. I like to serve these jellies on the day they are made, as they continue to set if you leave them in the fridge for longer and can become too firm.

To serve, place slice of blood orange on each serving plate and squeeze over a little more juice. To unmould each jelly, briefly dip the base of the mould into warm water, then run a little knife around the rim and invert on to the plate. Serve straight away.

Foolproof Food

Parsnip Purée with thyme, mustard and crème fraîche

 Sweet and nutty in flavour, this is a lovely winter purée. It works well with simple grilled meats and with slow-cooked rabbit and chicken dishes.
Serves 4

1kg parsnips
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp. crème fraîche
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Peel and roughly chop the parsnips. Place in a saucepan, cover with cold water and add a good pinch of salt and the thyme sprigs. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the parsnips are really tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the heat and drain in a colander. Discard the thyme sprigs.

Tip the hot parsnips into a blender and add the mustard, butter, crème fraîche and nutmeg. Whiz to a smooth purée. Check for seasoning – you’ll probably need to add a little salt and a generous grinding of pepper. If the purée needs to be warmed through, return to the pan and stir over a low heat to reheat before serving.

Cooks Book

Larousse Gastronomique – in 4 paperback volumes

Since is original publication in 1938, “Larousse Gastronomique” has withstood the test of time and trend, to remain the world’s most authoritative culinary reference book.
Recently published in four paperback volumes by Hamlyn – Fish & Shellfish - Vegetables and Salads - Desserts, Cakes & Pastries - Meat, Poultry & Game – indispensable for the cook’s library.

Watch out for some nice fresh herrings and cook them simply as follows – from Larousse Fish and Shellfish.

Fried Herring
Choose small herrings weighing about 125g (4½oz). Clean, trim, score and soak them in milk for about 30 minutes. Drain. Coat with flour and deep-fry in oil at 175c (347F) for 3-4 minutes. Drain well on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve them with lemon quarters.

Grilled Herring
Clean and trim medium-sized herrings. Brush them with oil or melted butter, season with pepper and cook under a moderate grill. Sprinkle with salt and serve with maître d’hôtel butter or a mustard sauce.

Hot Tips

Green Box scoops tourism award
The Green Box is Ireland’s first integrated sustainable and ecotourism visitor destination. It recently achieved a ‘highly commended’ award for ‘Best New Destination’ at the First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards, which were part of the World Travel Market 2006, held in London in November.  

M E G A B Y T E S by John & Sally McKenna

An up-to-the-minute selection of news and reviews which will tell you everything you need to know about who and what is happening in contemporary Irish food.

1_The Megabytes Awards for 2006 

2_The Megabytes Talents for 2007 

3_Ten New Things to Taste in 2007 

4_The 2007 Bridgestone 100 Best Guides and Website

Christmas Leftovers

It always seems to be so difficult to decide just how much food one needs to buy in for Christmas, I never seem to get it right. Even my most meticulous plans change – late invitations mean that food is relegated to the back of the fridge and the best laid plans are cheerfully ditched to accept a spontaneous invitation.

Last week I was sorting through the miscellaneous items still in the fridge and pantry after the festive season, what a jumble. I’ve been making New Year resolutions to use up all those little bits that have been chucked into the freezer in a desperate effort to reduce waste when plans have changed.

So what did I find? Several bags of cranberries – they freeze brilliantly and can of course be made into cranberry sauce to accompany a juicy roast pheasant, guinea fowl or chicken at any time, but you may want to try something a little less predictable. Throw a fistful into the dry ingredients when you are making scones, or add them to a muffin mix, the bittersweet flavour is a delicious surprise. 

We have also been putting cranberries in ice-cubes to use in drinks over the festive season. They look pretty and taste good, particularly if you have time to prick them with a needle and soak the cranberries in a little simple sugar syrup beforehand.

A bittersweet cranberry sauce is delicious as a filling in a meringue roulade or in a feather-light sponge with some softly whipped cream. My current favourite though is a pear, cranberry and almond tart. It is rich and intense and keeps well – a little slice is perfect with a blob of whipped cream after dinner.

Many houses have a pot or two of mincemeat left over also, most recipes keep well, sometimes even for years, so there’s no great urgency to use it up, but when you begin to feel peckish again try making this mincemeat bread and butter pudding or mincemeat crumble tart. They are both so delectable that it is almost worth making mincemeat specially to try them. A layer of mincemeat is also delicious on the base of a Bramley apple tart.

certainly no hardship eating these leftovers.

I also found a bag of Brussels sprouts in need of attention, so I experimented with Thai flavours with delicious results. 

Brussels Sprouts puree is also delicious with a peppered steak.

This Christmas I got a present of not one, but two beautiful Pannetone. The rich featherlight yeasted Italian cake wrapped in gold paper and silk ribbon, makes an irresistible nibble over Christmas and leftovers made the best Summer pudding. Its certainly no hardship eating these leftovers.

Happy New Year to all our readers!

Festive Pear and Cranberry Tart

This is certainly one of the most impressive of the French tarts, it is wonderful served warm but is also very good cold and it keeps for several days. Splash in a little Kirsch if you are using pears.
Serves 8 - 10

3 ripe pears 
4ozs (110g) cranberries approximately

Shortcrust Pastry
7 ozs (200g) flour
4 ozs (110g) cold butter
1 egg yolk, preferably free range
pinch of salt
3-4 tablesp. cold water

3 ½ ozs (100g) butter
3 ½ozs (100g) castor sugar
1 egg, beaten 
1 egg yolk, preferably free range
2 tablesp. Kirsch if using pears 
4 ozs (110g) whole blanched almonds, ground 
1 oz (30g) flour

To Finish
¼ pint (150ml) approx. apricot glaze 

9 inch (23cm) diameter flan ring or tart tin with a removable base 

First make the shortcrust pastry,

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop. Whisk the egg yolk and add the water. 

Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper shorter crust.

Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes or better still 30 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.

Next poach the pears (see Foolproof Food) and allow to get cold. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Roll out the pastry, line the tart tin with it, prick lightly with a fork, flute the edges and chill again until firm. Bake blind for 15-20 minutes.

Next make the frangipane. Cream the butter, gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and soft. Gradually add the egg and egg yolk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the ground almonds and flour and then add the kirsch or calvados. Pour the frangipane into the pastry case spreading it evenly. Drain the pears well and when they are cold cut them crosswise into very thin slices, then lift the sliced pears intact and arrange them around the tart on the frangipane pointed ends towards the centre. I use 5 halves and eat the sixth, heavenly!! Fill in all the spaces with the cranberries.

Turn the oven up to 200C/400F/regulo 6. Bake the tart for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is beginning to brown. Turn down the oven heat to moderate 180C/350F/regulo 4 and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the frangipane is set in the centre and nicely golden.

Meanwhile make the apricot glaze. When the tart is fully cooked, paint generously with apricot glaze, remove from the tin and serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

Apricot Glaze
Apricot glaze is invaluable to have made up in your fridge. It would always be at hand in a pastry kitchen and is used to glaze tarts which contain green or orange or white fruit, eg. kiwi, grapes, greengages, peaches, oranges, apples or pears. It will turn you into a professional at the flick of a pastry brush!

In a small saucepan (not aluminium), melt 12 ozs (350g) apricot jam with the juice of 3 lemons, water - or enough to make a glaze that can be poured. Push the hot jam through a nylon sieve and store in an airtight jar. Reheat the glaze to melt it before using. The quantities given above make a generous ½ pint (300ml) glaze.

Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding

Use up all that leftover bread and mincemeat in a delicious way.
Serves 6-8

12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed 
1lb (450g) mincemeat 
16 fl ozs (475ml) cream
8 fl ozs (225ml) milk
4 large free-range eggs, beaten lightly
1 teasp. pure vanilla extract
5 ozs (150g) golden castor sugar
grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
A pinch of salt
1 tablesp. sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding

Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish 

Arrange 4 slices of bread in a single layer in the dish. Sprinkle the mincemeat evenly over the top. Arrange another layer of bread over the mincemeat and sprinkle on the rest of the mincemeat. Cover with the remaining bread.

In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence, sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the grated citrus zest. Pour the liquid over the bread. Sprinkle the sugar over the top, cover with cling film and let the pudding stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.

Bake in a bain-marie - the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of a preheated oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the warm pudding with some softly-whipped cream.

Note: This pudding reheats perfectly but must be served hot otherwise the suet will congeal.

Delicious Bread and Butter Puddings can be made using:

1. Barmbrack as a base, add mixed spice or cinnamon.

2. Pannettone – proceed as above.

3. Brioche – proceed as Bread and Butter Pudding or use Apricot jam and lace with apricot brandy.

Brussels Sprouts with Thai Flavours

Serves 4-6
1lb (450g) Brussels sprouts, cut in half, blanched and refreshed in boiling salted water
400ml (14fl oz) coconut milk
1 tablespoon green curry paste
1 Thai green chilli, pounded (optional – if you like a hotter curry)
175ml (6fl oz) chicken stock 
2 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 tablespoon palm sugar or a little less of soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce (Nam Pla)
20 basil leaves
1 large red chilli, pounded
1 tablespoon soya sauce

Heat the wok on a low heat. Pour 110ml (4fl oz) coconut milk into the wok. Add the green curry paste and a pounded green chilli, and mix well. Then add the stock, remainder of the coconut milk, Brussels sprouts, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar and fish sauce, half the basil leaves and pounded red chilli.

Stir constantly on a medium heat until the sauce boils and foams up. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, otherwise the sauce may separate – it should be cooked in about 10 minutes. Add the remainder of the basil leaves, taste for seasoning, add soya sauce if necessary. Serve hot with steamed rice. 

Classic Parmesan and Gruyère Cheese Soufflé

Guests are always wildly impressed by a well risen soufflé and believe me its not rocket science so don’t imagine for one moment that you can’t do it - a soufflé is simply a well flavoured sauce enriched with egg yolks and lightened with stiffly beaten egg. Soufflés are much more good humoured than you think and can even be frozen when they are ready for the oven. The French do infinite variations on the theme, both sweet and savoury. I love to make this recipe with some of the best Farmhouse cheese eg: Desmond or Gabriel or a mature Coolea, you will probably find that you have bits of various cheese in the fridge since Christmas. It would also make a nice change from rich meat dishes.
Serves 8-10

For the moulds:
Melted butter

15g (½ oz) Parmesan cheese (Parmigano Reggiano is best) - optional
45g (1½ oz) butter
30g (1 oz) flour
300ml (½ pint) milk
4 eggs, preferably free range and organic 
55g (2 oz) Gruyere cheese, finely grated 
55g (2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper

8 individual soufflé dishes, 7cm (2¾ inch) diameter x (4cm)1½ inch high or one large dish 15cm (6 inch) diameter x 6.5cm (2½inch) high.

First prepare the soufflé dish or dishes: brush evenly with melted butter and if you like dust with a little freshly grated Parmesan. 

Preheat the oven to 200º C/400º F /gas mark 6 and a baking sheet. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir in the flour and cook over a gentle heat for 1-2 minutes. Draw off the heat and whisk in the milk, return to the heat, whisk as it comes to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Separate the eggs and put the whites into a large copper, glass or stainless steel bowl, making sure it’s spotlessly clean and dry. Whisk the yolks one by one into the white sauce, add the cheese, season with salt, pepper, cayenne and a little freshly ground nutmeg. It should taste hugely seasoned at this because the egg whites will dull the seasoning. Stir over a gentle heat for just a few seconds until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat. (can be made ahead up to this point)

Whisk the egg whites with a little pinch of salt, slowly at first and then faster until they are light and voluminous and hold a stiff peak when you lift up the whisk. Stir a few tablespoons into the cheese mixture to lighten it and then carefully fold in the rest with a spatula or tablespoon. Fill the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish or dishes (if you fill them ¾ full you will get about 10 but if you smooth the tops you will have about 8). Bake in a preheated oven for 8-9 minutes for the individual soufflés or 20-25 minutes. For the large one you will need to reduce the temperature to moderate, 180ºC / 350º F /gas mark 4, after 15 minutes and a bain marie is a good idea. 

Serve immediately.
Foolproof Food

Poached Pears

6 pears
½lb (225g) sugar
1 pint (600ml) water
a couple of strips of lemon peel and juice of 2 lemons

Bring the sugar and water to the boil with the strips of lemon peel in a non reactive saucepan. Meanwhile peel the pears thinly, cut in half and core carefully with a melon baller or a teaspoon, keeping a good shape. Put the pear halves into the syrup, cut side uppermost, add the lemon juice, cover with a paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer until the pears are just soft - the tip of a knife or skewer should go through without resistance. Turn into a serving bowl, chill and serve on their own or with homemade vanilla icecream and chocolate sauce, in which case you have Poires Belles Helene - one of Escoffier's great classics.

Top Tip: If you fill the soufflé dishes to the top smooth off with a palette knife then run a washed thumb around the edge of the dishes before they go into the oven to help to get the ‘top hat’ effect when the soufflé is well risen.

Individual frozen soufflés can be baked from the frozen but they will take a few minutes longer to cook.

Cheese Soufflés with salad leaves:
Just before the soufflés are cooling, toss a mixture of salad leaves and divide between the plates.

Hot tips  Created by one of the world's leading authorities on cheese, Juliet Harbutt, the Cheese Web has tons of information about cheese, cheesemakers, cheese sellers and cheese events around the world. It also gives you instant access to information about the British Cheese Awards and Great British Cheese Festival and Juliet's internationally acclaimed cheese books, workshops and masterclasses and tells you how she can help with marketing and merchandising your cheese, train your staff or simply answer any queries you have about cheese.

The Food Map 

About 6 months ago, began to develop maps of interest for people who like to cook. They now have nationwide maps for the following topics:

1. farmers’ markets

2. pick your own fruit and vegetable farms 3. cheese farms 4. farms where you can get fresh and heritage turkeys 5. wineries 6. wine shops 7. cooking schools 

They initially researched and populated these maps ourselves, with the idea in mind that cooking enthusiasts would subsequently add to, and enhance, the information we provided. They mapped each place, and provided space for a written description, photo, and link to a website. Worth a look if planning a foodie trip.

A Delicious little Christmas Eve supper

How about planning a delicious little Christmas Eve supper that can be slipped into the oven, something comforting to soothe your shattered nerves, when you are exhausted and fraught from trying to remember a zillion things, and doing your best to be all things to all men. A convivial family supper around the kitchen table is the true spirit of Christmas.

First pop a bottle or several of Prosecco into the fridge ‘just in case’ you feel like a little fizz. If a pot of tea seems more likely to hit the spot the bubbly will be well chilled for Christmas Day anyway.

French Peasant Soup would be delicious, its quite filling so if you opt for just soup and pud everyone could tuck into a second or even third bowl. While you are at it, make three or four times the recipe, it freezes brilliantly, little tubs are ideal and can be defrosted very quickly if some pals unexpectedly drop in and look as though they are not going to leave until they get fed!

For main course, a gratin would be easy and delicious. It takes a bit of putting together but it can of course be made ahead and just slipped into the oven until it is heated through and it is crunchy and bubbly on top.

Another alternative would be my sister Lizzie’s ‘supper in a pot’ which is so comforting and filling.

A green salad of winter leaves with a good punchy dressing made from really good extra virgin olive oil will make you feel less full so you have room for pudding. Dessert could be an Apple and Mincemeat Tart or maybe a Toffee and Date pudding with Butterscotch Sauce, or a Cool Yule Fruit Salad.

Alternatively forget pudding as such and just cut the Christmas Cake and enjoy a little slice with a glass of sweet sherry or ice wine.

Whatever the choice lets not forget to thank the good Lord for all the delicious food, spare a thought and share with those around us who are in need, and above all remember and reflect on the real reason for the celebration.

A very Happy Christmas to all our readers.

French Peasant Soup

This is another very substantial soup - it has 'eating and drinking' in it and would certainly be a meal in itself particularly if some grated Cheddar cheese was scattered over the top.
Serves 6

6 ozs (170g) unsmoked streaky bacon (in the piece)
Olive or sunflower oil
5 ozs (140g) potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
2 ozs (55g) onions, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic (optional)
1 lb (450g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1 x 14 oz (400g) tin of tomatoes and their juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½-1 teasp. sugar
1¼ pints (750ml) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 ozs (55g) cabbage (Savoy is best), finely chopped

Chopped parsley

Remove the rind from the bacon if necessary. Prepare the vegetables and cut the bacon into ¼ inch (5mm) dice approx. Blanch the bacon cubes in cold water to remove some of the salt, drain and dry on kitchen paper, saute in a little olive or sunflower oil until the fat runs and the bacon is crisp and golden. Add potatoes, onions and crushed garlic, sweat for 10 minutes and then add diced tomatoes and any juice. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Cover with stock and cook for 5 minutes. Add the finely chopped cabbage and continue to simmer just until the cabbage is cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley and serve.

Mediterranean Peasant Soup

Add ½ Kabanossi sausage thinly sliced to the soup with the potato. ¼ lb (110g) cooked haricot beans may also be added with the cabbage at the end for a more robust soup.
Winter Green Salad with Honey and Mustard Dressing
For this salad, use a selection of winter lettuces and salad leaves, e.g. Butterhead, Iceberg, Raddichio, Endive, Chicory, Watercress, Buckler leaf, Sorrel, Rocket leaves and Winter Purslane Mysticana. Tips of purple sprouting broccoli are also delicious and if you feel like something more robust, use some finely-shredded Savoy cabbage and maybe a few shreds of red cabbage also. 

Honey and Mustard Dressing
6 fl ozs (150ml) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils, eg. sunflower and arachide
2 fl ozs (50ml) wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teasp. honey
2 heaped teasp. wholegrain honey mustard
2 cloves garlic

Mix all the ingredients together and whisk well before use.

Wash and dry the lettuces and other leaves very carefully in a large sink of cold water. If large tear into bite sized pieces and put into a deep salad bowl. Cover with cling film and refrigerate if not to be served immediately. Just before serving toss with a little dressing - just enough to make the leaves glisten. Serve immediately.

Note: Green Salad must not be dressed until just before serving, otherwise it will be tired and unappetising.

Lizzie’s Chicken Hot Pot

This basic technique may also be used with lamb or pork.
Serves 6-8

8 potatoes
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
2-4 carrots, peeled and sliced ¼" thick
4-8 ozs (110-225g) streaky bacon, cut into lardous
free range organic chicken ( 6- 8 portions, e.g. 4 chicken breasts and 4 thighs or drumsticks cut into manageable size pieces)
salt, freshly ground pepper
chicken stock 
few sprigs thyme

Medium-sized Le Creuset type casserole 

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

Peel the potatoes, four thinly and the others in thick slices. Arrange a layer of thinly sliced potatoes in the base of the dish. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

A layer of thinly sliced onion comes next, then the carrot and bacon lardons, season again. Lay the chicken pieces on top. Another sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper and a sprig of thyme. Finally an overlapping layer of thickly sliced potatoes. Pour boiling stock over the lot to come about half way up the side. Cover. Put into the preheated oven and cook for 40-60 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the potato is crisp and golden on top. 

Toffee and Date Pudding with Butterscotch and Pecan Nut Sauce

Serves 6-8
225g (8oz) chopped dates
300ml (1/2pint) tea
110g (4oz) unsalted butter
170g (6oz) castor sugar
3 eggs, free-range and organic
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bread soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon Espresso coffee powder

Butterscotch Pecan Sauce

110g (4oz) butter
170g (6oz) dark soft brown, Barbados sugar
110g (4oz) granulated sugar
285g (10oz) golden syrup
225g (8fl oz) cream
1/2 teaspoon pure Vanilla essence
50g (2oz) chopped pecans

20.5cm (8inch) spring form tin with removable base.

Set the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.

Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes. Brush the cake tin with oil and place oiled greaseproof paper on the base.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour. Add the sieved breadsoda, Vanilla essence and coffee to the date and tea and stir this into the mixture. Turn into the lined tin and cook for 1-1½ hours or until a skewer comes out clean.

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

To Serve
Pour some hot sauce on to a serving plate. Put the sticky toffee pudding on top, pour lots more sauce over the top. Put the remainder into a bowl, and to serve with the pudding as well as softly whipped cream.

Apple and Mincemeat Tart

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from 'hot hands' don't have to worry about rubbing in the butter. Use it for a variety of fruit tarts. It can be difficult to handle when its first made and benefits from being chilled for at least an hour. Better still, if rested overnight.
Serves 8-12

225g (8oz) butter
50g (2oz) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free-range and organic
340g (12oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

675g (1½lb) Bramley Seedling cooking apples
110g (4oz) sugar
⅓-½ jar mincemeat

egg wash
castor sugar for sprinkling

To serve
softly whipped cream
barbados sugar

1 rectangular tin, 18cm(7 inch) x 30.5cm (12 inch) x 2.5cm (1inch) deep or 1 x 23cm (9inch) round tin
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.

First make the pastry. Beat the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 1 hour otherwise it is difficult to handle. 

To make the tart
Use a little less then two/thirds of the pastry to line the choose tin.

Roll the pastry 3mm (1/8inch) thick approx. Spread a layer of mincemeat on the pastry. Peel, quarter and dice the apples into the tart tin. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, stars, heart shapes or whatever takes your fancy. Brush with egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar. Serve. 

Foolproof Food

Cool Yule Fruit Salad

Serves 10-15
Equal volumes of:

ripe melon, balled
ripe papaya, sliced thinly and cut into squares.
ripe mango, sliced
passion fruit seeds
ripe pineapple, diced
ripe kiwi, sliced and quartered.
ripe banana, sliced
pomegranate seeds 

A glass bowl

Lime Syrup

8 oz (225g) sugar
8 fl oz (225 ml) water
2 limes

First make the lime syrup. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes; allow to cool. Meanwhile remove the zest from the lime either with a zester or a fine stainless steel grater and add to the syrup with the juice of the lime. 

Prepare all the fruits in individual bowls and cover with lime syrup.

Arrange the fruit in layers in a glass bowl. Cover and allow to chill and marinate for an hour at least.

To Serve
Ladle carefully into serving bowls so each guest gets a mixture of fruit. Serve alone or with softly whipped cream.

Cooks Book 

Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini published by Phaidon

This is the first cookbook by Rose Carrarini who co-founded the much-imitated delicatessen Villandry in London in 1988, and now serves her signature simple, fresh and natural food at Rose Bakery, the Anglo-French Bakery and restaurant in Paris. Rose holds a passionate philosophy that “life is improved by great food and great food can be achieved by everyone”. 

This book includes recipes for over 100 of Rose Bakery’s most popular dishes, from breakfast staples such as crispy granola to afternoon treats, including sticky toffee pudding and carrot cake, as well as soups, risottos and other dishes, perfect for a light lunch.

Banana Cake

You need very ripe bananas for this cake.
Serves 8

150g (5oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
180g (6oz) caster sugar
3 eggs
3 bananas, about 350g (12oz) total weight, mashed
110ml (3½fl.oz) buttermilk, or a mixture of milk and natural yogurt
1 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)
½ teaspoon salt
350g (12oz) plain flour, sifted
100g (3½oz) chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4
Butter a 25cm (10inch) loaf tin and line its base with parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugar until they are light and creamy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the bananas and the buttermilk or milk and yogurt.

Mix together the bicarbonate of soda and salt and carefully fold into the mixture with the flour, then fold in the walnuts.

Using a large spoon or spatula, combine the mixture well and spoon into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool the cake in the tin before taking it out.


Chocolate and Banana Cake
Use the same recipe, and add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder to the flour. Fold in 200g (7oz) chopped dark chocolate at the same time as the walnuts.
Hot Tips

The Rural Food Company Training Network
Courses in New Product Development, Business Growth and Development and Intermediate Hygiene are being run by the Rural Food Company Training Network until March 2008, to help management and staff of food businesses avail of very specific training which will assist their business in achieving growth, sustainability and competitiveness. Funded through the Dept of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. For details email: or contact Eilish Broderick at 068-23390 or 087-6386501, Rural Food Company Training Network, 58 Church St. Listowel, Co Kerry.

Holycross Stores, Holycross, Co Tipperary – near the famous Holycross Abbey – 5km from Cashel and 1.5km from Thurles
Ann Marie and Brian Walsh are now running the local village shop and have increased the range of products provided, including a deli and hot counter – hot lunches, soup, fresh salads and sandwiches. Their vision is to remain an independent retailer with a strong emphasis on providing fresh, Irish and local food wherever possible – they are sourcing local meats, cheeses, preserves, vegetables….086-8246310 

Brown Envelope Seeds

2007 Catalogue of Irish Certified Organic Vegetable Seeds now available  Tel 028-38184 
Limited stock so order early.

How about the perfect Foodie present?

My builder is fond of saying that there’s no problem getting something done ‘if you have the bit of gear’. 

The same applies in the kitchen – many frustrated wannabe cooks could achieve much more if they had a few more bits of basic kit.

A food mixer can revolutionise the life of a ‘cup cake queen’. This is one piece of equipment that’s really worth the money. The Kenwood Chef has really stood the test of time here at the Cookery School. Most come with a blender which means you can whiz up silky soup in seconds - available from stockists nationwide.

A food processor is another ‘must have’ for the keen cook, we use Magimix and find them very reliable, there is some overlap in that one can make some cakes and biscuits with it, but overall it does different things from the food mixer. Home-made mayonnaise is made in minutes, it chops and purees in a twinkling. The extra blades allow you to grate and slice in a few delicious seconds.

For the growing number of ‘urban farmers’ and smallholders who are enjoying curing their own meat, a sausage making attachment would be a presie from heaven.
Less expensive but a year round pleasure would be a gift subscription to ‘The Smallholder’

For those who would like to keep a few chickens in their town garden the ultimate presie is An Eglu, a little ‘palais des poulets’ large enough to keep two chickens (with a little run). Its light enough to be moved around so your ‘flock’ are on a fresh patch of grass every day. 

For serious coffee buffs, an Espresso Machine that really works would be the ultimate presie – It’ll set you back five or six hundred euros, but think of the frothy cappuccinos and earth-moving espressos – perhaps the whole family could club together – Gaggia or Francis, Francis really work.

Another kitchen toy that’s worth the money is a Braun Multipractic – great presie for a student who likes to dabble in the kitchen of their bedsit. Soups, smoothies, purées, all become possible in a matter of minutes – about €30 from good kitchen shops and electrical shops. 

A decent Set of Knives are always a bonus but you must be sure to get a coin from the benefactor so that the knives don’t cut your friendship. Global, Henkel and Victorinox are some of the good brands, but no matter how brilliant the knife it won’t keep its edge for long if you don’t try and learn how to use a steel. 

A gift token for a Wine Course is also a good present, there are many offered around the country – we offer one on 12th December 2007 at Ballymaloe Cookery School with Colm McCann, Sommelier at Ballymaloe House, Mary Dowey’s very popular wine course at Ballymaloe House will run from 23-25 March and 20-22 April 2007, Tel 021-4652531. The Wine Development Board of Ireland run courses, . and local wine shops often run wine appreciation courses. Failing that, a wine guide, John Wilson’s ‘Best of Wine in Ireland 2007’, a must for Irish oenophiles, younger enthusiasts will want to find Matt Skinner’s ‘Juice’ in their stocking, Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course gives a good grounding for those who want a bit of all round general knowledge as well as to impress the pals.

A good food guide would also be a terrific present for food lovers – Georgina Campbell’s Best of the Best and her new Guide for Garden Lovers– the very best places to eat, drink and stay – are much respected as are John & Sally McKenna’s Bridgestone guides, the new Good Food Ireland guide has a terrific map to show the traveller where the Farmers Markets are, as well as restaurants that serve local food.

For Christmas stockings, a microplane grater is a must-have for every nifty cook. A Japanese mandolin is another serious cook’s gadget. Maldon or Halen Mon sea salt is a treat - Interior Living on Cork’s McCurtain Street,(021-4505819) sells little gift packs with salt cellar and spoon from €20. A bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Urru in Bandon or Mallow, or from Midleton Farmer’s Market – Mani, Brindisa, Colonna, L’estornell, a l’Olivier are names worth looking out for.

Pannetone and Panneforte de Siena, available at Cork Market as well as a million other temptations, are super stand-bys. A little bunch of Madagascar vanilla pods, hand-tied with raffia, an old-fashioned butter curler and butter knife, tea strainer and a packet of single estate tea, a perfect cheese like a Crozier Blue – with some membrillo and Ditty’s oatcakes or homemade cheese biscuits. A pot of delicious local honey is always a treat, and for the slightly-green fingered – a terracotta pot and a packet of seeds for herbs or salad mix. How about a hamper of Asian, Polish or African ingredients for the adventurous cook. A Green Saffron Curry Voucher can be bought in any of the outlets selling the spice range – Kinsale or Mahon Farmers Market, Handmade Wines in Lismore, River House Cahir, or at The Stephen Pearce Gallery in Shanagarry, vouchers for Curry Nights in Shanagarry also available -  Tel 021-4645729,  

Now that Artisan, Local and Slow are currently the most desirable words in food, the ultimate food gift would be a membership of Slow Food, . 

Here are a few recipes which would make lovely Foodie gifts.

White Christmas Cake

This White Christmas Cake with its layer of crisp frosting is a delicious alternative for those who do not like the traditional fruit cake. It is best made not more than a week before Christmas.
140g (5oz) butter
200g (7oz) flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
85g (3oz) ground almonds
6 egg whites
225g (8oz) castor sugar
85-110g (3-4 oz) green or yellow cherries
55g (2oz) finely-chopped home-made candied peel

White Frosting
1 egg white
225g (8oz) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons water

18 cm (1 x 7 inches) round tin with a 7.5 cm (3 inches) sides

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/regulo 3.

Line the tin with greaseproof paper. Cream the butter until very soft, sieve in the flour, salt and baking powder, then add the lemon juice, whiskey and ground almonds. Whisk the egg whites until quite stiff; add the castor sugar gradually and whisk again until stiff and smooth. Stir some of the egg white into the butter mixture and then carefully fold in the rest. Lastly, add the chopped peel and the halved cherries. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1½ hours approx. Allow to cool, cover and ice the next day.

To make the white frosting: This delicious icing is just a little tricky to make, so follow the instructions exactly. Quick and accurate decisions are necessary in judging when the icing is ready and then it must be used immediately. Dissolve the sugar carefully in water and boil for 1½ minutes approx. until the syrup reaches the ‘thread stage’, 106-113C/223-236F. It will look thick and syrupy; when a metal spoon is dipped in, the last drops of syrup will form a thin thread. Pour this boiling syrup over the stiffly-beaten egg white, whisking all the time. Put the bowl in a saucepan over simmering water. Continue to whisk over the water until white and very thick. (This can take up to 10 minutes). Spread quickly over the cake with a palette knife. It sets very quickly at this stage, so speed is essential.

Decorate with Christmas decorations or crystallised violets or rose petals and angelica.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat Shortbread

Makes 16 or more if cut into small squares
8 oz (225g) plain white flour
1 oz (25g) semolina
1 oz (25g) custard powder
2 oz (50g) icing sugar
7 oz (200g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
cold water to bind

14 oz (400g) homemade mincemeat

4 oz (110g) plain white flour
½ oz (15g) semolina
½ oz (15g) custard powder
1 oz (25g) icing sugar
3½ oz (100g) unsalted butter
castor sugar for dusting

12 “ x 8 “ (30.5cm x 20.5cm) Swiss roll tin, greased

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regular 4/

To make the base. Sieve the flour, semolina, custard powder and icing sugar into a bowl. Mix well. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Carefully add just enough water to bring the mixture together. Press the mixture into the greased tin, making sure it fills into the corners of the tin.
Spread the mincemeat on top, leaving a narrow border all around.

Next make the topping. Sieve the flour, semolina, custard powder and icing sugar together and rub in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Spread the crumble mixture on top of the mincemeat and gently press down with your fingers to ensure an even cover.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top. Cut into squares while still hot. Sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and allow to cool in the tin

Home-made Crackers

Can be made ahead and kept in a tin to serve with cheese or give as a present with some cheese.
Makes 20-25 biscuits

8 ozs (225g) plain white flour
½ teasp. baking powder
½ teasp. salt
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tablesp. cream
Water as needed, 5 tablesp. approx.

Put the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the butter and moisten with the cream and enough water to make a firm dough.
Roll out very thinly to one sixteenth of an inch approx. Prick with a fork. Cut into 

3 ½ inch squares with a pastry wheel. Bake at 150C/300F/regulo 2 for 30 minutes approx. or until lightly browned and quite crisp. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: For Wheaten Crackers – use 4ozs wholemeal flour and 4 ozs plain white flour.

Preserved Roasted Peppers with Basil

From Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home
These make a lovely gift potted into a pretty jar and topped up with olive oil.
Delicious as part of a salad, in a sandwich or thrown on top of freshly cooked pasta.
Makes 1 medium-sized jar

4 peppers of various colours, left whole
Olive oil
Basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 230C (450F). Gas Mark 8.

Rub some olive oil over the peppers, then pop on a baking tray in the oven. Cook for about 40 minutes, or until very soft and a little blackened. Take them out of the oven, put into a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to cool.

Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, take them out of the bowl and use your fingers to peel off the skin and break the peppers into quarters. Do not rinse in water or you’ll lose the flavour. Then, using a butter knife, scrape the seeds away, which should leave just the flesh. Layer in a sterilised jar*, adding basil leaves between the peppers, and fill up with olive oil.

*To sterilise jars, either put them through a cycle in your dishwasher, boil them for 5 minutes in a pan of water or place in an oven preheated to 150C(300F), gas mark 2 for 10 minutes.

Cooks Book

Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection – published by Headline

Mary Berry is well known as the author of more than sixty bestselling cookery books, including many on Aga cookery and has presented several television cookery series.

In her Christmas collection she combines her old winter recipe favourites such as Fillet of Pork with Cranberry and Madeira Gravy and Christmas Tarte Amandine with a variety of new and exciting dishes to spice up the season. Mary’s simple recipes and handy hints will take the pressure off entertaining. With an invaluable Christmas Day countdown, her ever-popular tips on preparing ahead and freezing, clues on how to turn leftovers into even more delicious meals, advice on cooking for a crowd and Aga instructions where appropriate, Mary will help solve all your Christmas cooking dilemmas, leaving you more time to enjoy some festive fun.

Scarlet Confit

This is Mary’s version of cranberry sauce – its is perfect with roast turkey or game. You can cook ahead and keep covered in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. You could freeze it too, for up to 3 months.
Serves 20

450g (1lb) fresh or frozen cranberries
225g (8oz) granulated sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
50ml (2fl.oz) port
50ml (2fl.oz) cider vinegar
A large pinch of ground allspice
A large pinch of ground cinnamon

Measure all the ingredients into a shallow saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Don’t worry if it looks a bit runny as it thickens when it cools.

Serve warm or cold.
If using an Aga, cook uncovered in the Simmering Oven for about 1 hour.
Darina's Fool Proof Food

Mulled Red Wine

Just before the festive season we make up lots of little packages with the sugar, spices and thinly pared lemon rind so when the pals arrive it’s just a question of opening a bottle of wine and warming it in a stainless steel saucepan with the spices.
You could attach a little pack of the spices to a nice bottle of red wine, with instructions for a lovely present. Leftover mulled wine keeps for a few days and reheats perfectly.
Serves 8 approx.

1 bottle of good red wine
100-110g (3 1/2-4oz) sugar, depending on the wine
Thinly pared rind of 1 lemon
1 small piece of cinnamon bark
1 blade of mace
1 clove

Put the sugar into a stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan, pour the wine over, add the lemon rind, cinnamon bark, mace and the clove. Heat slowly, stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Serve hot, but not scalding otherwise your guests will have difficulty holding their glasses.

Hot Tips

Athy Farmers Market and Craft Fair – every Sunday 10am – 3pm, Emily Square, Athy in front of Athy Heritage Centre.

Christmas Weekend Open – Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th and then closed till 28th January, resuming again every Sunday thereon. Unique selection of high quality local craft and food gifts – bread, cakes, puddings, pies, organic vegetables, free range meat and poultry…. Candles, cards, pottery, flowers, wreaths, watercolours, goats milk soaps, willow work, fabric crafts….

For Chocolate Lovers
French chocolatier Gwen Lasserre makes exquisite handmade chocolates in his shop on Main St. Schull, Co Cork (028-27853) – open every day 10-7 till Christmas – this year’s favourite flavours are fresh lavender and chilli.

Benoit Lorge also makes delicious chocolates at O’Connors Shop, Bonane, Co Kerry. Special orders taken for weddings etc. He also gives chocolate workshops for local children – just 5km from Kenmare on the Glengarriff Road. Tel 087-9917172 email:chocolatecrust@eircom .net 

O’Conaill Chocolates –made in Carrigaline Co Cork by the O’Conaill family, are available at Midleton, Mahon, Kinsale and Bandon Farmers Markets, their own shop in Frenchchurch St. Cork and outlets nationwide – 021-4373407

Eve Chocolates are another Cork favourite – Flair Confectionery, Magazine Road, Cork, Tel 021-4347781

The Abundance of Winter

A few weeks ago we picked the last of this year’s home grown tomatoes for the Farmers Market – they had gradually become less sweet as the weather turned more autumnal, but customers were distinctly crestfallen when they came to an end. 

Now its time to relish and enjoy the bounty of Autumn and Winter. Understandably in an age when everything is available in supermarkets year round, many people are confused about what exactly is in season.

Autumn and Winter bring an abundance of local root vegetables and brassicas. Citrus fruit and pomegranates come from warmer climes. Many types of game are now in season including wild duck, and the pheasant season opened on the first of November. When you are writing your shopping list, it is really worth zoning in on what’s in season. Produce will be fresher and usually less expensive. Even better it may well be local or at least Irish, so you have the extra bonus of the feel good factor of keeping the money in our own community.

The brassicas are particularly good at present – I am a huge fan of kale, curly kale, asparagus kale, red Russian kale and the elegant black Tuscan kale called Cavalo Nero. This family is bursting with goodness and has recently gained widespread attention due to the health-promoting, sulphur-containing phytonutrients. According to ongoing research these phytonutrients appear to have a role in preventing cancer. As well as that, kale is an excellent source of Vitamins K, A and C, and also contains copper, calcium and potassium as well as other trace elements, the highest of all the brassica family.

We eat kale raw in green salads, add it chopped to soups and cook it in lots of boiling salted water as a vegetable. 

Jerusalem artichokes are a wonder food, you are unlikely to find them in supermarkets, but may well find them in your local Farmers Market (several stalls in Midleton and Mahon Point had them recently.) They will be available until the end of January or February and are particularly delicious roast and served with game – pheasant, duck, partridge or venison. They also make great soups and gratins. They contain a high percentage of inulin, so are particularly brilliant for those who have recently been on a course of antibiotics. Inulin naturally replaces the good bacteria in our systems faster than any other food. The only disadvantage is that they are maddeningly knobbly and require considerable patience to peel. Just enjoy the process! Turn on the soothing strains of Lyric FM, grab a cup of coffee and a high stool and a peeler, and think of how delicious the end result will be.

Even amateur gardeners can grow a fine crop for next year, just pop a few into the ground about 6 inches deep and 12 inches apart in a place where you don’t mind them spreading. They grow effortlessly so you will have baskets full next year.

Pomegranates, (sometimes known as wine apples), also in season now, certainly don’t grow in this climate, they need the heat of the Mediterranean, but you never know with the dramatic global warming, who knows we may see them growing in Shanagarry before too long. Meanwhile we have to accept airmiles. They too have been shown to dramatically reduce cholesterol, so eat one a day or juice them as you would an orange. The jewel like seeds are also delicious sprinkled over starters or green salads, add to lamb or pheasant stews, or a dish of cous cous. They also embellish fruit salad or a simple bowl of natural yogurt.

Get the children involved, ask them to draw name cards with seasonal fruit or vegetables and produce a prize or give them pride of place on the table.

Kale and Parsley Pesto

Serves 12-16 approx.
1 lb (450g) fresh Kale
1 clove garlic crushed
2 teasp. sea salt
3-5 flozs (75ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 tablesp. parsley, optional

Strip the kale from the stalks and wash well. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz to a thick paste. This can be made ahead and stored in a covered jar in the fridge for several days.

If you prefer a mellower flavour, blanch the kale in boiling salted water for 3 or 4 minutes, refresh and drain well and proceed as above.
Serve on freshly cooked crostini – see recipe

May be served as a starter, main course or as part of a buffet.
3-5, ⅓ inch thick slices of really good quality French baguette per person. Cut the bread diagonally rather than just into rounds.
Not long before serving, saute the crostini. Put a 5mm (1/4inch) of olive oil in a pan and heat until very hot. Cook the crostini a few at a time, turn as soon as they are golden, drain on kitchen paper. Arrange your chosen topping, garnish and serve a.s.a.p.

Cavolo Nero Soup

– from River Café Easy by Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers*
see Hot Tips

500g (18oz) Cavolo Nero 
4 garlic cloves
2 red onions
4 carrots
1 celery head
1 dried chilli
400g (14oz) tin Borlotti beans
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ teasp. Fennel seeds
1 x 200g (7oz) tin tomatoes
500ml (18fl.oz) chicken stock
¼ sourdough loaf

Peel the garlic, onion and carrots. Roughly chop 3 garlic cloves, the onion, pale celery heart and carrots. Crumble the chilli. Drain and rinse the beans.

Heat 3 tablesp. olive oil in a thick-bottomed pan, add the onion, celery and carrot and cook gently until soft. Add the fennel seed, chilli and garlic and stir, then add the tomatoes, chopping them as they cook. Season, and simmer for 15 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and stock, and cook for another 15 minutes.

Discard the stalks from the Cavolo nero and boil the leaves in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, drain and chop. Keep 4 tablesp. of the water. Add the water and cavolo to the soup. Stir and season.

Cut the bread into 1.5cm slices. Toast on both sides, then rub with the remaining garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Break up the toast and divide between the soup bowls. Spoon over the soup and serve with more olive oil.

Rose and Ruth say that all bean soups are made more delicious with a generous addition of the spicy-flavoured newly pressed olive oil poured over each serving. Tuscan olive oil is pressed at the end of October, which is also when the frosty weather starts and cavolo nero is ready to be picked.

Curly Kale with Olive Oil and Garlic

From Cook by Thomasina Miers
Serves 4-6

3 tablesp olive oil
1 large head of curly kale, stem discarded, leaves rinsed and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 fresh red chilli, seeded and chopped (optional)
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or wok until really hot, and add the kale (it makes a great sizzling noise). Give it a good stir and add the garlic and chilli, if you like a bit of a kick. Stir fry for 7-8 minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic, then season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle over the lemon juice. Then eat up your greens.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Crispy Croutons

Jerusalem artichokes are a sadly neglected winter vegetable. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants!
Serves 8-10 

55g (2oz) butter
560g (13 lb) onions, peeled and chopped
225g (½ lb) potatoes, peeled and chopped
1.15kg (22 lb) artichokes, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock
600ml (1 pint) creamy milk approx.

Freshly chopped parsley
Crisp, golden croutons

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

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with chopped parsley and crisp, golden croutons.
Note: This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required. 

Braised Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes are a perennial winter vegetable; once you plant them, they usually re-emerge every year and even spread if you are not careful. The flavour is particular good with game, beef or shellfish.
Serves 4

1 ½ lbs (675g) Jerusalem artichokes 
1 oz (30g) butter
1 dessertsp. water
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
Chopped parsley

Peel the artichokes thinly and slice ¼ inch (5mm) thick. Melt the butter in a cast-iron casserole, toss the artichokes and season with salt and freshly-ground pepper. Add water and cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid. Cook on a low heat or put in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, until the artichokes are soft but still keep their shape, 15-20 minutes approx. (Toss every now and then during cooking.)
Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

* If cooking on the stove top rather than the oven turn off the heat after 10 minutes approx. - the artichokes will continue to cook in the heat & will hold their shape. 

Chicken Salad with Pomegranate, Pine nuts and Raisins

Use up left over morsels of chicken (or turkey) in a delicious way.
Serves 8

700-900g (11/2-2lbs) freshly roast chicken 
1 pomegranate
75-110g (3-3 1/2oz) fresh pine nuts, pecans or walnuts
a selection of salad leaves including watercress, frisée and rocket leaves
lots of fresh mint leaves
50g (2oz) raisins, Lexia if possible

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil
2 tablespoons, best quality white wine vinegar
1-2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper

If the chicken has been refrigerated, bring back to room temperature. 
Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together. Cut the pomegranate in half and flick the seeds into a bowl - careful not to include any of the astringent pith.

Roast or toast the pine nuts, walnuts or pecans briefly, chop coarsely. Just before serving, sprinkle a little of the dressing over the salad and mint leaves in a deep bowl. Toss gently. There should be just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten. Taste. Add a little dressing to the pomegranate seeds, toss and taste, correct seasoning if necessary. Slice the chicken into chunky pieces. Sprinkle a little dressing over and toss gently. Combine the ingredients. Divide pleasingly between 8 large white plates. Sprinkle with toasted pine kernels roughly chopped pecans or walnuts. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Pheasant, guinea fowl or free-range turkey would also be delicious, a few green grapes also make a good addition. A combination of walnut and sunflower oil may be substituted for olive oil in the dressing.

Foolproof Food

Agen Stuffed Prunes with Rosewater Cream

This ancient Arab Recipe from the Middle East will change your opinion of prunes - a pretty and delicious dish. Claudia Roden originally introduced me to this recipe when she taught at the school many years ago – we are very excited that she will be coming back to teach a one day course on Jewish Food on 30th August next year.
Serves 6

450g (1 lb) Agen prunes, pitted 
Same number of fresh walnut halves
150ml (¼ pint) each water and red wine or more or 300ml (½ pint) water
300ml (½ pint) cream 
2 tablespoons castor sugar
1 tablespoon rose blossom water
A few chopped walnuts
Rose petals - optional

We’ve experimented with taking out the stones from both soaked and dry prunes, unsoaked worked best. Use a small knife to cut out the stones and then stuff each with half a walnut. Arrange in a single layer in a saute pan. Cover with a mixture of wine and water. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add more liquid if they become a little dry. They should be plump and soft. Lift them gently onto a serving plate in a single layer and let them cool. . 

Whip the cream to soft peaks, add the castor sugar and rose blossom water. Spoon blobs over the prunes and chill well. Just before serving sprinkle with rose petals and a few chopped walnuts. 
Just before serving, scatter a few chopped walnuts over each blob of cream, sprinkle with rose petals and serve well chilled.
This dessert tastes even better next day. 

Cooks Book

 Verdura- Vegetables Italian Style by Viana la Place published by Grub Street.  

Buy this Book from Amazon

Since its first publication in 1991 Viana La Place’s Verdura has become a much loved classic. Its 300 irresistible recipes represent the best of the Italian approach to vegetable preparation. The vegetables that she explores run from the familiar – artichokes, aubergines, radicchio – to the more exotic. Desserts are also included. 

Little Devil Olive Oil – Olio al Diavolino
How about this for a Christmas pressie for a foodie friend.

Makes 475ml/16 fl.oz

This is spicy olive oil at its finest. The raw oil is infused with the burning quality of chillies without using any heat. It looks lovely, a deep greenish gold, but it is very hot. Stir in a few drops just before serving to liven up the flavour of a soup or pasta.

475ml (16fl.oz) extra-virgin olive oil
Small handful of dried red chillies, crushed
Select a jar large enough to contain the olive oil. Pour in the oil and add the chillies. Cover the jar and let rest for 1 month, or until the oil is very spicy.

Hot Tips

Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers new paperback series –
Just launched by Ebury Press the River Café Pocket books at £8.99 – delicious recipes from the London’s acclaimed River Café – Pasta&Ravioli, Salads&Vegetables, Fish&Shellfish, Puddings, Cakes&Ice Creams. 

Gubbeen Venison Salami
Just tasted some of Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen Venison Salami – very good stuff and very moreish – a perfect standby for nibbling and entertaining or indeed present giving over Christmas.

Bandon Christmas Farmer’s Market on Saturday 16th December
There will be lots of tastings of seasonal produce including home made Christmas Puddings, mulled apple juice, a special oyster bar serving half a dozen freshly opened Roaring Water Bay Oysters with Tabasco and lemon juice, gourmet gift hampers, Martin Carey's award winning spiced beef and fresh duck from Ballydehob, free range turkeys from Beechwood Farm Kinsale and lots of other lovely stuff too! A raffle for a fresh turkey sponsored by Martin Carey, Carols from the children of Lauragh N.S and Santa and Mrs Claus will be coming too! With goodies for the children!

Standing room only at the Organic Conference

It gave me an oops in my tummy to see standing room only at the Organic Conference in Carrick-on-Shannon recently – what a change from the years gone by when there might be a scattering of 40 or 50 pioneers and a few reluctant, not to mention deeply sceptical officials from the department.

The worldwide increase in demand for organic produce is fuelling a growing interest in all things organic. In the US supermarkets simply cannot get enough produce.

When Walmart announced its plan to stock organic produce earlier this year few people believed that they were motivated by eco-friendliness – organic purists were concerned that they would force a dilution of the standards. Reality is that Walmart like all the multiples are keenly aware that customers have a genuine appetite for food that is free of pesticides, GMO’s and anti-biotic residues.

All over the world the trend is the same – in the UK the demand has skyrocketed. In the UK it has increased 1000 fold since 1993, to 1.6 billion sterling in 2006. Sales of organic produce in Tesco are rising at the rate of £7 million a week, up 30% on last year.

Irish consumers now spend an estimated €66 million on certified organic products and production is expected to increase significantly. According to a study commissioned by Bord Bia at the launch of Organic Food Week in Carrick-on-Shannon recently.

Bord Bia have allocated €1.5million euros to promote this sector. This was welcomed by delegates at the Conference but was generally considered to be inadequate, considering the obvious opportunities for Ireland the Food Island in this sector.

So what is driving the staggering growth in the artisan and specialist food sector?.

There is unquestionably a growing awareness of the importance of the food we eat to our health. Words that were considered to be esoteric a few years ago are now mainstream language.

Customers are asking more and more searching questions about how their food is produced and where it comes from. They want food with a story – for more and more people real quality must encompass a whole range of attributes – sustainability, animal welfare, fair trade, GMO free, anti-biotic and pesticide free, carbon footprint…..
At the farmers markets, more customers are interested in variety and are asking about breed and feed, nutritional content…. A growing number are purposely seeking out local food, in fact the sexiest words in current culinary jargon are local, artisan and slow.

Where to buy organic?

Directly from local producers at a local farmers market 
Organic box scheme 
On –line shopping on an organic website eg.  
From local supermarket

For best flavour buy local food in season. At present root vegetables, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, pumpkins, red and Savoy cabbage, kale, broccoli, leeks, citrus fruit, pomegranates…

Glazed Carrots

You might like to try this method of cooking carrots. Admittedly it takes a little vigilance but the resulting flavour is a revelation to many people.
Serves 4-6

450g (1lb) organic carrots, Early Nantes and Autumn King have particularly good flavour
15g (1/2 oz) butter
125ml (4fl oz) cold water
Pinch of salt
Good pinch of sugar

Freshly chopped parsley or fresh mint

Cut off the tops and tips, scrub and peel thinly if necessary. Cut into slices 7mm 

(1/2 inch) thick, either straight across, or at an angle. Leave very young carrots whole. Put them in a saucepan with butter, water, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil, cover and cook over a gentle heat until tender, by which time the liquid should have all been absorbed into the carrots, but if not remove the lid and increase the heat until all the water has evaporated. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shake the saucepan so the carrots become coated with the buttery glaze.

Serve in a hot vegetable dish sprinkled with chopped parsley or mint.

Note: It is really important to cut the carrots into the same thickness. Otherwise they will cook unevenly.

Baby carrots:
Scrub the carrots with a brush but don’t peel. Trim the tails but if the tops are really fresh, leave a little of the stalks still attached. Cook and glaze as above, scatter with a little fresh parsley and mint.

Foolproof Food

Potato and Parsnip Mash

Serves 8
700g (1 1/2lb) parsnips
700g (1 1/2lb) fluffy mashed potatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped parsley
50-75g (2-3 oz) butter

Peel the parsnips thinly. Cut off the tops and tails and cut them into wedges. Remove the inner core if it seems to be at all woody, divide the wedges into 2cm (3/4inch approximately) cubes. Cook them in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes. They should be quite soft. Drain. Mash with a potato pounder, add the mashed potatoes, a nice bit of butter and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. The texture should not be too smooth.

Whole Pumpkin baked with Cream

From the River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
This is an incredibly simple and elegant dish, in which the finished ‘soup’ is scooped out from the whole baked pumpkin – rich, filling and satisfying, so ideal sustenance after some hard graft in the garden on a cold autumn day. You can use as big a pumpkin as will fit in your oven but be aware that if you use a real monster, judging the cooking time becomes hard and the risk of collapse increases greatly. You will use a huge amount of cream and cheese, too, so you need to have a lot of hungry people on hand. You can also make this recipe with small squash varieties such as acorn or Sweet Mama, and serve one per person. A medium pumpkin serves 4 to 6, generously.

1 medium (3-4kg/6-9lb) pumpkin or several smaller squashes (1 per person)
Up to 500g (18oz) Gruyere cheese, grated (depending on the size of your pumpkin)
Up to 1 litre (1¾pint)double cream (again depending on the size of your pumpkin)
Freshly grated nutmeg
A knob of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the top off the pumpkin or squashes three-quarters of the way up and retain; this is your lid. Scoop out all the seeds and surrounding fibres from the pumpkin. Place the scooped-out pumpkin on a baking tray or in an ovenproof dish (which must have sides to catch any leaking cream – an accident that shouldn’t, but can, happen.)

Put enough grated Gruyere into the empty cavity of the pumpkin to fill about a third of it, then pour in double cream until the cavity is two-thirds full. Add a few gratings of nutmeg, a little salt and plenty of black pepper. Throw in a knob of butter and replace the lid, so the pumpkin is whole again.

Place in a fairly hot oven (190C/gas mark 5) and cook for 45mins - 1¼ hours, depending on the size of the pumpkin. Test for doneness by removing the lid and poking at the flesh from the inside. It should be nice and tender. At this point, the skin maybe lightly burnt and the whole thing beginning to sag a bit. Be wary: when the pumpkin is completely soft and cooked through, there is a real danger of collapse. The larger the pumpkin, the bigger the danger. Don’t panic if it happens – it will look at bit deflated but will still taste delicious.

Serve small squashes individually in bowls, with spoons to scoop out the flesh. Serve the larger pumpkin by scooping plenty of flesh and the creamy, cheesy liquid (the Gruyere comes out in lovely long, messy strings) into warmed soup bowls. Either way, serve piping hot. 

Yoghurt and Cardamon Cream with Pomegranate Seeds perfumed with Rose Blossom Water

Serves 8-10
425ml (15 fl ozs) natural yoghurt
230ml (8 fl ozs) milk
200ml (7 fl ozs) cream
175g (6 ozs) castor sugar (could be reduced to 5oz)
¼ teaspoon cardamon seeds, freshly ground - you’ll need about 8-10 green cardamon pods depending on size
3 rounded teaspoons powdered gelatine
Pomegranate Seed with Rose Blossom Water
1-2 pomegranates depending on size
a little lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons castor sugar
Rose blossom water to taste

Garnish: Sweet geranium or mint leaves

Remove the seeds from 8-10 green cardamon pods, crush in a pestle and mortar.

Put the milk, sugar and cream into a stainless steel saucepan with the ground cardamon, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse while you dissolve the gelatine. 

Put 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatine over the water, allow to ‘sponge’ for a few minutes. Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine has melted and is completely clear. Add a little of the cardamon infused milk mixture, stir well and then mix this into the rest. Whisk the yoghurt lightly until smooth and creamy, stir into the cardamon mixture.

Pour into a wide serving dish or a lightly oiled ring mould and allow to set for several hours, preferably overnight.
Meanwhile, cut the pomegranates in half around the Equator! Carefully separate the seeds from the membrane. Put the seeds into a bowl, sprinkle with just a little freshly squeezed lemon juice, add castor sugar and rose blossom water to taste. Chill.

If the cardamon cream has been set in a ring mould, turn out onto a chilled white plate. Fill the centre with chilled rose-scented pomegranate seeds. Garnish with sweet geranium or mint leaves or even prettier, garnish with crystallized rose petals. I’ve got a wonderful Irish rose called ‘Souvenir de St Ann’s” in Lydia’s garden. This rose has a bloom even in the depths of winter so I steal a few petals and crystallize to decorate this and other desserts. 

Book of the Week – Vegetables –the new food heroes
Buy this Book from Amazon
By Peter Gordon – published by Quadrille with photographs by Jean Cazals
The dishes in this book are designed to showcase vegetables and bring them centre stage. There are inspirational recipes for vegetables both familiar and unusual, humble and glamorous, as well as dishes to suit vegetables of all seasons.

Potato, Celeriac and Leek Gratin with Sage and Feta

Most root vegetables can be cooked like this, layered in a dish and flavoured with anything from herbs and cheeses through to spices and nuts. Then, you pour over boiling water, stock or double cream, seal tightly with foil and bake until the vegetables are cooked. The top may then be coloured under a grill. Choose a dish just large enough to hold everything, but one in which the liquids won’t boil up and out of the dish. Cut out a sheet of non-stick baking parchment the same size as the dish – this will come between the vegetables and the foil, which otherwise has a habit of sticking to the top layer of vegetables. This gratin is perfect with roast salmon or chicken.
Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for the baking parchment
3 large baking potatoes, cut into 5mm (¼ in) thick slices
100g (3½ oz) feta cheese, crumbled *
Small handful of sage leaves, roughly shredded
350g (12oz) celeriac (about ½ of a large one) peeled and thinly sliced
½ leek, thinly sliced and rinsed if gritty
150ml (5fl.oz) boiling water

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Brush the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a suitable baking dish (approx. 1.5litres/2½ pints capacity) and arrange half the potato slices on the bottom of the dish. Scatter half the feta and sage on top, sprinkle with a little salt, then lay the celeriac slices on top of that, followed by the leek and the remaining feta and sage. Lay the remaining potato slices on top, pour in the 150ml (5fl.oz) boiling water, then lightly season (remembering the feta will be a little salty). Brush one side of a sheet of non-stick baking parchment the same size as the dish with a little extra olive oil and lay this side on top of the potatoes. Cover with foil and seal tightly.

Bake for 1½ hours, then remove the boil and baking parchment, and place the dish under a hot grill to colour the potatoes. Serve from the dish while piping hot.

You could use Knockalara cheese when making this dish.

Hot Tips

Last Sunday at Schull Farmers Market from 10-1 Niamh G was selling her Chocolate Chip Cookies - 
There she was in her spotless apron at her little stand displaying her cookies in a basket lined with a tea towel – beautifully presented cellophane packs with a colourful label and a picture of 11 year old Niamh - best before date, list of ingredients, everything just right - I managed to get her last couple of cookies before she sold out – it is wonderful so see such an enterprising young lady – we should encourage young entrepreneurs like Niamh – they are the future.

Christmas at Arnotts in Dublin

Well known as a shopping destination in the heart of Dublin, Arnotts is now on the map as a place to eat well and shop for good food. They now have La Brea Bakery Café, the first outside the US – they stock Nancy Silverton’s famous sourdough bread and other loaves as well as sandwiches and pastries. Sheridans Food Hall has also recently opened on the Lower Ground floor stocking gourmet dried produce, fresh ‘ready meals’, olives, wines, tarts and of course their huge cheese selection. A series of wine tasting evenings is planned between now and Christmas with David Whelehan of O’Briens wines. 

Ardrahan Lullaby Milk

Lullaby Milk produced by Mary Burns of Ardrahan near Kanturk has sleep inducing properties because of its higher melatonin content – widely available in Munster from most supermarkets – all Super-Valu, Dunnes and Tesco branches, some Spar and Centra and On the Pig’s Back in the English Market in Cork. 
Watch out for the new Duhallow Cheese soon coming on stream from Ardrahan – this is a mild flavoured semi-soft cheese made from unpasteurised cows milk.

Terra Madre means Mother Earth

Fashionistas have Fashion Week, artists have Burning Man, racing car enthusiasts have Silverstone…. farmers, fishermen, cooks and chefs interested in sustainable food and local food economies have Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto.
As Slow Food Councillor for Ireland, I was privileged to attend the first Terra Madre two years ago in Turin, Terra Madre means Mother Earth. It is the brainchild of Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food International, who in the early eighties became haunted by the spectre of fast food companies eroding Italy’s ancient food culture. He realized the only way to counter the threat was to tackle the problem internationally, by promoting a gastronomic culture, safeguarding bio-diversity, developing taste education, creating presidia to protect traditional foods in danger of extinction and so Slow Food was born. The association is also dedicated to supporting local food economies and promoting sustainable methods of food production. There are now 80,000 members in 180 countries including Ireland, who are actively involved in fulfilling the aims of Slow Food.
The first Terra Madre in October 2004 provided a meeting place and a forum for people from around the world - farmers, fishermen, seed-savers, shepherds, nomads, cooks, cheese-makers, fish smokers, cured meat producers, foragers … came together to exchange ideas, share their diverse experiences and try to find solutions to similar problems.
This year over 6,000 people participated in Terra Madre, including 400 professors and researchers representing 250 universities and academic institutions in 50 countries around the world. Petrini’s vision was to create a virtuous triangle that would connect farmers and food producers with chefs, professors and food scientists, so they could share their knowledge and experience and co-operate to support sustainable food production.
This year’s event was held in the Oval Lingotto in Turin, where the skating competitions were held at the Winter Olympics. It had the full support of the Italian government and was opened by the President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano amidst much pomp and ceremony and a parade of flags from 150 countries, including the Irish tri-colour.
At the opening session on Thursday, Iraq and Iran, two countries President Bush defined as part of the ‘axis of evil’, received some of the warmest applause, as did the delegation from Lebanon. Later in the ceremony, Kamal Mouzawak, founder of the farmers’ market in Beirut – billed as Lebanon’s first - provided one of the most poignant moments. Beirut has lost almost all of its public gathering places, which makes the farmers’ market so vital. “Without a place to sell local products, farmers lose hope. And without local food traditions, people lose hope”, he said.
“If you don’t dream, you don’t exist,” he told the crowd. “So lets dream together”.
Carlo Petrini set out his agenda to protect the rights of the small farmer and promote sustainable agriculture.
It was also a call to unite against the growing domination of the multinationals and large corporations, ‘alone and divided communities can not react against violence’, Petrini told the enthusiastic if jet-lagged assembly, who had converged on Turin from all corners of the earth. Some had never before strayed from their villages, not to mention travelled on trains or planes. They came, each food heroes in their own way, each with an amazing story to tell, some clutching precious seeds, others with grains, all with a deep knowledge of their own food culture. Many were dressed in their colourful traditional clothes, distinctive headdress – from Indian feathers to cowboy hats, sombreros, head scarves…
From the several keynote addresses translated into eight official languages, it was clear that politics not just pleasure would dominate the three days of workshops. Carlo Petrini called for food production to be good, clean and fair. “Clean, because one cannot produce nourishment by straining ecosystems, ruining the air, and destroying biodiversity. Fair, because the citizen must be paid; if we want the young people to stay and return to the land here in our countries they must have dignity and fulfillment, and they must be valued. It is inconceivable that a civilized nation could enslave the workers of other nations to produce tomatoes. It is inconceivable that a civilized country can encourage organic economies like that of green California at the same time that it reduces many Mexican farmers to slavery. So good, clean and fair are three adjectives that farmers must offer to the consumers, whom I would like to call co-producers, in an effort to change this system that is turning into a big mistake.”
Both Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Indian activist Vandana Shiva accused decision makers of being out of touch with farmers, ‘the earth’s caretakers’, and stressed
the need for bio-diversity. Speaker after speaker lashed out against transgenic crops, illustrated how globalization is causing the erosion of rural communities, how the indiscriminate use of pesticides and antibiotics is destroying the land and how the WTO organization accords affect farmers and food producers.
Where else would Masai peasants meet Afghan raisin farmers, American maple syrup producers meet Tibetan yak herders, Irish raw milk cheesemakers meet their counterparts from Kyrayzstan, Tolosa Black Bean producers of Spain meet the Irish Seed Savers from Co Clare……
If you would like to know more about Slow Food check  or

Sweet Sour Pork with Prunes, Raisins and Pinenuts
Jo Bettoja whose food I adore served us this rich sweet sour stew in her home in Rome. It’s an old family recipe for wild boar that has been passed down through the generations. I loved the rich gutsy flavour so she kindly shared her recipe.

1.7kg (4lb) boneless shoulder or leg of pork

6 juniper berries
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon thyme leaves.
1 carrot chopped
1 onion chopped
1 stick celery chopped
725ml (24 fl oz) or more dry red wine
50ml (2 fl oz) red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
180ml (6fl oz) red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
36 prunes soaked in water
½ cup raisins, plumped in hot water
50 g (1¾oz) pine nuts toasted
2 tablespoons sugar
40g (1½ oz) dark chocolate

Soft Polenta 

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Add the cubes of pork, stir well. Cover and marinade for 48 hours in the fridge. Stir every now and then during this period.
Drain the meat, reserve both the marinade and vegetables. Dry the meat on kitchen paper.
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides and then transfer to a casserole, season with salt. Add a little more oil to the pan, cook the marinated vegetables for 5-8 minutes or until the onion is soft, add a few tablespoons of the marinade to prevent the vegetables from burning. Add to the meat in the casserole. Deglaze the pan with the rest of the marinade plus 2 fl oz of red wine vinegar, bring to the boil and scrape into the casserole.
Add ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, bring back to the boil, cover and cook in a preheated oven 160ºC - 325ºF regulo 3 until the meat is tender, 1½ hours approximately.
Remove the meat to a bowl and strain the sauce into a saucepan, press the vegetables through the sieve to get the last of the juices. Add the prunes, raisins and pinenuts to the sauce.
In another small saucepan simmer 4 fl oz of red wine vinegar with 2 tablespoons sugar for 4 minutes then add to the sauce with the grated chocolate and the meat. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve with soft Polenta and follow with a good green salad.

Hazelnut Semi fredo Con Nocciole
Serves 10-12

10 ozs (285g) sugar
5 ozs (150g) unpeeled hazelnuts, lightly toasted and peeled
vegetable oil
4 free range eggs, separated
2 tablesp. white rum
12 fl ozs (400ml) cream

1 large loaf tin

Lightly oil a marble surface or a large platter. Put the hazelnuts and 3½ ozs (100g) of sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, do not stir. When this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel. When the nuts go 'pop' pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold. When the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.
Reserve ¼ of the praline for garnish.
Mix the egg yolks, with 3½ ozs (100g) sugar until thick and fluffy. Add the rum. In a separate bowl whisk the cream until stiff. Whisk the egg whites stiffly adding the remaining sugar a little at the time. Gently fold the cream into the yolks followed by the egg whites. Spoon a little of the mixture into the prepared mould and sprinkle some crunchy praline on top. Repeat twice more always spooning the mixture into the mould rather of pouring. Cover the mould tightly and freeze overnight.
When ready to serve, turn the semifreddo out onto a chilled platter and leave for a few minutes. Remove the silicone paper. Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnut praline. Serve with hot chocolate sauce if desired.

Hazelnut Semi fredo Con Nocciole
Serves 10-12

10 ozs (285g) sugar
5 ozs (150g) unpeeled hazelnuts, lightly toasted and peeled
vegetable oil
4 free range eggs, separated
2 tablesp. white rum
12 fl ozs (400ml) cream

1 large loaf tin

Lightly oil a marble surface or a large platter. Put the hazelnuts and 3½ ozs (100g) of sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, do not stir. When this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel. When the nuts go 'pop' pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold. When the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.
Reserve ¼ of the praline for garnish.
Mix the egg yolks, with 3½ ozs (100g) sugar until thick and fluffy. Add the rum. In a separate bowl whisk the cream until stiff. Whisk the egg whites stiffly adding the remaining sugar a little at the time. Gently fold the cream into the yolks followed by the egg whites. Spoon a little of the mixture into the prepared mould and sprinkle some crunchy praline on top. Repeat twice more always spooning the mixture into the mould rather of pouring. Cover the mould tightly and freeze overnight.
When ready to serve, turn the semifreddo out onto a chilled platter and leave for a few minutes. Remove the silicone paper. Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnut praline. Serve with hot chocolate sauce if desired.

Sweet Sour Pork with Prunes, Raisins and Pinenuts
Jo Bettoja whose food I adore served us this rich sweet sour stew in her home in Rome. It’s an old family recipe for wild boar that has been passed down through the generations. Tim and I loved the rich gutsy flavour so she kindly shared her recipe.

1.7kg (4lb) boneless shoulder or leg of pork

6 juniper berries
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon thyme leaves.
1 carrot chopped
1 onion chopped
1 stick celery chopped
725ml (24 fl oz) or more dry red wine
50ml (2 fl oz) red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
180ml (6fl oz) red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
36 prunes soaked in water
½ cup raisins, plumped in hot water
50 g (1¾oz) pine nuts toasted
2 tablespoons sugar
40g (1½ oz) dark chocolate

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Add the cubes of pork, stir well. Cover and marinade for 48 hours in the fridge. Stir every now and then during this period.
Drain the meat, reserve both the marinade and vegetables. Dry the meat on kitchen paper.
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides and then transfer to a casserole, season with salt. Add a little more oil to the pan, cook the marinated vegetables for 5-8 minutes or until the onion is soft, add a few tablespoons of the marinade to prevent the vegetables from burning. Add to the meat in the casserole. Deglaze the pan with the rest of the marinade plus 2 fl oz of red wine vinegar, bring to the boil and scrape into the casserole.
Add ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, bring back to the boil, cover and cook in a preheated oven 160ºC - 325ºF regulo 3 until the meat is tender, 1½ hours approximately.
Remove the meat to a bowl and strain the sauce into a saucepan, press the vegetables through the sieve to get the last of the juices. Add the prunes, raisins and pinenuts to the sauce.
In another small saucepan simmer 4 fl oz of red wine vinegar with 2 tablespoons sugar for 4 minutes then add to the sauce with the grated chocolate and the meat. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve with soft Polenta and follow with a good green salad.

Foolproof Food

Marrons Glacé with Sweet Cream

The cafes and food shops of Turin were all selling little trays of beautiful new season’s marrons glacé in October. They were sold on little gold trays decorated with crystallized violets.

The Italians eat them for dessert on a bed of crème Chantilly. The combination sweet cream and marrons glace is divine.
Look for them in specialist food shops during Christmas.

Hot Tips

FAUCHON est arrive!
Lovers of luxurious chocolates, rare Champagnes and a range of speciality foods such as Truffles and Foie Gras, will welcome the recent arrival of FAUCHON which is now available in Ireland. The famous Parisian food house based in the heart of Paris is one of France’s oldest and most renowned fine food stores. Gift selection available to order on line at  or by phone on 01-2805795/2957522

New Ross Christmas Market – December 8th-10th – on the Quayside in New Ross as part of a Christmas Festival in the town.
Dublin Docklands Christmas Market – 12-23 December 12 noon to 8pm daily
‘12 days of Christmas’ with a Bavarian theme – German Mulled Wine stall, Erdinger Beer Bar and a programme of entertainment throughout the event.

North Cork Coop will sponsor a Cookery Demonstration by Darina Allen on
Thursday 14th December in Kanturk Hall at 7.30pm on the theme of ‘A Stress-free Christmas’
Check out  courses on Game Cooking (13th December) and Christmas Flower Arranging (14th December) Tel 021-4646785

Book of the Week

The Festive Food of Italy by Madalena Bonino published by Kyle Cathie
Festival of Wild Mushrooms and Truffles –
During the mushroom season from the end of September to November, Italians all over the country begin the serious ritual of mushroom hunting. Rising early in the morning, not only at weekends but sometimes before going to work, they venture into the woods kitted with woven baskets (any other kind of carrier could damage the spoils of the search), walking sticks, short knives and Wellington boots, and the hope of a good catch. Everyone has a favourite place to go and this closely guarded secret is not shared with just anyone but passed from generation to generation.

Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout
Serves 4

1½ litres milk
300g maize flour
115g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mushroom Ragout
70ml olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
550g mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and roughly cut
3 tablespoons dry white wine
115g butter
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the polenta, heat the milk and season well. When it starts to simmer gradually whisk in the maize flour. Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the butter and mix.
To make the ragout, heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic, and leave to colour. Add the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes, then add the white wine and a couple of tablespoons of water. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and allow most of the juices to evaporate, then incorporate the butter and lemon juice. Stir in the parsley, check the seasoning and serve immediately with the polenta.
From the Festive Food of Italy by Madalena Bonino.


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